Tarana (1951)


Gut-wrenching, heart-searing passion, romance and tragedy = Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. I am not talking about Mughal-e-Azam, but about 1951’s Tarana. I was in tears by the end, and it was not pretty. Their much-vaunted real life romance was clearly visible in every scene between them; I think it’s safe to say that I have rarely witnessed such intensely palpable intimacy between two people, onscreen or off. They really let it all hang out! Madhubala looked as beautiful as I’ve ever seen her; she literally lit up the screen. And in their scenes together, Dilip actually looks happy: he smiles, teases gently—I don’t think I’ve seen the Tragedy King in that light before either!

The story itself had its ups and downs, although there was some interesting social commentary mixed in with the romantic drama. Still, what made it special was the incredible chemistry between the two leads.

Motilal (Dilip Kumar) is a doctor, and it is his wedding day, although he is clearly not looking forward to the event. He snaps at his colleagues when they congratulate him, and has patients scheduled for surgery even though he is a little worried that his mind isn’t on the job.


Later in his office, he flashes back to his arrival in India after completing his education abroad, and we discover the reason for all the angst.

On his way home, his plane crashes near a small village in the mountains. The locals rescue him and the other passengers and crew and bring them to the village. Dr. Motilal helps to treat a woman who was seriously injured, and in the process befriends a local blind man named Sardas (Kumar) and his daughter Tarana (Madhubala). It’s not long before the handsome doctor and the beautiful village lass are falling in love. Tarana teases Moti about introducing him to her “Saiyyan” (beloved)—who turns out to be her little pet goat.


This does not go unnoticed by a local tobacco merchant named Toteram (Gope), who wants to marry Tarana himself. He consults a local holy man, who—for a fee—tells him what he already knows: a “mirage” (there’s doubtless a better translation of the actual word used) has come between him and his beloved.


The other villagers are quick to point out the blossoming romance between the “pardesi” and their Tarana as well, which doesn’t help matters. Moti and Tarana spend a lot of time together singing some pretty songs by Anil Biswas. Toteram continues to consult the expensive holy man, who continues to extract money from him but doesn’t come up with any answers.


Toteram is sort of a pathetic figure throughout. Although he does some bad things and is the instigator of the central tragedy, I could not help but feel sorry for him.

The day dawns when the pilot is ready to return to the city along with his passengers. Tarana is very sad at the thought of Moti leaving—but not for long.


Moti sends a letter to his father Diwansahab (Jeevan!—a young disguised-as-old Jeevan!) telling him that he has to stay back to treat the lone female passenger whose wounds are not yet healed.



Diwansahab is disappointed to hear of his son’s delay; he has arranged Moti’s marriage to a friend’s daughter Sheila (Shyama), who is also eagerly awaiting her would-be husband’s arrival.


In the days that follow, Moti asks Sardas about his blindness, and discovers that he went blind only about seven years earlier; he tells Sardas that he thinks he can cure him. He decides to travel to the city to see his father and also to make preparations for surgery on Sardas. Before he goes, he teases Tarana about forgetting her once he gets busy in the big city. 


See what I mean? Have you ever seen such a *smiley* Dilip before? Tarana watches him sail away:


…but he returns immediately, unable to bear the separation. It’s almost more than I can stand, myself!

When the woman passenger has recovered enough to travel, he sends a letter with her to Diwansahab requesting that he send medical items for Sardas’ eye operation. Diwansahab is very angry at this further postponement, but the grateful woman sends the surgical supplies instead, along with some gifts and compliments for Tarana.


Moti operates on Sardas and restores his vision. Soon thereafter Sardas goes off on a short pilgrimage to give thanks.

Toteram’s jealousy now knows no bounds. He conspires with other villagers to cast doubt on Tarana’s character, and when her father returns convinces him that Tarana and Moti have carried things too far in his absence. The film goes a little off the rails for me here, because as you can imagine, Tarana is vilified by everyone including her father, who is a little too quick to condemn her based on village gossip.

