Achhut Kanya (1936)


First of all, I would like to thank Muz for sending this to me. He has also provided me with Pukar, Sikandar and Raj Nartaki (review upcoming), and thank goodness people like him appreciate Hindi cinema history enough to preserve it when they can. I appreciate his sharing these films with me more than words can ever express, and the same goes for the other friends I’ve made here who share their rare treasures with me too. Bless all of you!

This film from Bombay Talkies is widely written about as an early classic. It was a huge hit, and launched Ashok Kumar into stardom (albeit a bit reluctantly!). It’s also my first look at Devika Rani onscreen. Unfortunately there aren’t subtitles, and I think a lot of this film’s impact comes from its dialogues; they went way over my head. The basic plot is easy to follow, but there is a lot of “room talk” (or maybe “porch talk” is better here) which drives the action. Even without understanding the dialogues, though, I found this film ineffably sad. Though it is 73 years old, it is unfortunately just as relevant today with its portrayal of prejudice and intolerance. Will we never learn anything from our mistakes?

The songs by Saraswati Devi are very well known too (Ashok and Devika sing for themselves, and I read someplace that Saraswati Devi said she had a lot of trouble keeping them both on pitch at the same time). I have to confess that they don’t do a whole lot for me except in the novelty of Ashok singing; I have trouble with early Hindi film music. My ears have a western bias and don’t appreciate music based in classical Indian traditions as much as they should.

Anyway, on to the story. The film opens at a railway crossing, where a man and his wife travelling by car have been stopped to wait for an oncoming train. The man has a gun which falls out of his coat when he gets out for a smoke. His wife hands it back to him mutely and he snaps at her. She seems resigned to whatever fate may have in store, which given the gun and her husband’s clear dislike of her makes me worry.


At the crossing stands a small temple, which the man wanders over to look at. His wife joins him there, and he tells her to get back in the car, but they are interrupted by a ghostly old man. There is an inscription on the temple, which even if I could read Devanagiri I wouldn’t probably have much luck deciphering.


The old man talks to the couple: the temple is a memorial to a “devi”—an untouchable girl whose fate on earth was a short life, but whose deeds will give her peace in the afterlife is kind of what I gather (and I’m paraphrasing). This strikes a chord with the sad woman: she repeats the words “devi” and “shanti” longingly. The old man continues to speak, and we go into a flashback.

Ashok!!!! He looks like a gangly teenager, and I melt into a puddle, he is so cute. Devika Rani’s famed beauty is no disappointment either. Oh, how this needs to be restored (or else a very good print found) and put on DVD!


They sing a lot of songs together, these two. They are childhood friends, who have grown up to love each other, but Pratap (Ashok) is the son of a Brahmin grocer named Mohan (PF Pithawal) and Kasturi (Devika Rani) is the daughter of the railway crossing guard, an untouchable named Dukhiya (Kamta Prasad).

Mohan and Dukhiya have been fast friends despite their vast differences in status since Dukhiya saved Mohan’s life by sucking the poison out of a snake bite wound when their children were young.


This friendship is barely tolerated by the local villagers, and Pratap and Kasturi’s romance is greatly frowned upon and the subject of much gossip. The two fathers are their only supporters; Pratap’s mother Kalyani (Kusum Kumar) is not at all pleased by her son’s obvious feelings for Kasturi and scolds her husband for indulging them. Mohan defends Pratap and Kasturi, but he’s outnumbered.


Kasturi’s father is more temperate in his support of his daughter’s love; he often points out to her how disparate her circumstances are from Pratap’s. Being at the bottom of the totem pole lowers one’s expectations, I guess, and his more pragmatic view gives Kasturi a lot of strength when she needs it.


This is the village’s ugly face of elitism and intolerance, Babulal (Kishori Lal):


Babulal leads a group of men who meet daily to gossip and worry about what’s going on in other people’s lives (sounds so unfortunately familiar). They aren’t satisfied even when Pratap’s mother chooses an “appropriate” bride for him, Meera (Manorama—but not our usual Manorama).


On the day of Pratap’s wedding, the procession passes the railroad junction where Kasturi has taken up her father’s position as crossing guard since he is not well. She accepts the marriage with good grace, praising Meera’s beauty (which is stretching things a bit) and even offering a genuine hand of friendship to her, which Meera accepts happily.


