Mere Huzoor (1968)

The Raaj Kumar love continues here with this lovely Muslim social drama about marriage and gender relations. A big thank-you to my friend Raja and his friend Bharat for getting the dvd all the way from India to my doorstep! Films about women’s status in society and the choices they are given (or not) often disturb me or just plain make me angry. This one disappointed me—it came this close to being a true winner, and then failed—but was better than most from this era all the same (I’ll talk more about it with spoilers at the end).

Mere Huzoor is justly famed for its songs by Shankar Jaikishan, and happily were also subtitled as the lyrics (Hasrat Jaipuri) are lovely too. A big reason I love Muslim socials are the sets and costumes, and they don’t let me down here either! Mala is pretty good until she lets it all hang out at the end (which is highly entertaining all the same), Jeetendra is handsome although bland; it is Raaj Kumar who makes this worth watching though. He is wonderful as the misunderstood and melancholic Nawab who lives life on his own terms. He is such a strangely attractive man, odd wig and all!

Set in Lucknow, the story revolves around a love triangle between Nawab Salim (Raaj Kumar), whose wealth allows him the luxury of a life immersed in dancing girls, horses, tennis and other pleasures; beautiful Sultanat (Mala Sinha, who looks really lovely in this); and Akhtar Hussain Akhtar (Jeetendra), a poet who had once saved the Nawab’s life and has now come to him looking for a job.

On the train to Lucknow, Akhtar has been smitten by a pretty girl after seeing her face reflected in a mirror (she lifts her burkha in order to read a book, thinking her back is safely turned). Subhan Allah!

This leads to poetic ecstasy on his part in the form of a song: “Rukh Se Zara Naqab Utha Do Mere Huzoor.” It is used as a theme throughout, so thank goodness it’s as beautiful as it is! Sultanat is returning home to Lucknow after visiting relatives.

The Nawab welcomes Akhtar warmly and gives him a job. Akhtar has another friend living in Lucknow, the Comic Side Plot in the form of poet Pyarelal (Johnny Walker). Another nice thing about this film is that the CSP actually helps to carry the movie’s themes along instead of going off on a completely different tangent. Plus, Johnny is funny. He always makes me laugh.

It turns out that Pyare lives across the street from Doctor Hakim (KN Singh) and his daughter—who happens to be Sultanat. How fortuitous!

Sultanat is a friend of the Nawab’s sister Shama (Surekha), and he runs smack into her on his way out to play tennis one morning. Like most films of this type, women adhere to purdah on a pretty flexible basis (I call it Purdah Lite): Sultanat is coming in from outside, having taken off her burkha, and conveniently meets the Nawab so he has a chance to see her face and fall head over heels for her (which of course he does) before she demurely “covers up” with the racket.

The Nawab, as I’ve said, has a certain reputation for debauchery and earlier in the film has made his feelings on the shackles of marriage quite clear to his dear Chachaji (David), a man with a magnificent mouche when he is out and about:

but not so much at home with his strident wife (Manorama):

Chachaji and Manorama have a pretty daughter (Zeb Rehman) who is the object of Pyare’s affections, a situation which drives the CSP on a parallel with Akhtar’s pursuance of Sultanat. She is involved in a committee of women formed:

This makes me laugh and laugh: “Tight-pant-wale loafer street Romeos se…” she says furiously. This humor is very welcome, because I am feeling sorry for my poor Nawab, whose new-found love for Sultanat seems doomed: she appears to be falling for the charming and romantic (although dull dull dull to me at least) Akhtar.

(She doesn’t LOOK happily in love I realize, but that’s just Mala.)

And indeed, when the Nawab (not knowing of Akhtar’s feelings for her) sends a proposal of marriage to Sultanat’s father, the doctor turns it down because of the Nawab’s reputation (I think, although he may also realize his daughter is in love elsewhere), even though the Nawab has promised to give up all his vices. He is shattered by the refusal, and my heart breaks for him.

He returns to his dancing girls and drinking, and installs a somewhat creepy life-size statue of Sultanat in his home. I still feel very sad for him though.