The lovers are separated, and Moti—now back in the city—has reason to think that Tarana has died, killed when her father set their house on fire with her in it as punishment for her sins. Sheila is determined to give him a reason to live, and perseveres in getting him back to work and functioning again despite his grief. But Tarana has not died; like Sita, her purity has saved her from the flames.


She sets out to find Moti, but finds him with Sheila; he doesn’t know she’s there (this is a really really *sob-worthy* scene). Thinking that he has forgotten her and moved on with his life, Tarana returns home brokenhearted. Moti finally bows to pressure from Diwansahab and agrees to marry Sheila, whose sympathy, kindness, and selfless love has been unstinting. 

The ending is a little flat after all these twists and turns, and the film drags for a while in the second half. I also found the scenes where Tarana is punished for her “sins” very annoying. However, the film’s viewpoint on this did seem to agree with mine in many ways, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Also, the performances are so natural and understated that things never got irritating, as they can on occasion when some filmi lovers are separated and pining for each other. 

What makes it worth watching, though, is the chemistry between Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. It feels voyeuristic, so personal and so real is it—the sparks that fly when they argue, the tenderness between them in quieter moments, the humor when they tease. It gives the term “love story” more meaning than just about anything else I have ever seen.


website statistics

59 Comments to “Tarana (1951)”

  1. It took me quite a few seconds to spot the little pet goat in the third screencap – it looks like her saree.

  2. The little goat is one of my favorite characters :)

  3. GUSH! Oh my, I don’t know how much old school voyeurism I can take. I’m just watching a Raj Kapoor film about a self-indulgent, hard-drinking pampered cad… it’s painful at times! Though speaking of really intense couples, Raj and Nargis made me want to look away. It seemed so personal! As you know, I loooove Dilip, so this will just have to be next.

  4. I seriously wouldn’t have recognized Dilip in that screencap. Happy and he seemed mutually exclusive until I read this post!

  5. Just want 2 say thanks for all these madhubala scraps….she does light up the screen.

  6. I always avoided Dilip Kumar Films…but I think I should catch up some…esp.this one…Thanks for the brilliant review Memsaab.

  7. I’ve been wanting to see this for a while – and that first screen cap just has me bowled over. I think the only other movie in which I’ve seen Dilip Kumar so cheerful was Aan – another delightful movie.

  8. This is such a good movie. And yes, Dilip is unusually happy. Also, the teasing between Motilal and Tarana seemed very even-handed, not him teasing her and her coyly blushing. I was less sympathetic towards Sheila than you are but I need to see this again; I may have been to hard. When I saw it , I was unaware of the real life romance behind (don’t ask me how I managed to miss that), so I can report that even then it feels like watching something very intimate. To me, they burn up the screen here much more than they do in Sangdil.

  9. ppcc: Dilip was positively gush-worthy here. So handsome, so happy (until separation—then so EMO although he did wallow—neither of them wallowed, which made me very happy myself!

    ajnabi: He glowed, he was so happy in places :)

    pranay: She has never looked better than in this film, and I’m a big Madhubala fan so that’s saying something!

    toonfactory: This is a good one, and as dustedoff says below so is Aan. Start with them :)

    dustedoff: Do see it, it is quite intensely romantic. Actually it makes me want to watch Aan again, which I saw a long time ago but remember really liking.

    Gebruss: Yes, she teased him at least as much as he teased her…I thought Sheila actually was quite sympathetic. She loved him and knew he couldn’t love her as he did Tarana (although I don’t know that I’d make the same choice to marry him that she did)…but she never came between them; she thought Tarana was dead too, and was trying to make him happy so that he could make a life with her despite his memories. She said in fact that she didn’t feel a need to erase his memories of Tarana. I liked her. And “burn up the screen” is the PERFECT way to put it. You could almost see the edges of the screen beginning to smoke sometimes. According to Madhubala’s bio, this is the film where they began their romance (although she was also still carrying on with Premnath, apparently, and he and Dilip were becoming friends. Oops!)…

    • Yes, Madhubala was having an affair with Premnath that time but this affair was just out of curiosity, not serious one.When she came to contact with Dilip, she was so much smitten by his extraordinary handsome look, sophisticated personality and above all his high intelectuality that she forgot all other love interest forever. She married kishore kumar out of stubborness and anger towards dilip saab. This marrige was totally loveless and disasterous for Madhubala and the most interesting matter was she loved Dilip saab till she died.

