Hum Sab Ustad Hain (1965)

Sometimes all I really need is Dara Singh and one gorgeous song after another. This film has that in spades, plus the lovely Ameeta and Bela Bose, and Kishore Kumar, and Sheikh Mukhtar, and King Kong (the wrestler, not the giant simian). What it doesn’t have is a coherent story or any sense of identity: is it a comedy? a spy caper? a wrestling film? a lost-and-found family drama? The answer, of course, is YES! to all of the above. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially given Dara Singh’s target audience (an audience in which I firmly belong).

My main complaint is the comedy element, which quickly becomes tiresome. It is inserted awkwardly into what should have been dramatic or suspenseful moments, and goes on way too long in other places. No doubt this is the fault of director (and comedian) Maruti, but Kishore’s presence doesn’t help either. I love Kishore, but I prefer him a bit less manic than he is here. Maruti is credited with the “scenario” too, but no screenplay is mentioned and I am pretty sure there wasn’t one. The whole thing has a very seat-of-the-pants feel to it (some less charitable than I might even call it uncontrolled chaos).

In any case, it is still chock full of the eye-and-ear candy I mentioned first: yummy yummy Dara Singh, fabulous Laxmikant-Pyarelal songs, pretty ladies and a pair of seriously ugly dudes—fascinatingly ugly, though. I saw a young Sheikh Mukhtar recently in 1942′s Roti, which I would love to write up except that it had no subtitles so my sense of it being a really good movie is a hunch rather than anything I could actually describe. Here he is in it (on the left):

and here he is 23 years later:

He’s not helped of course by the fact that T-Series couldn’t be bothered to do even the simplest picture improvement (why is everything BLUE?) and slapped their obnoxious bright red logo on top of it all, but there’s no getting around the fact that he was always a scary-looking individual.

I do love him though! He plays a man wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife’s father, in the wake of his wife’s disappearance. I don’t think his character ever has an actual name, so I’ll just call him Sheikh here for the sake of brevity. He goes to jail for fourteen years, and when he is released finds that being a convicted murderer is a stigma he cannot erase. He then turns to crime as a way of life, and forms a nefarious gang whose biggest payoff comes six years later when it’s hired by traitors “across the border” to deliver a film containing Indian state secrets to them.

In the intervening years, his absent wife Radha (Lalita Kumari) (who was swept away in a flood and rescued by some villagers, where she stayed, inexplicably choosing not to go home in search of her husband) has given birth to their son Ram; he has grown up to be Dara Singh.

I feel I must say here that Dara has never looked as good as he did in this film. I don’t know what it was, but he made my heart go pitter-patter. And he did not have a romantic role, either, Kishore being the nominal “hero” in the wooing department. Ramu lives with his Ma and a sister (I assume adopted, since Radha would not have cheated on her husband surely!) who never has a name either (at least not that I catch), so I’ll call her Bela (Bela Bose).

Sheikh and his gang steal the film (we don’t get to see that part) and kidnap a little girl in order to force her older sister Rupa (Ameeta) to deliver it across the border. The thinking is that since Rupa is a decent girl, she won’t be searched—and she isn’t. But, being a decent girl, she also listens when her conscience appears in her rear-view mirror.

She decides that she cannot sacrifice the lives and freedom of her countrymen and women for her little sister’s sake, and speeds past Sattar (Maruti), Sheikh’s henchman who is supposed to receive the film. This is one of those movies where you have to just let go of any need for anything to make sense, because it just never does—the “border” seems to move around a lot, for example. Anyway, in the ensuing chase, Rupa loses control of her car and crashes off a bridge into the river below.

Now we meet Kishore (Kishore Kumar), a charming scamp of a man who has Walter Mitty-like dreams of becoming a detective.

News of Rupa’s accident reaches Sheikh and also the police, who begin searching for her. Kishore happens upon the police investigation and decides that this is a perfect opportunity for him to hone his detecting skills; he sets off to look for her as well.

Rupa has meanwhile washed up in the same place Radha did twenty years earlier, and is rescued by Ram and his family. When she regains consciousness, she tells them that she doesn’t want to return home as she’s afraid she will be killed.

Kishore has equipped himself hilariously with binoculars and a thermos (but no food).

He embarks on his search by train, where he intervenes in a quarrel between some men with a really lovely “Hindu-Muslim-bhai-bhai” song called “Pyar Baantte Chalo.” Hooray for non-secular brotherly love!

He lands up in the same village that everyone else has (hey, why not?) and meets Bela, raising her suspicions when he describes Rupa. Rupa has finally confessed her secret to Ramu, and he has promised to protect and help her.

