Daku (1955)

daku

I am sure no regular reader of these pages will have any trouble imagining my great joy at receiving this treasure from my new friend Shalini.

Shammi + Wadia Brothers + Babubhai Mistry—it’s like a miracle!

*dies and goes straight to heaven*

daku_greatjoy

Add in Shashikala as Shammi’s heroine, and the redoubtable Kuldip Kaur (dictionaries should all have her picture next to the word “haughty”), plus a hunchback, a band of gypsies, and royal intrigue!…words fail me. Really. And it doesn’t matter, because I couldn’t tell you honestly what the plot is, only that I love this film. LOVE. Of all the early Shammi films I’ve seen, this is the first one in which he actually pretty much resembles the Shammi of his heyday. He looks like he’s having a ball—and why not? It’s oodles of swashbuckling fun.

What little I managed to glean from the story I’ll put here (and anyone should feel free to correct my impressions if they can and want to!) along with lots of screen caps, although the picture quality leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it’s much much better than nothing! The movie opens with fireworks and a lit-up palace: it’s the little heir to the throne’s birthday, and his mother the Rajmata is celebrating.

daku_birthday

There is plotting afoot though, in the form of the boy’s stepfather (?) who conspires with his loyal hunchback to have the Prince kidnapped by a gypsy. I am guessing only that he wants the younger two children—a son and a daughter—who are his, to inherit.

In any case, the gypsy (from the Banjara tribe) hits the Rajmata and her loyal Minister over the head and steals the young Prince away. When they come to and find the Prince missing, the Minister quickly takes the Rajmata away from the palace too.

The gypsy takes the Prince up a fabulous set of steps (Babubhai rules!) and throws him off a cliff, but the little guy lands in a tree and lives. He calls out to the gypsy and waves at him. It’s cute, but I would have kept quiet until my would-be killer was gone.

daku_rajkumar

The gypsy starts to toss the Prince over the cliff again but is interrupted by a gypsy song and dance—the words “kismat” are clear so I assume that he is stopped from completing his task by the idea that maybe the Prince is meant to survive. In any case, he takes the little boy back to the gypsy camp and adopts him, and names him Badal (I think). Several years pass, and Badal, now aged about ten, has two little girlfriends, Paro and Lily (I think, maybe Leela, but it doesn’t matter) who like to fight with each other while he laughs and laughs (boys do love a good catfight).

We segue from that into adulthood: the two girls are still fighting, and Badal (Shammi Kapoor) is still laughing.

daku_catfight

Badal’s best friend (Anwar Hussain, so I’ll call him Anwar henceforth) is now in love with Paro, and Badal is in love with Lily (Shashikala). It’s so lovely to see Shashikala in a heroine’s role—she is gorgeous, and fierce too!

daku_shashikala

They sing a duet (“Dil Ke Badle Dil”) which is lovely (and thanks to Shalini on YouTube as well). It’s a little strange to see Shammi singing with Mukesh’s voice!

At the palace, we meet the Rajkumar (a strange sort of fellow who seems to be obsessed with making pots) and Rajkumari (Kuldip Kaur! hooray—I don’t see nearly enough of her!) who are now all grown up.

daku_kuldip

An emissary has come to see them—it’s the Rajmata’s old Minister!—and he is confronted by an Evil Guy with a Goatee (I’ll call him Captain Egg) (Muzaffar Adeeb) who is quite clearly interested romantically in the Rajkumari.

daku_captain

He argues with the Minister about something, and then the Minister and his entourage are set upon by the palace guards. Luckily for them, our four gypsy musketeers have just arrived at the palace to present a magic show (Anwar’s specialty).

daku_palace

They join in the fray, and in the acrobatic mayhem the Minister manages to escape. For some reason nobody seems to hold it against the gypsies that they helped the Minister escape, and the magic show commences.

