Mere Mehboob (1963)

mere_mehboob

This is one of the most romantic films I’ve ever seen, with absolutely sublime music by Naushad. It’s a Muslim social drama set in Lucknow, with all the attendant grace and beauty you would expect. Elaborate sets and costumes are de rigueur! Love blooms for Sadhana and Rajendra Kumar, and there is also a lovely romance between the so handsome Ashok Kumar and pretty Nimmi. Obstacles and misunderstandings abound, seasoned with (mostly) funny-man Johnny Walker’s antics, and made compelling by the people and relationships you can’t help but root for—this is my favorite kind of movie. Even the fairly poor condition of the color print only adds to the old-fashioned and elegant ambiance of it all.

Almost-graduate Anwar Hussain (Rajendra Kumar) has seen a girl’s eyes through her burkha, and fallen hard for them. When he despairs of finding her before school ends, his best friend Ghayal (Johnny Walker) encourages him to write a poem for her for the shair competition that Anwar has won every year. He does so, and performs the lovely, haunting “Mere Mehboob Tujhe”—instantly winning the adoration of the girl he seeks, Husna (Sadhana).

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She attempts to meet him afterwards, but is scared off by other students crowding around to congratulate him. Poor Anwar has no other opportunity to meet her before he boards a train home to Lucknow with Ghayal. Unbeknownst to him she is in the ladies compartment of the same train and her brother the Nawab (Ashok Kumar) ends up in the same carriage as Anwar and Ghayal—who knows him, and introduces him to Anwar.

Ghayal is the son of the richest man in Lucknow, a moneylender. He wants Binda (Ghayal’s real name) to join the family business but Ghayal prefers to dabble in poetry. On one of his first days home, he is riding his bike in the time-honored “Look Ma! No hands!” tradition when he loses his balance and crashes into the girl who becomes the object of his affections.

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This and the ongoing arguments with his father at home make up the Comic Side Plot, and that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. Johnny Walker is one of my favorite comedians, and he makes me laugh during this film; thus, I find it easy to forgive the CSP interruptions and the fact that Praveen Paul and Sunder (who play his parents) don’t look any older than he does, and nor does Johnny himself look even close to the same age as Rajendra Kumar and Sadhana.

So on with the main plot: Anwar’s education and support has been provided by his older sister Najma (Nimmi). When the two of them were orphaned at an early age, greedy relatives mistreated them and stole their inheritance. To survive, Najma took Anwar away and started working as a dancer in the theater. They are extremely close, and I love their bhai-bahen relationship.

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Najma’s dancing is not respectable work, and in fact she doesn’t want anyone to know that she is Anwar’s sister for fear of tainting his reputation and prospects. For his part, Anwar longs to acknowledge her, dancer or not, and now that his education is complete he wants her to give up the profession that she so dislikes and which so shames her. He can’t bear to see her on stage, although I think she’s lovely!

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Someone else who finds her lovely is the Nawab: he is in love with her and as her official “protector” has saved her from the advances of other men, but he won’t marry her because he feels an obligation to maintain his old and respected family’s name.

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Anwar knows nothing about their relationship, although the Nawab has confided in Husna about his love for Najma. Theirs is also a close brother-sister relationship (I love those, since I’m lucky to have one myself). He refuses to get married at all, since the woman he loves:

mm_cantbemistress

The Nawab sits around smoking his hookah all day, and their house is absolutely over-the-top grand. It’s Mughal-palace-meets-1950s-Hollywood-set-decoration:

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Anyway, Anwar needs a job and Ghayal suggests he ask the Nawab for assistance (it’s not what you know, but who!). The Nawab is thrilled to see the young men again, and happily recommends Anwar for an editor’s job at a local newspaper. He asks Anwar for a favor in return: his sister writes poetry, and could use some tutoring.

Husna can’t stop thinking about the handsome poet from college, and has confided in her best friend Naseem (Ameeta, in a lovely role). Naseem happens to live next door to the house that Anwar has rented—his balcony overlooks her back window and garden.

