Sawan Bhadon (1970)

It’s my understanding that this film was a big hit, and responsible for bringing both Rekha and Navin Nischol to the public’s attention. I am not really sure why, since it is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff; but Sonik-Omi’s songs are lots of fun and the second half did take an unexpected twist just as I was about to nod off. What got me through it were the large assortment of wigs (almost everyone wore them—including the hero—although Shyama’s were particularly fascinating), Jayshree T’s mad dancing skills, a lot of Woman Power, and young whippersnapper Ranjeet as Rekha’s slimy brother (Ranjeeeeeeeet!).

Wealthy Vikram (Navin Nischol), heir to his late father’s fortune, is returning home after five years in England to his stepmother Sulochana (Shyama) and stepsister Dolly aka “Baby” (Jayshree T). Sulochana and her brother Darbari (Krishan Dhawan)—who is a lush—have been steadily looting the estate in his absence with the complicity of estate manager Gaurishankar (Iftekhar). The only person in Vikram’s sprawling mansion who looks forward to his return is faithful chauffeur Kasim (Agha), who is unable to convince anyone else to go with him to meet Vikram at the airport.

To be fair, Dolly is very busy planning a big party to welcome her stepbrother home:

And so I settle in for one of those schizophrenic “purab-paschim” type films. Vikram, despite his western polish and natty suits, proves immediately that he is still very much a son of Indian soil. He and Kasim are set upon by goons wielding machetes and knives (hired by uncle Darbari) and Vikram is fighting them off three at a time with amazing acrobatics when a bunch of local village girls led by the feisty Chanda (Rekha) happen upon the scene.

They pitch in with enthusiasm, breaking their clay water pots over goonda heads, until the bad guys run away in defeat. Vikram promises to replace their broken clay pots with metal ones, and continues home with Kasim.

Chanda finds a necklace which was lost in the fray and recognizes it as belonging to her brother Damu (Ranjeet).

She is furious, as is their mother, but Damu is defiant: Vikram and his family have stolen all the land belonging to the farmers in their hereditary jagir, despite laws against it. His Ma points out that Damu doesn’t do anything to work the land anyway—he drinks and gambles the day away, so what does he care?

Meanwhile, Vikram has reached home. I am unable to focus on anything except the bright shiny synthetic hair on every head.

Navin was pretty young at this point to be bald already, much like his contemporary Rakesh Roshan. Someone should have probably advised both of them to just go with who they were; wouldn’t it be fun to know how they might have fared without bad wigs to hold them back?

I digress. We are now treated to a fantabulous party song and dance, with choreographers Vijay-Oscar and Chinoo front and center gyrating with Jayshree T. And DO NOT miss Shyama’s fabulous wriggle at the end—and check out her gold-fringed bellbottoms too! (I had linked to a video but it’s already gone; do look the song up if you can find it!)

Vikram inexplicably fails to enjoy this crazy entertainment. I guess he has the same stick up his butt as Manoj Kumar (or maybe his wig was too tight). In any case he makes his disapproval clear by leaving the party and then scolding Dolly for throwing it when she follows him.

She calls him, appropriately enough, “old-fashioned”—and asks if he learned nothing about having fun while he was in Europe.

HA HA HA!

I love Dolly’s disdainful response (I pretty much love Dolly, despite her tendency to be bratty):

You said it, Dolly. It’s one reason this gori memsaab loves sarees anyway.

The next day, clad in a bikini, she catches a pair of unsavory eyes belonging to slimeball extraordinaire Madan (Narendranath).

Discovering that Dolly belongs to a wealthy family, Madan sets out in pursuit and soon hooks her with promises of a foreign tour with a dance troupe of her very own (he tells her that he manages a “World Culture Center” which makes me giggle).

Vikram continues to bump into Chanda and is charmed by her insouciant beauty. But so is his uncle Darbari, who takes a proposal of marriage of his own to Chanda’s brother Damu and their mother.

One thing that keeps this film from slipping into pure boredom is the occasionally sharp dialogue given the ladies, and Chanda’s Ma is no exception (can anyone tell me who this actress is? Is she Chandrima Bhaduri? She is just lovely! Update: thanks Shilpi—she is Chandrima Bhaduri).