In the audience is the King, who is still accompanied by his hunchback. I guess a side benefit of being a hunchback is that you don’t age, because he looks exactly the same, and thank God for that because I love his black slanted eyebrows and mouche, gigantic fake nose and the bolster sewn into his coat that serves as his hump. The nose is so obviously made from putty that it sometimes looks like a duck’s bill.

daku_hunchback

So fabulous!!! The Rajkumar and Rajkumari and Captain Egg are all there too, and as soon as the Rajkumari sets her eyes on our Badal she is smitten. Who can blame her? It’s Shammi! Anwar does some magic, and Lily sings a FAB song called “Lagi Lagi Lagi” which I am attaching here because I like it so much and can’t find it anywhere else (music director is Snehal Bhatkar).

At the end of the show, the Rajkumari openly flirts with Badal, which really enrages Captain Egg and doesn’t much please Lily either. He starts a swordfight with Badal and quickly gets the better of him by ripping off his headscarf and an earring.

daku_oops

Badal escapes with his pals, but not before Lily has become seriously jealous. Throughout the film, Badal is called a “Daku” by various and sundry people, sometimes in anger and sometimes only in fun, but it always has the same result: he gets really mad. He hates being called a Daku. In any case, jealous Lily calls him a Daku and he storms off back to the palace to see the Rajkumari. I have no idea why, because although she is thrilled to see him, he is pretty cold towards her and she ends up calling the guards on him. Before they get there, though, he is bundled up in a blanket and taken off by some other guys belonging to the Minister.

The Minister is hiding out in an underground cavern thing, and he talks to Badal about something which shocks him.

daku_shammi

I’m guessing he explains that Badal is the true heir to the throne (although I have no idea how he’s figured it out) because he then brings out the Rajmata, who is thrilled to see her son.

daku_maa

Unfortunately Captain Egg and his guys arrive (I don’t know how they knew the Minister and Rajmata were hiding out there—I don’t know how much of my not understanding things is due to the lack of subtitles, or how much is lacking in the plot itself, but I suspect it’s about 30-70). The Minister escapes through a cool sliding cave door with the Rajmata while Badal fights with the guards until Captain Egg bashes him over the head.

Back at the gypsy camp, Lily is fretting over Badal’s prolonged absence. She finally goes off to the palace to look for him, followed somewhat tardily by Anwar and Paro. She strikes up an acquaintance with the head palace guard, who is a buffoon and also the CSP, and pretends to be attracted to him by singing a cute song.

daku_songekdoteen

She gains admission to the palace and goes straight to the Rajkumari’s rooms with her knife in hand. This ends in her being arrested and taken down to the dungeon, where Badal is already being tortured by Captain Egg and a fiercely mustachioed assistant.

daku_torture

Meanwhile Paro and Anwar have arrived at the palace too, and Anwar is equally adept at charming the idiot head guard with Paro’s assistance in song and dance form. He gets into the dungeon and finds Badal and Lily, now strapped as well to a conveyor belt carrying her towards a very strange (but typical of Babubhai and the Wadias—remember the giant handbag guillotine?) killing machine that plunges up and down:

daku_killingmachine

I guess being squished to death by blunt instrument is just as bad (maybe even worse) than a quick beheading, but it still makes me laugh. Anyway, Anwar fills the room with smoke and easily defeats Captain Egg and his henchman. They charm their way past our idiot guard again, and escape to their caravan (don’t you think Enid Blyton’s Famous Five would have holidayed in it? I do).

daku_caravan

The Rajmata’s Minister arrives on the scene just then (again, not sure how he knew where they were and don’t care) and asks Badal to go with him, which he does. At the Minister’s hideout the Minister tells him that the Rajmata has gone to the palace. She is confronting the King, the hunchback and Captain Egg with the news that Badal is her son and the rightful King. Not surprisingly this results in her being taken away and imprisoned.

daku_hunchback2

Badal goes to the palace to rescue his mother, and is confronted by an angry Lily, who thinks he’s there to see the Rajkumari. She won’t listen when he tells her he’s there for his Maa, and starts yelling for the palace guards, who predictably show up: this seems to startle her.