When Mohan hears that Dukhiya is sick, he takes him home to nurse him back to health. This enrages Babulal and his little group, and they scurry about getting the other villagers up in arms over Dukhiya’s presence in Mohan’s home. They attack Mohan when he defends his right to care for his friend, and he is hit over the head and injured in the fray. The unwell Dukhiya runs out and tries to flag down some help (and hopefully a doctor) from a passing train. The conductor angrily tells him that he will have him arrested, and the train speeds away.

Meanwhile, in the village, Babulal and his posse (which includes the village priest) are satisfied with their days’ handiwork, which now includes setting fire to Mohan’s home.


While the other villagers pour water on Mohan’s house (I guess they feel bad for setting it on fire in the first place, or maybe they’ve only just realized that the fire will spread to their homes too) Babulal and company slip away to celebrate. Mohan himself has regained consciousness outside, where his family carried him to escape the flames. His first concern is for his friend Dukhiya.

Dukhiya has been interviewed by the police, meanwhile, although I’m not sure if the train conductor sent them or if the mayhem at Mohan’s is the cause for their visit. An old villager comes along and tells the Inspector, Darogaji (NM Joshi), about the fire, and he goes off leaving a fretting Dukhiya and Kasturi. Another guy in a topee shows up with a young man in tow, whom he leaves behind. The young man is named Manu (Anwar), and he turns out to be the son of another old friend of Dukhiya’s, from the same community.


Later, Darogaji holds an interrogation of some sort in the village. I think it’s a fairly pivotal scene but all I really get out of it is that Darogaji is unimpressed when Babulal shows up with a bunch of gifts, and Babulal defends himself by calling Mohan crazy. Mohan himself eventually shows up, head bandaged, and I think he tells Darogaji to let it go.

Meera comes upon Kasturi as she sings sadly by the river. Meera confides her sorrow on realizing that her husband doesn’t love her. Kasturi is  sympathetic and tries to reassure her.


I’m not sure if Meera knows that Pratap loves Kasturi or not at this stage, although I would guess not. Meanwhile, Dukhiya and Mohan discuss the possibilities of a marraige between Kasturi and Mannu. Meera returns home with her water pot to find her handsome husband singing a sad song as he thatches the roof.


Poor Meera! Poor Pratap! Poor Kasturi! And soon, poor Mannu! Oh Babulal and friends, you have inflicted a lot of unhappiness on your neighbors. I hope that reincarnation and your bad karma are waiting, and come back to bite you in your ample backsides.

Pratap overhears his father talking about Kasturi’s upcoming wedding to Mannu. He goes to Kasturi and asks her to run away with him. She is tempted, but remembers the recent consequences of the villagers’ wrath.


“Tum Brahmin ho,” she tells him sadly. “Main acchut.”


It’s so very awful! Now this is sacrifice that’s meaningful: she knows that if she and Pratap run away, those they love and leave behind will suffer. (I still want them to do it, though!) Trouble arrives in the form of Kajari (Pramila); I never figure out quite what her relationship with Mannu is but she is not happy about his planned marriage to Kasturi. I am fascinated by her Clara Bow bee-sting pout.


She causes trouble for Kasturi with Meera, who by now has found out (from Kajari? or Pratap?) that Pratap loves Kasturi. Pratap has been honest with Meera about his feelings, but has vowed to try and be a good husband to her; however, Kajari’s whispers light a little fire of jealousy in Meera. Kasturi herself believes Kajari to be a friend as well, not knowing that Miss Bee-Stung Lips is out to get her.

*Here be spoilers (the movie’s ending is all over the interwebs anyway) in case you’d prefer to stop reading now!*

All of this gossip and ill-will cannot end in anything but tears. It culminates in anger and jealousy, and tragedy when the two women invite Kasturi to accompany them to a nearby mela, and then leave her there with no way home, knowing that she’ll have to get a ride with Pratap who has a food stall there. Kasturi does so, and they reminisce a little sadly on the way home, but nothing more. Meera and Kajari tell Mannu that Kasturi is with Pratap, and he attacks Pratap when they arrive at the railroad crossing. They fight on the tracks as a train rushes towards them, and Kasturi is killed when she runs down the track to try and stop it.

Will their sad tale change the circumstances of the unhappy couple we met at the beginning? Or will more tragedy ensue before the night is out?

*End spoilers*

Despite my struggles with poor picture quality and no subs, I really liked this film. The acting is stilted and theatrical, as is usual for the time period, but the story moves along well—although I missed a lot, I know. I can only imagine how much I might like it when I know what’s being said! It was such a pleasure to see the young, young Ashok and beautiful Devika Rani, though. They were lovely together, and so sad apart. And the photography was beautiful.