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At their first poetry tutoring session, Anwar asks Husna (who sits on the other side of a screen from him—purdah is observed rather erratically in the film, but quite possibly is in real life too) to recite a favorite poem so he can gauge her taste. She astonishes him by reciting his own song back at him.

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Ecstatic but shy, each pretends that his or her “friend” has feelings for the other, and then they rush off to share the joy of finding their beloveds with their best friends. At Naseem’s house, Husna sings the “Mere Mehboob” song, and Anwar overhears. Going out on his balcony, he spots Naseem at the window and mistakes her for his newfound love. For her part, Naseem sees the handsome young man staring at her and is smitten. This misunderstanding leads to a happy evening spent gazing across the narrow street at each other. 

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It doesn’t take long for Husna and Anwar to discover that their “friends” are in fact each other, though. The Nawab calls Anwar by name in Husna’s hearing, and then tells Anwar that Husna herself—not her “friend”—went to college in Aligarh where she heard him sing.

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Anwar realizes that he’s made a mistake with his neighbor, but forgets about her quickly (after all, he has no idea who she is). He advances boldly beyond the screen at the next tutoring session—not much tutoring is getting done, I can tell you!—and finally gets to see Husna’s face. He murmurs “Subhan Allah!” reverently. I melt into a puddle.

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Meanwhile, the Nawab has been thinking about getting Husna married and discusses it with Najma. He has had offers from people with lots of money, but he has a boy in mind who is educated and of good character, although he doesn’t know much about his family. Najma unwittingly supports Anwar’s case by pointing out gently that an education is as good as money.

Their relationship is fun to watch too. Clearly they genuinely love each other, and though both agree that marriage is not possible they share a happy companionship together. Of course I think they should get married despite societal disapproval, and I pray that the Nawab will wake up one day and smell the coffee!

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At least it looks like a happy ending in store for our Anwar and our Husna, but there is a lot of stuff in the way! First of all, Naseem still loves Anwar and thinks he loves her.

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Secondly, one of Naseem’s uncles—a wealthy but characterless man played by Pran!—has gotten a look at Husna himself, and he wants to marry her.

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When Naseem’s aunt (Mumtaz Begum) brings his proposal to the Nawab and is rejected, we discover that the Nawab himself has some big problems.

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And of course, Anwar doesn’t know anything about the Nawab’s relationship with his sister. Worst of all, the Nawab is about to find out that the man he has chosen for his sister is the brother of the woman whom society—and he—have deemed unfit for marriage into his family!

Can our lovers survive the onslaught of scheming by Pran and Mumtaz Begum? They are no slouches at evildoing! What will Naseem do when she discovers that the man she dreams of loves her best friend? And finally, can the Nawab choose happiness for his sister over the family’s honor? What about happiness for himself and Najma?

It’s a heart-rending and suspenseful trip along the thorny path of love, but a trip I highly recommend. Naushad’s songs for this film are deservedly famous; my favorite besides “Mere Mehboob Tujhe” is the lively dance number “Jaaneman Ek Nazar Dekhle” performed by Ameeta. I need to see more of her! The ambiance is of a time and culture now gone—if romance and history are your thing, you will love this.

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47 Comments to “Mere Mehboob (1963)”

  1. Sounds great!
    I always loved the beautiful songs of this movie.
    The title song is very famous in india and I think the scene, how they meet has been copied in many other films.

    *The Nawab sits around smoking his hookah all day, and their house is absolutely over-the-top grand.*

    LOL!! No wonder he is in debt up to his ears!
    i always have this feeling, that these nawabs and many other rich people never really work in the movies. Now i know for sure. just in real life. And people say that bollywood films are not true to life!

    Sadhana looks splendid here. Even Rajendra Kumar looks presentable.

    Whatever would have the directors of hindi movies would have done without Pran?

    Thanks for the beautiful screen caps and commentary. Suhan Allah kya review hai!