She will not be manipulated by her son and sends Darbari away in disgust. All the women in this film are strong, which I love: Shyama wields the power in her home, Rekha and her mother in theirs. The men on the other hand are all basically ciphers (except Ranjeet in his limited time onscreen), even the bad ones. I think this is a result of the casting rather than any intent on the filmmaker’s part, but it’s interesting.

Darbari soon finds out that it’s Vikram whom Chanda loves, and vice versa. Vikram is pissing off his other family members too by raining on their various parades, especially Dolly’s with Madan, of whom he (rightfully) disapproves. He catches her dancing a (beautiful) mujra for Madan and his friends and drags her home forcibly.

It’s business as usual for me as I find myself in sympathy with the bad girls and annoyed by the holier-than-thou hero.

Vikram’s growing closeness to Chanda means that he’s also now hearing about how his family have cheated the local farmers out of their land and rightful share of the crops. When he confronts Gaurishankar and Sulochana about this, his stepmother is defiant (and doesn’t she look like Ricki Lake in Hairspray?!).

She is worried though, especially about Chanda’s influence. She tries to get Chanda in trouble with the police by framing her for stealing a necklace (which Darbari had actually stolen from her, and given to Damu as a bribe). But Vikram covers for her and then stuns the villagers when he is discovered hiding in her room (after a lovely faux-lullaby as Chanda tries to fool her mother and Damu into thinking she is babysitting).

I am pretty bored at this point (possibly you are too), but with Vikram’s engagement to the lowly Chanda Sulochana and her cohorts—who now include greedy but thwarted Madan—plant a time bomb in Vikram’s car, which explodes in an eye-opening fireball.

There’s not much left of Vikram at the end but bits and pieces of his belongings.

Chanda is devastated and Dolly—who had no part in it—is sad, but everyone else is gleeful. Sulochana signs over all the property to Madan, who is now engaged to Dolly.

But another plot is afoot in the form of a fake Vikram. A lookalike is groomed to take his place by a mysterious gang of smoke-wreathed men:

and he crashes his family’s gathering, stunning them (well, except Darbari who just looks sozzled as usual).

Who is this guy, and who are the men who have put him in Vikram’s place? Will his family discover that he’s an impersonator? Is the real Vikram really dead? How will the new Vikram treat poor grieving Chanda? How will he run his estate? Is he a good guy or a bad one? Will the evildoers get their just desserts?

I don’t really know what else to say about this film. I enjoyed it (for the things I’ve elaborated on above) but it dragged a lot and Vikram was not a hero I could really care about. Possibly Navin Nischol’s bland personality helped to make Vikram’s conservatism more bearable than it might otherwise have been, though. Shyama was oodles of OTT campy fun and it was really her film, although Rekha brought plenty of spunky charm to her role too.

All I really know for sure is that someone had a lot of fun with Spare Hair.

That last errant curl really kind of sums the whole thing up.

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60 Comments to “Sawan Bhadon (1970)”

  1. Rekha looked so different. I love Jayshree T, I thought she was quite cute. And oh Shyama….long after Aar Paar!!!

    • I think she looked gorgeous then, although I guess I’m in a minority on that. Jayshree had a nice role in this, it was good to see her get something bigger to do than just dance (although my goodness, she really danced up a storm in this one). Was fabulous to see Shyama and she was delicious :D

  2. yeah, this isn’t one of my favorites. I only ever truly liked Navin Nischol in that tv show that Jaya Bhaduri produced, which in retrospect is kind of awful but at the time I watched it religiously because I was a child and like all children I’d watch anything like a monkey at a zoo. But the only thing I took away from this (metaphorically speaking) is Rekha’s stuffed bra which I remember being utterly ridiculous and possibly being a lifeform of its own. Therefore, everytime I come across it I find better things to do although now I vaguely feel like I ought to watch it for the fashion.

    DAMN YOU, GRETA! DAMN YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

    • It’s just so weirdly DULL. LOL@Rekha’s bra—I didn’t notice that it was any more of a lifeform of its own than any other girl’s at this point in time, but that’s not saying much :)

      The fashions were a little…shiny, and occasionally scanty (Narendranath in loudly patterned tight swim trunks is really something I could have lived without seeing).