Akhtar works up the courage to ask Sultanat’s father for her hand as well—and is accepted. When the Nawab discovers that his protege and friend is also his rival in love, he generously swallows his sorrow and bestows a nice house for the newlyweds to live in and showers them with money. Pyare gets married to his beloved as well, giving the filmmakers a chance for those hen-pecked husband jokes that annoy me, although actual married people often seem to enjoy them.

Years pass, and Sultanat and Akhtar have a boy (Master Ripple). They live next to the Nawab, who alleviates his loneliness with Akhtar’s friendship and treats their son as his own: the child spends long happy hours playing there. Akhtar and Sultanat are now apt to quarrel as all married people with children seem to, and she’s annoyed when he spends time with his and Pyare’s friend Murda (Ram Mohan)—with good reason.

Murda is not a very nice man, and furthermore he acts as a pimp for a manipulative and greedy courtesan in town named Firdaus (Indira Billi). Akhtar resists her artful flattery and advances at first, but it doesn’t take long before he is completely bowled over by her and begins spending all his late nights with her, giving her expensive jewelry into the bargain.

When Sultanat finds out about Akhtar’s betrayal (he comes home drunk and embraces her, calling her Firdaus) she is heartbroken, but also angry. The Nawab tries to intervene on her behalf and make Akhtar see sense, but it’s impossible. When he confronts her for dragging the Nawab into it, they quarrel, which culminates in him divorcing her by talaq. His mother (Praveen Paul) tries to stop him, but Sultanat herself defiantly accepts the divorce and tells him to get out. I nearly fall off my chair in surprise and delight at this development! I also have to pity poor Master Ripple: Hindi film bachche spend a good deal of time with their faces crushed against various spangled and bejewelled grownups, and it’s got to hurt a little.

His father’s desertion causes little Munna to come down with a serious fever as well, and when the Nawab spends days on end at Sultanat’s house nursing her son, the busybody men in the neighborhood start gossiping (but at least it’s the men doing it and not the women!).

I wonder if one of them (specifically the guy in the purple vest) might be our elusive Nazir Kashmiri? But I can’t tell for sure…In any case, they attack the Nawab next time he visits. Both Sultanat and her mother-in-law are horrified, and MIL suggests a solution: Sultanat should marry the Nawab. I completely agree, but Mala goes into a full-on dramatic seizure at this. It’s quite fun, except probably for poor Master Ripple, who is smashed again and wept on.

Did Mala and Shyam Kumar ever act together? Because that is something I would like to see.

When she calms down she agrees to marry the Nawab—but across town, her ex-husband discovers Firdaus’ perfidy when Murda finds her a new rich young thing to exploit and play with.

This is probably a good time to insert a SPOILER alert: I won’t give the actual events and ending away, but in order to talk about why the film somewhat succeeds but ultimately disappoints requires some giveaway detail.

So—you’ve been warned! *SPOILERS*

I was thrilled and delighted when Sultanat’s wedding to the Nawab does take place. The Nawab makes no demands on her (which is difficult for him since he still loves her) and is a good father to her Munna. And if the story had allowed them to eventually find their way to each other, how much I would have loved this movie. Sultanat does come to love the Nawab—but they are never allowed to be happy. This seems so unfair to me, and undoes the good that the rest of the events playing out have done. The husband who strayed is punished—check; the man who is good and honorable gets his heart’s desire—almost—check; and the woman…well, there’s the rub. She is not allowed to have a new relationship with the good man. She did nothing wrong herself, but new happiness is still denied her. She is forced to remain chaste and “faithful” to the man who betrayed her. This, needless to say, pisses me off, and it seems like total cowardice on the part of the filmmakers. It completely negates the power that the movie could have had, and should have had. Huge FAIL. Sigh.

*END SPOILERS* (Although beware if there are comments because they might contain them.)

Still, there is a lot to love in this. The story is interesting and doesn’t track predictably even with its major let-down at the end. I love the songs, the poetry (Johnny Walker is hilarious), the outfits, the candelabras, the hookahs…and Raaj Kumar. He is just totally compelling. And he gets a Laxmi Chhaya dance (with Madhumati):

Mere huzoor, indeed.

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56 Comments to “Mere Huzoor (1968)”

  1. OMG! I wanna watch this again now… absolutely love the songs of this one!!! Thanks for sharing this. I heart Mala Sinha.