I hope there’s a good print out there somewhere: please, somebody do it justice! Until then, thank you Muz. I am very glad to have seen this.

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103 Comments to “Achhut Kanya (1936)”

  1. OMGGG memsaab you are soo lucky for seeing this! I’ve wanted to watch this all my life,well maybe not, but I really want to see this! It looks soo good, and Ashok looks like a cute little button! I loved Bimal Roy’s interpretation in Sujata which remains one of my fave films albeit with a happier ending!

    • I am lucky :) It’s a lovely film…hopefully someone somewhere will get it put properly on DVD with subtitles. Without cropping, bad editing, intrusive logos, and all the other crap that Indian DVD manufacturers inflict on us. It NEEDS to be done.

  2. ” My ears have a western bias and don’t appreciate music based in classical Indian traditions as much as they should.”

    For me, the biggest appeal of Indian cinema–Bollywood in particular–is the music. There is nothing else like it anywhere else and if it wasn’t for the music I wouldn’t have started watching. And Bollywood — the early movies in particular–has given us some great classical song and dance numbers.
    Of course, I am Indian though I have lived most of my life outside of India. And I’ve even had a little classical training. But I sometimes wonder what the appeal of Bollywood is if not for the music.
    (I’m relearning hindi too which is the second reason I watch the movies. And I’m in love with the early 70s heros. So that’s a third reason.)

  3. The inscription on the temple is “isne apni jaan di, duson ki jaane bachane ke liye”, which essentially means “she sacrificed her own life to save other people’s lives”.

    Also, Gandhi’s first wife’s name was Kasturba, not Kasturi.

    • Thanks Ritika! I so appreciate the translation, and of course you are right about the names. I’ll fix the post :) (for others coming along later: I thought it was interesting that Kasturi shared a name with Gandhi’s wife, but they are not the same)…

      • ba means mother in Gujarati. In south one would say amma. The basic name of Kasturba would be Kasturi. In south of India, it would have been Kasturamma or Kasturibai, furhte up north. Naturally, as a suffix the words ba or amma might change their meanings slightly.

  4. This one played on DoorDarshan a couple of times back in the 80s and I wasnt able to watch more than a few minutes of it – the acting style and the way the actors spoke just seemed so very alien to me back then. Now that I am all grown up, I might be able to stomach it just for young Dada Mani and Devika Rani (she was so stunningly beautiful – no wonder her husband painted her so often!).

    As to music, I think the difference between 30s-40s and later music is not just the difference between more and less classical-based songs. There are plenty of very classical songs in films of later period that dont sound at all like 30s-40s music! The difference, I think, was more in the singing styles, the fact that not all the singers were in the Lata-Rafi category, and that the recording techniques were also fairly different – all of which adds up to rather rougher sounding music. Much as I love old films, I must admit to not liking many songs from films before the late 40s.

    • Yes, the acting was very theatrical and unnatural, although this film has been written about as being one of the first to attempt a more “realistic” view of village life and dialect. That all goes completely past me though.

      I think even the classical-based songs in later films had more western influences than the songs in these early films—these seem to be more raga-like? in that to me they don’t have much melody, or maybe I should say vertical layers of melody, they are much more linear in style.

  5. I believe the tree in the last picture is a Cycad – one of the rarest and ancient plants in the world (I first heard about this here I’ve read somewhere that parts of the tree were used to make flour in India centuries ago.

    • No, it is not a cycad. It is a wild date palm, i.e. a Phoenix sp.
      You are right though about the sago palm. Some Cycas sp. are used to make a tapioca like flour.

  6. Just like bollyviewer I watched this movie on DD in the late 80s. I also couldn’t stand much of it, though I was telling myself, taht it is a classic and I should be watching and loving it as well. ;-)
    But, alas, slept before the end.
    Only remember the songs: “kheth ki muli baag ko aa” and “mein ban ka pancchi”. I remember we made jokes about it for years!
    Wonder, how I would react now to the film!
    Thanks for bringing this up

    • Me too, me too. I remember watching this when I was too small to appreciate the story; my sister and I spent most of the film giggling at the theatrical acting and at main ban ka panchhi! Would like to watch this again, just to see it from a more mature point of view now.

    • I don’t know if I would enjoy it more or less with subtitles. It took me a while to get through it, because I get exhausted watching films without them by the struggle to keep track of what’s going on.

      But it moved me a lot, it was very sad. Maybe it was my general mood though :)

  7. I would love to watch this just to see an old movie and the good actors in it. My parents watched this way back then, it seems. These were the type of social movies released then-with a message. And other movies were mythological. Although as you say, not much has changed except that these kind of marriages have become less rare and,perforce, ‘accepted’ by the parents.