  3. Navin Nischol came into his own in the film ‘Khosla ka Ghosla’. He is fab there, as a rather timid, unworldly old theatre director, suddenly asked to play a rich man in real life. He was bland, wasn’t he, as a hero? I haven’t seen ‘Saawan Bhadon’, may just have to see it for all that hair. :)

    • I haven’t watched that yet although I want to…he is one of those “Inexplicable Heroes”.

      The wigs are pretty amazing though. Think that Maganlal Dresswala supplied them? They’d be fun to try on, if they don’t have mice and other things living in them now.

    • @ Banno – Oh yeah, I forgot about Khosla ka Ghosla. He was good in that. But then I liked that whole movie – it had a bunch of people I wouldn’t normally have said could act who did a good job in it.

      @ Greta – The thing that fascinated me about her bra in this is something that’s quite common to movies from that era, I guess: it’s the way it appears planted on her chest, as if she’s made of straw stuffed into cloth from the neck down. I don’t know. I just remember it all being very creepy.

  4. This movie became a hit mainly because of its songs, which were outstanding.

  5. Thanks for review memsaab.This movie is good to watch for one time.Movie “Mera Haq” starring Sanjay Dutt & Anita Raj was remake of this movie.On Sawan Bhadon’s movie set Navin use to call Rekha “Motti Madrasien”.Ranjeet’s real name is Gopal Bedi.

    • Yes, once is good timepass, but I probably won’t return to it :) That isn’t a very nice nickname on Navin’s part—she could have probably come up with some choice comebacks given HIS appearance! I think she looks lovely in this.

  6. *Pout* There’s only ONE screenshot of Ranjeet.:-) Saw “Sawan Bhadon” many sawans ago. Don’t remember a thing. Think I’ll keep it that way.

    :-)

  7. Hehe! You make even a bad movie sound like fun. This is one movie I never saw. Remember only one song – Sun Sun O gulabi kali.

    • You can skip it and not really be missing anything :) The songs are all lovely…my favorite was of course the cabaret number with Jayshree, and the fake-lullaby that Rekha sings to Navin.

  8. ROTFL because of that last bunch of screenshots of poor Shyama. :-D My goodness, what wigs!!!

    I do wonder why Navin Nischol was put in a wig. I’ve seen Parwana from a year later (1971), and it looks all his own hair, there:

    Or a better wig, at any rate.

    • Shyama brought it ALL to this movie. Loved her. She was def. the bright spot.

      Yes, his hair has never looked this bad. Perhaps the producer of this film was related to a wigmaker who needed a big boost in sales…Jayshree and Rekha sported a lot of Spare Hair too.

  9. Yes that is Chandrima Bhaduri, Rita Bhaduri’s mother. I have always liked Navin Nischal. We were once visiting Poona (now Pune) and Dad was invited to lecture the students of the Film Institute — they usually invite guest speakers who share their experiences with the students. Although I was very young and memory is fading I do remember I enjoyed my visit to the Film Institute .Navin Nischal, Shatrughan Sinha, and Rehana Sultan were some of then students of acting at the institute.
    Sawan Bhadon had shades of Chase A Crooked Shadow. In fact there are quite a few Hindi films based on Chase a Crooked Shadow. There is a Bengali film too featuring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore.

    • Thanks Shilpi—I’ve seen her in lots of things, and seen her name a lot too (it’s fairly remarkable :) so I am very happy to be able to put the name and face together in the gallery!

      I haven’t even heard of Chase A Crooked Shadow. Will look into it :)

      • Chase A Crooked Shadow is wonderful suspense film. Those were the days of suspense films and whodunits, films leaving you on the edge of your seat guessing ‘who is the murderer?’ Chase— featured Anne Baxter who was also seen in the Ten Commandments as Charlton Heston’s love interest who is later compelled to marry Yul Brynner.

  10. Ranjeet looks so famished in this screen cap. He reminds me of Indian policemen. They too look very famished and underfed when they are fresh recruits. Within a very short period of time of joining the police force (and Bollywood movies,in case of Ranjeet), they fill out miraculously.

  11. Like Ava says you make even a bad film sound good.
    Haven’t seen the movie, but am not really eager to watch it. I hate self-righteous heroes!
    And all the goodies are to be seen at your blog! ;-)

    • I think I did screencap most of the Goodness to be mined out of this one. It’s not a bad film, just kind of boring. The Girl Power makes up for the self-righteous hero but the story is just not that interesting.