I really wish that Dara had been Ameeta’s love interest in this instead of Kishore. What a waste of this manly man, to make him everybody’s bhaiyya—although his sibling chemistry with Bela Bose is absolutely wonderful: teasing and combative, but very affectionate.

Kishore I think would have been perfectly happy to be the comic foil, although it would have deprived us of one of his romantic songs (except I don’t see why it couldn’t have been pictured just as well on Dara). He gives the romance only half-hearted attention. But in any case, he is welcomed by the village after Bela gives us a lively song and dance (“Bambai Ke Yeh Babu”) where she and the other girls bash him around a bit.

Rupa comes to his defense and Ram allows him to stay with them (a cute scene with Dara making Kishore do push-ups follows). Sheikh and his gang now appear on Rupa’s trail, disguised as wandering sages who grant requests. They meet Ram and Kishore, and see Rupa there as well, but leave before Radha can be seen and recognized by her disguised husband.. The conversation is naturally fraught with filmi irony!

Kishore begins romancing Rupa, and she sings the pretty “Ajnabi Tum.” Kishore sings another—sadder—version of it later, which I think was more famous, but I like Rupa’s (Lata’s) rendition better. It’s just so happy, and beautifully picturized. I wish the film were in better shape—it’s clearly deteriorated quite a bit, but some shots are just breathtaking even so—the cinematographer had a thing for billowing clouds!

Ameeta often reminded me of Neha Dhupia in this film. (If it seems like I’m going off on random tangents during this synopsis, it’s because that’s what I did while watching the movie too. It’s just that kind of film.)

Sheikh and his gang set upon Kishore and Ameeta at one of their romantic rendezvous, but are thwarted by Ramu. During this very very very lengthy brawl, Radha and Bela come on the scene too, and Sheikh unwittingly smashes Radha on the head from behind, with predictable results.

Ramu vows to track Sheikh down in Bombay to avenge his mother’s misfortune, and Kishore and Rupa devise a plot to help him and to rescue Rupa’s sister Munni, using Rupa and the film as bait. I have to laugh, because Munni is relatively unconcerned at being held captive by Sheikh. He pats her on the head in a fatherly manner as she stuffs her face—Rupa it seems, has no real need to worry (not that she has been, much).

Will our trio succeed in saving India from its anonymous enemies across the border? Can they rescue Munni? Will Sheikh and Ramu ever realize that they are father-son? Will Sheikh be reunited with the wife he has blinded? Will he end up back in jail?

Above all—can Ramu survive the horrors of city life??!

(Isn’t Ameeta so cute as a man?)

King Kong, whom I have only seen wrestling before, actually has a role and dialogues in this, which he delivers in a shout with an accent worse than mine (his English is good though, possibly even his mother tongue?). He takes our threesome under his wing, and into his home.

He is a spectacularly ugly man:

And though Ameeta looks good in drag, the same cannot be said for Sheikh Mukhtar.

He channels Mrs. Doubtfire in a nightclub scene, which also features Dara, Kishore and King Kong all in disguise. Kishore sings the wonderful “Suno Jana Suno Jana” to “her” in his inimitable style as a roomful of people do the Indian Twist.

Who is this woman? I need to know!!!! She turns up everywhere!

It’s a rollicking good time.

And with judicious use of the FF button, the film is an enjoyable romp too. You will need the FF button, though, unless endless bouts of wrestling and unrestrained comedy are your thing. But the songs (oh! the songs! look them up on Youtube, do!) along with handsome Dara, irrepressible Kishore, and almost everything else, are oodles of B-movie fun!

Whatta man!

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30 Comments to “Hum Sab Ustad Hain (1965)”

  1. Sound slike a full round of easy entertainment.
    men or women in drag is always entertaining and with Kishore in it, it can never be wrong!
    Ameeta was so beautiful. Though she had a good start in the movies her career never really got off!

  2. Kishore is all over the place in this, sometimes really endearing and funny and silly, and sometimes just plain irritating. His picture could be next to the word “manic” in the dictionary. But Dara is his usual solid (physically and metaphorically) self, and there are lots of fun things. And the songs (did I mention how much I liked the songs?)…Ameeta is pretty but not a great actress, not that that was a requirement here :D.

  3. Is This Woman here by mistake, she looks straight out of a Fellini film :)

  4. I know, right? But if she’s here by mistake, she’s here by mistake A LOT. I’ve seen her in at least three or four other films.

  5. Is the big guy in the fourth picture (the one with the “He just wants us to steal a film from the government…” subtitle) Sheikh Mukhtar himself? He looks just like Jon Voight in the shot! (because of the blurry picture quality, I guess.)

