Bari Behen (1949)


Had this been the first Hindi movie I ever watched, I would have slit my wrists before I ever let anyone convince me to watch another. It’s that bad. It’s bad in the worst possible sense, my worst nightmare: a Red Mist movie. It is characterized by that maudlin, useless self-sacrifice which makes even its recipients unhappy: “For the love of God, didi, please don’t sacrifice for me!” “I will I will I will, and you can’t stop me!” “But I don’t want you to, it’s making both of us miserable!” “I don’t care, it’s my duty and my karma!” “But it’s not necessary!” “I am sacrificing because I’m noble, it’s what I do! You can’t stop me!” “But you aren’t helping anything…” “It’s my sacrifice! I’ll cry if I want to!” and on and on and on and on.

The only bright spots in this—and they should have joined hands and said “RUN!” and gone off to make a different movie together—are Geeta Bali, Rehman and Ulhas. I couldn’t even like Pran (although of course that was his objective, as usual).

As you’d probably guess from the title, the story is about two sisters. The older sister, Shama (Suraiya) is that idealized Indian female paragon of virtue: she is working as a servant (for one of those harridan types, more on that later) in a house to earn money for her younger sister Kiran’s (Geeta Bali) education. Kiran for her part is not interested in her education; she’s interested in Ajit (Pran), a scoundrel who is only pretending to woo her to get her to pay for his parties and his luxuries (which, of course, she is doing with the money her sister sends her for school fees).


My, what big eyes you have, Pran! He’s so good at being suavely and slimily BAD. Despite my hearty dislike for her character, I love Geeta’s performance. She just sparkles! And she’s so good at being bad: if I didn’t know that their relationship can only end in tears, I would love this pair together. They have great chemistry and look like they are having fun when they are onscreen together.


Kiran is completely selfish and thoughtless, but she’s a lot easier for me to tolerate than the saintly Shama. Shama works for the Amarnath family, consisting of Seth Amarnath (Niranjan Sharma), his second wife, her daughter Indu, his son Shyam (Rehman), and their two small children Munni (Baby Tabassum) and Pappu (Papoo). Mrs. Amarnath is a banshee of the worst sort and since I never figured out her name (or the actress’ name) that’s what I’ll call her. She shrieks her disapproval at decibels which are never less than ear-splitting as everyone around looks on in misery.


Shama of course is her main target (although only her daughter is always spared). Nothing Shama does gains the approval of the Banshee, and she submits meekly to egregious abuse all day long, every day. The Banshee’s secondary target is Shyam, Seth Amarnath’s son from his first marriage.


He is very handsome indeed, being a young Rehman, and a good (and sensible) person to boot. He and the Amarnath’s neighbor, the Colonel (Ulhas) are the only characters in this wretched film whom I can support wholeheartedly.


Actually, the two younger Amarnath kids are pretty funny as well, with far more common sense than most of the grown-ups, at least on Munni’s part. Pappu seems a little “differently enabled” but it may just be that his enormous size belies his actual age.


Shama and Shyam bond pretty quickly when Shama hears him talking about how he’s given up his profitable clinic in the city, because he wants to take care of poor people in the village who have no access to a doctor. He’s tired of taking care of hypochondriacs with more money than things wrong with them. He is the only person in the whole world who stands up to the Banshee, and he goes to bat for Shama when she is particularly maligned. Their growing romance is sweetly depicted, and if Suraiya’s over-acting and sacrificial lamb character weren’t so irritating I would kind of enjoy it. But as it is, I shout at the screen: “Run, Shyam! Run like the wind!”


The kindly Colonel keeps an indulgent eye on the romance brewing next door and helps it along.


Because matching names are so important!

Meanwhile, Kiran sends letters asking for more money to support her Ajit habit, until Shama decides to find out exactly what’s going on. She goes to see Kiran. Kiran abuses her too, telling Ajit in front of Shama that Shama is the family servant! Now I would have smacked my little sister upside her head for this; but Shama goes quietly along with it like the long-suffering example to womanhood that she is, and gives Kiran all the money she has brought with her before returning sadly home.


There, Shyam refuses to marry the wealthy (but ugly) girl who is the Banshee’s choice for him, and Shama is fired when the Banshee discovers that she is the reason for his refusal.

Shyam asks Shama to leave town with him: they will get married and settle down somewhere where he can practice medicine for those who truly need it. Of course she argues with him and tries hard to sacrifice the happiness of both of them for the sake of the Banshee and Shyam’s totally spineless coward of a father.


He points out that his family don’t really deserve such consideration, but she’s busy being noble and doesn’t listen. It gets worse:


The scenery vanishes rapidly into that gaping maw. I beat my head against the arm of my chair. Shyam for some reason still wants her, and finally convinces her to come with him.

But when she reaches home to pack her things, Kiran is there, sobbing. Ajit has predictably dumped her, and even more predictably she is pregnant. She asks Shama for forgiveness, and asks her to help her find Ajit and make him marry her, because a man who has lied to you, knocked you up, and then abandoned you is such a great catch. But naturally Shama instantly agrees and takes Kiran out the back door to avoid meeting Shyam, who is now on his way to get her.

Thus abdicating any responsibility for honest communication with the man who has treated her with respect and love, she disappears with Kiran, leaving Shyam bewildered and heartbroken.


There is still another hour and a half of wallowing melodrama, self-pity and selfless (and pointless) sacrifice. Kiran becomes the only bright spot at this point: she doesn’t want Shama to give up her love, her life, and everything else for her and her child. After her initial shock, she is willing to stand on her own two feet but Shama won’t hear of it. This causes Kiran to slip into occasional rambling despair.


I want so badly to lock Shama up in a room with the Banshee forever so that the rest of us can get on happily with our lives.

I cannot recommend this film to anyone, but if you think you want to watch it beware of the spoilers that follow from now and stop reading. I will leave you with this gem, which I don’t believe had any intentional irony attached to it:


What really enrages me about these movies is the message(s). I wrote a comment recently on Beth’s post on Mere Apne (a film I haven’t seen) which pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with this one:

I love your point about making a woman who has been mistreated, not educated, taken advantage of, etc. the “beacon” for humanity. It shows up in so many films, and makes me see red—especially when it is meant as a progressive message. A society dependent on self-sacrificing, unhappy females for its success is a society I want no part of. It is so fundamentally regressive and inhumane that I can’t forgive it even in a film that’s 40 years old…

Or in this case, 60 years old! Shama is held up as a shining example of womanhood: she allows people to abuse her unfairly, she forces others to accept choices that aren’t really hers to make (thereby ennobling herself even further), she isn’t honest with those she supposedly loves, and she’s stubborn to a fault. She is hell-bent on making herself miserable, and if others suffer alongside her, well so be it. Her sacrifices are “rewarded” at the end by completely unrealistic about-faces on the part of Ajit and the Banshee, who marry Kiran, and vow to be nicer, respectively. Oh happy ever after! Riiiight.

Run, Shyam! Run like the wind!

I think I will make my own vow to avoid films with the words “Behen” or “Bahu” in them from now on.

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119 Comments to “Bari Behen (1949)”

  1. LOL, there is something about films so horrible like this that gets one watching them right till the credit ends. I hope you didn’t buy this, that’s usually the most painful bit when you spend money on a film that turns out to be a dud.

    • Like watching a train wreck. Rehman was so very handsome, and Geeta and her character BOTH rocked by the end, but otherwise…

      Music was nice, but not worth sitting through the film for.

  2. I emphatically agree with your comment on Beth’s Mere Apne review, and I too cringe at self-sacrificing portrayals.
    Personally I think the most feminist Bollywood film was Guide, although it is hardly acknowledged for that reason. Rosie was the one of the few characters (male or female) that actually had a vision and a desire for a career of her liking. And she stays true to that first-love, even at the expense of breaking up with two males; and never ever sacrifices anything.
    Also, you have made me re-visit Amitabh’s sacrificial death in Sholay; would this also be frowned upon. I am still evaluating.

    As always loved your review, I had not seen this film. While there was not much chance of me watching it, now there is none.

    • I know, that’s why I loved Guide :) Waheeda all the way.

      I am not saying that all sacrifice is bad—we all need to do it on occasion, but we shouldn’t do it against all reason or logic, and if the people we’re sacrificing for are begging us not to! Hmmm. I will need to think about Amitabh’s Sholay death more too now.

      And DO NOT watch it. Totally avoid-yaar.

      • Unfortunately, don’t know whether this view of a self-sacrificing woman as the ideal came from real life, or the films fed real life. A vicious circle. And I know from first-hand experience of many friends and family members who live their lives by this maxim. Grrr! Hate it, fight it, then give up in despair.

        I’m inclined to think that AB’s Sholay sacrifice was more to do with courage and real affection (love???) for his friend. But it was damn predictable.

        • I tend to think that films reflect reality more than they influence it, but I could be wrong.

          AB’s sacrifice did not bother me (except in that it made me sob) and I think the difference is that it was necessary. NONE of Suraiya’s sacrifices in this film were necessary.

        • I think that AB’s death has more todo with his marrying a widow rather than his love for his friend.
          I think it is the same logic, which kills helen in every film.

  3. Hmmm….Rehman. I will have to watch it, despite all warnings.

  4. Good that I have been warned. But even otherwise I prefer watching just the songs, rather than the movie. And I must say, this movie is a musical block buster, and one of the biggest musical blockbusters of all times. This is one of the greatest achievements of Husnlal Bhagatram as music directors.I have posted as mnany as seven songs from this movie in my blog.

    So the sane advise for anyone would be to just watch the songs – in isolation, not as part of the movie.

    • The songs were nice—I loved the couple of Geeta Bali songs in particular, and there was a lovely one picturized on Rehman, and he actually looked like he was really singing…unlike Suraiya, who just looked miserable whether she was singing or not. Except when Rehman was romancing her, and then she looked happy.

  5. Totally agree with you about avoiding “behenji” movies – we did that while growing up in India. You deserve praise to even look at the movies made in the 40s. Women especially sisters sacrificing a lot for their family is a fact even now in Indian families though not such extremes as shown in movies of yester years or even these days. Perhaps a reflection of the economic reality. Things have changed for the better only in the past decade or so.

    • Some films made in the 40s are absolutely wonderful! :) Don’t avoid all of them!

      Many Hollywood films don’t treat women that well either, it’s not limited to Indian cinema by any means :) But I don’t watch them!

      • not only avoid hindi film wiht titles like behen, but also bhabhi, maa and all sort of female relatives maybe except chachi and mami!

  6. Forgot to add – your red mist first paragraph was enough for me to skip the rest of the review. Thanks for making the effort to share your views about such a bad movie. My apologies for not reading it through as I do enjoy reading ur reviews.

    • LOL! Hey—my review is much better than the film! But I don’t blame you, so don’t worry about it. As I said, if this had been my first Hindi movie, it also would have been my last. Thank goodness it wasn’t so!

  7. Sounds like another 40s film I saw recently (Ghar Ki Izzat) where the heroine even sacrifices her husband’s happiness to placate an evil mother-in-law! I wonder why such silly films were ever made.

    I got this one because I LOVE the songs and from the youtube videos I could see that Rehman looked very, very handsome. Suraiya’s presence, of course, always means lots of very OTT “acting” and lots of weepy and annoying sacrifice. So, I havent yet seen the film, and your review just confirms that I never need to!

    • OMG Rehman—whom I love even 20-30 years later—is unbelievably handsome. He is Prithviraj-Shammi-Shashi handsome. AND he acts well, and his character is actually sensible.

      But lord I hated Suraiya in this. HA-TED. Do watch it though so I can read your review with screencap captions :-P

      • [Rehman] s Prithviraj-Shammi-Shashi handsome.” – That is EXACTLY what I was thinking just now when I watched the songs on youtube! :-)

        I might watch this one if I can get somebody to watch with me. I dont think I can watch it alone (NOT as brave as you!). It would make for a splendid drinking game – everytime Suraiya sacrifices, drink. Shouldnt take long to get drunk!

        • He actually reminds me a bit of Sunil Dutt in that 9th screen cap – the one with Suraiya.

          BTW, Friends seem to have remained pretty consistent with the placement of their logo on this film – not that I think the middle of the screen is exactly a good place to put a logo. These guys should be locked into the room with Shama and the Banshee.

          • Friends is consistent with their logo placement, and at least it’s not bright yellow and red! But it is annoying as all get out to have it smack in the center. Covers up actors’ faces all the time.

            *A tight slap to Friends for that!* but they don’t deserve to be locked in a room with Shama and the Banshee. Very few deserve that fate.

  8. Have you seen Rehman in Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya? Songs are lovely with a beautiful Nutan and handsome Dharam and Rehman. But I am told that it is a weepy kind of movie with the story not so interesting (perhaps in the 60s it was!) – haven’t seen the movie but have enjoyed listening to the songs

    • Ugh. Hated that film! It’s another one full of sacrifice (and maybe worse because the woman is blackmailed into sacrificing for the sake of her husband’s friend, again not doing anybody any favors). Songs were nice, but I would never watch the film again willingly.

    • But he looks so old in that movie! It didn’t convince me a bit that he and Dharmendra (!) are childhood friends *shake head vigorously*!

  9. Suraiya does equal OTT, and the title of this one is “RED-WARNING”

    Apart of Guide, Teesri Kasam was another one–waheeda again– about a woman being honest with herself and no unnecessary weepy-weep.

    Another reason why I enjoyed re-watching Mili recently: not even a hint of self-sacrifice within a 100 mile radius, such a relief!

  10. Suraiya does equal OTT, and the title of this one is “RED-WARNING”

    Apart of Guide, Teesri Kasam was another one–waheeda again– about a woman being honest with herself and no unnecessary weepy-weep.

    Another reason why I enjoyed re-watching Mili recently: not even a hint of self-sacrifice within a 100 mile radius, such a relief!
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  11. Do you mind a dissenting view? I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Suraiya was wildly popular at the time. Films with this theme and this style of acting (admittedly outdated now, 60 years later) were extremely popular. The soundtrack is considered especially strong, with 3 of the Suraiya songs considered among her best (Woh Paas Rahe Ya Door Rahe, O Likhnewaale Ne, Bigdi Bananewaale), and a Geeta Bali song (Lata on Geeta in Chale Jaana Nahin Nain Milaake) being among her most popular. My only real objection to the way it played out was Suraiya ducking out the back with Geeta when she could easily have explained to Rehman why she had to leave for awhile. And the happy ending was a bit contrived, but as fans of Indian cinema we’re all used to that by now. Along with Jeet, which you reviewed earlier, and Dillagi, this is considered one of Suraiya’s best films, and all those agreeing with you without having given the film a chance are forming an opinion based on a review by a woman whose own taste in films is, by her own admission, questionable. It was the sixth largest grossing film of 1949, so millions of people must have liked it. Yes, sometimes these films don’t age well. The Upperstall guy in his Suraiya bio said, “The 1948-49 phase saw her rise to her peak. With Pyar ki Jeet (1948), Badi Bahen (1949) and Dillagi (1949) she became the highest paid female star of her time. At her peak, Suraiya generated hysteria comparable only to Rajesh Khanna in the late 1960s and early 1970s.” If one really considers him/her self a fan of the classics, one should try and watch films like this one. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I’ve uploaded 4 complete Suraiya movies (this one, Dillagi, Dastan, Mirza Ghalib) to, and many songs from her movies to DailyMotion.

    Thank you for reading this long post. I usually read and digest in silence, but I happen to like Suraiya and wanted to stick up for her. I think to critique a film like this based on the standards of today is a big mistake.

    • I never mind a dissenting opinion, as long as it’s expressed as eloquently and reasonably as yours is :) And my wish to acquaint myself with the whole spectrum of Hindi cinema is why I watch films like this. But I honestly feel that the messages in these types of films do a disservice to society (or maybe reflect how society does a disservice to women): requiring women to sacrifice against ALL REASON just smacks of oppression to me, and I can’t condone it no matter how long ago the film was made. Suraiya’s character in the film is determined to be noble, but ISN’T—if the movie had made that point, I would have been fine with it, but it does the opposite and holds her up as an example for women to follow. She’s awful! Example: her sister Kiran wants to live an honest life finally, and Shama forces her to lie with copious amounts of emotional blackmail; and she is never honest with the man she supposedly loves—and if anyone in the film deserved to be treated with honesty it’s Shyam. She buys into the whole “I’m not good enough for you” way of thinking, a point of view which several films of the same vintage criticized and rightfully so. Not this one though! I think I pointed out the myriad of things about her behavior that bothered me in the review.

      I don’t mind Suraiya’s over-the-top acting if the film is good—Jeet, for example! I mean, I’ll watch Chandramohan read the telephone book, and if he didn’t overact by today’s standards then nobody did :-D It was a different time, with different standards, and I do understand that. But when I don’t agree as vehemently as I don’t agree with this movie’s main points, it just becomes painful to have it hammered home in that OTT way.

      This movie gives forth so many bad messages that I find it intolerable. The argument that millions of people loved it frankly doesn’t mean to me that it was good—it only means that millions of people probably bought into this warped view of the “perfect” woman, which makes me sad. Millions of people voted for George W Bush too, but that doesn’t make it right (in my view, anyway, and hey—it’s my blog!)

      Am completely happy that you wrote your opinion above! Feel free to continue the dialogue if you want :)))

      ps–the songs are lovely, and probably deserve a place on my list of soundtracks that far outstripped the quality of the films they were part of!

      • I think the sacrifice depends on the subject.

        A lot of old films based on stories of villages, show the man giving up a lot to go to the city to earn to pay up debts. Godaan, Do bigha zameen etc are good examples.
        Of course those who are left behind suffer too.

        An umarried pregnant sister is a matter of great urgency. Perhaps she didn’t know how Rehman would react to this? Or she didn’t want to burden Rehman with this.
        It was no small matter to deal with a pregnancy out of wedlock in those times.

        Objectively speaking it was wrong, but subjectively speaking I wonder what I would have done in her position.

