Mujhe Jeene Do (1963)

Now with English subtitles!

I’ve said it before and I’m likely to say it again: I love Sunil Dutt as a dacoit. He is just so perfectly suited to the black tilak, the mouche, the gold hoop earrings, the manly bullets slung around his tall form.

So when Tom decided to make a subtitled DVD of Mujhe Jeene Do with Raja and Ava’s help I was thrilled (more information about a new joint venture at the end of this post). Its reputation as a very thoughtful film about dacoits in the Chambal Valley has intrigued me for years, but without subtitles I figured too much would be lost (Dara without subtitles is one thing, a serious story quite another). And certainly there is a whole lot to like about it, although it was hit or miss for me through a long stretch in the middle. Maybe that’s to be expected in something so ambitious, and this movie is nothing if not ambitious. There are messages in here about everything: respecting women (even *gasp* nautch girls), promoting religious diversity, embracing the land, practicing forgiveness, valuing community, achieving redemption and, of course, the whole not killing and looting thing. That’s a lot of preaching, although at least it’s all sentiment I can get on board with.

The film boasts a star-studded cast of stalwarts and the acting is really good. The cinematography is gorgeous, even when the absolutely breathtaking Waheeda Rehman isn’t in the frame; Jaidev’s music is beautiful too, as are the lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi. Kudos for translating them to Ava and Raja—the poetry of them shines through and I know it isn’t easy to do.

Plus the chemistry between our lead pair is CRACKLING.

The film opens with a musical paean to India’s history and traditions as the credits roll. The bucolic rural idyll it represents is rudely interrupted by the arrival of dacoits, led by one Thakur Jarnail Singh (Sunil Dutt). His stop for a quick prayer at the local temple notwithstanding, he is not a likable man. He brutally murders a local man who refuses to procure bullets for him despite the pleas of the man’s wife Champa (Nirupa Roy), who becomes a young widow with a baby boy named Mohan.

The village men bristle and wave guns in the air after he leaves, swearing revenge, and Champa makes them take an oath. They seem to me to be all talk and no action and we discover later that they are very brave in the face of a terrified woman but not so much when faced by bandits.

Jarnail Singh proves equally ruthless after he and his band of men are ambushed by the police. They manage to escape after Jarnail Singh’s main right-hand man Gulab Singh sends a camel caravan between the dacoits and the police, forcing a cease-fire, but Gulab Singh is also unfortunately the traitor who told the police where they would be. He caves under Jarnail Singh’s piercing stare and is shot dead. Jarnail promotes a shady character named Kripal (Siddhu) to Gulab Singh’s place. The local Superintendent of Police (Tarun Bose) is obviously a clever man, and he vows that he will not stop until Jarnail Singh is caught and hangs.

The dacoits now discover that a local zamindar’s (DK Sapru) daughter is getting married with much ceremony and a lot of wealthy guests too. They infiltrate the wedding venue; the zamindar begs them to preserve his daughter’s honor by letting the wedding continue and lets them rifle his safe. Performing at the wedding is a courtesan by the name of Chamelijaan (Waheeda Rehman), accompanied by musicians and her greedy mother (Manorama). How we are supposed to believe that someone as lovely as Chamelijaan came out of Manorama is beyond me, but I am thrilled to see both of them anyway. And the song is just beautiful too.

Jarnail Singh is smitten with Chamelijaan on sight, and who wouldn’t be?

She is much less enamored of him, especially when he kidnaps her after looting all the guests at the wedding. She refuses to dance or sing for him, so he shuts her into a room with strict instructions to his men not to give her food or water. I must say, the presence of Rajendranath adds welcome levity to these proceedings. He plays a kinder, gentler kind of dacoit named Dara Khan and sneaks food into Chamelijaan’s room while playing a prank on humorless (and creepy) Kripal, telling him that Chamelijaan has been talking about his good looks. It is really very funny, and Siddhu pulls off his part in it well too.

Chamelijaan continues to refuse to sing and dance for the dacoits, a situation which culminates in a confrontation with Jarnal Singh. He taunts her status as a tawaif, slaps her (boo!), and she responds with a furious but eloquent lecture.

She ends her tirade with a few tight slaps of her own across his face, and then draws her fingernails down it, leaving deep scratches.

It is truly an awesome speech and I cheer. But it really only makes it worse when, a few days later, he asks her to marry him and she instantly falls head over heels in love with him, grateful that he is willing to change her status from that of a courtesan to “the light of his home.”

