Tasveer (1966)

With subtitles, this film might have annoyed me, but without them it is a sublimely entertaining experience from Wadia Movietone. Undistracted by the dumb plot and self-pitying dialogues, I reveled in:

  • the hirsute insanity of Nasir Hussain (he is UNABOMBER insane in this film!)
  • the drink-fuelled angsty despair of artist Sajjan
  • Helen’s fashions and scheming eyebrows
  • Feroz Khan pretending he is Shammi! (and he is so FINE, he almost succeeds)
  • Chitalkar Ramchandra’s fantastic songs
  • the plump chipmunk cheeks and flowing Kashmiri outfits (and eyeliner) of Kalpana
  • and the lovely scenic gardens and mountains of Kashmir itself

I must say at this point that my viewing of this film at all was facilitated by my dear friend and collector extraordinaire of the obscure in Hindi cinema, Shalini; and motivated by Mister Naidu’s discovery in it of another Ted Lyons & His Cubs song. You’ll have to dance to this one, you will!

But let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? I am instantly enchanted. Artist Ishrat (Sajjan) moons around behind some bushes looking at (and painting, without her permission—a little creepy, actually) a pretty girl (whose face we don’t see) in a mountain temple. She leaves and he is caught red-handed by her very angry father (Nasir Hussain), sporting bushy hair and fierce whiskers, jodhpurs and a BIG rifle. Ishrat’s pleas to be introduced to the unseen girl (her name is Peelu) go unrewarded:┬áBabaji throws Ishrat off the property after shouting imprecations which include the word “pardesi” (so I assume he dislikes foreigners).

Cut now to Calcutta, and we meet Ishrat again, hired to paint a picture of someone’s backyard swimming pool. One of the people swimming in the pool jumps out at Ishrat and gives him a big wet embrace.

He is the carefree and wealthy Shyam (Feroz Khan) and we understand that these two are bosom buddies. Shyam introduces Ishrat to his girlfriend, the lovely Alka (Helen) (“She is a peach!”) and it’s clear they have met—and disliked—each other before. Ishrat tells the oblivious Shyam that he painted her portrait once, and Alka quickly pulls Shyam away back into the pool.

Later that evening, Shyam drops Alka off at home. Inside, Ishrat is waiting for her and they exchange words (I think he basically tells her to leave Shyam alone, knowing that she is only after his money). When Shyam comes back to return the handbag Alka had left in his car, Ishrat sees him coming and seizes his opportunity. Pulling Alka into his arms, he professes his love for her in front of an eavesdropping and shocked Shyam, who tiptoes away looking very like a wounded little puppy.

He seems to bounce back okay, because the next day he shows up at Ishrat’s place to tell him he is leaving the field clear for his friend. Ishrat is not there, but the servant shows him in and he spies a painting hanging on Ishrat’s wall—and instantly falls in love.

I think it’s the Worst Painting I have ever seen but Shyam gives the servant 100 rupees and takes off with it. It apparently doesn’t occur to him that maybe Ishrat doesn’t want to sell it! and indeed, Ishrat is pretty upset when he returns and finds it gone. He perks up a bit when Alka turns up and tells him that Shyam has left her a note and gone off back home.

Alka is not pleased to have lost her rich boyfriend and pouts.

Shyam, meanwhile, has reached home. Home is a large mansion which he shares with his uncle (Raj Mehra), in whose business he also on rare occasions works. I should say a word about the CSP here too (and it will be the last time I mention it): it has no bearing at all on the rest of the plot that I could see, and is a sad waste of Rajendranath and the prodigious talents of Lalita Pawar (who is slim and even pretty here, but who does nothing but shriek like a banshee and beat people with umbrellas the entire time she is onscreen). HORRIBLE!

Shyam’s uncle wants him to get married and settle down, so Shyam sets off for Kashmir to find the bride whose portrait he so cherishes—and whom it doesn’t resemble in the least—Peelu (Kalpana). Naturally he finds her almost immediately when he hears her singing with a gaggle of her friends at that same temple we had last visited with the moping Ishrat. He follows her home, where she sets her dog Tiger (billed as Dog Rover! so refreshing!) on him, as girls do to men they are attracted to. Shyam is rescued from Tiger by the appearance of her Babaji—but it may be a case of frying pan-fire.