  10. Now I am really wishing I could see this film….:(((

  11. You should be able to find it, mine is a Video Sound DVD although I got it a while ago.

    Subtitles are not that great—pretty sparse in areas, e.g. oodles of talking going on without any subs to accompany it!

  12. Madhubala-Dilip do look lovely together and he wasnt happy onscreen (at least in B/W movies) too often. We should probably make a list of his “happy” roles from this era – and I’d add Azad to it. But does he end up with Madhubala here, or not? (I dont think I could bear to watch if he loses her, like he did most of his heroines in the 50s!)

  13. bollyviewer, I was on tenterhooks myself. I kept thinking “but they have to find their way back to each other!” and then I’d think “but it’s DILIP the TRAGEDY KING” Oh! the humanity!

    It does end on a happy note, unless you are rooting for Sheila for some reason, which I was not although I did like her.

  14. Yippeee! OK, I’m off to look for a copy (and my to-look-out-for list gets unmanageable). :-)

  15. Thank you for that spoiler!! I love knowing the ending – just so I don’t wrend my garments with sorrow too much before the end…

    This looks like one I would definitely enjoy – and speaking of voyerism… Meena Kumari in “Pakeezah” was tough to watch.

  16. Yes, Meena and Pakeezah were too much for me to bear. Poor Meena :(

  17. I’ve been quietly compiling a list of Madhubala movies I want to see next, and this one will be difficult for the others to beat! Thank you Memsaab.

  18. You are welcome :) Enjoy!

  19. Hey Memsaab, just published my first post and added you to my blogroll. Don’t know the protocol but I guess I should let you know…right?!? :P

    P.S. I guess in the past I have been posting as Karishma (So much for anonymity and cute nickname as a blogger!)

  20. But isn’t that shared intimacy thing a trademark of Dilip’s. He didn’t have so much of it with Saira Banu but he and Vyjyanthimala pretty much radiated chemistry onscreen when they were together. With Madhubala i think it was the fact that they were both so young when they were together.

    And yay for Smiley Dilip!

    Re: pakeezah, meh. I didn’t find it too much to bear at all. I knew it was all gonna end alright so I thoroughly enjoyed the melodrama of it all. And when she dances till her feet bleed in the climax? CLASSIC! :D

  21. My comment as my blog avatar never got published :( :((

  22. Thank you for that spoiler! Have added this to my list of must-sees :)

  23. deewane/Karishma: I have moderation turned on for comments from new people, so your first one got sent to my queue! Congrats on starting a blog, hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I will stop by for sure!

    Amrita: I just think of Dilip as being morose mostly, although in all the books and so forth I’ve read about him there are stories that he was very into the “method” acting thing with his heroines (e.g. needed to FEEL the romance on-and off-screen, ha ha)…but this is a whole new level of serious sizzle! I find Pakeezah just too unrelentingly maudlin and never got all the way through it. Maybe this winter is a good time to revisit, being as that I’m getting crankier and more maudlin with every new snowstorm we endure :-)

    Banno: Watch it with Teja ;-)

    dustedoff: Enjoy it, can’t wait to see what you have to say about it!

  24. Madhubala is etheral in this movie. This was the first hindi movie I ever watched on Doordarshan in the days when it was B and W and transmission was for a 6 to 11 pm only. Happy memories.

    As a child I cried buckets at all the self sacrificing bits. Today, perhaps not so much. Now I am rooting for Shakeela and Madhubala to have a knock down drag out cat fight. Actually I think the male component of the audiences might have enjoyed that a lot! Hee hee.

  25. AKNYC: You might still cry; I did. I think I felt for them because they weren’t being self-sacrificing—they actually tried very hard to stay together, but Toteram and fate separated them. So it wasn’t annoying, just sad. And Madhubala’s scene with Shyama was also sad, because she misunderstood the situation and Shyama didn’t know who she was, and so their best chance for reuniting was gone. I cried. Yes, I really did.

