Dulari (1949)


Most Hindi films from the 1940s are pretty melodramatic. Not only is the acting theatrical and stagey, but the dialogues are overwrought and repetitive (so that you don’t miss the point, I guess) and there are 10-15 songs sprinkled throughout at the rate of one every ten minutes (or so it seems). Characters are self-sacrificing and martyred, or unreasonably demanding; and there’s often some sort of love triangle ending with at least one person’s death (usually Dilip Kumar’s character). All this can make the movie heavy going, but at least the plots tend to be fairly straightforward and easy to follow. And if you know what to expect they always have something fun to offer (like Hindi films in every decade!).

Dulari is typical of its time. I’ve decided that melodrama has stages in the same way that grief does: at first disbelief (can it really be this bad?), then resignation (eyes rolling), and finally—enjoyment at its over-the-top nature. By the end of this film, I was giggling at the poor old man whose daughter had been stolen by gypsies when she was three. It was kind of his fault, since he failed to read the posted warning at the park until it was too late.


His self-pity and misery, endlessly repeated for two hours, just became comical.



Nothing cheers him up, not even NOT being killed by the gypsies.


Interspersed with scenes of his suffering is the actual story. His daughter Shobha is brought up by the gypsies as Dulari (Madhubala); she has grown into a real beauty and they plan to make a mint from making her sing and dance for the general public.


This taskmaster is a gypsy named Jaggu (Shyam Kumar) who wants to marry Dulari into the bargain. This doesn’t sit well with Kasturi (Geeta Bali), who loves Jaggu herself and wants him to marry her. He strings her along while he makes plans for his wedding to Dulari behind her back.


Their relationship is complicated, to say the least.




Enter our hero Prem (Suresh), the son of a wealthy businessman who is a close friend of Shobha’s unhappy father.


He’s an insipid dandy, who wears jodhpurs and riding boots even when he’s just hanging around the house. He spots Dulari dancing in the street one day and is smitten. He follows her back to the gypsy camp and woos her surreptitiously and with great difficulty, since Jaggu keeps a constant eye on her. Only Kasturi’s persistent efforts to get Jaggu’s attention give Dulari any time to herself.


Meanwhile, Prem’s mother (Protima Devi) and father (Jayant) are trying to find a suitably wealthy girl to marry him off to. He wants no part of their matchmaking though.


I can’t blame him. Dulari is gorgeous.


He continues to court Dulari but the tribe of gypsies is not going to let her go easily. She is their bread and butter, as it were. Sardar, the chief of the tribe, reminds me of an elderly and dissipated Bacchus.


Neither is Prem’s father ready to accept a gypsy girl as his bahu rani. Can Prem resist the pressure from his parents? Will he be able to rescue Dulari from the gypsies? He is kind of girly, and they are a mean and snarly bunch.

What will happen to Kasturi’s love for undeserving Jaggu? Will Dulari ever find out her real identity? Will she be reunited with her long-suffering father?



So as you see: not a lot of action—a little bit of dishoom-dishoom, but a lot more singing and looking wistfully at the moon. Dulari is hauled around first by Jaggu, then by Prem, then by Jaggu…you get the idea. The best part of the film by far is Geeta Bali. She’s hilarious and poignant by turns as poor Kasturi, and although it’s an early film of hers, her talent and sparkle leap off the screen, even in scenes with the lovely Madhubala (who is only 16 in this; Geeta is only 19!). The songs by Naushad are very pretty too. And there are plenty of them!

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37 Comments to “Dulari (1949)”

  1. Madhubala and Geeta are both so bewitching- wish they had stuck around longer. I dont get the heroes of the 40s- most of them look so “uncle”, while their girls look hot! its uncanny! Maybe looking uncle-ish was in fashion :S

  2. …and there’s always some sort of love triangle ending with at least one person’s death (usually Dilip Kumar’s character).

    Hahaha, awwww! My poor, dear Dilip. How I love that man, especially his EMO.

    This looks a bit too emo even for me, though, or maybe I’ve just been spoiled by 80s and 90s masala meltdowns accompanying grief rather than gazing at the chand. Perhaps it’s Dilip time after all!

  3. Geeta Bali looks spunky and Madhubala looks lovely..quite a combo. Nice story. The hero (Suresh) looks just like you describe him, great selection of screenshot…and I am just wondering if a guy named Suresh would make it anywhere close to the 4th lead in a film today.Know only 2 famous Suresh’s – Suresh Oberoi and Suresh Menon

  4. halfway thru the post i had almost given up hopes of seein a screenshot of madhubala…but thank god u included one…she does look lovely.