*FACEPALM*

He’s still a dacoit and a murderer, and that her desire to be a wife outweighs all of that strikes me as insidiously condescending. We are even given a song in which she fantasizes about her wedding, as all girls do (by implication). She does make a few noises about whether it’s the right thing to do, somewhat hilariously asking “What will people say?” of a dacoit and a tawaif getting married: I say, why would she even care? It’s not like either one of them has garnered huge amounts of respect and affection as it is.

An effort has been made to make Jarnail Singh more than a one-note killer—his friendship with Dara Khan especially has shown a more tolerant and loyal side of him. Sunil Dutt and Rajendranath have great chemistry too, and Rajendranath is fairly restrained and very sweet in several scenes. (Plus, as we’ve already seen, Jarnail Singh prays at the temple before riding into town and shooting unarmed people.)

In any case, he goes into town to rob someone named Jagirdar. Jagirdar apparently has dared him to do so to as a way to impress the young girl (Kumari Naaz) whom he wants to make his fourth wife (some subtle messaging about the ewwww factor of a December-March marriage). Jarnail Singh knows that the police will be there waiting, but it’s a point of pride for him to go anyway. And it gives him an opportunity to face down the Superintendent with much manly hypothetical beating of chests and talk about izzat.

While he is doing that, Kripal gets drunk and  puts the moves on Chamelijaan. Jarnail Singh arrives home in time to prevent him from succeeding, and Chamelijaan manages to stop him from killing Kripal by promising to marry him (up until now she’s been making him wait). He boots Kripal out of the gang and sends Dara Khan off to find a Hindu priest (Asit Sen) and a Muslim maulvi (Rashid Khan) because “a dacoit has no faith.” They are married, with a fantastic dance between Madhumati and Cuckoo (who makes a much prettier man than Rajendranath does a woman) for entertainment.

The wedding ends inauspiciously with the police firing on it and eventually finding the hideout, scattering all of Jarnail Singh’s men. This is where the film goes off the rails a bit for me. It wanders around for a time with a mish-mash of events. Siddhu for instance becomes part comic character (with Mohan Choti as his sidekick) and part menacing vengeance-driven dacoit, and Sunil and Waheeda romance as shootouts with the police punctuate things. Chamelijaan gives birth to a baby boy with the help of Jarnail Singh’s mother (Durga Khote) and sister Farida (Mumtaz! so young!), and tragedy strikes.

Jarnail Singh must part from his little family to keep them safe and I begin to get more and more depressed by the knowledge that this is a story which CAN ONLY END IN TEARS, although the presence of more of my favorite actors comforts me somewhat.

Does Jarnail Singh deserve his fate? Will Chamelijaan’s love and little Mohan save him? What about Champa and her little boy and the men in their village—are they still vowing revenge too? Will the dogged Superintendent get his man?

Luckily, those who don’t speak Hindi can now watch this and find out! And it is worth getting through the hard going, because the end is quite satisfying after all that.

Some of us die-hard fans have banded together to form “Edu Productions” in a salute to our friend and former dancer Edwina. My friend and reader Muz has graciously sent Tom VHS tapes of old films like Pukar, Sikandar and Achhut Kanya to restore and convert to DVD as only Tom can. Raja and Ava are putting in long hours to provide excellent subtitles for these classics, including this film and 1950’s Babul as well. I can tell you with perfect certainty that the results are so much better than anything the Indian dvd industry is giving us.

Here is the link to download this film along with Tom’s easy-to-follow instructions; and you can also watch it on YouTube in its entirety (the red “CC” button turns the subs on or off as you like). I will be posting links to the other films as they are finished and uploaded—a HUGE thank you to Tom, Muz, Raja and Ava for their work, and of course to funny and gorgeous Edwina for all the hours of cha-cha-chaing entertainment she’s given us.

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67 Comments to “Mujhe Jeene Do (1963)”

  1. Thanks Memsaab and huge thanks to Raja, Ava, Tom and Muz!

  2. Thanks a lot for the review, memsaab! I always marvel at how you’re able to put together a review, capturing the most salient aspects of a film, while leaving just about enough of the plot undisclosed to keep people interested. ;-)

    Not that there’s too much suspense in this film, I guess. I could see the end coming a mile away – am not saying anything more than this on the story.

    I thought Waheeda looked absolutely fantastic here – even by her normally fantastic standards. While doing the subtitling, I joked with Ava that I was struggling to subtitle because I was constantly being distracted by Waheeda’s face. :-)

    To me too, the story did seem to lose its way a bit somewhere midway. It did not go completely off-track but it just seemed to lose focus a bit. Some forced comedy scenes did not help. But then it got back on track.