  26. About the pet goat named “Saiyyan” : interestingly Madhubala starred in another movie called “Saiyyan” made in the very same year 1951, in which her name was “Saiyyan” too!
    The movie “Saiyyan” itself is a remake of “Duel in the Sun” (1946), and is infact quite unusual with Madhubala at her uninhibited and natural best (more than even in Tarana).
    Unfortunately Saiyyan was never released on VCD/DVD and only some bootleg VHS to VCD copies are available and even those are next to impossible to find even in India.

  27. It’s very sad how many films have not made it to DVD…hopefully they will someday! Saiyyan sounds interesting!

  28. All look so beautiful here, even Jeevan. He looks, i can’t find anotehr word, cute!
    Poor Shyama always playing the second fiddle, always losing Dilip to somebody else or death. She looks beautiful here.
    And Madhubala is simply gorgeous, to use an old word here, ethereal! *sigh*

    And does Dilip Kumar poke his eyes out here or just dies ‘normally’?

  29. Dilip did not poke his eyes out, thank goodness, or I probably would have had to as well. He doesn’t even die! :-)

  30. wow, dilip doesn’t die!
    *dance around a bit*

    BTW, there are so many stories about Madhubala’s love affairs wiht Dilip Kumar and Premnath, in which chronological order do they follow?
    Since Madhubala’s fahter dragged Dilip into court just before the shooting of the movie naya daur started, I always dated it in my mind around late 50’s and therefore placed Premnath-Madhubala romance around early 50’s, or was that still earlier?

    Does anybody have exact dates? please enlighten!

  31. According to her biography, she met Premnath first and had an affair with him, then segued into an affair with Dilip when she met him making this film. They overlapped for a short time, but that was doomed since Premnath and Dilip had become good friends. I read an interview with Premnath once where he said that he stepped out of the picture to leave the field clear for Dilip although he still sounded quite hurt about it. He ended up marrying Bina Rai, but I don’t think it was a happy marriage.

    Dilip and Madhubala carried on their affair from 1951 until the Naya Daur thing (57?).

  32. This one looks good, I will have to see it sometime.

    Speaking of a younger, different-looking Dilip, I’m also going to try to find Jugnu, after watching a few clips from that. I want to see that one more for Noor Jehan, but it’s interesting seeing such a youthful Dilip, too.

    I loved the maudlin qualities of Pakeezah! :) It was a little tougher dealing with knowledge of some of the real-life tragedies behind it – such as the fact that Meena wasn’t able to do her own dancing in some of it, and that she couldn’t even show her face in one song.

    I liked the Meena-Dilip pairing in Yahudi – though Meena actually was able to look happy through about half of it while Dilip seemed kind of grumpy right from the start.

    But back to Dilip-Madhubala…will have to see some more of those earlier films. I think the most intense Hindi film couple chemistry I’ve ever seen (so far) was Raj-Nargis (kind of agree with ppcc there).

  33. thanks for the info memsaab!

    sounds interesting. Now, Premnath is also related to Raj Kapoor, isn’t he?
    his maternal cousin?

  34. Premnath’s sister is Krishna, Raj Kapoor’s much put-upon wife.

  35. Now, I understand, thanks!

  36. This is a very good review of the film! I discovered this movie about a year ago…I wish I could pinpoint what’s so magical about it but I just can’t – I never get tired of watching it. The music is AMAZING, especially “Seene Mein Sulgate Hain Armaan”.

    Madhubala and Dilip may have the best onscreen chemistry in “Tarana” compared to any other pair I’ve seen…ever. Madhubala’s just glowing with love. Their acting is very natural here. It’s beautiful – it’s definitely different that in Mughal E Azam (Dilip seemed roughly 60% committed in most of the scenes and really distant and stiff). There’s a certain tenderness present here – they both just light up in each other’s presence. It’s really unfortunate about how their relationship turned out in real life, which makes this movie a bit sad. :(

    I could have done without Toteram though…I know the movie needed a villain, but he was so annoying. I love the scene where Moti gets annoyed and snaps at Tarana to bring water. Her surprise and her face when she retorts “Pani lao” cracks me up!