  2. ** This comment may contain SPOILERS **

    So finally you managed to see this. :-)
    Thanks for reviewing it – nice review. You always manage to get the essence of a movie so well into a review.

    Now I can share with you what I liked and did not like about the movie :-)
    The first time I liked this movie years back, I liked it a lot. When I saw it recently, I felt there was something missing.

    What I liked :
    – Songs (excellent)
    – Raj Kumar (just fantastic)
    – CSP was fun, including chappal incident and all that (nice CSP song too)
    – Muslim social, with its usual natural attraction for me (I am a sucker for Muslim socials with their exotic sets, Urdu and all that)
    – Mala Sinha getting divorced from Jeetendra (quite progressive, given the times)
    – The mother-in-law actually taking the daughter-in-law’s side and suggesting that she marry the Nawab (I really liked this a lot !!!)
    – The very last scene in the movie…the fact that she stays independent

    With all this, there were a couple of things that let me down
    – The story had tremendous potential for more twists and turns. But the main plot (the “being lead astray”, causing turmoil) gets limited space because of the CSP and the wooing between Jeetu and Mala. Both take up too much time though they are good by themselves. Would have liked to see more of the turmoil, more of Mala accusing the Nawab of taking revenge on her, stuff like that.
    – Jeetendra. He was horrible. But I think it was one of his earlier movies.
    – Mala Sinha. Why can a heroine in a Hindi movie not completely move on ?

    Anyway, there is more to like than to dislike here, so I guess overall the movie gets good, if not great, marks from me.

    • Sounds like we are on the same page with this one!!!! I did really enjoy it, was just so disappointed with the ending which could have been so good (and progressive)…but am very happy to have seen it and might even watch it again :)

  3. I liked this movie.

    SPOILER

    Though it would have been nice if Nawab and Mala had consummated their love, I guess this way they keep it PURE. Not my choice but just trying to reflect the notions of those times.

    I loved the song Raaj Kumar sings at mala and jeetu’s wedding reception – jo guzar rahi hai mujh par…

  4. It’s the ‘Jhanak Tori Baaje Payaliya’ song and video on YouTube that introduced me to this film.

    Raaj Kumar is so underrated.

    • It is a totally fabulous song, and I love the way Raaj Kumar “sings”—it actually looks like he IS singing.

    • It’s a great Manna Dey number–it’s on my playlist so I listen to it fairly often. I don’t like watching it for two reasons: first I’m squeamish about blood, and second because there is such a strong disconnect with RK’s singing and his general coordination. Atul in his song blog gives an explanation–Manna Dey just sang his best whenever he was given an opportunity. But how could anyone sing so well in a drunken haze and how did this obvious point escape the director and everyone else involved?

  5. okay, i’ve a question and your answer is bound to be spoilerish.. does the Raaj Kumar later divorce Mala so that she can get married to Jeetendra again? (raja’s comment above did seem to suggest that Mala chooses to stay independent in the end).

    here’s why i’m asking. there’s a controversial so-called Islamic law that says once a man divorces his wife, the only way to get them back together is if the woman marries someone else, and then that person has to divorce her (they have to spend at least one night together) — so that the original husband & the woman can remarry. ~~ Now, I’m a practicing Muslim from Southeast Asia, and this so-called law I’ve only seen amongst uneducated village people, where the actual texts of Islam aren’t even studied, and the superficial knowledge of clerics are often relied upon. I have not heard of this practice in the Middle East, as for example. At least in Bangladeshi villages, this so-called law is often used to manipulate socio-gender politics.

    I am asking about this, because if this movie’s story indeed took that turn, this is probably the context.

  6. just wanted to clarify my above comment (without getting too off-topic hopefully), i really don’t believe Islam supports that law. e.g., it’s often said that Muslim men can have 4 wives at a time, but what’s often ignored, is that statement is immediately followed with saying that every wife has to be treated exactly the same way — and that immediately is followed by saying that no men could possibly ever do that. So many scholars take it to mean that having multiple wives is actually not allowed.