    • “have become less rare and,perforce, ‘accepted’ by the parents.”

      That is true. From a pool of 14 cousins, two married guys form the ‘lower caste’, one from a different caste so around 20%. Is that the indian average? So I think intercaste marriages are accepted more widely thatn in the 30s. But one does hear at times of cases in villaes, where the intercaste marriage couples were driven out of the village, or worse, killed.

    • What I meant was not so much that these marriages aren’t accepted—probably in general they are, like interracial marriages here…but it seems that as a species we just go in circles, and seem to always feel the need to be putting some segment of the population down. That segment changes from time to time, but the need to feel superior, and to judge those different from ourselves, never changes.

      Human nature can just be so ugly so much of the time.

      • Very true. There are always people, who feel they are superior to others and exploit them, whom they think are inferior. Seems to repeat itself agian and again. And the explotied themselves exploit people, who are below them in the hierarchy.
        A sad but true fact of life!

        • Hi, there. I just wanted to say, while I am not optimistic about the prospects for social egalitarian revolution right now, there is still something to be said for the idea that social systems play an important role in the existence and degree of exploitation (I don’t think the tendencies are just built into “human nature,” whatever that is – conditioning has a lot to do with all this). And since I was once a bit of an anarchist (I was in the North American “anti-globalization” protests of ’99-’00, ran with the black bloc, read Homage to Catalonia, watched Ken Loach films :), that old part of me immediately wants to say, people wouldn’t exploit those below them in the hierarchy if we got rid of the hierarchy. But I know, it is tough to have such dreams these days.

          • It seems to me that it’s against “human nature” to get rid of the hierarchy. Efforts have been made in that direction on more than one occasion but they never got off the ground. And I see the battle for superiority every day at work: it isn’t pretty. It’s also mostly counter-productive. Doesn’t seem to matter though.

  8. You’re so lucky to have people send you these super-old films. The oldest Hindi film I’ve seen was bits of some pre-1947 film. I know they’re available, somewhat (40’s films that is) but I don’t know where to begin, what I’d like etc.

    • I know I am :) There are more of these older ones available on VCD, but nobody seems to realize that western audiences might appreciate them too, with subtitles! Sigh.

      • Let me second that sigh! While I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to find BITS of Hindi films going all the way back into the ’30s (just spend more time on YouTube :) , and it’s not hard at all to find subtitled DVDs of movies from ’48 and ’49, it is still difficult to find full pre-1947 films on DVD with subs. For a while, I think the oldest one anyone could find was Anmol Ghadi(1946). Lately, Friends has been releasing stuff going back a couple of years further, but I haven’t had the best experiences with that company, and I’m not alone in that regard. :)

  9. say what you want about the movie, but the songs still put a smile on everyone’s face. Especially the pun of bun ==become and garden
    by becoming a bird, and garden-garden going re. :)

    • Isn’t ban the forest?
      like for e.g., banwaas = forest exile/ living in the forest.
      garden would be a bagh.

      A bird of the forest is free and can fly from forest to forest. What most lovers want to be: FREE! Free in forest/jungle.
      To make “jungle me mangal”? ;-)

  10. oops. by becoming a garden bird, garden=garden going re.

    • I’m sorry, but what you just said here makes no sense to me :) (the songs weren’t subtitled either, naturally)…Main Ban Ki Chidiya Banke is the one song that I didn’t ff through :)

      The songs are on youtube for the most part, BTW, if anyone wants a look at young Ashok and Devika :)

  11. Ok. she says, I (will become a garden bird, garden garden saying (something).

    AsAshok Kumar: I will become a (male) bird, swinging by your side.
    absolutely cute.

  12. Yes, you are so lucky to have seen this! I was amazed when I saw the title of this post.

    A question for Hindi speakers. What are the words used in Hindi film to describe caste and community? Acchut is used for untouchable here, are there other words? I think jaat is sometimes used for caste? These words are difficult to find in vocabulary lists aimed at Western tourists, a main source for language learners like me. But, vital for watchers of melodrama. Thanks!

    • I thought of you Laura—you would LOVE Kajari’s makeup! So very 1920s :)

    • acchut means one whom you can’t touch = untouchable!
      the umbrella term would be shudra, though not all shudras are untouchable. depending on the region it will vary. Mostly the persons would then be called by the names of their subcastes = chamar etc.

