Hindi films are so aptly named much of the time! This one is unsubtitled but even I could tell that it is full of people paining and pining, although I am not always clear why. I don’t usually write up the unsubtitled movies I watch unless they are particularly interesting; this one is (at least to me), for several reasons. One is that Uma Devi, later known and beloved as comedienne Tun Tun, sings playback for actress Munawar Sultana. The songs were a big hit for her (composed by Naushad). The second is that it is a relatively early film for character actors who went on to have long careers in Hindi cinema: Protima Devi, Badri Prasad and one of my favorites Shyam Kumar. And also, except for Suraiya, I had not seen the lead actors—Munawar Sultana and Nusrat—so was just plain curious!
I don’t think Nusrat did much besides this film, although imdb is my only rather unreliable guide to that assumption; Ms. Sultana seems to have worked throughout the 1950s anyway. She was apparently better known than Suraiya at this point since she got top billing (followed by Suraiya with Nusrat a distant third). I was more impressed by the actress playing the best friend, though: Husn Banu. What happened to her? According to imdb, she worked through the 30s (in films I really really really want to see, like Flying Ranee and Hurricane Hansa), then her career seems to have faded. In this she is sparkly, teasing and fun, which is a nice break from all the angst everyone else is burdened by.
My synopsis is more interpretation than actual synopsis, since as I said there were no subtitles (thanks for nothing, Nupur). A schoolboy named Gopal? or Badal?—I’ll call him Gopal—who is apparently smarter than the other kids is taken home by a Nawab (Badri Prasad) to live with his wife the Begum (Protima Devi) and their young daughter Suraiya (that’s the character’s name). Suraiya is an imperious young thing who torments the poor orphan, until he tries to run away. When the Nawab stops him and scolds his daughter, Gopal steps in to defend her, thereby making her his friend for life and working a miracle on her up-until-now obnoxious personality.
Years pass (a rosebud unfolds) and Gopal (Nusrat) studies hard and becomes a doctor. He strikes me particularly as a wet blanket type, but Suraiya (Munawar Sultana) is clearly smitten with him. She gives him a big honking diamond ring to celebrate his success. Nusrat doesn’t seem very interested in Suraiya, though; in fact, she appears to annoy him a bit. Her friend Zubeida (Husn Banu) enjoys teasing them both, which makes Suraiya laugh but irritates Gopal. (I’m assuming that she is Husn Banu: it seems logical given the small cast.) She has a nose like a beak but I think she’s very pretty.
Meanwhile the Begum sits around with a bandage or something tied around her head while her husband gives her head massages. Is she suffering a head wound or a headache? I am unclear as to how a bandage would help a headache or a massage a head wound.
Mostly I am distracted by how much their house resembles an Art Deco cruise ship, or at least what I imagine such a thing would look like.
There are ornate railings and windows everywhere, and huge vases full of flowers. (Dard-e-Deco? Sorry.)
In any case, Gopal soon decides to go off to a village to treat the sick there—I think there is some sort of epidemic, since dead rats are shown lying around.
While there he treats an old man with a daughter named Hamida (Suraiya). So impressed is he by her beauty that he forgets to take his doctor bag with him every time he leaves their house, and the two are soon romancing. Suraiya (the actress) is so pretty when she smiles, it’s a pity she didn’t get to do it more often.
As Gopal heals the sick and flirts with Hamida, the Begum continues to wear a bandage and get head massages from her husband, and Suraiya (the character) pines away for her beloved Gopal. Dard, dard and more dard. This paining-pining does give us the prettiest of the songs: “Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon.” I know the songs were big hits, but in all honesty I must tell you that after a minute or so I used the FF button for many of them.
Hamida has another suitor in the unsavory person of Dilawar (Shyam Kumar). He appears to have some sort of hold over Hamida and her father—I think they owe him money or something, because after much posturing and threatening on Dilawar’s part (Shyam Kumar’s main talent), Gopal gives Dilawar the diamond ring which Suraiya had given him. Then Gopal becomes gravely ill himself, and the Nawab sends a car and an ambulance to bring him home, leaving Hamida alone and sad.
Dilawar then gives her the diamond ring, which she accepts for some reason (I’m not sure if she knows it belonged to Gopal); and soon after he murders her father.
Meanwhile back at home Gopal has recovered thanks to the loving ministrations of his family and Suraiya (the character) in particular. Also, the Begum stops wearing her bandage, although I don’t understand the source of her miraculous cure any better than I did the source of her pain.
Now for some reason the Nawab goes to the village and brings poor sad bereaved Hamida home. I have no idea whether this is at the request of Gopal, or for some other reason (maybe her father was one of the Nawab’s employees?), but she moves in with the family, with this heavily symbolic portent of things to come.
She is welcomed by Suraiya, but Gopal is perturbed when he sees her wearing the diamond ring he had given Dilawar. They have some sort of tiff about this, where he stops speaking to her and pretends that she’s invisible (so mature!)—but they eventually make up.
Then Suraiya sees her gift to Gopal adorning Hamida’s finger, with predictable results.
The humanity! What kind of dard-e-dil will this ginormous diamond bring into the household? Can any more sad songs be sung (yes)? Will Hamida and Gopal’s relationship be torn asunder? Will Suraiya (the character) die from the pain of her betrayal? Or will Gopal remember his debt to her family and do the right thing?
I’m pretty sure that the lack of subtitles didn’t much matter here (in fact, it may have been a blessing). But I enjoyed it for the deco decor (and the hookahs), the familiar and unfamiliar faces (although I can see why Nusrat didn’t make it far, if he in fact didn’t) and the draaaaaama. And some of the songs. And the sumptuously beautiful ghararas, shararas and kameez(es?). Those Nawabs and their ladies really knew how to dress for lounging around!
Updated to add: Nusrat’s full name was Nusrat Kardar, and he was the brother of producer-director AR Kardar. He went to Pakistan after Partition and made some films there. See more about him here.