Phool Aur Patthar (1966)

I’m on a Dharmendra or dog co-star kick this week apparently. This movie has both!

It’s oodles of good masala fun, despite the unfortunate presence of a weepy and sanctimonious Meena Kumari. I know she and Dharmendra carried on a real-life affair for awhile, but it’s a thanda jodi onscreen for sure. She was really beautiful and fun in the 50’s; I don’t know how she became so maudlin in the 60’s. However!!! The film is saved by the presence of numerous character actors in all their glory (and occasionally in drag), beautiful songs by Ravi and the aforementioned Dharmendra and Famous Dog Bhairon. Fun for everyone!

I’ve decided that another reason I love Hindi movies is because all the people in them show up over and over for decades and become like family.

Shaka (Dharmendra) has been a criminal from his orphaned childhood: in and out of jail, familiar with the police in his town, and the object of scorn and insults from the people he lives among. He works for “Boss” (Madan Puri in a red wig), who owns a hotel; and he is loved by bad girl Rita (Shashikala in a platinum blonde wig), a dancer at the same hotel.

I must note here that in spite of numerous fashion don’ts, Shashikala is quite wonderful. She’s yet another actress whose lack of stardom I don’t understand. And the music by Ravi is just fabulous, especially if you are a big fan of the “Indian Twist” like I am.

Boss has a new target for Shaka, the zamindar of a nearby town named Jeevan Lal (Jeevan). He is very rich, but so kanjus that he refuses to put his wealth in the bank, but keeps it in the house where he can maintain a close eye on it.

On the way to Jeevan’s village Shaka meets an old friend (from jail no doubt) Sadakram (played by director OP Ralhan) and his gang of pickpockets working a crowd. One of them is Ram Avtar (most famous as the fat guy laughing uncontrollably on the train at the start of Teesri Manzil). I love him. He is just so…fat!

Sadakram tells Shaka that Jeevan’s town is infested with the plague (another theme I encountered recently, in Dhoop Chhaon!). The inhabitants have all fled, leaving their homes ripe for the picking. Shaka is pleased to hear this: his job will be easy.

He reaches the deserted village and goes into Jeevan Lal’s house. Sadly, Jeevan and his family have taken all their valuables with them. But—they’ve left their widowed daughter-in-law Shanti (Meena Kumari), who is bedridden and ill, to die. They haven’t even left her with any water. Of course, she’s not one to complain.

Shaka takes pity on her and forces the neighboring town’s doctor (Sundar) to treat her. Shanti slowly gets better. When the plague ends and Jeevan, his wife (Lalita Pawar) and son Kalicharan (Ram Mohan) return to find her alive, Kalicharan attempts to rape her. Shaka returns just in time to save her, and takes her home with him. She has come to represent something to him.

I don’t know that I could stand her weeping and self-pity, but maybe I am one of those worse people.

She moves into his house, and of course asks him for a Krishna murti that she can pray to. She cleans up the place, too. And finally stops crying! But only for a minute: the prying and curious neighbors unfortunately don’t treat her any better than they do Shaka.

Meanwhile, back at Jeevan Lal’s, a lawyer for Shanti’s uncle has shown up. The uncle has died and left her 6 lakhs in his will, but the lawyer will only deliver the papers to Shanti herself.

They tell him that she’s gone on a pilgrimage, and then come up with a plan. They bury their wealth (which appears to consist mostly of large pieces of gold jewelry) in the back yard, and then call the police to report that they have been robbed and Shanti has been kidnapped.

Their plotting is overheard by the doctor, though, and he steals the jewelry from the yard and gives it to his wife (the one and only Tun Tun).

She is probably the only woman large enough to carry off wearing it all at once! Shaka’s friend Sadakram is passing by, though, and manages to steal a bangle off her wrist.

When Shaka finds out that the townspeople taunted Shanti, he beats up one of them. She gets angry at him (and she already disapproves of his profession). He tells her about his sad childhood, how he was forced to steal in order to eat, and then he starts crying.