  2. The script took great pains to lay the blame for the debt at the Nawab’s deceased brother’s door :) Ashok would never do such a thing! (although of course he showed no signs of trying to do anything to overcome those debts either).

    They all looked great, although at times they were all wearing white mask-like makeup (looked like mimes)…but again easy to forgive in context :)

  3. Lovely movie. I used to live in Lucknow, and the palace of the last Nawab of Oudh was across the street. My friend was the great grand daughter of the last Nawab, and so I have gone into the house many times, and I did wonder what her parents did for a living, because while my mother was always busy in the kitchen, her parents always sat around with friends, talking! The house was huge, actually a palace, and I can remember heavy drapes everywhere. Unfortunately, this was almost 50 years back, so I do not remember much else! However, I still miss the old stately Lucknow, where everything proceeded at a leisurely pace.

  4. Thanks for sharing those memories, Lalitha! :) I am dying to see Lucknow some day…hope there are some palaces there that I can peek into myself. A leisurely pace is so underrated these days!

  5. The two looked so good together that apparently everyone lamented the fact that Rajendra Kumar was already married (thats what I remember reading in one of Sadhana’s old interviews)! And this was the movie that started it all. I loooooove the songs from this movie but the whole falling-in-love-with-a-pair-of-eyes-and hands seems a bit silly to me. I mean, the guy thinks it might be Amita with the same appendages and is all ready to fall for her – he clearly knows zilch about his beloved, not even her eyes! And what if the rest of her face was scarred? Still, its such an engrossing movie and with soooooo much eye candy and great songs to go round (not to mention Dada Mani in a moustache is super-wow) its impossible not to like it!

    The Nawab’s house looks exactly like the ones Ashok Kumar had in Benazir – check out the courtyard at 0:58 here which looks exactly like the one in your 8th screen cap, and I remember the same wooden screens and chairs too! Though Bimal Roy clearly had a much lower budget.

  6. Yes, it’s silly but still romantic somehow. And it wouldn’t surprise me for a second to see the Nawab’s house elsewhere—it must have cost a fortune to put up, I would imagine it’s still standing somewhere (although probably shabby now)…

  7. I was SubhaanAllah-ing my way through Chaudhvin Ka Chand recently, and this promises much as well. Can’t wait to see it!

  8. You will love the songs :)

  9. I was thinking…can you add the ending of the movie too in your blogs, may be as a link for so people that do not want to read the ending can stay away from it? ha ha, am crazy !
    like i said earlier i wanted to open a spoilers site but never got to it, i never will find the time either i guess. Also, i dont think I can do even half the job you are doing so wonderfully here with pics and stuff. Its almost like watching it.
    There are so many movies that i am not going to be able to watch and I would LOVE to know the whole story.
    Not that bollywood movies are so complicated that you cant guess what happens in the END!

  10. That would probably have to be a separate blog :) I don’t think I have the energy!

  11. One of the most romantic films? Sign me up immediatement. As a die-hard Kaka fan, mush is right up my alley :-) Your screenshots and Sadhana are gorgeous. Since we were discussing the Shivdasani clan in your last post, IMO she’s the best of the lot. And despite my nose wrinkling whenever Rajendra Kumar gets into the picture, I’m sold. Incidentally, Kaka did the similar Mehboob ki Mehndi with Leena Chandravarkar. Apparently it flopped because it’s release coincided with the India-Pakistan war. Music is much remembered still.

    • It’s not OTT mushy, it’s just right. No melodrama, no unrealistic self-sacrificing, just a good story about people you can really want to be friends with.

      Sadhana is just gorgeous, and Rajendra is good in this too…I don’t think I have Mehboob Ki Mehndi but I should look for it, since I like Leena C. a lot too.

  12. Awesome screen caps memsaab! This is a very famous movie in India – references to its songs, settings, acting etc abound.

    Should add to my list of “must see” movie though of late – slow moving movies bore me!

    • It was hard to stop screencapping, honestly! I have more that I didn’t put in the post :-D

      It’s not slow-moving, either. It’s not a fast-paced action flick, but the story moves along and there’s not a lot of wasted time. I hate slow movies, but this was fine.