    Many Muslim social movies like this one (and even real life situations) takes advantage of that 3-times-talaq-means-we-are-divorced but there are also many stipulations that come with it (can’t be said in anger.. there needs to be a period of separation before a divorce can be final, etc. etc). So,.. same way.. just wanted to clarify my above comment, that Islam really doesn’t recommend such horrific stuff, in case someone misunderstands me.. hehe!! =) I shared that to provide a context IN CASE that was movie’s plot.. =)

    • On a lighter note: “Hindi film bachche spend a good deal of time with their faces crushed against various spangled and bejewelled grownups, and it’s got to hurt a little.” — a GREATER tragedy is being named (Master) Ripple!!!!!! hehe

    • SPOILER

      No, Mala does not get back with Jeetendra. Thanks for that info about variations on practices (for lack of a better word—won’t call them laws) :) I think every religion has been distorted in some manner or other to suit human purposes!

  7. Hi memsaab!

    Watched “mere huzoor” last week to find out Nazir Kasmiris identification actually. Read your review and I must say that I totally share your views about the movie. I feel I do so everytime I read your reviews, but I have never been able to express it so accurate as you do. So thanks soooooo much for doing that for me.

    BTW Raaj kumars sisters name is Surekha, Firdous is Indra also called Indra “billi” because of her light eyes and the name of Johny Walkers love interest is Zeb Rehman.

    • Ha! imdb leads me astray once again—and Firdaus looked so familiar, but I think of Indira Billi as being heavier—she is quite slender in this! I will add them all to my gallery and fix my post. :D Thanks!

  8. …….and Mala Sinha is very beautifull in Mere Huzoor

  9. Your review brings back fond memories of Lucknow, and the nawabi lifestyle, which I last saw about 50 years back! I will have to find this movie and watch it just to see Lucknow, and of course, Raaj Kumar. Thanks for a great review.

  10. first read about this movie at dustedoff’s place. She has already posted the ending there. And I was really disappointed with it! Really!

    SPOILER!

    And I’ll post the repeat my reaction there here as well!. ;-)

    Why aren’t hindi film heroines allowed to have sex with more than one man.
    Very unjust!
    Just because she was married to Akhtar, she has to live chaste with Salim and just in case if she does develop any feelings for him, he is conveniently bumped off.

    poor sultanat!
    my heart goes of to her. Thank God, in real life, women are not so dumb and find ways to wiggle through the norms of the society.

  11. Oh memsaab…again you reviewed a superb film….i loved this film when i first watched it….Mala Sinha was looking very beautiful in the film..The songs by Shankar Jaikishan is just superb….esp.the song Jhanak Jhanak Tori Baaje Payaliya…Johnny Walker is as usual superb….Raj Kumar acted beautifully..and of course Jeetendra..yes you are correct..the ending could be more interesting..but in total its a good film….

  12. oh…one more thing which i loved about this film is Surekha…she is soooooooo beautiful….i just loved her….may be i haven’t seen any other films of her…..but she is just superb in this film….soooo beautiful….i was just wishing if i would be a man i would just marry a girl like her (or her if she is still alive so)…

    One more thing..have you seen the song `Teri Nazron Ka Ishara`from Zindagi Aur Maut….a Pradeep Kumara and Faryal starred film..if you have seen so can you please tell that the song is picturised on whom….

  13. Every time I hear this film being discussed I want to scream a very painful ‘aaaaaahhhhhhhhh’!!! :-(

    The reason (the same as, I think, Blue lotus’) I mentioned in the ‘rantings’ – bad bad print where everyone was stretched sideways.
    I love muslim socials.
    Regarding ‘purdah lite’ :-)
    In my experience that’s how it normally is, at least in India. I’ve had friends and classmates at some point or the other in my life while growing up.

    My views about the film are exactly the same as yours.

    *spoiler*

    The marriage between Mala and Raaj Kumar was full of romantic tension for me, and I was longing for Mala to accept him and appreciate him as a man. But No!!!! It didn’t happen. Very very disapponting.

    **Spoiler ends**

    I’m glad you liked it :-)

  14. Memsaab – just a suggestion – considering how old the movies are that you are reviewing, I think you can do away with the spoiler bit and let us know how it ends.
    Whoever has wanted to see this movie, I am sure, has already done so. And we, who have not, see it through your reviews and screen caps and commentary.
    I dont think, except for some some specific ones like Anokhi Raat, anyone is going to seek out this movie and see it now. Just MHO.