  12. Naveen Nishchal used to ask Mohan Segal “From where did you get this heroine? So dark and so fat?” I kind of believe it that this is true since it was Rekha who said this in an interview. She had half the mind to quit the movie.

    Looks like Navin had some attitude problems. The very next year, he had a problem with Amitabh Bachchan as well during the shooting of ‘Parwana’ (1971). He literally asked him to beg for his forgiveness since he was a “star” and Amitabh was still a struggler. However, years later Amitabh had the last laugh during the shoot of ‘Desh Premee’ (1982).

    • I know it isn’t fair to judge people by gossip magazines, but everything I’ve read about him in my vintage ones makes him sound like a not-very-nice guy. But who knows?

      In any case, I don’t get much out of watching him onscreen. He just doesn’t do it for me.

  13. Fun review Memsaab, but I won’t be getting near to this movie. The way western culture was shown in the 70’s really puts me off. “They have started wearing sarees there” WTF moment, although Jayshree almost rescued it :)

    I think this was Rekha’s first movie, and she didn’t even come close to looking like the temptress that she would later become. Navin looks like a yawn.

    The wig-shots were amazing. Especially loved the last one :)

    • I loved the “to improve their lives”…that’s what really made me laugh out loud. That “India is best” superiority complex can really get on my nerves (all superiority complexes get on my nerves! :D).

      • And things really haven’t changed much in Hindi movies. Sample Namaste London, and Dil Bole Hadippa, although the tone is mellowed, but the message is the same “We are the best, west can cop the rest”.

        I think Swades was the only Hindi movie, where the protagonist actually defends western culture agarinst stereotype, and makes some sensible observations about India. Although that was limited to just one scene, but was refreshing.

  14. Saawan Bhadon was premiered at the Novelty Cinema and it went on to become a superhit since it crossed the Silver Jubilee mark. Thanks to the story (yes, shades of Chase a Crooked Shadow), suspense, songs and music.

    Jeetendra had ushered in the fashion of dancing or dance-steps for the heroes and that’s the reason Navin tries to shake, though clumsily! Both he and Rekha looked promising and were lapped up by the producers.

    It is indeed sad that Navin lost his wife and his home, which is indeed a great tragedy. Personally, I liked him a lot in Parwana, Dhund, Victoria 203, and Hanste Zakham. As for Rekha she oomphed sex during her earlier movies with her “Gadrayi Jawani” a sample of which can be seen in the song: KAMAL KE PHOOL JAISE/BADAN TERA CHIKNA, CHIKNA, CHIKNA in Do Bhai (1974).

    • I am sad to say that I understand Jeetendra’s reputation as a dancer no better than I understand Mithun’s…

      :) As I’ve said before, I like the Rekha of this period in time. Think she is lovely and very natural.

  15. I liked Navin Nischol in “Ek Baar Kaho” – he was really good in that. He was also good in Budha Mil Gaya which also had good songs.

    N Memsaab, LoL at your comment on why u love sarees! Actuually the saree is one dress which shows all ie u r what u r – one can’t hide anything not even the tyres around the waist! Jayashree T’s dialogues must have been fun ie a respite from all that goody goody dialogues mouthed by Navin. I have heard some songs on radio but am not tempted to see the movie although as others have said – ur reviews make even dull movies interesting!

  16. And memsaab, I am repeating myself here…Navin Nischol married three or four times legally and it is said a couple of his wives committed suicide, he had a property dispute and committed fraud with his last wife and was jailed in Mumbai..and came out..whew..This man was first married to dev anand’s relative, if I remember right..

    • It was Shekar Kapur’s sister, ( Dev Anand’s niece) he married first.

      funny, he should have had attitude problems then…It was his debut as much as it was Rekha’s in sawan Badhon..

    • Many people who haven’t earned it have “starry” attitudes :)

      Yes, I have heard those things about Navin… Hopefully he has learned from his mistakes!

  17. as Nasir said Rekha was not acted in 1974 “Do bhai(star cast of that film comprised :mala sinha,ashok kumar,jeetendra,mallika and it was released in 1969)I think Nasir is hinting at rekha starrer 1974 film “Do aankhein”(alongwith biswjeet,i.s.johar,naaz,debh mukherjee), which has got one sexy number picturised on rekha.