  6. Yes! He does look a bit like Jon Voight. A pockmarked, scary-looking Jon Voight. Oh wait, I just described Jon Voight, didn’t I?

  7. Hmm, sounds like Manmohan based his Suhaag losely on this film. :)

  8. I’m not terribly fond of Dara Singh, but he does look fabulous here! What a waste to have Ameeta being Kishore Kumar’s love interest instead of his. :-(

    • My eyes actually popped out of my head at the first shot of him. Even with the poor visual quality he looks glossy and healthy and bristling with manly goodness. YUM! If I were Ameeta I would have insisted upon being his costar! Kishore was cute, but totally uninterested in the romance angle himself, so obviously.

  9. An outstanding music from Laxmikant-Pyarelal. In mid sixties Kishore Kumar was forgotten. Laxmikant-Pyarelal were relatively new music directors. Both KK-LP have done excellent work to give us some immortal melodies in this movie…

    • Yes, the music is unbelievably good. As Atul always says—and I so agree—so many of these overlooked, underrated “B-movies” had completely A-grade music. Just sublime.

      I think he said on his blog that this is the first collaboration between L-P and Kishore.

  10. I had heard 2 songs from this movie – Anjnabee tum and Pyar Baantte Chalo
    Saw the others on youtube today after reading your post. Really nice songs. I liked all the characters in disguise in – Suno jaana , esp Sheikh Mukhtar ;-)
    And that lady definitely looks out of place.

    Oh, the cinematographer does look obsessed with billowing clouds. It’s so apparent in the songs as well.

    • I think Suno Jana is my favorite, although I really love all of them. I like the female version of Ajnabi Tum a lot too, although I don’t love the way Lata sings it. But it’s so happy happy!

      Billowing clouds EVERYWHERE!

  11. The main attraction of this film is the beautiful songs. I think you made a mistake in the song its Bambai Ke Yeh Babu not bambai hai yeh babu. I didn’t liked the story very much. Ameeta was looking excellent. She should have been paired with Dara Singh. Bela Bose is as usual excellent and gorgeous. Bela Bose is really very beautiful isn’t it ? I just watched the film just because of her. Memsaab you should make a Ten Favorite Bela Bose Songs in your next post.She is absolutely great.

    • Oops, you are of course right about the song name! I will fix it in the post :) Thanks.

      I liked the story okay, although there was too much comedy as I said. So many little fun items though. One of these days will do a Bela post, have to wait for the proper inspiration though :D

  12. I had known about the title of this movie and knew that it was a Kishore Kumar film, but never knew it had Dara Singh in it.
    The music is awesome and though the songs are quite well-known, I’d never brought them together.
    I didn’t even knew that there was a happy Lata version of ‘Ajnabi tum jaane pehchane se lagte ho’. Both are good!
    KK and Ameeta, both look a bit plump here!

  13. Sheikh Mukhtar, Bela Bose, Ameeta (I want to know more about this actress!), and Dara Sing! What a film!

    This is one of my early Dara Singh viewings and I really need to watch it again. And I had forgotten that Kishore Kumar was even in it! LOL!

    • You do need to watch it again! Ameeta is very pretty; she was a little over-histrionic in places here, but I liked her a lot in Mere Mehboob as I recall.

      Bela is very cute in this too, esp. in her scenes with Dara.

  14. looking at Ameeta run throught he corridors during the song “Suno jaana, suno jaana” is I think worth the price of the DVD! And Sheikh Mukhtar doing the twist in woman’s dress is the topping ;-)

  15. 3 reasons to watch this, after reading your engaging review.
    -Dara Singh indeed looks very handsome. Though I never cared for him, but that may all change now :-)
    -ok, the songs I’m familiar with and like them a lot.
    -to see Shiekh Mukhtar dressed as a woman and giving Kishore coy looks.
    I would watch for this last reason alone. LOL.

  16. Since both, KK and Dara don’t seem to be so much interested in Ameeta. maybe the director should have let KK find his love for Dara and vice versa!
    That would have made it some hatke film! ;-)

  17. I like the situation of the song Ajnabee tum … when the heroine denies to know kishore,, and he starts singing the song..

  18. I tip my hat to you for actually sitting through and making sense of this one. It’s hard for me to stay interested in these everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type movies. And it looks like Kishore had the same problem.:-)

    PS. I thought we had decided that the woman was “Nilofer”?

    • We had conjectured that she might be Nilofer, but I want PROOF! I’m not convinced, especially since one other film she was in had someone billed as “Lillian”…

      So the jury is still out, unless you know something I don’t :)

  19. Two outstanding songs ajanbi tum jaane pehchaane se and pyaar bhantete chalo by Kishore..Did they work well for you, memsaab?

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