At this point I am fed up with both of them and decide that Shaka falling in love with Shanti is just not believable, and I stop caring much about the plot. If you want to know more you’ll have to watch it.

There are still sooo many goodies!

For instance, there’s a qawwali performance during which Sadakram’s gang—dressed as women—pick pockets in the audience:

A favorite actor of mine, Manmohan Krishna, is a kindly police inspector:

And another fave, Iftekhar, as one of Madan Puri’s henchmen (named Babu) (he’s a bad guy!—although sadly, he doesn’t have much to do):

Dharmendra saves a little girl from a burning house, thus redeeming himself in the eyes of his neighbors. They love him now. Yay! (and he comes out unscarred and still beautiful):

A rocking Holi song, featuring my new best friend Laxmi Chhaya and another great dancer, Madhumati (and also Saroj Khan, before she became a choreographer):

More Shashikala:

DK Sapru as….the judge! What else?

Who hops on the back of the car when Shanti is kidnapped; he finds out where they hide her, and then goes back to get Shaka:

What a smart boy!

Weigh all this finger-licking goodness against the bad:

And that’s what the Fast Forward button is for! Enjoy.

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39 Comments to “Phool Aur Patthar (1966)”

  1. Umm, wow. That was quite an ambiguous review. Still seems fun though, especially since it has hijras in it.

  2. I think it was Dharmendra’s first hit. The two went on to make several forgettable films after that. I was always under the impression that the movie was B&W – guess the TV channels show it in B&W to make it a “classic”!

    • Not really. This was the movie that made Dharmendra a star. However, he did have hits like Haqeeqat (1964), Kaajal (1965), Aaye Milan Ki Bela (1964) and others before this.

  3. I really want to see this – and not just for Dharmendra – the English subtitles look really funny, and I always enjoy that. And the songs look like good fun too – especially the one with the crooks in drag.

  4. Yes, it was ALL GOOD except for Meena and her constant weeping :-) I really loved the songs but can’t find them anywhere…might have to resort to extracting them from the DVD.

  5. I wonder how Bhairon got famous- and where he was famous at – rofl.

    What interests me most is Iftekhar playing the bad guy- he was good at that, but did v little, so that fact alone definitely makes this movie a must watch for me – thanks!

    Manmohan Krishna is just so- kindly looking, no?

  6. Iftekhar had maybe two lines in this film, and did some standing around but not much else.

    Manmohan Krishna makes me think of one of Snow White’s dwarves or something. He’s just so CUTE. Love those eyes. He usually is a kindly character too.

    And Bhairon must be famous for balancing on the back of a car as it sped along if nothing else! They must have tied him on there somehow…

  7. Excellent images here Memsaab! Eventually I will see it. I especially agreed with youre statement here:
    “I’ve decided that another reason I love Hindi movies is because all the people in them show up over and over for decades and become like family.”

    Too true!

  8. 2 lines???? :( sadness!

    Poor Bhairon- maybe he wasnt tied- and was a circus dog or something- I wish I knew now…

  9. Or maybe they used a dummy…although I don’t think so. Looked pretty real, and I don’t think animal safety was a big concern back then…I prefer not to think about it :-)

  10. Great review. I am so used to thinking of Meena Kumari as the weeping heroine, I didn’t realise she had done roles that didn’t involve her in tears!


  11. M—see my post about Shammi Kapoor’s film Mem Sahib (1956?)—she was beautiful, witty, and great fun in that film!

  12. Hi Memsaab

    Don’t you watch the latest Bollywood movies like Krazzy4, Om Shanti Om, etc.? The latest ones are completely different and you will like them too.

  13. Oh yes I do watch them too…but I don’t write about them usually because so many other people already have and I don’t usually have anything to add, even if I liked them a lot :-)

  14. Hey…… Quick question…. how do you get such fantastic stills from the vids you watch? I have tried everything… but they are so poor, that half the fun is gone..
    Do let me know.. Thanks

  15. Hi Shome, It’s easy :-) I have a Mac!

    I play the DVD on my Mac and use a Dashboard app to capture them (ScreenShot), then resize them in Photoshop (any image editing application would do, though)…I do spend time making sure the picture is as clear as it can be before I screen cap it too.