      • Yes. Also, to answer Laura’s other question, jaat, jaati or varna can be used to mean caste. Another word that is often used to refer to people of the so-called ‘lowest castes’ is Dalit – Gandhi coined another word for the dalits, ‘harijan‘ (which literally means ‘people of God’) in an attempt to make them at least sound more acceptable to society.

        • Thanks, all! I knew the word “harijan” but don’t think I have ever heard this word used in a film. Too political, rather than colloquial?

          • Too old fashioned. The word they prefer to use is Dalit, which is considered more authentic because it wasn’t bestowed upon them but rather chosen by themselves. Just as “achut” is seen as a pejorative, “harijan” is seen as patronizing.

            Plus, it never really caught on except when Gandhi was around.

  13. Memsaab – Ha, it’s funny how many of us saw this on DD and thought it was hilarious and now are all, “damn, I wish I knew what I was watching”. I wonder if DD still runs these things? Ashok Kumar is SO handsome! He and Devika make a wonderful pair. In my continuing “omg, look how repressed and tame hindi cinema has become over the years in spite of all the naked women in it these days” refrain – how insane is it that Pratap would ask Kasturi to run away with him after his marriage. And she refuses not because it is a sin but because it has real life consequences she’s not willing to inflict.

    Laura – it’s not considered polite to talk caste these days in India, esp in front of outsiders. Its considered ignorant bumpkin behavior. Of course, this doesn’t stop people from observing it and discussing it and believing in it in the privacy of their own homes, families and communities. As a foreigner, nobody is likely to bring it up with you anyway and wouldn’t know how to take it if you suddenly brought it up with them which is probably why you won’t find it in your dictionary. :-D
    The word most people use in polite company up north is “biraadiri” which means “community” or “brotherhood”. The Sanskrit word is “jaati” which in colloquial Hindi could be heard as “jaat” or “jaat-paat” in Hindi cinema but is now really only used to illustrate bigotry in characters. And then there are caste names that have turned into invectives because that’s how they’re used.

    • Well, it’s difficult to watch something if the picture is this murky, especially when you are an impatient teenager (or younger). Dadamoni and Devika Rani were very sweet together, and I so agree about the breaking of taboos back then. Hindi cinema seems to have been much more progressive back then than it became in the decades of the 50s and 60s…Prabhat Studios especially made some pretty scathing social indictments. In any case, I’d love to see some more of the films these two starred in together. Sigh.

    • Thanks, Amrita. The absence of these words in my learner’s books indicates they are not discussed in polite society…but films deal with impolite subjects. There is a significant disconnect in my life between “real world” and “filmi” Hindi. But, my daily need is for the latter. It is the difference between being taught how to ask for a hotel room with a fan, and threatening to cut somebody up into tiny tiny pieces. Somebody needs to craft a dictionary for “filmi” Hindi, please!

  14. I’m among the guilty ones who had laughed at the song ‘Main ban ki chidiya’.
    Its not a classical song based on any raaga, I think, as far as I can tell from memory. Heard it a long time ago. That too not with the right attitude. :-)

    Film songs based on classical music were/are wonderful.
    Here is a good example of a wonderful classical song from Baiju Bawra based on raag malkauns;

    And this one from Mughal-e-azam by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali is absolutely drugging;

    • Yes and classical dance too. Dances by Gopi Krishna and Sadhana, Vyjayantimala, Padmini, all these are real treats.

      • Sorry I was in a hurry–that should be Gopi Krishna and Sandhya. Here is an example:

        • Looking at this post a little late (I guess), a different opinon from Memsaab’s: I could sit and watch performances like the Sandhya-Gopi Krishna ones in Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje for days. :) I had mixed feelings about the movie as a whole though… But well worth it just for the dances.

    • Okay, if you say so! :-P

      Different strokes, etc….I don’t dislike the performances above, but wouldn’t spend hours watching them either. I get bored by it all quickly. What can I say—I’m a “Hallelujah Chorus” kind of girl :)

      • I have acquired a taste for this kind of music since coming here :-)

        I only meant to say that those songs of films in 30s etc are not classical Indian music based on Raagas, (as you seemed to think) but the songs in the links are. :-)

        There are many Indians who don’t have a taste for Indian classical music either.

        • Perhaps I should have said traditional Indian music rather than classical. I know next to nothing about ragas or any of the rest of it, sadly. I just know that film music of the 30s had much less of what I would consider “melody”—it sounds more like chanting to me.

  15. oh I just got the DVD! cant wait to see it- tho Ashok insists it was a juvenile performance, its such a part of bolly history!