  37. Yes, it was such a sweet relationship and VERY natural. It is sad that it didn’t work out in real life, but at least they experienced that kind of connection for a few years—it’s more than a lot of people ever get :)

  38. I have never seen this movie, partly because seeing Dilip in a tragic role is enough to give me depression, and I saw no need to bring up such misery on myself. After reading your review, I will definitely give it a shot, and see if I can find a store which stocks this DVD.

  39. can u plz upload the whole movie? i really want to watch it….

  40. plzz can u upload the movie i want to give surprise to my mum its her fav movie n i love it tooo plzz

  41. Ohhh Dilip Kumar!!!

    I loved him in ‘Aan’ He smiles, is mischievous – in short, very unlike the tragedy king (I think this was before he got the title).

  42. PS: Aan is a 1952 film.

  43. First a couple of confessions – I HATED Mughal-E-Azam and dislike Dilip Kumar in general as well. I’m also typically unmoved by filmi love stories and rarely buy that the characters on screen are truly in love or care if they end up together or not.

    But I loved “Tarana”, unconditionally. And I think the reason I did so is because of the, as you said, “intensely palpable intimacy between two people, onscreen or off.” I shed tears of joy and relief at the end of the movie because the ending was happy and Madhu and Dilip were together.

    I also loved the Dilip-Madhubala pair in “Sangdil” (a desi Jane Eyre) and even “Amar.” But my favorite Dilip Kumar movie by far, is “Shikast” with the extremely beautiful and talented Nalini Jaywant.

    • I didn’t love M-E-A as much as most, although I didn’t hate it, either. I dislike tragedy in general, and Dilip is nothing if not tragic most of the time. But when he isn’t, I really like him a lot.

      I have Amar but haven’t watched it yet (*moves it up in the pile*) and now it seems I have two more films to add to my shopping list. Needed that like another hole in the head :-D (I need more Nalini Jaywant though, for sure.)

  44. I watched this movie almost 10 years ago. I wasn’t a big fan of either of the actors, but I remember feeling utterly transfixed every time Dilip Kumar and Madhubala appeared together in this movie. Every time they drew close to each other, my heart did a little dance! Lol

    Later, when I wanted to discuss this movie with my college mates, I found that none of them had watched it. And the mention of the movie and the actors only led to a discussion about Mugal-E-Azam, a movie I enjoyed but never really connected to. I haven’t been able to watch Tarana again :( and yet, even after all this time, Dilip-Madhubala scenes in this beautiful movie are very fresh in my mind. To be honest, though I really liked the movie, I simply couldn’t figure out why I was wandering in a happy trance for a long time after the movie drew to an end.

    Until now, when I read your review and saw light.

    The “gut-wrenching, heart-searing passion” in their scenes in Tarana. That scorching chemistry is the exact reason I smile every time I think about the movie.

    “I think it’s safe to say that I have rarely witnessed such intensely palpable intimacy between two people”

    Me neither :)

  45. where can I buy the dvd for this film ?

  46. Simply heart language beingvheard on the screen.an unbelivieable damatic convenience getting into life consuming reality.Legend!

  47. To me Tarana is the ULTIMATE romantic movie.Also the DIALOGUE is in a crystalline URDU. MADHULA’S histrionic talent is evidenced in every scene.

  48. Well whatsoever the reviews I hold Tarana as the Supreme movie insofar as ROMANCE is concerned. It catapults you in a dream world of sylphs and moonlit nights and fragrance of a myriad of unrealized LONGING .

  49. TARANA proves beyond doubt that the pairing of MADHUBALA and DILIP is the most welcome insofar as ROMANTIC MOVIES are concerned. Both of the are STARS par excellence.

    • Any Devanand Suraiya movie easily surpasses any Dilip Madhubala movie.Dev was a genuine romantic in his earliest avtar who reluctantly forego his love and tied the knot during Taxi Driver.Dilip Madhu on the other hand were hopeless mercenaries in comparison.

  50. Tarana as a movie for those who. Love.ROMANCE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: