Mr. India (1961)


Sorry! No cute Sridevi in this one! But there is plenty of even cuter Geeta Bali, two dogs, and absolutely wonderful songs by the criminally underrated GS Kohli. It’s written by (and co-stars) IS Johar (who has written such gems as Afsana and Nastik). If it’s considered a B-movie then all I can say is that A has a lot to live up to. It’s a funny, sweet tale of love and social inequality (human and canine) combined with a noirishly silly precursor to the plot of Don (and Shammi’s China Town too)! IS Johar is perfect as the hapless goofball Gullu, and Geeta Bali hilarious as the spoiled England-returned Miss Bambi. Plus, 21-year old Feroz Khan in what *might* be his first movie ever (?) and Excellent Use of Helen!

Bambi and Gullu meet one day as he is walking his mongrel dog Charlie along Marine Drive. Despite his natty suit, Gullu cannot find work in the communally-divided economy of Bombay (although great care is taken to point out that otherwise all live together in harmony).


Charlie is his only friend; his father berates him at home for not having a job (and calls his suit a circus costume, for which I can’t really blame him), attributing his inability to find work on his stupidity and laziness, although his mother (a very young Praveen Paul) tries to stick up for him. Poor Gullu!


Anyway, as he wanders aimlessly with Charlie on Marine Drive one fine afternoon, he runs into socialite Bambi and her father, wealthy businessman Rai Bahadur Himmatchand (Hari Shivdasani). Geeta is priceless. Bambi has lost her little purebred dog Jackie and is feeling the kind of despair that I’d feel if I lost track of my little purebred Gemma. Her dialogue delivery is so perfectly hilarious that I have to give you a listen to her opening line (Marilyn Monroe, anyone?):


She and Gullu sprinkle their conversation liberally with quaint English throughout (Gullu’s father chastises him, saying “Speak in Hindi!”) and it’s just too funny. IS Johar and Geeta also seem like they are having an enormous amount of fun with their roles!

In any case, Gullu sends Charlie to find Jackie, which he quickly does, bringing him back to Bambi. On another side note, I wonder if IS Johar is trying to insert any other social commentary given subsequent canine plot developments—Charlie is obviously a male dog, and Gullu asks Bambi pointedly if her dog is male or female. She replies equally pointedly that Jackie is male too.


Rai Bahadur gives Gullu some money for his help, although he tries to refuse it, and he and Bambi leave with Jackie—who whines sadly at being forced to leave his new buddy.


Bambi changes her tune pretty quickly when Jackie falls ill (we even get a spurious veterinary diagnosis in this movie!). The doctor asks if Jackie has been playing with any other dog lately.


OMG! Jackie IS gay! Well, maybe that isn’t the intent…but I’d like to think that it is. Gullu, having been insulted by Bambi, is not inclined to help her out by bringing Charlie to see Jackie, but he is mollified when she throws a party in honor of Charlie. It’s an excellent occasion for a lovely song too, “Nazar Yeh Teri Tikha”—Gullu and Bambi each imagine themselves in the dancers’ places.


As the days pass hanging out with the dogs, Bambi discovers that simple Gullu is not the fool people assume him to be based on his appearance. He’s naive, but he’s not stupid. And he finds Bambi absolutely lovely (well look at her!) when she drops her pretensions and is just herself. They get lost one day on a walk in the forest (never a good idea!) and end up at a nightclub/jail/den hidden there. It belongs to a famous criminal mastermind named Jung Bahadur—and Jung is a dead ringer for Gullu, in appearance if not temperament.



Jung Bahadur’s moll is Rita (woo-hoo! it’s Helen!). She is dangerously jealous of anyone he looks at, and he loves it. He is also fond of disguises. He leaves shortly before Gullu and Bambi wander in hoping to find shelter. Everyone assumes that Jung Bahadur is back, in disguise, including Helen—who performs a dagger dance (“Dekha Na Jaaye Socha Na Jaaye”) while looking daggers at poor Bambi.


Bambi leaves in a huff thinking that Gullu has been deceiving her and is really Jung Bahadur. He follows her and finally convinces her that it’s all a mistake. They admit their love for each other and all’s well, except that they are still lost. Bambi’s father has meanwhile gone to Gullu’s house to find out where his daughter is. The fathers set out to find their kids, and are predictably upset when they find them sleeping soundly next to each other. They become really furious with each other after Rai Bahadur insults Gullu.


Poor Bambi and Gullu are forced apart by their angry fathers. Rai Bahadur wants Bambi to marry the son of one of his close friends whom Bambi dislikes with good reason. He’s spineless and dumb and doesn’t do anything without his Daddy’s approval. She defends Gullu to her own Daddy, but he forbids Bambi to see Gullu again.


