Miss Mary (1957)

As much as the weepy Meena Kumari of the 1960s exasperates me, the sparkling Meena Kumari of the 1950s enchants me. In addition to sparkly Meena, this movie stars Kishore Kumar, Om Prakash and Gemini Ganeshan (Rekha’s father) so I figured it might be fun. And it is: mostly it’s a fluffy love story, with a lost child thread, but the songs by Hemant Kumar are wonderful (and subtitled!) and the performances solid.

Miss Mary (Meena Kumari) and Arun (Gemini Ganeshan) are unemployed teachers competing with each other for work; hence they are a little hostile to each other. Then Arun finds an advertisement for a married couple to teach at a school and convinces Mary to pose as his wife for a couple of months.

She needs the money to help her parents pay off a debt, so she reluctantly agrees. Arun has also befriended a beggar/con artist whom he calls Cash (Om Prakash), and convinces him to go along too as their servant.

The Laxmi School is named after the founder’s older daughter, who went missing sixteen years ago. Rai Sahab and his wife have never stopped searching for her and have enlisted the help of Raju (Kishore Kumar). Raju bills himself as “India’s number one detective.” All he has to work with is that Laxmi disappeared while wearing a leaf-shaped locket, and has a mole on her right foot.

Raju grew up in the Rai household after being orphaned as a child; is supposed to marry Sita (Jamuna), the younger daughter; and his best friend and assistant is Chandragupta (Maruti). Maruti and Kishore make a good comic pair.

Anyway, Mary and Arun are welcomed warmly by the Rais. Raju notices that Mary looks very like the photo of Laxmi the family has, but she responds indignantly when he asks her if she was adopted. Mrs. Rai notices the resemblance too, calls Mary her daughter, and gives her gifts, like this sari.

The family’s insistence on her resemblance to Laxmi creeps Mary out a bit. She is irritated too when Sita flirts with Arun. Arun in turn is irritated when Mary sings a song (“Yeh Mard Bade”) ripping apart men. It’s hilarious and I send up a *thank you* to T Series for subtitling it.

Don’t worry, guys. Arun takes her place at the piano.

This bickering continues over time. They argue about Mary’s resistance to visiting the family—she doesn’t want to because she is tired of being harassed over Laxmi, while he thinks it’s their duty as employees. Mary is also uncomfortable at having to pretend they are married and she blames him for that too.

Arun sees that the Rai family are very sweet and mean well, and he thinks Mary is too hard on them. Plus, as he points out reasonably enough, she agreed to the faux marriage too. The root of all this dissension is that Mary is falling in love with Arun but doesn’t trust him or her feelings. Arun is falling for Mary too, but is put off by her prickly manner.

There’s also a lot of discussion about their respective religions (Hindu and Christian) but it doesn’t really make much of a point beyond the usual “Can’t we all just get along?”

Kishore has a great song (“Gaana Na Aaya”) in here, where he pretends to be alternately a bad musician and a good one. It’s a tour de force of dancing and singing, and showcases Kishore’s musical and comedic talent like I’ve not seen anywhere else—it’s honestly worth the price of the DVD by itself.

In any case, Mr. and Mrs. Rai sense the tension between Mary and Arun, and set out to do something about it. Sita continues to flirt with him, making Mary miserable.

No no no no Meena! Don’t cry! You’re sparkly Meena, remember?

Can the Rais bring Mary and Arun together? Will Mary and Arun wake up and smell the coffee? Will Raju find Laxmi? Is Laxmi really Mary?

It’s not really much of a plot—very fluffy, as I said. It would have been stronger if we’d understood the reason behind Mary’s mistrust of men. But it’s sweet and I like seeing Meena do something besides sob. She is very pretty and feisty in this. And more than any other thing, you should watch this film for the music. It is really spectacular.

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45 Comments to “Miss Mary (1957)”

  1. All time classic movie – for the songs. This movie started as a Tamil movie, was either dubbed or remade in Telugu, and then remade in Hindi…Gemini Ganesan was the one constant in all versions, I believe! The movie was called Missiamma in Tamil and Telugu and the songs are really wonderful…only one song was retained by Hemant Kumar for the Hindi version (AFAIK) – the “Brindavan mein Krishna Kanhaiya” one – that song in Tamil/Telugu is one of our family favourites.

    I believe a new remake (nice oxymoron!) of Missiamma is in the works – possibly in Malayalam – read something about Asin being signed up for this.


  2. Thanks for that info, M! Who did the music for the Tamil version? I was glad to see GG finally in a film—Rekha does resemble him quite a bit.

  3. Memsaab,

    The music for the both Tamil & Telugu version is by S Rajeswara Rao.

    Incidentally, the man who directed all three versions is a guy named L V Prasad, who holds the unique distinction of having starred in the first Tamil, Telugu and Hindi talkies (Kalidasa, Bhakta Prahlada & Alam Ara respectively), albeit as an extra in all three. He has also been a successful producer of Hindi films — his credits include Sasuraal, Milan and Ek Duje Ke Liye.

    Even more incidentally, I learnt that there was a movie named Chori Mera Kaam from a song in the movie Ek Duje Ke Liye where Kamalhassan (who plays a Tamilian) speaks the Hindi-speaking Rati Agnihotri by reeling off names of Hindi movies. The line goes: Johnny mera naam, Chori mera kaam… :-)

    To complete the circle of utterly useless facts, Kamalhassan’s debut was in a movie starring GG and Savitri (who played the Meena Kumari role in the original of Miss Mary)!


    ps: Phew!

  4. I cant help but wonder what if…
    – Meena had continued with comic/light hearted roles
    – She had never met Kamal Amrohi- and married someone like Shammi
    – She wouldnt die when she did, and played Zohra Sehgal-esque roles into the 2000s…

    I think it would have been pretty fabulous…:)

  5. This is one of my favorite movies. The movie is an AVM production which to me was more famous for family tear-jerkers (I learnt better, later) like Bhabhi and was pleasantly surprised when I saw this. Meena Kumari in this movie reminded me of Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby in the sense that neither of them was usually cast as the fluffy, dumb, heroine. And Kishore Kumar was soooo good here, too! Guess he needed a director to keep him from going too far in his comic feats and that happened too rarely!

    Ramsu, what a bag of co-incidences! Should we let X-files know about the strange goings-on in the Indian film industries?

  6. bollyviewer>> Just let them know about me. I’m a “strange going-on” in my own right :)


  7. Wow, leave the computer for an hour and all kinds of knowledge is displayed here! Thanks for all that information Ramsu. Re: LV Prasad—could have been a question on Bollywood Ka Boss!

    shweta: I think Meena K is a better warning against the effects of too much alcohol than even my lovely poster :-(

    bollyviewer: I noticed the AVM Productions at the beginning only because I’d never seen another film made by them…at least that I can remember.

  8. Are you Serious ? Don’t Remember AVM Productions ?
    Hey there are Lots of Hindi, Tamil and Telugu Movies produced by them.

    A nice synopsis of the Movie again. Will keep a tab on this one and watch it soon as I get the DVD.

  9. Well, there are many things I don’t remember that I should :-) I would not swear that I’ve never seen an AVM Production, only that I don’t remember seeing their logo before. But…(circle back to the beginning of this comment).

  10. Aw, this is one of my childhood faves. I agree, MK when happy is one of the sweetest things ever. But even in her middle period, before she completely became a tragic heroine, she was pretty fun to watch. You’ve got to see Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai – it’s one of my guilty pleasures.

    M: Asin? Ew.

  11. Isn’t Meena Kumari gorgeous? What a pity she went into so much self-pity on screen, and off screen, too.

  12. Amrita—oh yes, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai is one of my guilty pleasures too!!! What a soap opera it is :-) Nadira is so deliciously horrible in it.

    Banno—she really is so beautiful, and, well, sparkly!

  13. hi,
    this is massage for you ..
    asar nawaz usmani Says:
    29, July 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I love Greata b,coz of she is very intelligent and interesting personality we proud of our culture and very thankful for her responce. I want to suggest to Greata to see hindi movies ‘MAAN’ of Aamir Khan & Manish Koirala and also for Bobby Deol’s BADAL. Greata i’ll be happy if you could contact me. My Email id is asarnawazusmani@gmail.com. And i am also very thankful to Mr. Sagar

  14. Hi Sagar :-) I have sent your friend an email. Thanks so much for passing along those very kind words! I have seen Mann (wrote about it briefly here) and also Badal (I liked the Bobby-Rani pairing).


  15. Hi Memsaab

    I saw the original telugu version with Savitri as the lead on India’s National TV Channel Doordarshan which used to feature old films – a bonus for us young people born later!

    I recollect enjoying the movie. Jamuna too did a good job.

    This movie is considered as a classic in tamil and telugu cinema and continues to be enjoyed by generations!

    Regarding LV Prasad – one of his famous movies as a producer is Dosti – old movie about friendship with excellent songs and a hit in the 60s. I think it is also memorable in the launch of Rajashri movies (Tarachand Barjataya) – some of their movies all bloggers like inlude HAHK


  16. Few days back a famous singer Mubarak Begum had come to Hyderabad for a concert.
    Miss Jamuna who was heroine in Hamraahi and Miss mary had also come for the same concert, you can see them in my this blog post..
    एक “मुबारक” शाम

  17. Is Jamuna the woman in the blue and purple saree? She’s beautiful still! She was lots of fun in this film as well; a big thorn in Mary’s side!

  18. Hi Greta,
    In fact, Meena Kumari was as pretty crying as when she was laughing… in those days!
    If only I had enough time to see allt hose crazy movies!!

  19. True that, Yves. Very true.

  20. Hi Memsaab,
    The Telugu version is actually 1 of the best (helps that I’m multi-lingual and a big fan of Tamil and Telugu movies) – it’s called Missamma.

    Savithri plays Mary and she’s a comedic genius.

    NTR plays Gemini Ganesan’s role and is a MUCH bigger talent than Gemini.

    ANR plays Kishore Kumar’s role and he was great but I’m the biggest Kishore K fan ever!!

    Jamuna is the one common thread in all the movies.

    Missamma in Telugu comes highly recommended…

  21. Hi Madhavi, thanks for the recommendation, I’ll see if I can find it with subtitles :-) Don’t know how easy old south Indian movies are to find like that but I will definitely look!

  22. although he gave a good performance in this film & his song was fantastic i read in his biography that kishore kumar had problems with this film & as a protest shaved his head which is why he is wearing a hat throughout. you wouldnt guess from his performance that his heart wasnt in it.

  23. No, I never would have guessed that! :-) He was full of fun in this film!

  24. Fantastic thread. I learnt a lot about this forgotten movie. I will hurry up to see if I could locate a VCD/DVD of this movie.

  25. Come back and let us know how you liked it when you see it!

  26. Success ! Finaly I managed to get hold of the VCD of “Miss Mary”. I have just watched the first half of the movie, and I must say I was totally engrossed in the movie.

    A youthful Meena Kumari playing a happy role ( she looks cute ) makes for great watching.

    I noticed that Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar get top billing whereas Gemini Ganeshan is third in the credit- and his name is mentioned as Ganesh.

    I have yet to view the second half ( it is midnight and I have to go to work tomorrow) so I better postpone watching the second half tomorrow, but whaetever I have watched is enough to convince me that “Miss Mary” is a wonderful movie.

  27. Oh I’m glad you like it Atul! I loved it, and Kishore’s song is so much fun.

  28. I loved the movie. Meena Kumari was wondrful in this non tragic role. How I wish that she had played more such roles in Bollywood movies.

  29. I Wanted to clear many wrong assumptions read from your other fans.the original classic was in telugu wherein N T RAMARAO-SAVITRI and A NAGESWARARAO
    -JAMUNA actedin the mainroles and all four got themselves firmly established in
    telugu. They could not have imagined at that time thatall these four veterans were
    virtually going to rule the TELUGU films till 1975 atleast.Infact they have become part of the history.Though i am a fan of gemini because i hail from Srirangam,very close toHEMAJI”Sbirthplace ,NTR was far superior and the original tunes set to music by the legend , S,Rajeswararao-were sung beautifully by A M RAJA,P LEELA etc.
    Off the three versions,TELUGU was undeniably the best.Particularly SAVITRI
    rose to such heights,she remains till date the best actress this country has produced
    and this fact was appreciated by none other than KAMALAHASAN himself.
    j natarajan

  30. Several people have mentioned the Telugu version above as being a wonderful film…

  31. respected madamme,

    when I mentioned about savitri,it is not to underestimate some outstanding talents
    like madubala,vyjayantimala,malasinha,ashaparekh,waheedaji,nanda,suchitrasen
    and many others whose films I had watched time and again spellbound.however the veriety of roles savitri had acted was something really amazing and out of roughly 250 films in both tamil and telugu put together,she had carried many films on her shoulders alone.It is a pity that while many tamil actors of the present generation can not speak
    their own mothertongue properly, savitri excelled even in lenghty dialouges in chaste tamil effortlessly,for a girl from TENALI.
    I am writing this at length so that hindi film fans should not mistake me for being
    Actually I am a mad fan of nutan and hema for your information
    j natarajan

  32. Hi Memsaab,

    I recently discovered your blog and made it a part of my daily reading to catch up with all of your wonderful posts.

    “Missamma” with NTR and Savithri in Telugu is my most favourite movie. I watched it so many times that keep quoting dialogues from memory to my family at random times. :)

    I recently read in Savithri’s biography that Missamma in Telugu and Tamil was filmed simultaneously, with Savithri as lead role in both. But Gemini Ganesan was the lead actor in Tamil, and this is when Savithri fell in love with him and became his second wife. Savithri and Jamuna were also close in real life and Jamuna used to call Savithri as “akka” (didi).

    Also, the director had such an attention to detail that SVRanga Rao (in Zamindar’s role) had different dhoti-style between Telugu and Tamil versions, in keeping with the regional styles.

    I tend to think that Savithri and Meena Kumar are similar in a lot of ways. Both are great actresses who can convey an emotion with the tiniest movement of the eyes. Yet, both had bad marriages, suffered with alcoholism, and left us too soon.

    I apologize for the lengthy comment, but couldn’t resist given my love for Missamma.

  33. I have watched both Missamma (1955) and Miss Mary (1957). Missamma is a remake of the Bengali classic Manmoyee Girls School (1935) starring Kanan Devi. Now I’d love to watch Manmoyee Girls School.

  34. Fantastic movie.
    Such movies should be played on TV at the prime time.
    they screen such movies when people are going out for work to offices.
    such a classic movie/
    such movies needs to be popularised again otherwise people will forget them forever.
    memsaab you are doing great job by revisiting classics…..1965-1985 is the best period although few devanand, dilip and kishore kumar classics are there in period 1946-1964 too. as far as raj is concerned i really dont like him as he is not a versatile actor and very few films of his are nice…like chori chori.

    Why did savitri not act in Hindi?

  35. Memsaab,
    if you are a fan of sparkly MeenaKumari, you should watch her in “Kohinoor” (1960), a swachbuckling romantic comedy starring Dilip Kumar…filmi lore has it that the predominantly tragic hero Dilip Kumar was so emotionally affected after playing the doomed titular protagonist in Bimal Roy’s 1955 classic “Devdas” that his therapist suggested he try comedy for a change…nobody knows whether it worked, but what surprised me most is that his heroine in Kohinoor is Meena Kumari and not some comedienne like Shubha Khote, because Meena Kumari was as much a tragedy queen as Dilip Kumar was a tragedy king…cheers…

    • Gaby ji,
      You are right when you say that the Tragedy king wanted to come out of the Devdas effect badly.
      if you see the list of films Dilip had done prior to Devdas,even for just 5 years,you will realise that his films were not only tragic but also he dveloped a habit of underplaying the role.
      Deedar,Hulchul,Tarana,Aan,Daag,Sangdil,Footpath,Shikast,Amar,Azaad,Insaniyat,Udan Khatola and then Devdas.
      Dilip himself was fed up and wanted to come out of this stamp of tragedy.It was also affecting his mentality.Even films like Azaad and Insaniyat did not help him.
      At this juncture Naya Daur offer came like a Boon to him.The character of Naya Daur-1957 was built around the new image of DK,which he wanted very badly.Initially he had refused the offer even to listen to the storyline.
      For the details of how Dilip finally accepted the offer of Naya Daur(which changed his career altogether) please see the following link-
      I have given the details.
      To sum up,it was NAYA DAUR-57 which brought Dilip out of his downward emotions,as suggested by his Therapist.
      -Arunkumar Deshmukh

  36. The absolute original is no movie but infact a Bengali play, very popular in the north calcutta theatre circuit during the early 30’s. it’s super success prompted folks to come out with the film version in 1935 manmoyee girls’ school in 1935 starring kanan devi and the bengali powerhouse actor Tulsi Chakraborty (ppl aware of Ray’s films will know him as the protagonist in Parash Pathar aka the Philosopher’s Stone). immediately After the hindi version in 1957(which was preceded by the Tamil and Telegu versions), a bengali version (and the more popular one in my part of the country) starring Uttam Kumar and Arundhati Devi released in 1958.
    Trivia Over. Greta – Would You please do a best of Sunil dutt post some time? I totally <3 him! Keep Rocking!!
    Regards –

    • allow me to continue with the trivia saga, Priyanka-ji…the film was reincarnated a decade n a half later, in Malayalam…it bore the same title as the Hindi version, Miss Mary…the lead roles are essayed by the who’s who of Malayalam cinema, Prem Nazir and Sheela…

  37. @Gaby – talk about recycling, eh?

  38. A SAD NEWS

    JOY MUKHERJEE,73,Hero of Love in Simla and many other films and a Director,died at 9.30 am on 9-3-2012,at Lilavati Hospital,Mumbai.



  39. Miss Mary was the Hindi debut of Gemini Ganeshan, who was already a star down south. Quite interestingly, his film debut happened with one 1947 satire film, it’s title too – ‘Miss Mary’ released in Tamil. Though film titles are same, stories are different.

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