  16. Memsaab, Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani were my dad’s favourite actors and he used to keep referring to this movie as a classic! As is usual with the younger generation, we used to listen to him poiltely and wonder to ourselves about this. I am one of those guilty of escaping from watching these movies when they were shown on DD! Thanks for the write up and pics. Interesting read. Sujata is another movie on a similar theme which i did see when i was in high school ( re-runs in India are common) and liked it very much

    • Sujata is luckily more easily available, it is a lovely film with great songs :) But these are so much fun to see…such history. Young people don’t appreciate such things as much (although some do) but I think as we get older (and stuff we knew as kids becomes “antique”) we can see the value of watching “what came before.”

      • ‘Sujata’ is lovely. And note the title. While ‘Sujata’ is Nutan’s character’s name, it literally means ‘One from a good/upper caste’ since ‘su’ is a prefix that means ‘good’ and ‘jaat’ is caste. And in the movie she plays an untouchable as well so the title sets the tone really. Just continuing the semantics discussion :-D

  17. It is a crime that more Hindi films from this period have not made it to DVD (with subtitles, ‘natch)!

    Lovely write up and very educational follow ups! Visiting MemsaabStory is like going to school…only more fun!

  18. I recollect another movie like this – V.Shantaram’s “Teen Batti Char Raasta”. I don’t know whether it is his style, but it was dealt with in a good humorous way. There were comedy and also serious moments(has to be). There were six married couples all with inter-community marriages and the seventh were the hero,Karan Dewan, and heroine,Sandhya. I particularly liked her name, Kokila. It had meaning to the character she played. I can’t remember whether she was low-caste. Reminded me of the Indian National Anthem-Punjaba Sindh Gujarata Maratha etc.. You are so lucky to get these old movies. Was this 100% uncut dvd?

  19. Would love to see this movie. searching for vcd / dvd for years.
    But unable to find it.
    Can somebody not share it on internet via a torrent or something like that.
    Memsaab please initiate something to share your rare collection.

  20. Oh my GOODNESS I ADORE you, thank you!! What a wonderful synopsis and evaluation.

  21. I discovered your exhaustive and amazing blog recently through a search for this movie. Thank you for undertaking such a heroic and labor-intensive cataloging effort: I can only wish I had your patience!

    While a little late to the game, I’d like to add my two cents about Indian raagas. You are right in that the film songs of the 30s/40s sound like chanting, precisely because they are *not* based on Indian classical raagas, but rather on simpler folk music. In the context of this movie, this makes sense, since one wouldn’t expect village kids to be singing pure classical. In fact, Indian raagas are one of the most melodically complex systems of music in the world, and hindi film has a small but solid selection of hit songs based on raagas (note that still makes them semi-classical, not true classical). Pure Indian classical is extremely melodically dexterous, but due to its complexity, I would guess it is less pleasing to the layperson than semi-classical. If you watch South Indian movies, you would find examples of beautiful semi-classical songs even in recent movies, since classical music is more popular down south (at least until the 90s or so).

    • Thanks for that explanation! I confess that I am one of those people who can only listen to raagas for a short time before becoming impatient. The structure of them is just so different from the music I grew up with. I am glad you like the blog, do keep coming and educating me!

      • I’ve been reading a lot more of your blog over the last couple of days, and absolutely adore the way you recap and review these movies, complete with screencaps! If you’re willing to consider it, I was hoping you may also be able to cover some of the less obscure movies, because sometimes after watching those, I scour the net for other reviews only to come up with a few inane summarily written ones. Your writing is *such* a pleasure to read on the other hand :)

        • You are nice :) I mostly don’t write up the more well-known films because I’d already watched them before I started the blog and I’d need to go back and rewatch them in order to write them up. And there are still so many, um, gems out there to discover! I have reviewed some favorites that I watch over and over (mostly Shammi ha ha) and will keep doing that too. It takes a lot of time to write a post and get all the screencaps I want…I need more hands, eyes, and computers! :)

  22. The actor playing Manu in ACHUT KANIYA is my father-in-law, Najam Naqvi, who was Himansu Rai’s assistant in charge of continuity for this film. He later became a well-known director and then migrated to Pakistan in the early fifties. He is not with us any more, but his films are. However, we do not have all his films, all made before 1953, and we are always searching for the ones we haven’t found yet. If anyone on this list can help us with the films, clips from them, songs or any other leads, we, the Naqvi family, will be eternally grateful. I’m listing the films:

    Memsaab, I am the translator of Chughtai’s novel about Guru Dutt, the novel you read not too long ago and “enjoyed.” Yes, A VERY STRANGE MAN.

    • Oh how exciting! I loved that book, and if I may say so thought it an elegant translation. I’ll put the list out here, and also on the Facebook page–it’s sad but true that the public is the best place to find some of these old films. Fingers crossed :) And I’m glad to know who Manu is—when I watch this again with subtitles, I’ll be sure to add him to my gallery :)

      • Dear Tahira

        Could you let me know if the titles that you mentioned were Indian or Pakistani movies? I am not sure if I have the movies but Some of the titles are familiar to me. If not the movie I may have the soundtracks of a few of these on vinyl.

        Best wishes.


        • Dear Muz — these are all films made in India. How wonderful if we could have even a song here and there or other clips, and if the films could be found, well then you’ll have done us an invaluable service. Thanks.

        • Muz has a wonderful collection (it’s the cornerstone of our new Edu Productions list)—do let us know Muz if you have any of them :)

    • Tahira ji,
      As per the credits in the film,Manu’s role is done by’s name appears as the continuity man in the credits.Please check up the credits once again.

  23. ‘Anwar’ was the name he chose to use for his film roles.

    • Oooh, that should be a trivia question somewhere :)

    • Tahira ji,
      Thanks for the tell us if he has acted in any other films too as Anwar.
      Secondly,I know that Najam sahab was born in muradabad-Up on 11-4-1913 and died at Lahore on 26-1-1982.He directed the following films,as per my info (all Indian films)-
      Naya Tarana-43,Panna-44,prithwiraj Sanyogita-46,Nateeja-47,Parai Aag-46,Actress-48,nirdosh-50(also prod.),Rangili-52 Samrat-54 and punarmilan-40(A song and synopsis of the film’s story/other info is given by me on on 17-4-2012.this info is given in case you want to read/hear it).
      -Arunkumar Deshmukh

      • Thank you so much for the wonderful link. I have created a FB Group for Najam Naqvi. If you look it up and ask to be included, I’ll do so. We have a lot of stuff, films, film clips, songs, etc. Of the films he made in India, “Panna” just became available, we also have “Achuut Kanya,” “Bhabi,” “Kangan,” “Punar Milan, and “Actress,” but that is all and we are actively searching for the others. Recently some songs surfaced and those I have included on the site. These came with the help of “Bhoole Bisre Geet.” I did find a song from “Nirdosh” on the site you sent me. Thanks again.

        • Dear Tahira

          You mentioned that you may have Punar Milan? I have been searching for this movie for a long long time. My father played a small role in this film and would greatly like to find it to see if indeed this is one of the few movies that he acted in. I think he was part of one of the songs but I am unsure. I am checking through my vinyl collection and checking some videos for the other movies that you mentioned.



        • Tahira, could you post a link to the FB page? There are millions of Najam Naqvis out there! :) Thanks.

        • Tahira ji,
          The song of Nirdosh which you found on and as posted on FB of NN is from NIRDOSH-41 which was directed by Virendra Desai.Najam Naqvi directed the film NIRDOSH of 1951,starring Shyam Rehana etc.
          These 2 are different films,please note.
          -Arunkumar Deshmukh

        • Tahiraji, if you still have copies of those movies, I request you to upload them on youtube. I’ve tried hard, with no success, to locate copies of early Bombay Talkies movies.

          • Ashokji, I have the videos and after I have them converted to DVD’s I will try to upload.

      • Deshmukhji, would you have any information on P.F. Pithawala (Mohan/ Ashok Kumar’s father in Achhut Kanya)? He seems to have been a fixture in Bombay Talkies movies in the 30s (and it must be said, he was a damn good actor). Despite all my attempts, I have been unable to find any information on him.

  24. I ‘ll be watching this movie today and will revert with my review. Btw, I watched Kismet 2 days backa nd loved it. Does anyone know what happened to Mumtaz Shanti after she went to Pakistan?

  25. Kasturi is Manu’s first wife, which explains her role.

  26. i watched this movie today and loved it , especially because of dadamoni who looked very cute.

  27. I saw this today as part of a film festival. The print was subtitled (including the songs) and was in reasonable condition although there was some obvious sound and picture distortion in places. It did have a NFAI watermark so perhaps they have done some restorations.

    I didn’t love the film as it is very slow and the acting as you noted is quite stagey. But Ashok Kumar is so charming and handsome, and Devika Rani is just gorgeous. I also liked that the main supporting characters like Manu and Kajri were developed a little too and had their sympathetic sides. I was ready to slap Meera for being so ready to talk about sacrificing herself for Pratap, going on and on and on – and yet when she had the opportunity to do so, stayed firmly out of harm’s way. And how annoying was the village mob? One minute burning a house down then forming a bucket chain to save it. Talk about people being easily lead!