    As it stands, all these spoilers in the comments have left me confused. What I can understand is that MS gets married to RK and then somehow they end up separating as well. And all three end up alone..:) Or do RK and Jeetendra end up a couple and MS left in the lurch all alone and besahara. I will definitely seek out this movie to watch then :)

    • Ha ha ha!!! That would have been a fab ending, and not an epic FAIL at all!! But no.

      SPOILER!

      Mala Sinha is happily married to RK (she’s not creeped out by the life-size statue of herself) and is working up the courage to make their marriage real when Jeetendra shows up; RK sees him and runs after him straight into the path of an oncoming car. He is hit and dies in Mala’s arms, but Mala doesn’t go back to Jeetendra. The movie ends with her visiting RK’s grave with her now grownup son, and Jeetendra is an old homeless tramp type living on the street. Very depressing and so unnecessary!

      END SPOILER

      I don’t want to give movie endings away in my posts, but you can always ask if you want to know and I’ll tell you! Deal?

      • I was quite happy to see Jeetendra as a homeless tramp and not back in Mala’s life. After what he did to her, he deserved it.
        And to think that the one reason that Mala did not pick RK was his image. That is the beauty of the movie – the girl picks the “good” guy over the “bad guy” and after marriage, the “good” guy becomes the “bad” guy and the “bad” guy the “good” one.
        Powerful storyline – could have done much more with it and had a happy ending.

        Instead of killing RK…I was so pissed off…hadn’t he suffered enough ? Just listened to that song “jo guzar rahi” (at the announcement of their wedding) again…it is SO beautiful…you feel so sorry for RK.

        Also listened to the CSP song…here it is…what an absolutely delightful song it is..with fun lyrics too. Rafi and Asha. I think I have this thing with Johnny Walker that you (Greta) have with Helen. I can watch a JW movie just for him, he is just so much fun. Never tire of watching him. :-)

        • I had no pity for Jeetendra at all. And would have been even more disappointed if Mala had gone back to him, was very happy she didn’t. But was furious about RK and will always be furious about it. If only we could somehow remake it with the proper ending!!!!

          I love JW too, and he’s really funny in this. And David with his poor down-turned whiskers.

  15. The only good thing about the excruciating (mostly thanks to Salma Agha with Sanjay Khan giving her ample support) Nikaah was how clear the movie makes it that her second marriage is ANYTHING but chaste and pure. That is a couple that’s having nookie all over the place, thank you.

    I’m beginning to think Mala Sinha had a good reason for her permanently “I have a tummy ache” face – if you had to play the roles she did, you’d have that default expression too. I might have been doing her an injustice all these years!

    Btw, totally OTT – http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/30/201001162010011602215368077c74a7c/Tumse-achcha-kaun-hai.html

    • It’s such a shame, really—it could have been the most romantic movie ever!!!! There was great tension building between RK and Mala. Alas. LOL@tummy-ache face. So true!

      And thanks for the Shammi link :) He is never off-topic here!!! And I’m glad to see you’re still reading the Mirror.

    • I might be mistaken, but I always thought it was Raj Babbar and Deepak Parashar in Nikaah. Didn’t know Sanjay Khan also starred in that film.

  16. OMG I was right! This blog really is dangerous. First your screencaps convince me Ranjeet is hawt, now I am beginning to think Raaj Kumar (a man I have frequently called UGLY) is hawt too! Greta, your blog is just terrible for good, pure, chaste maidens to visit! :p

    Now that I have sufficiently chastized you, let it also be said:

    1) Hysteria is an ornery state of being for Mala Sinha.
    2) Master Ripple is a truly tragic name for a child.
    3) I want that salmon pink sari. WANT!
    4) Purdah Lite- HAHHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!

    • Ranjeet IS hot. There is no question about it :) And I have never thought Raaj Kumar handsome…but he is certainly charismatic. There is just *something* about him…and which pure, chaste maidens are you talking about? ;-D

      Poor Ripple. I wonder what he is called now? Hopefully not “former child star Master Ripple”.