  13. you’ve got to hand it to Indian Cinema goers in the ’60s lots of top films were hits, Mere Mehboob was a super hit in the cinemas, although in the ’80s some undeserved films were top hits. As i love watching films that were box office hits in India and collecting them into my little museum of ‘Films that were hits in India’ (of course i watch non hit fims too, but i really like to see films that were top hits in India,i like seeing what appeals to the cinema going crowd in India)i will surely be checking this one out.

    I have a strong feeling you’ll like Arzoo (1965) you should check it out sometime

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arzoo_(1965_film)

    • I think the 60s is my favorite era for Hindi films (and not just because of Shammi!). I love the music from them, and the stories and settings are usually so….pretty! :) I have Arzoo, I think, although I’m not usually a big fan of Ramanand Sagar films. But Feroz! I’ll watch it :)

  14. Ha, I love this movie! My dad graduated from Aligarh a few years before this movie was released and he always told me this was the story of the love stories of Aligarh – he went to school every day for two years with about 10 or 12 women but never saw their faces!

    And a complete YES on the Ashok Kumar love. He and balraj Sahni are my two fave older men. le sigh.

    • Dadamoni is to die for in this. I still don’t quite *get* the Balraj Sahni thing, but have to see more of him before I decide for sure ;-)

      Great story about your Dad—nice to know that the college scenes were realistic!

  15. Thank you for reviewing this one – I have a soft spot for Muslim socials, and this is one of my favourite ones (despite the presence of Rajendra Kumar – even he is bearable here). And Sadhana is sooo beautiful and the songs are so lovely… I could go on and on.

    But I do think Mere Mehboob is much more watchable than Aarzoo – I think the latter got just too weepy and self-sacrificing in the latter half. Painful, though the songs there too were superb.

  16. This film was good despite Rajender Kumar: and the music helped so much!!!

  17. Poor Rajendra K! He’s taking a beating here. He was good!!!! I liked him. And the music is still running through my head, three days later.

  18. I saw this movie recently. Well, the first time I saw this movie was as a very young kid. The only thing I remembered of it was that “accident”, resulting in the books falling on the ground, the picking them up. That has been immortalised in other Hindi movies. :-)

    Just love this movie. I love Muslim socials anyway – I have a weakness for Drdu.

    Everybody is really good in this movie. I really like Ameeta a lot – she was quite pretty. And the songs are fantastic, each one of them.

    Terrific movie. And excellent review, Greta.

  19. Btw, another Muslim social is “Mere Huzoor”. I remember seeing it years ago but I liked it a lot. I thought it was a bit ahead of its times especially towards the end – that only made it more interesting.

    Hf you have not seen it, I think it is worth a watch.

  20. Yes, the language is so elegant and beautiful in these. I’ve started to watch Mere Huzoor a few times and never been able to get past the first half hour or so. Need to give it more of an opportunity though.

  21. There’s also ‘Saudagar’ for a take on a different section of the Muslim society.

  22. Ph gosh Arzoo was such a Yawn! Me thinks u may not like it Memsaab. If you do, i will stand corrected tho.

    The only thing good about Arzoo is that song “Bedardi balama tujheko mera man yaad karta hai” by Lata.

  23. sorry that was supposed to be Oh Gosh!

  24. Amit: I will look into that one :)

    Anonymous: Well, that is two against and one for Arzoo. I will let you all know what I think when I watch it!

  25. One of my most favorite films of both of these stars. I can watch it over and over again and the songs are totally out of this world. I drool at Rafi’s voice and the music of this one. My most favorite scene would have to be the one where Husna and Anwar talk in a patio at night and Nawab sahab sees them from upstairs and comes down with a gun in his hands only to realize how wrong he is in judging Anwar. And the way Ghayal says “meri haaye allah” and “tumhaari haaye allah” is totally awesome! :D

    *sigh* this would have to be one of the most wonderful, most romantic films in Hindi Film industry.