Gullu too is heartbroken and it doesn’t do his self-esteem any good either. (I love the pinups on his wall.)


Then one day as he is walking the streets with Charlie again, two CID officers spot him and think he is Jung Bahadur in disguise. They drag him into the police station, where he finally manages to convince everyone that he’s simple Gullu and not a master criminal. The superintendent apologizes for their mistake; Gullu accepts the apology with his usual self-deprecating good grace.


But the superintendent wants to take advantage of their identical appearance. His idea is that the police will arrest Jung Bahadur, and groom Gullu to take his place. Gullu is horrified.


The police get their way when Bambi makes an appearance; she is apparently a social worker at the jail there. She convinces Gullu that if he helps nab Jung Bahadur he’ll be famous and her father will let them get married (of course, he might be dead too, but nobody seems worried about that except Gullu himself). He can’t deny Bambi anything, though, and agrees. His training begins:


and I am thrilled to see handsome young Feroz Khan as the card shark/cigarette trickster/boxer in charge of it!


Can sweet, innocent Gullu pull the switch off? Are Jung Bahadur’s men that dumb? Or lethal moll Rita? Here’s a hint:


Noooo! Can this wild plan possibly succeed? Will Gullu survive to marry Bambi? Are Jackie and Charlie in love, or just buddies? (Okay, that’s never answered, truthfully.) I will tell you this: there is a chase scene at the end which is worthy of Buster Keaton. I thought I might never stop laughing.

There is plenty of wacky and hilarious fun in this film, and really good songs. My favorite is the cracktastic “Babalu O Babalu”:


IS Johar is great as both Gullu and Jung Bahadur, two completely different characters. He’s not a handsome man, but he’s got plenty of charm even when he’s feeling sorry for himself. And Geeta Bali—oh how funny she is. She sparkles in her many dances—and everytime she’s onscreen. And the dogs, they are so cute! (Charlie the third-class dog is way better looking than his English counterpart Jackie.) How can any of this NOT be good? B-grade movie my foot!

ps: For more trusty animals in Hindi cinema, see Todd’s ongoing series at D4K called Animalympics. Anipals, zindabad!

pps: I am sad to report that there is a second (probable) Helen song that was edited out of the DVD (“Main Machis Ki Teelee Chamakeelee”) which is completely fab too. *Damn you Eros!*

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53 Comments to “Mr. India (1961)”

  1. I’m glad you found a sub-titled version of this. I simply loved Geeta Bali in it. I don’t think I’ve seen a more adorably pretentious or hilarious potrayal of a memsaab in any Hindi before or after Mr. India. I read somewhere that Geeta was illiterate and had to have the dialogues read out to her which makes her performance even more remarkable.

    If you haven’t already, you should check out “Ham Sab Chor Hain” for another fun writer-director effort by I.S. Johar.

    • I have Ham Sab Chor Hain on VCD (no subs)…have watched it although I have no idea what happened in it really. Maybe I should give it another try, but IS Johar deserves subtitles for sure! :) Agree completely re: Geeta in this. She was just superbly funny.

  2. Wow ! Never knew such a film existed. It is surely the original Don ! I really loved IS Johar and tried to get some information on him on the net and found nothing. So Sad !

    • Yes he’s another of those talented individuals who’s gotten lost in the mists of history. Glad some of his work is still here though!

      • IS Johar has a whole chapter dedicated to him in one of Khushwant Singh’s books (I believe “Malicious Gossip”, but I could be wrong), but it’s tangent to skills as a film-maker/script-writer, and overall, not very flattering. Seems like KS was more into the “gossip”, than interested in writing a critique.

  3. Memsaab – tust you to find movies that we have never heard of! Where did you find this movie? or is that a redundant question as you guys in North America have access to movies via netflix or what ever it is called

    I.S Johar was known for his intelligence and good films. He has done some good comedy roles too.

    • It’s on DVD! I wanted to see it for Geeta and for the songs, which I’d heard—and for IS Johar since my impression of him was that he wrote good screenplays. And I was NOT in the least let down by any of it :)

  4. Sorry for the typo there – it shoud read “Trust”

  5. Hmmm…it also seems like the inspiration for SRK film “Duplicate” (98). Sounds awesome!

    Not to mention, Memsaab, you’ve got me totally in love with Feroz, which has my parents in a trip (they, it seem, don’t like him…). Can’t wait to see this movie!

    • Ha ha! Feroz had a five minute or so scene where he did some card tricks, flicked a lit cigarette into his mouth and back out again, and then did some shadow boxing. He was having a ball, and looked REALLY really handsome! I was so happily surprised when he showed up—in the film credits at the beginning he’s only listed as “Feeroz-Guest Artist” and I had no idea it would be him.