      I wanted EVERY outfit the women wore in this film. And some the men wore too.

  17. Yaay memsaab, one of these days i knew you had to review a lovely film like this!
    Raaj is so eloquent and has that “hailla” voice that i love so much! Mala was somewhat good in this, but then like usual she screeches and goes OTT at the end! I think Raaj just makes up for the loose plot points with that VOICE! SQUEEEALLL!
    Have you seen Mere Mehboob or something like that with Sadhana and Rajendra Kumar, that was another good Muslim social drama that was great and instead of Raaj they had Ashok in the “making-up-for-all-bad-plotpoints” role!

  18. Totally with you on the disappointing ending, especially since I think the poor Nawab had earned and was deserving of Sultanat’s love.:-( I also agree that Mala and RK had more romantic tension than Mala and Jeetendra. I remember a point in the movie(during the “gam utha ne ke liye” song perhaps?) when Mala actually goes up to RK and seems to about to kiss him, but *he* stops her. Idiot!:-D

    • Yes—that’s actually the turning point for the downward spiral of the story. He rejects her out of loyalty to his friend, who really really does not deserve it at this point! Sigh. The message I get from then on is that no matter how bad a cheat a man is, he should still get loyalty and sacrifice from his friends and wife who are better people. UGH UGH UGH. Talk about effed up notions of what it is to be noble!

      • Speaking of Raaj Kumar and Mala Sinha, have you seen Nausherwan-E-Adil(1957)? I’m pretty sure it out on DVD. And I’m probably wrong, but I believe it’s RK first film. In any case, it’s an interesting movie with fabulous music.

        • I *almost* watched that last night but picked a color film instead, having watched lots of b&w recently ;-) It’s up at the top of my pile though! From the synopsis, it looks like it has similarities to Pukar?

  19. Ah, so you finally got to see this. And I see we almost share some of the screencaps in our reviews!

    But yes, the end was such a let-down (though, to give them their due, certainly not predictable). That entire thing about the wife being ever true to her first love p****d me off no end! :-(

    • I am so feeling the Raaj Kumar love these days that I did finally make it! But I think I liked it better than you did :) Except for the really STUPID ending. Yes. Pissed me off as well.

      • The Raj Kumar love. *sigh*. You said it.

        I don’t think there’s any film I haven’t liked him in. He did very well in ‘villager’ roles too. Godaan’ is a good example. And then as a doctor he was sooo good in Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi.

  20. Dear memsaab!¨
    I know you love Sahmmi Kapoor. I just want to let you know that in the song”ye chand sa roshan chehra” from “kashmir ki kali” Shammi introduces a new dance movement everytime he sings the line “tarif karoon kya uski, jisne tumhe banaya” Only Shammi can do this….

  21. On the subjects of Muslim Socials by all means watch Bahu Begum (1967), the settings are fab as usual in a Muslim social but what sets it apart is that it has not 1 but 2 super mujra’s by the fab Helen, whom i know you adore

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_YQSZcpg4rHg/SoA0Pm1mk5I/AAAAAAAACUc/lcK4ByOoVfY/s1600-h/Helen+Bahu+Begum+1967.jpg

  22. manorama’s face in screencap 12 (top right) had me in absolute stitches!

  23. I agree Raaj Kumar had something. I felt it when I saw his “Pakeeza” He defines the word “macho”.

  24. I simply loved your review. Agreed with everything you’ve written, particularly re Raaj Kumar. Pakeeza is my favourite movie and I cannot imagine anyone else doing the role of Raj K is that one (or just maybe Dilip?). However, this one I saw a long time ago and remember loving it then. There were a few things I did not like:
    1. Jeetendra – dull boring, how could anyone find him attractive
    2. The name “Sultanat” for Mala Sinha. It’s just not feminine enough.
    3. The ending.
    4. The fact that Raj K and Mala did not get to have even a single embrace at least.

    But yes, the highlight of this movie was Raj Kumar – he’s just so male,has those dry looking eyes, sardonic smile, and the urdu dialogue delivery, that special accent and complete ease with which he tackles this beautiful language….oh well, let me not get carried away. But he was pretty gorgeous, no two ways about that.

  25. Purple vest is Ramlal.

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