Shyam being Feroz (and therefore endowed with generous amounts of charisma), it’s not long before he has charmed his way into Peelu’s heart and volatile Babaji’s good graces.

Feroz spends a great deal of time in this movie (especially in but not limited to the songs) channeling Shammi, and fairly successfully too. He’s the best Shammi Pretender out there, and there is a lot of competition. Shammi himself told me that he and Feroz were great friends and often laughed about Feroz being forced to imitate him in his early career.

Anyway, Shyam and Peelu are soon married with the full approval of the elders on both sides. I must say that like many heroines before her and after, marriage does Peelu no favors. As a single girl, she is feisty enough to take on even her batshit crazy father when he gets out his rifle (which is a lot):

and beautifully dressed in silky kurtas and salwars and piles of silver jewelry, although she is so heavily made up it always looks like her face is melting.

After she becomes Mrs. Shyam, she is stuck in a bunch of boring sarees and spends a great deal of time being a weepy doormat, which in combination with all the makeup…makes her look like her face is melting.

Khair. Much of her weeping and most of my continuing joy in the film stems from the re-entry of gold-digging Alka, who is surprised to find Shyam married but not in any way deterred from her goal of making him hers. Helen has three dance numbers, the cute “Samjhoge Tum Kya Bhala” and “Mere Sulagte Hue,” and the truly fabulous “Nazar Badli Zamane Ki” with Feroz. She is gorgeous too, and so very stylish, plus her face isn’t melting.

Adding to the general melodrama of the plot is the arrival of Ishrat, who is sozzled all the time like a true artist and horrified to discover that his beloved (whom he has never actually met, remember) belongs now to his bestest friend!

(There are lots of “Oh! The Humanity!!” moments for our Ishrat.)

Alka rather easily convinces Shyam that Ishrat and Peelu have had a prior relationship and (I think) compounds it by making him feel guilty for abandoning her own pure good self. Shyam behaves like a total ass: he doesn’t ask Peelu about it (although Peelu has said earlier with complete truthfulness that she never met Ishrat despite him having painted her) and whiles away his time with Alka while Peelu mopes.

Will Ishrat take advantage of his friend’s crass stupidity and whisk away his beloved?

(Remember this? So…no. Male friendship always wins over the feelings of the girl!)

*SPOILERS (including the ending) AHEAD*

True friend that he is, Ishrat sacrifices his own feelings for Peelu (which nobody but him even knows about anyway) and tackles Alka and her conniving evil ways, ending with her hissing “I hate you! I hate you!” at him most satisfyingly. His painting of Alka, by the way, is much better than his portrait of Peelu. I am sure I could come up with some sort of generalization about how it proves that art and the heart are best left separate or something but I won’t.

Peelu has meanwhile run back crying to her lunatic father:

thus putting Shyam solidly back on Babaji’s wrong side. This causes him—when Shyam comes to get his wife back—to fire off his shotgun at a mountaintop loaded with snow, causing a ginormous avalanche that appears to surprise him (what, Mountain Man? you didn’t know that would happen?!). This gives the Wadias ample opportunity to play that frantic piano music so familiar from earlier stunt films (Holly and Bolly) as they all scramble to save themselves and each other from certain death between spectacular footage of an actual avalanche and less convincing giant “boulders” which bounce around like styrofoam.

And lo, Ishrat materializes there too, triumphant from his victory over Alka. He saves Peelu and is mortally wounded in the process, but makes everything okay for everyone before he dies. Nice guy finishes last, boy gets girl he treated badly, girl gets idiot boy she wants and lunatic man survives to ply his shotgun another day: all is as it should be with the universe.

*END SPOILERS*

I loved it, really. If that makes me as crazy as old Babaji, then so be it.