  26. Memsaab

    Other muslim socials you will enjoy are Nikaah (1983) and Bazaar (around the same time).

    Bazaar had some powerful performances by Naseeridun Shah, Smita Patil, Supriya Pathak, Faroukh Sheikh and Shaukat Azmi. The story is set in Hyderabad and the movie was also shot in Hyd. Music is good.

    Nikaah has some famous songs and again the story is set in Hyd. This is a contrast to Bazaar ie it is a story of upper class muslims.

  27. mere mehbob is my golden movie

  28. I was thrilled to read about this film here, as I have just seen it and love it.
    It’s really well made, so romantic (complete with ‘subhan allah’).
    They all look beautiful – the men and the women.
    And the songs are sooo melodious!! – and flowing smoothly.
    I can’t seem to choose my favourite.

  29. They just do not make them like this any more. Sigh. I sound like an old person!

  30. There’s a film of Ameeta with … guess who? ;-)…Shammi Kapoor!!!
    called Tumsa Nahin Dekha.
    Watched it yesterday. The songs are out of this world. The first one ‘jawani aayi mast mast bin piye’ is so melodious and soft and wonderful, Shammi looks very sexy singing it. The scene is typical Nassir Hussain brand with girls, girls, girls, dancing around, playing…..

    Loved it! Now why do I get the feeling this is no news to you. You have seen it. :-)

  31. You really like all of my favorite old movies! Ha ha, I’m probably a bit younger than alot of people who know these golden oldies though (I’m 21). But yeah, this movie’s really good and the music’s even better.

  32. You are never too young to have good taste :-) When I was in my teens I watched a lot of old Hollywood (40s, 50s) movies after school and I have never regretted it!

  33. Thanks, Memsaab – this is one of 34 or so movies I have sitting unwatched and I was just wondering which to start with. Now I know – allah ka shukriya, it’s “Muslim social” time!

  34. There are only two things I could do without from this film: Anwar’s sidekick, Ghayal (I know he was supposed to be the funny guy, but I found him annoying) and the excessive skin lightening make-up used on the actors…

  35. Ghayal made me laugh :-) I love Johnny Walker though…but I agree re: the excessive white paste makeup!

  36. I think what seems like excessive skin lightening make up was actually the discolouring of the film reel. One also sees red hair, red face, or even blue at times.

    I liked ghayal and his ‘shers’. His philosophy about poets taking over the UNO and reducing wars.

    • No, it’s makeup…it’s very obviously pancaked on; you can even see the line where the makeup leaves off and the actor’s actual skin color begins!

      I thought Ghayal was hilarious :-)

  37. This movie was my mirror of what I thought Muslims in India were like. I was a little girl when I heard the songs on my father’s 33 RPM records. I must have played them over sooo many times that the record got scratched. I watched this movie many times and had most of the dialogue memorised. It got so painful for my family, they would say anything but Mere Mehboob….I wanted to be Husna with her flowing ghararas and thought that Anwar Hussein Anwar actually existed :-) When I visited India I realised that Muslims did not all speak such eloquent Urdu and they were as normal as me :-) I love the romance, elegance and grace that was depicted in this movie of an era gone with the wind. Memsaab your review was wonderful.

    • I can just imagine how it must have appealed to a little girl :) Actually, my desire to visit India was born when I was a little girl: I had a Barbie View Master reel, where Barbie goes around the world—one of the pictures in it was of Barbie in a saree in front of the Taj Mahal, and I was completely enchanted :) Took me 30+ more years to get there, but better late than never!

  38. Good represantation of Muslim Culture in this Film

  39. Iwatched this movie on my laptop,and I fail in love with the songs and dances. but I have to say that naseem in this movie is the most beutifull women I have ever seen.Iam married,and I fail in love with her dances and her moves,Iwish I can find some biography about her life.I love her.

  40. Please if some one knows how canI get a biography about Ameeta who is Husna’s girlfriend in the movie Iwould really be thank full,or if you know any thing about her please email me.thanks

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