  6. Oooo, Feroz Khan (and this from someone who’s not fond of him) looks awesome in that screen cap. Would like to see Mr India just for him – and of course for Geeta Bali. She’s always so effervescent and bright-eyed (and I love that exaggerated firang accent! – very Marilyn!).

    Oh dear, my to-watch list is getting uncontrollably long.

    • The accent was hilarious. She also affected an accent when speaking Hindi—cannot have been easy to maintain, but she was absolutely hysterical in this. LOVE HER.

      • “She also affected an accent when speaking Hindi—cannot have been easy to maintain.”

        It needs practice! ;-) I worked for nearly two years with a woman who’d been a voice and accent trainer at a call centre in Gurgaon. Her English was pretty appalling, but had an American accent so strong that even some of our American clients had to ask her to repeat what she’d said, again and again… and she spoke Hindi with an American accent.

        Quite amazing.

        • She sounded sometimes like ME when I “speak” Hindi (that’s how I recognize when a native speaker is affecting an accent ha ha). It was hilarious, truly (don’t think it’s so funny coming out of me though, then it’s just pathetic).

  7. A movie with important roles given to 2 goggies and their friendship serving to move the plot forward AND a birthday party for a goggie? OMG this movie sounds awesome! And Charlie is so cute, he looks a wee bit like my Hunnybunny! (ok, that’s a stretch but the smile’s the same!!) Geeta Bali was so cute :)

    • Charlie the third-class dog was a total heartbreaker (and not just for Jackie). You are right—he has Hunnybunny’s face (Border Collie? is what I thought might be in there). It’s a fun film, totally recommend it.

      • Right? See thats what I thought too but I once saw a documentary on sea otters and claimed Hunny looked exactly like one, so I have no credibility in my friend circle unfortunately :p

        • I’ve got your back girl. Hunnybunny’s too. No worries :) People with no clue point out that chickens don’t have lips too when I call Gemma my little “chicken lips.”

          Empresses (human and doggie) unite!

  8. Feroz Khan looks scrumptious! And so does the movie, though I am not sure how I’ll take to I.S. Johar as hero. Is it really considered a B-movie? Surely having an A-list star like Geeta Bali should elevate its status somewhat? ;-)

    • I don’t think Geeta really got the respect she deserved in terms of being an A-list heroine…that’s always what I’ve read about her, anyway, although my tastes seem to run more towards what are generally called B-movies, so for me she’s totally A-list :D

      And IS Johar was really really cute in this, and even pulled off attractive in his confident (though totally evil) Jung Bahadur avatar. I think you’d like it.

  9. Great review and screen caps. And Geeta Bali looks lovely..with that smile;) Looks like the mother of all the identical men on opposite sides of the law situation – Don,China Town etc…like you have mentioned.

    • Certainly it seems like IS Johar can be credited with inventing several story lines which became standard! Geeta is gorgeous in this, and just so funny. I laughed and laughed, honestly (and not AT the film, but with it—big difference!) :-)

  10. Sounds like a great time pass movie. But as I said earlier, I would even watch a movie in which Geeta Bali is just reading the telephone directory out loud. She looks wonderful!

    “OMG! Jackie IS gay! Well, maybe that isn’t the intent…but I’d like to think that it is.”
    It is, it is!

  11. I think this movie would be worth watching just for Helen’s dagger dance, but the Forbidden Canine Love That Dare Not [Bark] Its Name has sealed the deal.

  12. Well, I don’t blame Jackie – that Charlie is a handsome fella! And plus, Jackie looks like the kind of doggie who’d appreciate a guy who’s been around the block and knows where the best fire hydrants are at.

  13. Wow…sounds like a fun movie, what with Geeta Bali as a memsaab and IS Johar in double role.
    IS Johar in his time was one of a kind.
    He was the ultimate rebel – he rebelled against the system (especially the “star” culture in the industry), he rebelled against the Indian govt when Emergency was introduced in the country in 1975, his movies were full of political and sarcastic comments about the govt.
    The govt too also seemed to go after him – at least if you consider Income-Tax raids as an indication of this.
    He did get into trouble off and on but nothing ever deterred him.

    He is of course known in India also for his Hollywood roles – he was part of Hollywood way before the likes of Kabir Bedi and Amrish Puri.
    I remember him in Lawrence of Arabia and Death on the Nile.

    In a way, considering he made parodies of Hindi songs in a few movies, you could consider him a bit like Mel Brooks though I am not sure he would appreciate that. :-)

    I remember recommending Shagird to you as a timepass movie.
    Well, IS Johar has a decent role in that movie, so that is another reason to see it.

    • I am awaiting the arrival of Shagird, not that I needed more unwatched DVDs in my home.

      :-) I do remember seeing a photo somewhere of him lounging on the sets with Peter O’Toole! I’d forgotten all about it. I have only the highest opinion of IS Johar, bless him.