    I suspected Ashok sang for himself and glad to see that confirmed :) I don’t mind the folky style of song used here and having subtitles was a bonus. The songs signalled the transition from one act to the next and I liked those additional signposts. I quite enjoyed the sequence at the fair and the bangles song. That was a nice bit of light relief in amongst all the emo suffering.

    Thanks for your review – I might have overlooked the opportunity to see this otherwise!

  28. Had the good fortune of watching the movie over the weekend. The dialogue delivery was terribly stagey, typical of early talkies. I just realised how young and ‘green’ Ashok Kumar was and what do I say of Devika Rani? She’s one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced Indian cinema. Sadly, the basic theme of the movie still remains relevant, nearly 80 years after it hit the screens.

  29. The inscription in Hindi reads – She gave up her life, to save the lives of others.

    Kajri is the first wife of Mannu, that’s why she hates Kasturi

    PS: I’m Devika and I love love your reviews. It is rare that I meet someone who is as passionate about old Hindi films (though I just love old films, Hollywood or Bollywood!). AND someone who loves Shammi Kapoor 😘😘.

    Btw you could have knocked me over with a feather when I realised you weren’t Indian. I discovered only when I saw your pic with Shammi *jealous*!!

  30. So I’m really really really late to the party!

    But just on the music bit, I would offer my 2 cents having learnt Indian Classical music, or rather learnt it for 4 years, coz you’re never really ‘done’ learning music.

    1. First tbh, Indian Classical Music is not everyone’s cup of tea, including many Indians, since over time Bollywood music has become less complex and more ‘for the masses’.

    How do I explain ICM? Paradoxically ICM is unbelievably complex, intricate but it is also fairly simple, fundamental!
    When you start learning ICM you learn the simplest ‘measures’ of sound, rhythm, pitch etc. etc. It is fairly scientific in that it lays down some fundamental principles. Once you start with those, like in the Laws of Physics, you can create, experiment with more complex notes, intricacies that maestros bring in.

    While Western Classic Music works on the principle of ‘harmony’, Indian Classical Music works on the principle of a ‘group of notes’ which together constitute a ‘Raag’. This is the basic building block on which different compositions get created.

    Many people don’t often like it because they prefer stuff which may be more hummable, whereas ICM tends to be ‘heavier’ on complexities, intricacies. (Though there have been many songs which hit the sweet spot which, as someone mentioned, have come to be known as semi-classical songs.) It is also the reason why in the years gone by, Classical Singers’ versions of songs weren’t as appreciated as regular Playback singers’ versions.

    So that was on ICM.

    2. In the specific case of ‘Achhoot Kanya’, while the base may be classical, there is a folksy tilt to some songs. Though one of the bigger reasons (my personal feeling!) I feel some songs aren’t as enjoyable is because the singers, esp. Devika Rani, aren’t that great!

    I know I know, a lot of people will defend Ashok Kumar and he is not bad.

    However the songs seem like classical songs toned down to become ‘seedha seedha’ (Flat) to accommodate singers who may not be that accomplished. In the initial years of learning music, singers often sound like that. It’s only in recent years that music has become, thanks to acoustics, beats, instruments, stuff that could sound good even with novices. I think that was not the case then. I remember reading someplace that Sarojini Devi had to compose music to suit the range/ ability/ voices of the leads. In the same movie, if you check out come BG music sung by proper singers it sounds much much more pleasing.

    So that was that! Turns out my 2 cents was not quite 2 cents!

    Sorry for the long, rambling post! 😁😁

    • Clarification: Classical singers have been much appreciated in Bollywood, however there have been cases where renowned a reknowned singer’s version has been less popular than a Lata/ Asha version

  31. Hello! What a delightful blog you have here! For another take on the whole inter-caste romance plot, do watch Neeraj Gheywan’s ‘Masaan’ (2014), if you haven’t already.
    Would love to read your review of it.

  32. What a delightful blog you have here, Memsaab! I’ve been thoroughly amazed, reading through the archives.
    If you would like to see another modern treatment of the inter-caste romance plot (though at first glance it seems nothing has changed in the intervening 70 years), do watch Neeraj Ghaywan’s ‘Masaan’ (2014) and Nagraj Manjule’s ‘Sairat’ (2016).
    Would love to read your reviews of these.

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