  16. i just watched this film 2 nites ago on dvd. i enjoyed it, but you could be right about meena kumari in this one. all the supporting actors were great, manmohan krishna cuddly as ever, iftekhar (what can be said about him) & shashikala like ive never seen her before. i went around the house twisting all the next day.

  17. Poor Meena. I just find her so hard to take in the 60s. She was beautiful and scintillating in the 50s before heartbreak and alcohol did her in though.

    And I really liked this film, except for the whole weepy thing. Shashikala was awesome and Bhairon the dog too :-)

  18. im thrilled to have found your website. i have loved hindi films for most of my life & i have a dvd collection of over 150 films from 1948 to 1980. i will need to spend so much time on this site & im very excited about it. ive only had my computer for 2 months & i look forward to being able to share my feelings & opinions on these films & actors & songs with others. i not only love these films, i am IN LOVE with them.

  19. Hindi films do have a special addictive quality! You are in like company here :-)

  20. I must say I find this site pretty interesting too and am so glad to have found people watching and actually discussing these old films. Like Eva, I too, am in love with Hindi films (and the old songs) even when they’re silly (I like that too). True about Meena K being a tragey queen with too much tears but I haven’t this film yet – Pakeeza is one of my absolute favourite ones, it’s awesome and Raaj Kumar very attractive in it.

  21. “Shashikala is quite wonderful. She’s yet another actress whose lack of stardom I don’t understand.”

    She didn’t understand that herself. She had to play even mala sinha’s mother (or in-law) in paisa ya pyar. She was just great in sujata and anupama.
    I remembered reading the paisa ya pyaar incident somewhere. She started crying at the sets, whereupon Dadamoni console dher and said “Look at me, I’ve played Mala Sinha’s hero and now I play her father’s role”.

    Meena Kumari in the 60’s played only herself or atleast her projection of herself. The nadir of this evolution line is I think in Chandan ka palna. Just obnoxious!

  22. Oh poor Shashikala! Well maybe she’ll get to know that other people don’t understand it either! :)

    And poor Meena. She really had a hard time…

  23. Just saw this movie yesterday – for the first time.

    It is great fun to read your review immediately after seeing a movie because the film is fresh in your mind and you get a “memsaab take” on the film which you can immediately relate to the film.

    Agree with your review to a large extent. Except that I am so used to Meena Kumari in her weepy roles that it did not surprise or bother me too much here.

    Shashikala was fabulous. I readily join the group of “puzzled fans who never Shashikala not becoming a bigger star”.

    You have not said much about Dharam here. To be honest, he looked a bit old and tired to me. And even looked like he had put on weight. This was 1966 – he should have looked young and fresh. I have seen later movies of his where he looks younger and fitter. Maybe he needed a Hema or Sharmila or Asha pairing to bring out some freshness in him.

    All in all, I liked the movie. Had heard a lot about it – now I have seen it.

    • @Raja – Dharmendra looking a bit old and tired? Hard for hard-core Dharam fans like me to digest :-)

      In fact for his performance, he was nominated in the Filmfare Best Actor category. However, Dev Anand won it (and rightfuly) for Guide (1966).

  24. I liked it too, but truthfully just wanted to give Meena a tight slap. Self-inflicted misery is intolerable to me, and she needed it. Dharam was fine, but he spent too much time with her and I preferred all the other good stuff going on. :) He probably looked old and tired because he was dealing with Meena both on and off-screen! I’ve said it often on here, but I find her so sad…she was so gorgeous and lively in the 50s, and I hate to watch what happened to her.

    • Slap *her*? Not the people around her who were mistreating Meena Kumari and were causing her misery (in the movie, that is)? It’s not like she cried for fun in the movie. I can understand you wanting a more proactive heroine, but your frustration is misplaced. It’s cruel and callous to take your anger out on the victim rather than those around her who deserve it.