daku_badal_lily

I must say that most of the characters in this film act on impulse without really considering the consequences. It makes for an exciting plot, but is probably not the best way to live. In any case, Badal is arrested although Captain Egg lets Lily go. Anwar and Paro are waiting, and scold her for her stupidity. Anwar then hits on an idea to rescue Badal once again. He goes to the Rajkumar’s pottery room and begins smashing his beloved pots. Somehow this works; after a long conversation which escapes me completely, the Rajkumar tries to get his father to release Badal (I think).

daku_pottery

Elsewhere in the palace, Badal is facing a firing squad (now that’s the way to kill your enemies, people!) as Captain Egg and the hunchback look on.

daku_firingsquad

Will Anwar be in time to save his best friend? Will Badal forgive Lily for putting him there in the first place? Where is the Rajmata—can they save her? Will Badal get his rightful place on the throne? There are many twists and turns of the plot to come, which I find hard to follow but enjoy enormously nonetheless.

Here is some more random Goodness:

daku_shashikala2

daku_shammi2

daku_hunchback3

daku_villains

shammi_daku

Oh, Shalini. I really really really owe you, big time.

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40 Comments to “Daku (1955)”

  1. Wow, never heard of this movie!
    and my fav Shashikala as a heroine!
    Too good to be true!
    And such beautiful songs.
    Snehal Bhatkar! Is she one of the first woman music directors? I know she is not the first, since there was a lady who gave music in bombay talkies. But maybe the only one in the 50s!
    Sounds Great!
    And Shammi bare-chested!

  2. She’s gorgeous, and the songs are lovely. Snehal Bhatkar is a man, so not one of the first female music directors :-) Saraswati Devi I think was the first along with Nargis’ mother Jaddan Bai, followed then by Usha Khanna.

    Shammi is *to die for* handsome in this.

  3. OMG! Gypsy Shammi is beyond awesome! Am crushing like madwoman!

  4. Gosh, Shammi in a swashbuckler!!!! AND Shashikal as heroine. I am a bit confused by your plot synopsis (arent the Rajkumari and Rajkumar his half/step siblings) but I clearly need to see this one… :-)

    Shammi is dressed like Gene Kelly in The Pirate – hence the name Daaku?

    • I didn’t really understand why it was called Daku, except that Shammi’s character so hated being called a Daku. It was quite comical, even. His hatred for it was probably explained, but I didn’t catch it.

      I didn’t catch much, except that Shammi was awesome (along with the other stuff I mentioned).

  5. Ooohh, I need this one. Shammi Kapoor looks just so gorgeous.

    BTW: i just love your review: I’m still grinning idiotically at all of it – the being `squished to death by a blunt instrument’ and everything. Superb! :-))

  6. Shammi Kapoor in Daku …….I saw the first screen cap and I just knew another gem had been detected…… Thanks Memsaab, and Shalini. I am very inspired to skip work and go looking for dusty VCDs of old movies that a lot of stores here in Delhi just dump in huge wire baskets….. daunting task ..but needs to be done.

    God, what else is out there …..

    • I need to help you in that task!!!! If I had lots of money I would start up my own DVD company and dig these treasures up, restore them, subtitle them, NOT edit them, TEST the master and then distribute!!!!!! Such a simple business plan, no?

      • Can I join this business? :-) I admit to not having too many of the really old ones, but I’ve just added a 1929 silent film called A Throw of Dice to my Amazon wishlist. And I’ve discovered I want desperately to see some of Ruby Myers’s early hits, especially the intriguingly-named Bambai ki Billi.