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41 Comments to “Tasveer (1966)”

  1. Bit suprised by the presence of “spoilers” at the end. But a good review,I can even a tolerate weepy melodrama with Helen and Feroz.

    Can anyone tell me who exactly was Nasir Hussain the actor? How long did his career last – when did it actually begin? yet to find his biography,not sure about IMDB.

    • Am sure you will have more useful comments about Nazir’s biography but let me add my bit to it by commenting on his roles.

      Nazir Hussain played lots of roles either as father of the hero or of the heroine.

      Typically, he was cast with following personality traits:
      - if father of the hero, then admonish him for being a wastrel (Asli Naqli).
      - if father of the heroine (and this was far more common because it allowed him to show his vulnerable side, given traditional Bollywood plots), one of the following (all with a crinkled, tearful face, eyes half-shut)
      — emotionally blackmailing the heroine for wanting to marry a guy not of his choice, using a killer dialogue like “aaj tumhaari ma agar zinda hoti…” (if only your mother had been alive today…”
      — laying his pugree (turban – a symbol of honour/pride) at the bridegroom’s father’s feet when the latter refuses, right during the marriage ceremony, to stop the marriage (“ye shaadi nahin ho sakti” – this marriage cannot happen!), usually due to additional financial demands. NH would then come up with another killer dialogue “meri ghar ki izzat aap ke haathon mein hai, mujh gareeb pe rehem keejiye, agar baaraat wapas chali gayi, to meri beti ka kya hoga” (the honour of my house is in your hands, have pity on a poor man like me. If the bridegroom’s party returns like this, what will happen of my daughter?).

      So, that’s NH in a visual nutshell. Of course, you could mistake him occasionally for Balraj Sahni or Manmohan Krishna if you have only the “pugree” scene to go with, so the safest best is probably that crinkled face.

      Nobody did crinkled better than NH. :-)

      • Yu said it Raja :)what the g8 artist NH characteristics were, there is one phillum, where NH is a real baddie, must scratch me memory to find out which one !

        Btw G. I have seen NH since 1953 and he was rightly called Nazir, sure does not matter but just a after thought :)

        Also sending yu a email, pls try to help out, will highly apprec it, cheers :)

        • NH plays the villian in the Shammi starrer “Raat Ke Rahi.” I also recall him playing a young man, sans wig and beard, in “Do Roti.”

          • Thanks for the ‘refresher’ Shalini, most prob it was Do Roti, I say most probably because the VHS print I had is lost and can not re check this, incidentally he and another g8 Achla Sachdev were paired in how many movies together ? Hundreds ! They made a fab ma-pa jodi, and another g8 artist who comes to my mind yet again is Raj Mehra.

            What a bunch of g8 artists :)
            Cheers

    • I love Nasir, he is one of the first “character” actors I started recognizing. I’ve not seen him in anything as Raja says but older character roles. He worked in the 50s, 60s and 70s to my knowledge, but I don’t know much more about him than that. Maybe someone else will come along who does—so thanks for asking! :)

      Re: Spoilers, well I put them in sometimes if I have something to say about the ending or if (like here) it’s not an easy movie to find, in case someone reading wants to know how it all turns out so they don’t have to flog themselves looking for the film. I do put a big bold warning about them though, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on!

      • Nasir was the first character I recognized too! (In Kati Patang and then Kashmi Ki Kali)

      • Memsaab here is some info about Nazir Hussain, he played a role in India’s freedom movement. I do not know how much you know about India’s freedom movement; there was this very charismatic leader by the name of Subhash Chandra Bose, Bose used to head the Indian National Army(INA) and Nazir Hussain was a member. He was a true follower of Bose, given half a chance he loved to recall the days he spent with Bose and the freedom struggle. I met him once briefly during a shoot (he and dad were working together) and found him to be a very affectionate and nice human being.Though I have to admit Raja is absolutely right, somehow film-makers always gave him those cliched dialogues.