  18. your concern regarding “artist identification” (for example, in the case of chandrima bhadhuri),really touches me, “everytime”.(chandrima bhadhuri acted in “khushboo”(owner of the house, where hemamalini works), “bandini”(she was there with nuthan in the climax), “kangan”(sanjeev kumar,mala sinha)I don`t know how to express my “appreciation”(sorry that is a really shallow word,i can`t find the right word to express my feelings) Great work, keep it up.

    further,you make every film interesting(even though the film is a sub-standard one), I think you do have a magic wand (“REALLY) in your hand.

    lot`s of regards
    prakash

    • That is really nice to hear Prakash :) Thank you…and what would these films be without all the secondary actors/actresses/dancers/background people? Nobody needs to see endless scenes with two people in them, would be very hard to tell any stories with only “stars”…These are the people who really had “staying power” and careers which lasted for decades, and a level of professionalism which really should be more acknowledged. Same goes for Hollywood too…

  19. This was viewed during my early days of Bollywood films, before I even know who Nivan, Rekha, or Jayshree T were. I recall liking the film enough, but it was that party dance number that I loved! To this day I will still often pluck that dvd off the shelf and watch that musical number.

  20. I’ll have to watch this now- for Shyama and Shyama alone- love that woman.

  21. Indian hair has its own inherent advantages: it is simultaneously thin and strong. The hair comes from Indian widows, who are required to shave their heads, and then put through an osmosis process where the color pigment is removed.

    • I don’t think any of the extra hair in this one came from any widows…it was totally synthetic!

      I have heard that about widows’ hair being used for human hair wigs. Hopefully they aren’t forced to shave their heads any more though!

  22. Hi, I came across your blog and its shocking+chilling+thrilling blog. Hope to be regular reader now onwards. Thanks for sharing this all.

  23. nice video you have posted :p

  24. Navin Nishcol has many superhits to his name – especially the following
    Ek Baar Kaho
    Ek Se Badkar Ek
    Dharma
    Victoria 203
    Log Kya Kahenge
    Sawan Bhadon (the only fuke run of mill stuff film fone by Navin)
    Buddha Mil Gaya
    Nadaan
    Hanste Zakhm (no i dont like it much though)
    Chhalia
    Aafat
    Saboot
    Hotel
    Kashish
    Aasra Pyar Da
    Khanjar
    Woh Mai Nahin
    Dekh Bhai Dekh TV Series
    Desh Premee(which he should have not done..yes was a hit for amitabh)
    Parwana

    Navin Nishcol was a great actor but unfortunately lack of more than 30 hits to his credit made people forget this talent away.
    navin should have got many films as a hero in 70’s and 80’s
    Navin was a great actor.
    Navin yes is much better than amitabh AND very obviously than any actor who debuted since 1977 and only next to rajesh khanna,pran,sanjeev kumar,dharmendra,mohanlal,mamooty,mgr and sivaji ganeshan.
    He received the gold medal in 1968 and was the first actor to get it from FTTI.

    its really sad he did not get much films as the lead hero in the eighties and was asked to do character roles.
    He looked handosome through out his career.

  25. ok ,so im relatively new on the scene and oh HI :P umm ok so born in 1989 ive defl’y missed out on the “swinging” 70’s for most of my life but ive recently discovered this “obsession” for the 70s and 80s bollywood ..after doing a couple of case studies on a couple of 70’s films and ive sooo fallen in love with them..and ive like completely gotten hooked to ur blog which ive been reading for the past 2 hours now :P so i just HAD to drop a msg…and OMG wats wrong with navin nischol he looks soo err well idk wat to say in this movie otherwise he was soo hotttt !! like vinod khanna !!

    its sooo funny to realize that these men of the past have me swooning in their decades old hotness..i cant take my eyes off the old vdos of these men (giggles)

  26. Dear Shrikant
    I m also a fan of late Navin Nischol.Have u watched his Chhalia?I want to watch it..can u tell me where to watch it in net aur any CD is available.

  27. Uh…Memsaab…is Chanda (Rekha) already holding a metal pot?!?

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