        • Oooh! *pictures Catwoman in her head*

          Yes of course you may join this business. I don’t suppose YOU have enough money to actually fund it and make it real? *crosses fingers*

          • Naaah, sorry. ;-) let’s hope my novel’s a smashing success and I make pots of money! Incidentally, Bambai ki Billi was supposedly a remake of Wildcat of Bombay, made in 1927, which featured Ruby Myers in eight roles. I gotta see these films…

  7. Wow! A hindi film with an actually cute kid playing the hero when young! Will wonders never cease?

  8. Really!! What else is out there!!!! :)))
    I dont know if i can actually sit through the whole of these… which is why your column is oh-so important!! :)

    and wow!! Shammi looks like such an adorable little boy!! super screen shots here! :)

  9. A throw of dice! I remember watching that ages ago back in Germany when they put on silent movies with live music in the university courtyard one summer. I mainly remember elephants and tigers and lots of awesome costumes.

  10. A Throw of Dice is easily available at http://www.kino.com in a gorgeous restoration with a lovely new score by Nitin Sawhney. India 1920s-style is ek dam luscious.

  11. Ooh, it does look ek-dum delicious!!!! I’ve ordered it :-) Wish they had more Indian films—the only four they have are this one, plus one about ayurveda, and Kandukondain Kandukondain and Shatranj Ke Khilari…

  12. Sadly, Kino doesn’t have many Indian films, because their discs are always first class.

  13. Captain Egg looks like a miniature version of Paresh Rawal.

    I met Shashikala once at the Film Institute, old, retired, but gorgeous as ever. I was pretty awestruck, and behaved like a gushing fan, I must confess.

    • You are so right, he does!!! A cross between Paresh Rawal and an elf :-D

      I would gush too if I were ever lucky enough to meet Shashikala. She is so lovely.

  14. http://www.hamaraforums.com/index.php?s=91021b54d0393111eea4003f50c2433c&showtopic=38110&pid=376906&st=0&#entry376906

    Snehal Bhatkar was a guy ! anyhow a really good composer, going by the songs.

    You should get a doctorate for bringing up such good stuff.

  15. A doctorate in SHAMMI!

    :-)

  16. I had to tell you that I just saw the colourized Mughal-E-Azam DVD in which they interview famous stars for their reaction about the original and the redone versions.

    Shammi features prominently in it talking about his father and stuff he says are way cool. So who did I naturally think about while watching that with saliva hanging off my mouth…

  17. Oh no! I might have to buy that DVD just for the Shammi interview!!!!!! :-D

  18. shashikala looks soooooo young here! still, as gorgeous as ever!
    howwever, shammi’s moustache is a bit of a ‘must not’

  19. I thought I had seen every film of Shammi Kapoor but memsaabstory
    proved me wrong. Shammi Kapoor opposite Shashikala?

  20. i was driving along a motorway today when i saw a man who looked EXACTELY like Shammi (in younger days)!
    I dont know what came over me but I started honking the horn & waving – I made myself look like a right fool! But, I love this film the music is great & it is quite funny!

    • Ha! He’s lucky you only honked and waved. I don’t know what I might have done! :) It’s very nice to know that a young Shammi lookalike exists on the planet.

  21. This looks like a lovely movie – Will have to go & see if they sell it in a shop because the online shop that I usually use in out of stock : (
    But it look’s very funny!

  22. Wow Greta..I am very impressed. All those photographs take me back to my days in Mumbai in 1955. A lot has happened since. From Harbance Kumar, I have become Mickey Nivelli. My wife is a Trinidadian (West Indian) Indian. After pioneering the West Indian movie industry with my movie THE RIGHT AND THE WRONG..I made others. My next big hit was GIRL FROM INDIA. My dear friend, like a younger brother KAbir Bedi made a cameo appearance. But now I am settled here in New York since over 30 years. Please google my name for more details. My wife and I are going to celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary. You are invited. Regards…Mickey Nivelli

    • Thanks Mickey, maybe I will show up ;-) New York is not far! I will need to watch this one again to see if I can spot the scene where you stood in for Shammi! Will look for your films too, would love to see them. Cheers :)

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