        OK I’ll stop now. Must see it before I jump to anyone’s defence :-)

        • The unmarried pregnant sister didn’t WANT her older sister to interfere. She asked her repeatedly not to. She wanted to take responsibility for her own actions, her own child—but Shama told everybody that the baby was hers instead. How does that help anybody??? If Kiran had wanted her to cover for her it would have been different (although I would argue that that type of sacrifice just enables and encourages selfish and thoughtless behavior and how is that helpful either?). In any case, Kiran DIDN’T want her sister lying for her.

          And surely Shyam deserves the opportunity to make his own choice based on honest communication as to whether he wants to stick around or not. I know I would want to have that opportunity in a similar situation.

        • PS
          In Guide and even in Teesri Kasam, Waheeda Rehman played the role of a dancer.

          In guide Waheeda’s mother (a dancer/courtesan) arranged this marriage because she wanted her daughter to become respectable. So we can say that Waheeda went back to her roots. She didn’t fit into a so called respectable world, because her husband himself wasn’t ready to accept her as such.

          Same in teesri Kasam where she was a nautankiwali. She belonged in a world where she wasn’t fighting for so called respectability.

        • “subjectively speaking I wonder what I would have done in her position.”

          Clever as you are, you wouldn’t have started the whole story at all. You would hae taken up a better job. Told Banshee your opinion, told Shyam that you love him and tackled the problem with him.
          I would say the whole story is about how a badi bahen should not be! If you are such a self-sacrificing fairy than you end up with these sorts of problems.
          As memsaab has said it really encourages selfish behaviour. i knew of a wido mother in bombay, who loved her son so much and would try to fulfill his every wish, altough she hardly earned enough money to keep their life and soul together with her house-maid job. And what does the son do? he used to hit her if she didn’t give him enough money! We could do deep analysis of her seeing her lost husband in him and he reacting accordingly.

      • In my best Arjun Singh of Namak Halal voice, “this is known as going from the sublime to the ridiculous.” :)

        • Exactly!

          You can’t compare the sacrifices that Amitabh made in Deewar for Shashi, for example, or the sacrifices that soldiers make for their countries, to the sacrifices that Suraiya makes in this.

          They ARE NOT EQUAL.

      • I share Tom’s view.

  12. Oh well. I wasn’t brave enough to post a dissenting view :-)
    Having read Tom Daniel’s post I feel a little courageous. Not that I have seen the film, but I have seen other films with subjects of sacrifice, and I have no objections to it at all.

    In a selfish, individualistic world of today I rather like to see a different kind of philosophy.
    It may get exaggerated in films, but most films show everything in an exaggerated way anyway.
    And yes, I have seen this sacrifice in real life.

    I have to see this film for Rehman! I find him soooooo handsome!!! :-)

    • Some sacrifice IS noble. I’m not against that at all. But sacrifice that helps nobody is just stupid. And none of the sacrifice (except possibly her slaving away for the Banshee to pay for her sister’s education) is helpful, in this film.

      Do come back and tell me what you thought of it if you do watch it :-D (Rehman is deeeee-licious).

  13. My little boy wants to dress up as a “monster” for his school Halloween party. I think I have the perfect costume idea for him – he can go as Suraiya! Seriously, she looks like Dracula’s understudy in that first screen shot. 8-D

    • Ha ha! I wouldn’t inflict that on him no matter how naughty he is :) She did look v.v. grim throughout this one. Although as I said—some of her romantic scenes with Rehman were sweet. Which made her mistreatment of him even more inexplicable.

  14. Wow, that handsome young fellow who doesn’t look anything like a manatee is Pran?

  15. :-) Please don’t think I’m being argumentative.

    But I think the problem here is the translation.
    Geeta saying ‘I’ll take the responsibility’ sounds a very modern statement.

    It’s not like she could go out and get herself a job, and then get maternity leave to bring the child into the world – all alone.

    She must have said something like ‘I’ll bear the consequences’ – ‘bhugtoongi’
    These consequences would be very very harsh.

    Lots of hindi films show the sibling acting as a parent, and it must have been her maternal instinct which made her take the onus on herself.
    There was a film with Ashok Kumar and his sacrifice for his brother Dharmender, where he stages a suicide.

    I know, such sentiments are not everyones cup of tea. :-)

    • No, I love discussion like this (argue away!!!) and you make an excellent point. Suraiya’s character definitely considers herself a mother figure to Kiran. But then that begs the question: when she saw that Kiran was associating herself with a badmash (untranslated :) like Pran, why did she let Kiran slap her, call her a maidservant, and then give her money and quietly go away? If she had behaved as any responsible mother would at that point, Kiran may not have gotten into the mess she did.

      • That must be the typical exaggeration, filmi style, I guess. I’ll know when I watch it. It’s now on my urgent list.

        What annoys me more than anything in old films are the ‘unsaid’ things, which remain so because no one speaks in time. That’s something I have a hard time with.

  16. I have to agree with Memsaab in this discussion;
    btw,: I have seen many of the films memsaab reviews, mostly on TV, many years ago; this may happen with a lot people posting on this blog.

    Maybe being self-sacrificing sounds all very beautiful on paper, but if you have actually lived through these attitudes left right and centre, and not in a 50s film, but in real life 70s, 80s, 90s and even now, it s just bleeearh!

    Just cannot take in all this shmuck or whatever. And I love Badi Behan’s songs! Is self-sacrifice the opposite of egoism? To me it seems more of feeding of your own ego; doesn’t matter what the rest of the world would benefit from, you are determined to be the “centre” of all the events and shape them through your self-sacrifice and tears to boot.

    And I am strongly against “bhugtooing” in any form, what a way to treat the gift of life!

    As regards Waheeda in Teesri Kasam, it was *spoiler alert*

    the fact that apart from being hesitant about how a village society would take to a former dancing girl, she actually says she know she would miss all the excitement and pleasure that dancing brought her and a family life might be too dull in comparison, even though it looked rosy-cosy at the beginning.

    For me Badi Behan is in the same class as Anpadh, drivel to glorify the worst aspects of Indian women’s supposed status in society :((

    • That’s how I feel about a lot of self-sacrifice: it’s just part of the martyr complex that some seem to have, in the misguided belief that it makes them more important. I cannot bear martyrs (except the genuine “original” ones who sacrificed their lives for their beliefs—that’s different). Take responsibility for your own life/actions and let others bear responsibility for theirs. Everything works out much better in the end that way, I think!

      Thanks for warning me off Anpadh :D

      • @ memsaab: Avoid Tapasya as well!

      • I cannot bear martyrs

        ha! Seems a typical western attitude. :)

        Indian philosophy divides all actions into 3 categories:

        Tamas is a state of darkness, inertia, inactivity and materiality. Tamas manifests from ignorance and deludes all beings from their spiritual truths.

        Rajas is a state of energy, action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work.

        Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the guna that yogi/nis achive towards as it reduces rajas and tamas and thus makes liberation possible

        Now the important and subtle thing is that all too often Tamas(lethargy/laziness/cow/sheep-like behaviour) is mistaken for Sattvic!
        From Tamas you HAVE to progress to Rajas, which is where the west is.
        Only once you are in Rajas can you or should you aspire for Sattvic. :)

        • and yes, Rajas is the guna of a king. He can kill, screw, do
          whatever he wants as long as he also gets his people to build
          dams and such. :)

        • Well I am western! so what do you expect? :) Thanks for that explanation of Tamas, Rajas and Sattva…and lol @ mixing up Tamas and Sattva. So true…

        • Except that these are not stages but present together in all human beings ;-)
          A somewhat different description from Bhagvat Gita.

          Each ‘guna’ suppresses the other two to reign supreme. So how to find out which guna is predominating? According to Bhagvat Gita;
          When Sattava is predominating, from all the gates of the human body radiate the illumination of human knowledge.

          When Rajas is predominating, greed and the striving for selfish activities would appear.

          With the increase of Tamas, comes darkness, inactivity, recklessness and delusion.

          • actually passages like the one you quote is
            precisely why Rajas and Tamas are seen as
            “equally” evil, why the true nature of Tamas is
            not understood and why people “try” for Sattava when
            in reality they would be well served to escape from
            being doormats and go to the Rajas
            existence. Women, unlike men are probably
            inherently incapable of cheerfully causing harm to others,
            so they NEED to get some Rajas. :)

            Moral of the story: Our scriptures
            misguide atleast as much as they guide. :)
            Leave their philosophy in the books and get on with
            your life. :)

    • Well said bawa!
      You all have such a way with words!

  17. First of all I should congratulate Tom Daniel for having a contrary opinion!
    But sadly I can’t agree with you that she was a great actress. But it is just my opinion. But Suraiya had a great voice! I just love her deep voice. I like her in her movies with Dev Anand. Didn’t she play the Noor jehan’s younger sister in anmold ghadi? Maybe she thought she is taking NJ’s mantle with this role!
    I hate self-sacrifice movies. They always give me bad conscience without having any reason to have it. Maybe it is the upbringing, where yuilty conscience played a big role. A common comment was “We are sacrificing so much for you and you can’t even good marks!” I never had the guts to really ask for the list of sacrifices!
    But unbeknowst to me I must be in the role of Geeta Bali or worse still Pran or worst: the Banshee!
    *faint and fall*

    • I don’t dislike Suraiya in general, and she wasn’t that different from most of her generation acting-wise. Ashok Kumar and Dilip Kumar really ushered in the more “natural” style of acting. I just hated her character in this. I’ve only seen a handful of her movies so far, to be honest.

      At least she didn’t kill Shammi in this one though!

      My Mom tried that guilt-trip thing with us on many occasions, but she had incidentally also brought us up to be the kind of people who would just roll our eyes and ignore her. :D

  18. @bawa
    >And I am strongly against “bhugtooing” in any form, what a way to treat the gift of life!
    ‘bhugtooing’ would mean ‘bearing the consequences of your actions’. ;-)

  19. I beg to disagree with your definition of the word, pacifist. That maybe the main meaning but there is second one well in use.

    None other than to put up with consequences of not what you have done, but anything deemed as fate, kismet, luck, destiny has thrown at you (note that included in these are in-laws, bad employers, selfish siblings and other assorted what-nots…)

    And I can testify to its widespread usage in this sense even right now: am translating over 50 hours of material filmed in Indian villages and I cannot even begin to tell you how much bhugtooing people are constantly reminding each other to do because of all the aforementioned causes.

    To go totally off-topic, here’s a link to a blogpost on the Famous Indian Slap

    So that we may stop Bh..oops, not saying that again!

  20. I saw this film mentioned several times in what I’ve read so far of … And Pran and it’s largely accredited as Pran’s break-out villain role.

    I was curious to see it for Pran’s ability to blow smoke rings, but… I’ll give it a miss now.

    Thanks for sparing me the pain! ;)

    • He smoked a LOT in this, but I don’t really remember smoke rings, although he does blow them a lot in other movies. See Pyar Hi Pyar instead. He def. blows smoke rings in that and it’s much more fun :)

      • you are right the smoke rings at the beginning of the song “chale jaana nahin” aren’t really full rings. But a good attempt! :-)

  21. Cool, a real discussion, and so civilized, too! What prompted me to comment originally was the Memsaab’s comment, “But lord I hated Suraiya in this. HA-TED.” But if you read her earlier review of Jeet, she has only good things to say about her. Now, since I wrote my earlier comment she’s backtracked a bit with, “I don’t dislike Suraiya in general, and she wasn’t that different from most of her generation acting-wise.” But I did read the earlier quotation as her not liking Suraiya, but I think what she doesn’t like is the role she played. And it seems to me that, if true, her real beef would be with the screenwriter, or the director, or just the culture of the times. I daresay that in the family discussions of the film at the time, Suraiya’s character, with her selfless devotion to her younger sister and her willingness to bear any abuse from both her sister and the witch for whom she worked, would have been held up as a paragon of virtue, one to be admired and emulated.

    There are some definite reasons why I like Suraiya’s work, what I’ve seen of it. One is her manner of speaking – she almost sings her lines, her voice is so musical. I don’t know if that was her real speaking voice or an affectation she put on for the movies. She has this utterly charming (to me) way of often tilting her head when speaking her lines. And she was justly famous for never opening her enormous eyes all the way, so it looks as if she’s always half asleep. Yes, her acting is very stylized, and not at all natural. Yes, the likes of Dilip Kumar, Geeta Bali, and Ashok Kumar were in the process of ushering in a whole new style of acting. One reason this film is interesting to me is for the chance to see the transition into India’s ‘Golden Age’ of film in action. Here you have one of the new stars of the future, Geeta Bali, acting together with the reigning queen actress, Suraiya. And in my opinion, Suraiya doesn’t come off badly in comparison, as much as I love Geeta Bali. Harvey commented earlier that he didn’t agree with me that she was a great actress. I didn’t say she was a great actress, certainly not one to be mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Nutan or Meena Kumari or Geeta Bali, but she was the greatest ‘triple threat’ in all of India’s film history (with the exception maybe of Kishore Kumar, who was more of a quintuple threat). This woman was a competent actress, a very graceful, if not great, dancer, and a very fine singer.

    I also like this film for something not mentioned yet – Geeta Bali’s attempt at Bharatnatyam dancing (I think) accompanied by music but no song, just a voiceover of her commenting on her relationship with Pran. It’s unique, I think.

    • I did hate Suraiya IN THIS. Hated her character, hated her portrayal of the character. Now that may be the screenwriter’s fault mostly, but I didn’t like Geeta’s character either for most of the first half, and I liked her portrayal of it. I don’t consider it backtracking to say that I don’t dislike Suraiya in general, since I never said that I did.

      But my dislike of Suraiya’s performance in this doesn’t extend to her personally, or to her in every role. Maybe I put things too strongly, but I think my opinion of characters is often confused by readers with my opinion of the actor portraying them. I have gotten complaints from Meena Kumari fans, some more respectful than others, chastizing me for hating Meena when I’ve written about hating her weepiness. I do hate her weepiness! I hate that she only portrayed weepy characters by the 60s. It gets on my last good nerve! But I don’t hate Meena. That would be ridiculous. And I love 1950s Meena—LOVE. She was scintillating and gorgeous.

      I think it’s interesting how personally people take criticism of their favorite actors…I don’t really get it. I mean, I worship the ground that Shammi walks on, but I understand that he’s a little OTT for some people. I can totally respect that.

      I didn’t discuss the songs in this, Tom, and probably should have :-P Geeta’s dance about her relationship with Pran was absolutely divine, thanks for mentioning it. And the songs in general are very very pretty.

      • i think it’s interesting how personally people take criticism of their favorite actors…I don’t really get it.
        I do. If you have invested a part of your personality in someone else, it is but natural that criticism of the one implies a criticism of yourself for your tastes. :)

        • Ah. I guess I circumvent that by realizing to begin with that I’m not drawn that much to most people’s concepts of good taste. Plus, I don’t mind being criticized when it’s fair :)

          I also do not mean to imply that Tom—with whom I’ve had further interesting discussion offline—is one of those people who takes it personally. I was more referring to the Meena fans I’ve encountered. (And also, some of the more rabid Rajesh Khanna fans.)

    • @ Tom Daniel
      So what I gather from your and memsaab’s comments that you and memsaab are really not of contrary opinions. She hates the character and the potrayal of it. You love Suraiya and her acting. So as one would put it, they are two pair of shoes!
      I didn’t know that she purposely didn’t open her eyes. I thought her eyes were that way. What one calls here a “bedroom gaze”.
      Geeta Bali dancing Bharat Natyam?
      O God, I can’t believe that. All my love for geeta bali would be put at test here.

      • We are of contrary opinions when it comes to the film though: he liked it and I hated it.

        :) And Geeta is a great dancer!

        • That is the only difference I see!

          Geeta Bali as a bharat natyam dancer! I haven’t seen it so I can’t say. But on the other hand Geeta was so good at everything she did, I think she would be good at that as well. As I always say I would listen and watch even if she was reading out the telephone directory! She would do it with the twinkle in her eyes, which is so enchanting!
          I never had this big wish to meet film stars but with Geeta Bali I jsu tmight have this longing. But alas, it is not possible now. She must have been real fun to be with!

  22. @bawa
    >That maybe the *main meaning* but there is second one well in use.

    I was of course referring to the main meaning, because here the question was not of destiny.
    In other words – it is the *result* that one is bhugtoing.

    >anything deemed as fate, kismet, luck, destiny has thrown at you (note that included in these are in-laws, bad employers, selfish siblings and other assorted what-nots…)

    Taking the earlier, *main meaning*, when applied, even here you are bhugtoing the **result* of something (fate etc) which is *yours*.

    Whether that is right or wrong is not something I want to get into, really. :-)

    • In the notes I scribbled while watching this, I wrote: “Suffering…destiny…grim acceptance of fate, not taking control…so very Indian.”

      It really IS such an Indian thing, and so antithetical to the American way of thinking especially. Europeans are more fatalistic than we are in the US too I think.

      • Normally I don’t use the word ‘fatalism’ because of the connotation the word suggests – fatal.
        It doesn’t sound like a word that has to do with – ‘fate’.

        The philosophy of destiny as I know refers more to things like, being born as a black, brown, white, man, woman, into a rich family/poor family, etc. *That’s* what one has to accept.
        Personally I don’t think fate says not to deal with situations.

        ‘Taking control of the situation’ is what Suraiya’s character seemed to be doing. Geeta Bali’s character needed someone, especially in India in 1949.

        But yes, it can be misused, misapplied and misunderstood – as with most things.

        OTOH ‘Taking control of ones life’ sounds like you don’t need others (which is impossible).
        Sometimes one ends up controlling others to fit in.

        Please vote for me in the next elections!!! :-D
        *Getting down from my soapbox*

      • as an ‘Indian’, one would ask is one really in control of anything? :-)

        but isn’t it too much of generalising?
        I personally think that people have way of putting things. If two persons are sick, one person would say ‘I’ll fight it’ the other will say ‘O it is fate’, but both would go to the doctor. If you go by their words you would say the former is propenent of free will and the latter fatalistic.
        In the end labelling just clouds your view of things.

        • Sure, I’m generalising :-)

          One can’t be specific in these things.
          Your example is an interesting one. Both the patients approach the same goal with a different attitude.

          But if there’s no improvement in their health???
          Will the patient blame himself for not fighting better, or the doctor for not treating him correctly?

          • I do think it helps to be more specific in these things.
            A so-called fatalistic person can say that it is his fate and leave at that or he can say it is my fate to fight back and fight.
            A so-called propenent of free will may say it is the doctor’s fault but the lobby is too mighty and since I can’t win I give up or he might say I have the free will to fight so I’ll go on fighting.
            And moreover there are hundreds and thousands of different options, which would differ from person to person and case to case, depending on the circumstances or shall we say ‘fate’? ;-)
            So you see it does help to be specific but I agree with you that at tiems generalising things do help to come to certain conclusions faster!

  23. And in the midst of this fascinating discussion on “bhugtooing”, a VERY VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY Memsaab :-) May you have a lovely year with all the wonderful things you want come true.

  24. Tum jeeyo hazaron saal
    saal ke din ho pachas hazaar!

    And lots of happy bhugtaoing life!

  25. So it is your birthday? Yes, I read you mentioning that sometimes your birtday coincided with the festival of Deepawali.

    Happy birthday, and many happy returns of the day.

  26. Oh! You share a birthday with the United Nations!!!! :-)

    Many Happy Returns of the Day (a few hours late).

  27. Happy Birthday, Memsaab! Hope it was a day filled with wine and song!

  28. Happy Birthday memsaab.

    Pacifist, I still disagree with you regards the “” in Badi Behan, the 2nd exception of the word is as much, if not more, applicable in the film.
    And some of the things in the movie (banshee),…er how in the hell is it your fault?

    And agree with memsaab that any good mother/elder sister would not have let Geeta Bali get away with such awful disrespect and a man she didn’t know anything about.

    Seeing that the main Western religion is full of nothing but martyrs in its religious history, I really do not think Indians can have any exclusive claim to this concept.

  29. Happy belated birthday greetings memsaab!!! :-)

    @bawa and harvey

    I will happily agree to disagree with both of you ;-)
    An indepth discussion is impossible, and superficial discussions don’t help.

  30. PS:
    sorry. I should have added sunil’s name too to my post above.

    • it is always so confusing with the names here, since one doesn’t have any faces to connect with the names! The never know who said what unless and until I go up and down with ccurosr and really check and copy the original citations!

  31. Wish you a good year ahead!

  32. Wish I had time to participate more fully in this discussion, but this is a bad time this weekend. A couple of responses off the top of my head, though…

    Tom, great to see your comments here! I am glad someone showed up to stick up for Suraiya. :) But Suraiya was not the greatest triple threat; that was Noor Jehan! And in very similar ways… Noor wasn’t the greatest dancer, admittedly, but I think it’s still nice to watch her dancing. Like Suraiya, she wasn’t the greatest actress either, but she was at least competent most of the time, and she had an incredible screen presence. As many people have pointed out already, back when she was a Bollywood star, she was absolutely gorgeous! As for singing, maybe I don’t even need to elaborate. If we must compare and decide who was the “greatest threat,” then Suraiya was no match for Noor Jehan. Among the women singers, whether playback or singing stars, I think that only Lata could be comparable.

    So far, the only full movie in which I’ve seen Suraiya act is Anmol Ghadi, where I didn’t even notice her at first, because my attention was fixed on Noor Jehan. But I’ve watched most of it again, and I see that Suraiya was good. Of course, she was very young in that, and I would assume that she became a more compelling screen presence a little later. I’ve liked her in all the film clips that I’ve seen (including those from Bari Behen).

    I certainly understand all the complaints about the sexist principles guiding many of these Indian films, but on the other hand, I completely agree with Pacifist’s comment about welcoming a kind of philosophy different from the selfish “individualism” of the present dominant culture. (Though I put “individualism” in quotes because I think the term could be misleading here – this kind of society actually stifles individuality.) This is one of the main things that has drawn me to vintage Indian films (aside from beautiful music, dancing and actresses)… If I had time, I would elaborate on that further (though I think I have already somewhat, elsewhere…)

    Oh, by the way, Memsaab, I guess it’s your birthday? (I had one Oct. 12, just two weeks ago, but I kept it a secret. :) Well, then have a happy one (what’s left of it as of this comment) …

    • Happy Belated Birthday Richard!!!! Birthdays should not be kept secret!

      I have had some great email discussions with Tom now, and understand that you often do too. I need to see more Noor Jehan…although certainly I agree that her voice was magical. She even brightened up Haseena Atom Bomb briefly through her songs. My main beef with this was that it promoted such mindlessly stupid sacrifice. Made no sense, did not do anybody any good.

      You should see Jeet, it’s a good film with Suraiya in a nice role.

      • B Belated Happy Birthday Memsaab! You share your birthday with your favourite Shammi Kapoor ie same month. I recently read in a desi mag that his birthday is on 21 Oct.

  33. When i saw this movie, I was delighted to see the song “Chup chup khade hoja”. I have some old favourites and I didn’t know which movies they were from.
    As for the behen and bahu thing well,truth is stranger than fiction. Personal experience.

  34. I just caught this on DVD a few days back, memsaab – it was pretty much unbearable. Actually you’ve hit the nail on the head. Anyway, here’s the review

    • Ahahahahahaaa!!!! Great review Karan :) I too would love to read Baburao’s take on it—did he really call Suraiya’s nostrils “repulsive”???!!!

      *Dies laughing*

  35. I think the really maudlin melodramatic hindi movies are worth watching if they have actors you like *and* (most importantly of all) have a happy ending.

    Even if the happy ending does feel tacked on, at least it makes the miserable film experience worth it, unlike some of the really depressing Dilip Kumar films like:

    -“Andaz,” *SPOILER ALERT* Good movie, but once again Raj Kapoor gets in the way with his over-the-top acting and holier than-thou douchebag ->which lands his innocent wife in prison.

    -“Aadmi”- another must-sacrifice-all-for-best-bud-movie (swear all these guys are in the most cramped closet in the universe), love the song at the end though.

    -“Mela”- *SPOILER ALERT* another super depressing 1940’s film, but without the happy ending. Nargis and Dilip are supposed to marry, but he winds up in jail and the village (being anal about marriage dates) decides to get Nargis married to some other dude. Misery, misery, misery… Lightning strikes a tree, kills Nargis, and Dilip wanders the earth in more misery. O_o

  36. Oh yeah, I forgot to ask: Rehman and his flame get together at the end, right? Good luck buddy!

    Wouldn’t be surprised if his wife ended up giving all his meals away to the crows. “But they might turn virginal white all thanks to me!”

  37. Great review! I love your reviews taking to task dumb self-sacrifice movies like this and Dulhan.

    Trivia: Bahi Bahen was re-made in Sinhala as Sujatha in 1953. The actress in that is worse than Suraiya at histrionics from what I’ve seen of her in other films..

  38. Ha ha I’m glad you like my hatred of them, not everyone appreciates it ;-) Thanks for the warning about Sujatha!

  39. Old Indian actree MABAWAR SULTANA was a very good film actress in doing the most natural acting in the family hits films such like DARD, Kaneez, Babul, Bari Behen, and so many others films which were made during 1947 to 1950 buti have seen her only three films in Karachi during my school life.Her acting in DARD was most excellent because she was a muslim and the story of Dard was also a Muslim social life film. In this film she was in Islamic dress.She had not get cutting her long densly hair in any film.She was also a beautiful film actress after Naseem was such a time thatmale members are not allowing their family and spcially ladies to see any film but the dard was such a good film that the husbands of ladies had allowed to see this film DARD IN WHICH manawar Sultana had performed most excellent acting.the producer AR KARDAR was a muslim film director and he actually tried to do a good noble cause in spreading the TABLEEGH (PREACHING) about Islamic Education and Islamic social life of a muslim family.The starting of film was most impressive when orphan children had recited a NAAT ie HUM DARD KA AFSANA DUNIYA KO SUNA DEN GEY.Although I had seen this fikm 60 years ago but afterwards I have not seen such a good film Director AR KARDAR only except SM YOUSIF because SM YOUSIF also had made good films on social life of muslim family. hence I am advising to all new directors that they should tried to made good films such like AR KARDAR AND SM YOUSIF.Similarly ,I am advising to all Film actors and actresses to perform such most excellent acting in the films just like Manawar Sultana and Kardar.

    BA(Mass Communication)m BSc ( LIBRARY Science)
    DAE(Electrical Eng)

  40. IT is a sad news for me that most popular Pakistan Film Commedian actor Safeerullah saddiqui ( Filmi name Lehri) had died on thursday morning 14-09-2012.He was 83 years bold leaving behind widow,five sons and two daughters.

    Lehri was borned in Kanpur in 1930 and then migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and settled inKarachi.Really he was a very good person from point of views his most excellent character.He was so hard worker that he always tried to earn both ends meets by doing hard work for 16 hours ie From 7-00 AM upto 5-00 he was a steno ghrapher in a private Firm.After office hours, he used to sale hosiery on the footpath of Sadder near cafe george adjacent to persian bakery up to 11-00PM and then come home at mid night and then get up early in the morning at 5-00 AM.HE was a KHUD DAR TYPE PERSON and he had never requested for any financial help during whole period of life.

    In 1955, Shaikh Abdul Latif , owner of Karachi Film Exchange ,was directing a film ANOKHI in which his daughter SHELLA REHMANI ,a side heroine of indian film TAXI DRIVER( Devanand, Jani waker, Kulpna Kartak,Shella ramani) came in Karachi for performing a Role. but Shaikh latif was also a need of a commedian for his film.One friend of Lehri advise him to contact Shaikh Latif so Lehri went in his office and he was given a chance to perform the role of commedian in his film .Lehri had performed a good Role in his Film because of his own style of MAZAQIA TYPE speaking.This film was release on 21-01-1956
    and it become a super hit film because of most excellent acting of lehri.Now his financial position become better then before.After then, he performed in 260 films and filmfans have apprecited his acting and he was declared the KING OF THE COMMEDIAN after YAQUB, GOpE etc After then, many nos of commedian have adopted the same styles but could not be succeded,his some films of Lehri are 1)- INSAN BADULTA HEY, 2)ANJAMIN, 3)-Dil Mera Dhakin teri 4)-RAAT KE RAHI, 5)-KON KISI KA,6)-AAG, 7) FAISLA etc
    He had won twelve Nos of NIGAR Awards which is a good Record because no pakistani film actor has the
    won so many Nos of Awards.

    I will appreciat his good acting in film ANJAMIN in which TAMMANA had performed opposite to LEHRI.
    He also performed the double roles in Dil Mera DHARKIN TERI., ROAD TO SWAT was his good family.and so many others good films of Lehri will remind me very much.He was really a great commedian of Pakistani films.

    He was suffering in the diseases of kidney problems,lungs.sugar. etc for the last more than 17 years
    his one leg was cut in the operation.He died on 14-09-2012 morning and was buried in YASIN ABAD Grave yard the same evening.However his all admirers will remember him for many years time because he erformed commedian only for the usetted public of pakistan and he delighted 18 crore persons of Pakistan
    only for a good noble cause in a good sense. .Hence I pay a great tribute to this great commedian.May Allah rest him in JANATULFIRDOOS and give SABERE JAMIL TO THE BEREAVED FAMILY.

    Now I will request to Governor si nd ISHRAT UL IBAD that a auditorioum may be constructed in Karachi with the name of LEHRI AUTOTORIOUM in memory of this great commedian LEHRI. I hope he will surely accede my this humble request.


    MA(Political Science) BA( Mass Communication) BA (LIBRARY SCIENCE)
    DAE( Electrical Engg)
    DATE, 15-09-2012

  41. Hello all. Seems I am very late and late and late to this blog. Have not seen this movie. One thing I want to add is, the songs of this movie. Some are par excellence. .. Depends on your personality, how you receive them.. Likhne walon ne, likh di meri taqdir me- . And yes, as perfectly described by Tom, the eyes of Suraiya, classy and dreamy. …. Accept that every personality of human beings have a role in this human society, Nothing is perfect for all time. Every thing has its time. So was this character portrayal. Seems too much philosophical ?.. Ha Ha. Oh, I forget, this is Mem saab’s blog.

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