      And the songs are so great, raja. You would like this movie—I feel sure of it.

  14. “I will suicide” of laughing.

  15. Another great I.S. Johar comedy. Ek Thi Ladki. Starring Motilal and Meena Shorey. This movie has that song rage of the beginning 50s – lara lappa.. Watch this film!!

    • Yes, I’ve been meaning to look for that one—I know the Lara Lappa song. Hope it’s on a subtitled DVD somewhere! :-)

      • It’s mostly a comedy all-the-way film. Sweet and funny romance between Motilal and Meena Shorey. Really funny scenes with Johar. The script I think was written by Johar.

        Meena’s husband Roop K Shorey produced and directed the film. I read later that she became quite a rage in Lahore and went there to make a movie – a copy of Mr. and Mrs 55. Meena chose to stay back in Lahore. Roop Shorey came back broken hearted. Her career in Pakistan didn’t really take off, She fell into doing bit roles and during her final years was quite poor.

        Hugely sad. Tragic, actually. She was so pretty, and very talented – great comic timing.

        • You may not get Ek Thi Ladki on a DVD. I have the VCD. Let me see if I can convert into a flv and send it to you by email. Really worth watching. I think it’s a classic.

        • I just saw Meena Shorey in Sikandar—she was really lovely :-)

          Without subtitles I will probably miss most of the fun of Ek Thi Ladki? I think the universe is trying to prod me into learning to speak Hindi, already!

          • Admirable, really!! You get so much into these movies on just subtitles?

          • Well the subtitles add another dimension altogether sometimes for sure! And I miss a lot of nuances in stories and songs not speaking Hindi/Urdu…but still, there is plenty to entertain! And when I’m really completely oblivious or off-track, you guys let me know! :-)

  16. Nice post. I didn’t even realize there was another Mr. India until now. I think Geeta Bali looks a bit like Urmila Matondkar in the first screen cap as well as in the “Jacki is emotionally upset” screen cap, hai na? I believe I will enjoy this Mr. India more than the Mr. Mogambo version. :)

    • Yes, Shammi himself has said that Urmila reminds him of Geeta. I like both Mr. Indias (they’re quite different), but would definitely give this one the edge just because of Geeta (and the dogs natch).

  17. I also have this movie. Its nice with lovely music by G.S. Kohli. Have been looking for the Geeta Dutt-Helen combo video of the song, “Main Maachis Ki Teeli Chamkeeli Maine Usse Phoonk Diya Jisne Meri Nazar Se Pee”. An interesting song translated to “I am a Matchstick full of light I burnt him who drank from my eyes.” It seems to be missing from the VCD for some reason. I simply love that geeta-helen combo. The song audio itself is great and hope the video would be more so. If someone has the video do let me know.

    • It’s missing from the DVD too :( I think it’s just poor decision-making on the part of whoever edits these films down to fit on a VCD or DVD disk. Very poor!!!! I would love to see that song picturization too, it’s really wonderful.

  18. Can himsinghs or memsaab send me the vcd of ek thi ladki and sikander?

    If that is too much trouble, can anyone tell me where I can get those?

    Yeah, Meena had a tragic end. A couple of years before her death, I learn, she was seen begging for money to marry her sister’s daughter.

    That is really touching. Why such a beautiful person with all the delicacy on the earth in her acting and expressions had to meet such a tragic end? It is reported that her burial was also made through charity money.

    Is it what we call destiny?

  19. I just bought this DVD at Best Buy, one of which for some reason has a completely random selection of Bollywood movies…I am trying to encourage them.

    The film reminded me of “Duplicate” also, and since they share a line of dialogue, in which the hero in disguise complains about the villain’s heavy coat (so unsuitable for the Indian climate) I feel it must have been an intentional homage.

    • I haven’t seen Duplicate in years, and only once. Should watch it again, I remember that I liked it. Someone else said above that they were reminded of it by my description of Mr. India.

      And…Best Buy has Hindi films?! And this old, at that?! Must encourage this trend at the one around the corner from ME!

      • Duplicate was the movie that made me believe that I could actually learn Hindi, so I have watched it too many times. Only one of the two Best Buys in town have Hindi films…it seems kind of like a mistake, since they don’t have any new, hit movies, but only the Eros back catalogue. I also bought Andaz with Shammi, Amitabh’s Don (because you never know when you’ll need a last minute gift) and Zamaane ko Dikhana Hai with Rishi Kapoor–$6.99 each.

  20. Does any know when Geeta Bali was born 1930 but the date ?

  21. wow, Helen looks different. She looks 15 or something. I think this movie was probably shot in the late 1950s mainly because Helen was rather plump in the late 1950s. She looked skinny in her other movies released in 1961. Feroz also looks like a teenager

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