  5. “Dulari” today is known for the Rafi song “suhani raat dhal chuki na jaane tum kab aaoge”. It was this song that launched Rafi’s career as a playback singer.

  6. In your 4th screenshot, the old guy on the left reminded me of the older Arjun Rampal from ‘Om Shanti Om’ & also Mr Chips from ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ !


    Also, the storyline regarding Geeta Bali’s character is very similar to Aruna Irani’s one in ‘Caravan’ regarding her love for Jeetendra.

    Old wine in new bottle syndrome ?

  7. I remember my kids and I fell about the floor laughing at the sign right at the beginning… it was just too much!!
    Geeta Bali fluid and graceful dancing was at its best.
    And you could see Suresh falling in love with Madhubala, but why would she fall in love with him??? Really pathetic-looking hero.
    I like the song, Chandni ayee banke pyar o sajna very much.

  8. This looks very wallowy with that dad, he seems to be the most emo dad ever, and how can you miss a kidnappers sign so easily. it reminds me of the awful 80’s amitabh movie with hema and he becomes a daku, coz his dad walked into a field where the sign said “beware of bandits”
    ohhh filmi fathers should pay waaay more attention, geeta looks lovely here’
    and i think all females must be a “pot of trouble”

  9. Beware of Kidnappers? Huh? Do kidnappers really frequent certain places? Good heavens!

    You’re sooo right about the typical Hindi film of the 40’s – they were so theatrical and contrived that it required a good deal of patience to sit through them. My Mum, who was from a very orthodox sort of family, hadn’t been permitted to see any Hindi movies except Kismet (the ’43 one, not the Biswajeet-Babita starrer). She therefore went through all her childhood and most of her teen years thinking Hindi cinema was pretty awful. Getting married to my father – who’s devoted to 50’s and 60’s cinema – came as quite a revelation!

  10. Yet another brilliant review, I actually laughed out loud to your old man suffering screencaps!!! Thank you Memsaab!

  11. Madhubala looks so chubby cheeked in this one.

  12. shweta: I know, they actually both died way too young :(

    ppcc: Emo was in good supply here, although not Dilip-emo—if Dilip had been the hero instead it would have elevated the film somewhat for sure!

    Comic Project: Something like this would be a funny comic, all the whining and emoting.

    pranay: Could not post this without her!

    Atul: I actually recognized a couple of the songs, meaning that I’ve listened to them before. Very pretty!

    Asli Jat: Yes, sort of similar to Caravan! I guess there’s only so much you can do with love triangles without repeating :-)

    bawa: Yes, I fell over laughing at the sign too. Hilarious. Geeta’s dancing was superb in this. Loved her.

    Rum: LOL @ “Beware of Bandits”…sigh. And I’ll bet YOU are a pot of trouble, anyway!!!

    dustedoff: They are very theatrical, but still entertaining if you are in the mood. In fact, sometimes that OTT emoting is oodles of fun.

    Eliza: Poor guy. I laughed at him too, what else can you do with an Eeyore character like that?

    Banno: She was so young, unbelievable! She’d already been in so many films, too!

  13. The love triangle part of ‘Caravan’ was not the only similarity, it was also the fact that she was a part of a band of Gypsies. You don’t often see these characters in Hindi movies.

    Was it just me then in seeing the similarity between that old guy & Arjun Rampal & Mr Chips ?

    Anyway, take care,

    Asli Jat

  14. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of gypsies lately :) Amar Shakti had lots of them, so did Dharmatma…

    I see the resemblance to Peter O’Toole, but not to Arjun Rampal :)

  15. Man, Shyam Kumar really knows how to sweet talk the ladies! That particular montage of yours had me on the floor.

  16. Yeah, I had to capture it all. Every word a gem! :)

  17. My fave part of this movie (I saw it a long time ago) was Madhubala’s constantly moving beauty spot!

    Suresh was a clase friend of my Dad’s – he didn’t really make it that big but he had some fun stories about his time as a hero.

  18. LOL Muz, it changed size too! I’d forgotten about that.

    I’ll bet he had some stories :) The film world in the 40s was just as crazy as it is now, I think…or maybe even crazier.

    • MUZ. Pl. see my request at the end regarding Suresh. I hope I will get some interesting information from you. Thanks a lot with best wishes and sincere regards.

  19. I am so tickled by the complicated relationship, I can barely breathe.

    Geeta Bali almost always got the best lines in whatever movie she was in. I wonder how she did it.

  20. Yes, actually Shyam Kumar and Geeta had way more spark and sizzle in their “complicated” relationship than Madhubala and Suresh :-) Far more interesting dialogues too!

    …and I’ll bet she got the best lines because she was so great at delivering them!!!

  21. This looks simple and worth watching for the beautiful girls, as you say!

    That “Beware of Kidnapping” sign still has me cracking up!

  22. I remember seeing this movie on doordarshan. Great songs. In those days the screen used to hiss and crackle.. some kind of a problem associated with the old reel system. So one had to really strain one’s ear to catch the dialogue.

    Shyam was a big hero then, He does look hunky. No wonder no one remembers anything about Suresh. The movie has ‘female power’ in oodles.

  23. Nida: It’s pretty simple and yes the girls are gorgeous :)

    Ava: I had never really noticed Shyam until I watched Apradh (he was a villain there, one of Prem Chopra’s henchmen) and then he showed up (much younger!) in this one. So now I will always remember who he is even if I forget Suresh :)

  24. Memsaab: This Shyam Kumar is not the same as the Apradh villain. This Shyam Kumar was a hero in the late 40s and was very famous. You may perhaps remember him as the hero with Suraiyya in Dillagi and singing the famous song Tu Mera Chaand Main Teri Chandni. (This movie also had wonderful songs by Naushad). This actor died after an accident(if i recall correctly a horse riding one) during the shooting of Shabistan(1951).

    Agree Geeta Bali was always bigger than her roles and movies. She appeared in lots of movies to support her family. I have heard that Kedar Sharma who introduced her found her first when she was staying with her family in somebody’s Bathroom! She also died early like Shyam and Madhubala.

  25. Are you sure they aren’t the same? They look exactly alike to me! (except older of course in Apradh)…I’ll see if I can post screen shots of them. I think maybe this one isn’t the Shyam Kumar who was the hero (he was a villain here too)…I remember reading about the hero Shyam in Saadat Hasan Manto’s book “Stars from Another Sky” and that he died young.

  26. From your screen caps he certainly isnt the same Shyam that is mentioned by Manto. The Shyam that Manto mentioned you can see in this song from Dillagi: Is duniya mein. But the movie seems to have two Shyams – one Shyam (hero) and one Shyam Kumar (must be this guy).

  27. Hahahaha, you know you’re depressed when you’re bitching about how you didn’t get killed. As for the cannibalism – I’d like to think it’s an early version of “nom nom”.

    I do love Geeta Bali though. I don’t think I’ve ever felt passive about any performance of hers.

  28. bollyviewer: Yes, the Shyam hero in the Dillagi song is not the guy in Dulari. And the other Shyam Kumar I see was in Shikari as well, and I remember him from that (he was a villain in that one too). He’ll be popping up everywhere now that I look, I’d put money on it :-D

    Amrita: Yeh, Geeta was special. And their repartee was hilarious, at least as subtitled :-)

  29. I read somewhere that Dulari’s plot was a hashed version of Carmen.

  30. dulari was a pretty good movie since i am a huge fan of both geeta bali and madhubala i decided to watch it, and it was pretty good thanks to the performance of actually to me geeta bali in this movie, she just stands out and her diolog delivery is just superb, although madhubala looked absolutley gorgous and young.

  31. Suhani raat dhal chuki, na jaane tum kab aaoge, jahan ki rut badal chuki, na jaane tum kab aaoge…

  32. Dear Muz. I read your comments on Dulari and came to know that Suresh was a close friend of your Father. H e was my maternal uncle and after the partition of India we migrated to Pakistan. I was just eight years old then.Now, I could collect almost all the record of his movies through internet. However you mentioned that he had some fun stories in his time. Can you share it with me and even more memories or photos particularly of his family. You may text me your phone number on 1+ 647 267 9073 . I shall be much thankful to you for your favour. Latif Ahmad Anwar-Canada.

  33. Thanks for the review. The highlight of the movie was Geeta Bali, she had the spark and the screen presence.
    Referring to the earlier discussion between Hilderbrand and memsaab, Shyam and Shyam Kumar are two different actors. Shyam used to play mainly the hero for example Dillagi as was correctly mentioned. He died young falling from a horse during a movie shooting.
    Shyam Kumar who played Jaggu in this movie played negative roles, one more of his earlier movies is Suraiya starrer Dard and later years Apradh as mentioned.

  34. Love the movie, but did not see the end. For some reason, the movie ended without showing the end.

    • The film had a happy ending by marriage of Suresh & Mdhhubala. The movie is available on You Tube.You can watch the missing part there.

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