  25. I just watched this one this afternoon, and completely agree with you about Mena Kumari’s incessant weeping. There was something touching about Shanti and Shaka that made some of the more lugubrious stuff bearable for me. The crook reformed by the love of a good woman–a favorite plot, so perhaps I am too generous. They were a real life couple for a while? Hard to imagine. Especially since she looks older than him due to the ravages of her illness. As always, thanks for naming the character actors–but which dancer is Saroj Khan? Shashikala’s outfits were super hideous, and not in a good way, although the white chiffon she wore in the drinking song is a bit enviable.

  26. Ok, I have to ask, this is the movie where Dharmendra takes off his shirt for the first time. It is supposed to be the most sensual moment in the movie and in Bollywoodom in general. I saw a clip of this from the Dharmendra biography on youtube
    and maybe there is some context I am missing but him covering up Meena with a blanket is supposed to be sensual??

  27. that blonde wig is hilarious, what better person to pull it off?
    anyone else would have looked downright stupid, unless of course, shammi, (that would have been onne heck of a sight!)
    the songs are awesome, especially thefirst one, note: there seems to be more dancers in the beginning than in the end, do they delete dancers if they get a part of the dance wrong?, heard it somewhere but dont know whether to believe it!

  28. I was fan of Shammi Kapoor before release of Phool aur Patthar.

  29. Wow, Shashikala looks really different in this. I think she didn’t become a leading lady because she was type-cast as the mean sister-in-law (i.e. Aarthi) in a lot of her movies. That’s a hard image to escape.

  30. Unfortunately the review does not do justice to a super-hit movie may be because sometimes it is hard for non-Indians to accept the dogmas of Indian culture. Look, in the 60’s, widow remarriage was not very common. So, if Ralhan showed a widow moving in with a goonda, that itself was something that was way ahead of its times.
    Granted that Dharmendra had hits before, but this was his first solo-hit and this could not have been achieved without Meena Kumari. To give due credit to her, her image as a weepy heroine helped the movie. I do not think Mala Sinha or Waheeda Rehman or Sadhana or Vyjayanthi could have done this role. It was a deglamorised role and most actresses in the 60’s were too concerned with their make-up and look.
    The real life chemistry between the lead pair helped the movie’s success. Reports say that Dharmendra did not take too kindly to Ralhan’s arrogance and almost walked out of the movie. Meena Kumari’s personal life was in shambles – almost a real life version of Chotti Bahu in “Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam”. This explains why we could never see the Meena of 50’s [Baiju Bawra, Magroor, Kohinoor, Yahudi, Footpath, Azad] in the 60’s. She had a neighbour called Janki Doss and as per reports, he was the one who spread rumours about her!

    Despite her steady decline in the 60’s, you have got to credit her for the success of movies like Pakeezah, Dushman, a Jeetendra starrer & the legendary Gulzar classic – Mere Apne before she passed away into a zone that offered her eternal peace from all prying eyes.

    If you look at the movie Chandan Ka Palna, it becomes clear that she would not live long. Heavy drinking had already taken a toll on her. It is so sad that she died in penury and only good souls like Nargis and Sunil Dutt helped in performing her last rites.

    Shashikala too had a disastrous personal life, poor lady, she suffered a lot in life and you know that for you to succeed in Bollywood, you have to compromise a lot, fight hard to change your image and network aggressively.

    But the truth is that this was a big hit in the 60’s and though this melodrama may not be watchable today due to changing times, it at least had a progressive streak in its screen play.

    • To be fair, it’s sometimes hard for south asians as well, particularly the ones in the western countries. Thankfully, the movies of today are moving away from sati-savitri tragedy and pity (well, for the most part). Your balanced, informed comment is appreciated though. It gives the movie more perspective. :)

  31. The best thing about this movie was meena kumari’s performance. Dharam was a horrible actor. This movie was a hit because of meenas performance .

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