    Otherwise, I thought it is definitely worth a watch for anybody who’s fond of dacoit films. There are no frills like a Helen dance in Sholay or a Laxmi Chhaya in Mera Gaon Mera Desh – if one is looking for masala, this isn’t where he or she is going to get it. This is a story that has a message – and, after its mid-life crisis ;-) – returns on track re-enforcing that message.

    My favourite scene in the film is that Waheeda tirade – about the difference between a courtesan and a dacoit. Waheeda was outstanding (she usually is). The way she slaps him towards the end of the scene was quite powerful. That not even two minutes later, she’s dreaming of becoming his wife just because he proposed marriage to her, is just one of those typical Hindi movie things. :-)

    I enjoyed subtitling this – it is always a pleasure working with Tom on any project. And I must say Ava was fantastic with her help in translating almost all the songs. Her translations are nuanced, draw you into the song (“The night is dewy”) and do justice to Sahir’s lyrics. I am so happy to have her help me on this project. And on subsequent ones. We make a good team, I think.

    Lastly, congratulations to all involved with the launch of Edu Productions. Lovely name, lovely logo. Happy to help in any way I can.

    • That’s exactly how I felt…loved the beginning and the end, but the middle section was a bit muddled. Still and all, I liked it. And all y’all DO make a good team, and thank you again!

      • Thank You Greta (Memsaab) & all My Lovely Friends for making Me feel so Special I feel Special mainly because I have come to know all of You so well & feel Blessed by that I do not feel that I was any different from any of the Dancers who did just as much as I if not more if I am to be True to My Feelings! I just feel very fortunate by coming to know You all in all of this by God’s Grace! Thank You from the Bottom of My Heart & God be with You All always!!!

    • Great job on Edu Productions. You guys are doing a wonderful job of preserving and sharing old movies.

    • Raja, Tom makes a dark mess look divine again. The way he restores films is magical. I am glad he was able to find someone to give him vhs tapes. Pukar and Sikander sound good too. I remember what a reputation Sohrab Modi had when I was young. His movies were supposed to be grand historicals. I am looking forward to all that good work.

      Surely you agree, when you are subtitling a movie/song, you tend to look at it more closely, and that is so enriching somehow.

      I agree, Waheeda looks really beautiful in this movie. Though all the songs in this movie are excellent, Tere bachpan was so poignant.

  3. Btw, the shooting for this movie was done in the heart of real-life dacoit territory. There was even a case where the unit was told by the police to pack up early and go back to their place of stay because there was a scare that dacoits would attack. I think this dimension added to the appeal / romance of the movie.

    All in all, it was quite a brave thing for Sunil Dutt to undertake this project on location. But then we know he was quite a gutsy guy.

    • Manorama is many, many awesome things but lovely isn’t one of them, not here anyway :D And thanks! I’ve got some mad screencapping to do for the gallery, and the Nahiin! gallery!

  4. Dear memsaab,

    I think generations of film lovers will thank you for your new venture. I have often raved about the poor quality of DVDs of even movies like Kaagaz ke Phool and Pyaasa that are available to Indians.

    And though I have never seen Achhoot Kanya before (except in snatches and clips), the results are excellent.

    I generally believe that most Hindi (old) films are intolerable, made just about tolerable due to their lovely songs. The fact that you tolerate them is another feather in your cap :)

    • Tom has done an amazing job with the poor second-generation vhs tape he got of Achhut Kanya…and it is a sublime film, even without subtitles. I can’t wait to see it with them! And I agree, it’s so heartbreaking to see classic films even by most people’s standards (eg Guru Dutt) almost unwatchable on dvd, they are so dark you can’t see anything half the time :(

  5. I heart heart Edu Productions.

  6. I love the idea of eDu Productions. I have already seen Mujhe Jeene Do , but am looking forward to watching Pukar and Sikander again. Thanks to Tom, Raja, and Ava.

    • I’ll be putting the links up here as and when Tom is ready with them :)

      • Greta, a suggestion? Creat a page for the links. So that, as each one is completed, you can add it to the same page. (Will make it easier for us to look up the links when we want. *grin*) And seconding harvey’s offer of help with translations. :)

        OT: Am leaving for India in a couple of days; if you need anything from there, let me know.