        • You are such a treasure trove of information Shilpi. That is great :) My filmi family patriarch is definitely him–and he isn’t the only actor made to suffer the same cliched dialogues by a long shot :)

    • Raja, covered it so well but to add my add my two cents..he’s the eternal weepy father (see Kati Patang, Kashmir Ki Kali, Amar Akbar Anthony, etc. etc.)

  2. Must say it does sound like a somewhat dumb plot. But that Feroz dance song is just fab, so for that alone it is worth it. And if there are Helen dances and lots of Kashmir scenery, then one can cut the movie some slack, I guess.

    I heard that Feroz dance song only a few days ago for the first time and I had it on replay continuously. It is lovely – the tune reminds me of “dheere chal dheere chal aye bheegi hawa” from that Shammi movie, Boy Friend (1961). Here it is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F4UcXMHQL0

    I remember Kalpana with lots of makeup in Teen Deviyan but I put that down to the role she played in that movie.

    Considering you didn’t really have much to work with in terms of movie plot here, you’ve still done a very good job of coming up with a pretty good review, Greta. :-) Thanks.

  3. I’m with Raja – that song was fab!

    You know, as this page loaded up and I saw the top picture, I thought it WAS Shammi! You should do a top 5 (or 10!) list of Shammi-channeling moments by other actors. Surely his choti bhai would make the cut for some of his mad mid-60s moves and grooves? :)

    I’m currently reading Dorothee Wenner’s Nadia bio and cannot WAIT to see some Wadia films!

    • It really is, in fact all the songs in this are pretty. Love Helen’s dance with Feroz too! And ha ha, yes Shammi’s chhota bhai def. has his place in the list of Shammi imitators too :)

  4. You have got a good bit of it even without subtitles. Congrats !! :-)

    I was under the impression that Kalpana appeared only in Professor (1962). Looks like she got only this movie after that a good four years later. No wonder she chose to do it.

    But I think the death knell to her career was that she was trying to compete with Helen in this movie.

    @Chris – Nasir Hussain was the evergreen father figure. I don’t remember watching him as a leading man in any movie. I guess he was eternally old just like David Abraham :-D He’s appeared in several hit movies during the 60s, but not sure if I like him as an actor. His emotional scenes were just OTT. Don’t believe me? Watch “Aap Ki Parchaiyan” and “Aayi Milan Ki Bela” (both 1964).

    • Shashi

      Kalpana was also in Pyar Kiye Ja, hilarious, and another I can think off hand, 2 super comedies Biwi Aur Makaan, Naughty Boy and the musical Saheli, all are available on VCD, maybe DVD also now !

      Btw Memsaab one point which can confuse people and that is our buddy
      NAZIR HUSSEIN- I call him LALA and Daddy of our movies

      now he is in many places called Nasir Hussein-

      This can be misleading because – NASIR Hussein

      is Uncle of Aamir Khan and Producer/Director of many musicals. And as far as I know he is related to bot Nasir and Tahir Hussein. Unfort so little is known about Nazir Saheb !

      This g8 artist Nazir Saheb with god knows how many movies to his credit shud be credited as Nazir in my opinion. And let us hope we see a write up on him some day, we need to bring him back :)

      Btw lost my VHS version of TASVEER so memory is vague, but thx a lot for this peppy review… and pls send me a email at yr conv abt this movie, when, where, on any of our sites, will apprec that a lot. Thx

      Cheers

    • Kalpana also acted in a bunch of other films, some little known and avoidable (Naughty Boy, Saheli, Biwi aur Makaan) and a couple of well-known ones too, including Pyaar Kiye Jaa and Teen Deviyaan.

    • Nasir Sahab is one of those eternally old figures, so true. And I have seen Kalpana in a few things, although she is not one of those actresses who stands out for me (except for the melting face, which seems to be a hallmark of hers).

      Ash: because the spelling issue is so rampant, I generally use the one given at imdb, which for him is Nasir Hussain. The director Nasir Husain is also called by Nazir, so whatever they are called it is confusing.

  5. Delightful review, Greta! Why is it that the worst films make for the best reviews? :-(

    By the way, my sister had mentioned something interesting regarding the word pardesi: that, in pre-20th century India (and well into the 20th century, for that matter), pardes could simply mean anywhere outside your own village or town. So a pardesi was actually anyone who didn’t belong to the same village/town as you – he/she could be from the next village, and would still qualify as a pardesi.

    • This is not a bad film! Well, not if you ignore the dialogues anyway :D And yes, when I said Nasir’s character hated foreigners, I meant non-Kashmiris (he clearly considered both Sajjan and Feroz to be pardesis, and they are most definitely INDIAN) :)

  6. Wow. It didn’t take you long to get a hold of this one, Congrats! Excellent review. If Shammi couldn’t find time to do this one, then there is no better substitute than Feroz. C. Ramchandra songs alone make this a must see and I didn’t even know that there was a third
    Helen song “Samjhoge Tum Kya Bhala.” I also still haven’t gotten tired of replaying Feroz and Ted’s fantastic dance song.:) That one’s a classic. I originally came across that song and 2 of Helen’s songs from Tasveer on Youtube that were poorly encoded with the audio badly out of synch. I really would love to see the complete film in proper condition. I wonder if Tom might be persuaded to do his magic on this one? :)

    Btw, might Shalini have Hong Kong, Killers, the complete Pyar Ka Sapna or the long lost Miss Coca Cola??

    • I actually already had it, but had not watched it yet—so your find propelled me finally into it :) The songs are fantastic, indeed :) I will have to let Shalini answer your question if she wants to!

  7. oh does Shalini have Miss Bombay and Miss India also ??? Sry for increasing the wish list :):) or Bombay Racecourse ???

    Cheers :)

  8. Well, Feroz does make a rather chubby cheeked Shammi in this one. :) With Helen around, what’s not to like in this film?

    Though Kalpana is a bit hard to take. You are so right, I always wondered what exactly was wrong with her face, and now I have it, it looks like it’s melting, and it’s a bit scary.

    • Kalpana is not the heroine I would have chosen for this (MUMTAZ!!!!) but her melting face did suit her doormat wifey character nicely. It was all about Feroz and Helen and Sajjan though. I would say Feroz-Sajjan made up the lead pair ;-)

  9. Memsaab, thank you so much for this review. I actually nod my head in agreement and laughed out loud (starting with the “worst painting I have ever seen”) more than a few times.

  10. LOL @ Melting face! That’s a perfect description of Kalpana!

    I throughly enjoyed “Tasveer” for all the reasons you noted, but you’re write-up got me wondering – have I ever pointed you towards a movie that *normal* people would like/consider good?:-) Hopefully not. :-D

    RE: what movies I have; I have “Hong Kong”, “The Killers”, “Miss Bombay” and “Miss Inida.”

  11. @Memsaab – Great review as always. On reading the first few paragraphs my mind went “Once upon a time there was a dog named Rover and the story is over.” Apparently things are not so simple and there is a more madness (and tears) to this film than I initially thought.

  12. This is unrelated to this post but I was listening to your podcast today where you talked about meeting Aamir Khan. Then I also noticed multiple other posts about you meeting Indian actors, directors etc.

    How did all that happen?

    • I met director Raju Hirani through someone I worked with who knew him, and we bonded over our love for old Hindi cinema. He’s been very kind and generous with his time and in introducing me to people :)

  13. What an amusing review ! You made me laugh what with Kalpana’s melting face and the Shammi-channeling bit :) Inspired by your review, I saw Nazar Badli on youtube (bad print) but saw exactly what you mean..Kalpana’s over made up, as you say, in a very sati-savitri style look, Feroz doing the Shammi thing, and Helen looking gorgeous. Honestly, if I were Feroz-Shammi, I would any day choose Helen over the melting Kalpana!
    And Raja’s comment with scenarios for Nazir Hussain is apt and funny too :)

  14. More Shammi than Shammi! (But there is onyl one Shashi.)

  15. *shakes head and moves ahead*
    !

  16. LOL at ‘Oh! The Humanity!!’ (and the accompanying screencap). This is my new catchphrase. Great review as always, really enjoyed it.

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