  7. Lovely logo Greta!

    Is that really, really, Edwina? Ahh the beauty *and* cruelty of ephemeral youth! :-(

  8. Even though Sunil and Sanjay Dutt were leading men, they played the anti-hero roles with so much of conviction. In the “Raat bhi hai kuch bheegi bheegi”, Sunil just looked so evil.

    Sunil mentioned in an interview that he too was inspired by Vinoba Bhave.

    Edwina is very beautiful. The other day I saw a few photos of her on Facebook. Her smile is bewitching. I hope I can meet her and so many other stars of yesteryears some day.

    • He did look so…leeringly evil during that song. But he did look so handsome in the film too, there were moments when he would smile at Waheeda or something and it took my breath away. They just have marvellous chemistry.

  9. Edu productions Zindabad!
    Edu productions Zindabad!
    Wish you all the best with Edu!
    And if I can help in any way, do let me know.
    Maybe I can give some crazy translations. ;-)

    There is somewhere a video on you tube where Sunil Dutt and WaheedaRehman recollect that slapping scene and Waheeda reiterates that Sunil wanted to be slapped real hard and that they had to take many takes.

  10. Hi
    Memsaab, as usual your review is always worth reading and thanks to Tom, Raja, Ava and yourself for putting in so much effort, which takes time, passion to get that deserved Wow! Factor. Hope it is contagious – Indian dvd industry gets it!
    Everybody’s effort is very much appreciated.

    Anvar.

  11. Here it is but without subtitles. Watch from 1:50; slap scene comes from 6:38

  12. Hello Memsaab,

    Greetings for the day and hope this mail finds you in the best of health.

    Had an opportunity to go through your blog and found it interesting by the way you interpret and write about cinema.

    Being part of a community blog/website http://madaboutmoviez.com/ , we are a group of people coming from different backgrounds but with one thing in common – being mad about cinema. Having our common genesis with PFC ( passionforcinema.com a hugely popular blog movement that’s now defunct ) we are now here to discuss about cinema of all languages and nation.

    If you are willing to share your expertise in writing then we at madaboutmoviez.com will be more than glad to have you as one of our authors and can work mutually in making it a destination for readers with regards to cinema.

    Will make it very clear at the outset that it is without harming the interests of your current blog and those articles can be reproduced at your own blog in a span of 24 hours.

    Looking forward to a positive reply after which we can initiate further discussions.

    Regards,

    Aditya Savnal
    http://madaboutmoviez.com/author/adityasavnal/

  13. I saw muje jeene do, years ago on doordarshan, and i still remember little sanjay dutt was there in quawali song, he was five year old and really looked cute.

    • I don’t remember a qawwali in this…maybe it was removed from the dvd :( SAD. I remember him from the qawwali in Reshma Aur Shera, but he was probably about 13 then.

  14. Hey memsaab…I know this isn’t really relevant to the post but I really wanted to share it with you. I was clicking around on youtube when I stumbled across this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NhHN2Jzbc4
    A fantastic video with footage of many of the 50s-60s stars of Hindi Cinema. You have probably seen it already…but I was completely elated & wanted to share it with you. I have never seen actual footage of the stars being themselves, (not acting in a film) & have only seen photographs etc…so this was definitely my ‘find’ of the year so far! I really hope you enjoy it (sorry if you’ve seen it already!) & if you know of any other such clips please please please tell me!

    • I hadn’t seen that, thank you so much! Look forward to watching it in its entirety when I have time :) THANK YOU.

      • I’ve just seen this. It is just AWESOME! It’s in Hindi but the galaxy of stars in mind-blowing. I’m a bit confused about the dates because it’s supposed to be a 1981 release (celebrating 25 yrs of BR Films) but it has clips of people who passed away before that – like Jaikishen and Rafi saab (not that I’m complaining! :-)).

        There’s a cute speech by Shashi Kapoor also where he talks about how he thought he was cat’s whiskers when he was just starting his career. He thought he was the next big Dilip Kumar. When BR Chopra asked him how much money he wanted for his first film Dharamputra he very haughtily said “5000”. BR Chopra was shocked! Only then did Shashi realise that maybe, just maybe, he was asking for a bit too much.

        The guy who’s posted this says he would upload a part 2 also but I could not find it on the net. :(

  15. Ah, now it’s becoming clear to me… I stumbled upon Tom’s new movie channel (a little while after learning that it was on its way, via a brief comment from Tom, himself) before I saw this post. When I reviewed the newly uploaded Babul early today or, technically, yesterday (and then revised it during most of the rest of the day), I had no idea that the source was a new official entity called Edu Productions.

    But Memsaab, something you said has left me confused – well, vs. something that Tom says in his channel… You said that Raja and Ava are doing subtitles for a number of films, including Babul. But on Tom’s site, it says that this version is a “hard-subbed” one from old British TV (and that is what it looks like, certainly). Does that mean that there is yet another copy of Babul that will come out, with fresh subtitles by Raja and Ava?

    Clarification would be much appreciated. :) Meanwhile, I admit I haven’t read this whole review above. As I was saying, I’ve spent a whole day writing and responding about that excellent film called Babul. But I’ll get back to this!

    • Hello Richard, I just want to clarify that Babul has not been subbed by me/Ava. We’ve subbed Mujhe Jeene Do and a certain 1930s classic. We are currently working on a 1940s classic. :-)

    • No, this film (MJD) was subtitled by Raja and Ava, and they are also doing some others which are unsubtitled. Both Babul and Pukar had hard-coded subs because they were taped from British television, so only Tom was involved in cleaning those up (although he sometimes adds subtitles for songs if they don’t have them) :) I haven’t watched Babul, it looks a little on the depressing side for my taste but I will certainly see what you have to say about it!

  16. LOVELY logo of Proeductions. Ms. Edwina looks absolutely WONDERFUL. Have to wait a while to take a look at the work of Tom and party as I am at my workplace and there has been too many pink slips floating about lately..

    I enjoyed Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do’ much more than his ‘Reshma and Shera’. Memsaab did you manage to finish Ismat Chugtai’s ‘A Strange Man’? Then you will appreciate the more the pairing in this film. Sunil Dutt was the new ‘hero’ in the thriller film (with Waheeda) who had a rough time with Raj Khosla (of Guru Dutt camp) – and the film got shelved. And later when Waheeda tried to pull away from the relationship – Sunil Dutt was one such who gave her the chance to star in an ‘outside’ film – all the more galling I should think after the way they had tried to pull Sunil Dutt down. Sorry if I am sounding a bit incoherent – GD and WR is one pair which has fascinated me down the years (Meena Kumari’s life is another). I think Guru Dutt’s death very much hit her. If you see the films after 1964, WR’s face shows a certain suppressed strain and one hears of migraine attacks – and compare it to her films before his death such as ‘Bees Saal Baad’, Mujhe Jeene Do’ and one gasp’s at her luminescent beauty. Love does give one that glow.

    • I did finish Ismat Chugtai’s “A Strange Man” and enjoyed it very much. I am sure that whether Guru Dutt and Waheeda had a romantic relationship or not (I’m not convinced either way) his death hit her hard, they worked very closely together if nothing else :)

      • Raj Khosla hinted that it was purely platonic. Not impossible as the physical aspect does not have to enter to be in love. Remember the Chaudhvin Ka Chand episode in the book (changed to Poornima in the book – both meaning full moon by the way – the original in Urdu and the other in Hindi) – the mention of several shoots which never made it to the final film. I strongly believe this to be true because the publicity posters/record covers of the film contain indications of scenes /situations which do not appear in the film at all (and I have seen it full in the hall).

        Ah the difference in Waheeda of Mujhe Jeene Do and Reshma and Shera… (I am an incurable romantic :) )

  17. Waheeda in ‘Pyaasa’, Waheeda in ‘Teesri Kasam’, or Waheeda in ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’? Gosh, what a dilemma!

  18. A wonderful film! Sunil Dutt looks very handsome. The chemistry between him and Waheeda is really really something. Loved it all.

    Very exciting to know about Edu Productions. Congratulations to the whole team involved, Tom, Raja, Ava. Great idea there by Anu suggesting a page of its own. Looking forward to it with films together for easier access.
    And of course the face that launched the productions, Edwina’s will bring all the luck to it with that smile :-)

  19. It is a tremendous initiative of extremely self motivated individuals who are doing a task that should have been done by the industry. I feel lucky that I am acquinted with such selfless and talented pioneers.

    Long live Edu productions.

  20. Greta – Its been a good 5 months since Dharmendra has been mentioned in your blog post. Planning to review a movie of his in the near future?

  21. I am back after a forced exile thanks to my computer. I was happy to see this review. Most people talk about Anupama and Gumnaam whenever they refer to dad’s films but personally I feel in this film too dad’s performance was real good or maybe I feel so because for a change he was his youthful self throughout the film.

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