Dilruba (1950)

This film started off gangbusters and then kind of fell apart story-wise—but remained good fun throughout thanks to Rehana and Dev Anand’s sparkling chemistry, spectacular dances courtesy of Rehana and Cuckoo (and some loony tribal backup dancers) and Yakub’s turn as a villainous “Professor.” There is also a completely insane zamindar ventriloquist character whose dummy bullies him and who has lost his little girl (by “lost” of course I mean misplaced). And as you know, it is the film which allowed me to lay to rest my frantic search for Nazir Kashmiri! I will forever love it for that alone.

Rupa (Rehana) is a dancer in a troupe trained and led by the Professor (Yakub) which travels from town to town.

On a train journey, Rupa discovers a pearl necklace in the Professor’s possession. He snatches it back from her angrily when she says she’ll pay him in rupees for it—but rejects his hints at another form of “payment.” Then he glowers at her when she evinces interest in a handsome young man who enters their compartment. When the train stops unexpectedly to pick up some policemen she needles him slyly.

Visibly nervous, the Professor surreptitiously slips the necklace into the pocket of the young man’s coat hanging nearby. The young man (Dev Anand) is an engineer who is planning to build a utopian place for poor people to live (we call them housing projects) in the same small town that the dance troupe is visiting. The police board the train but don’t make any effort to find the necklace, although they discuss it and the inspector complains about the sad state of affairs these days.

When the train pulls into the station, the Professor watches as Dev puts on his jacket and takes his leave. Having noted Rupa’s interest in him, he orders her to track the engineer down at his hotel and retrieve the necklace. He, Rupa and their musicians are invited to stay with the local zamindar Diwan Sahab, who lives with his mute servant Bhola and has a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy named Chandu. Chandu chastises him for smoking and announces the reason for the household’s obvious sadness: Diwan’s little girl has gone astray.

There are two other dancers there, whom the Professor hires to perform with Rupa: Lachhi (Cuckoo) and Chhaila (Balam). Chhaila is a fey sort of creature who spends most of his time running around saying “Wah-wah! Wah-wah!” and searching for his Lachho, who spends most of her time hiding from him.

Rupa in the meantime has gone to Dev’s hotel and found him…not expecting guests.

1950s Man Candy! Rupa manages after some shenanigans to retrieve the necklace, but when the Professor asks her for it later (after a couple of dances with Cuckoo) she discovers that she’s lost it. Frustrated, the Professor goes himself to see Dev, who tells him that he has locked the necklace up in a bank vault but will bring it to him the next day. When Rupa hears about this, she is upset and goes to see Dev herself. He tries to give her the necklace (it had fallen off in his car and he found it under the seat), but she refuses to take it and asks him to hang on to it; he agrees and no more is heard about the necklace for some time as we veer off into other directions.

Rupa also befriends the poor sad Diwan and we discover via Chandu the dummy that because of his drinking (the Diwan’s not Chandu’s), his wife left with their daughter Nanhi and they haven’t been seen since. Rupa and Dev’s romance revs up too, especially after they are caught in a rainstorm and shelter with a poor old man (Nazir Kashmiri) (! so happy) and she cooks up a big stack of roti for them.

She can dance AND cook! She is comely AND homely! (Hinglish joke.) I haven’t seen Rehana in much else, and she is really adorable. Her chemistry with Dev is superb too and they look sooo pretty together. I love their romance! Rupa sees a baby’s cradle in the old man’s house and picks up a little shoe lying inside it. The old man tells her that he had a little girl once, but is cryptic when Rupa asks what happened to her.

When Rupa shows the shoe to the Diwan later, he is ecstatic—it’s his Nanhi’s shoe (surprise!). Rupa sends him to the old man, who tells the Diwan that a woman brought the little girl to his house and gave her into his care before dying of grief over the way her husband had treated her. And due to his own poverty, the old man gave the child away to another man.

A man like…the Professor, maybe?

Meanwhile, Dev receives an urgent telegram calling him immediately to Bombay and he dashes to catch the next train. Rupa is devastated to a bizarre degree by this, and the Professor—disgruntled at not getting his necklace back—starts to make trouble. As the days pass and Rupa falls into a depression, refusing to sing and dance, he concocts telegrams to Lachhi from Dev in Bombay, asking her to come and see him, and makes sure that Rupa knows about it.

Then the police show up, nosing around for information about the stolen necklace—which is still in Dev’s possession.

Where is Dev, and what is keeping him in Bombay? Will he return for Rupa? Will Diwan Sahab’s daughter Nanhi be found? Will his dummy ever stop criticizing and yelling at him? And what about the necklace? Who does it belong to, and why did the Professor steal it?

Dilruba is a good watch, but would have been better had it stuck to the necklace-romance storyline. With all the other elements infused into it, the plot got a bit tangled and the end became very rushed in an effort to wrap up all the loose ends. Sometimes less is more! It’s really a treat to watch Rehana and Cuckoo dancing up a storm though:

and this guy singing “Ohhh limbo limbo!”:

And as I’ve said, I really enjoyed the chemistry between young and handsome Dev and pretty Rehana. I’d love to see more of them together! With Nazir Kashmiri too, of course.

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46 Comments to “Dilruba (1950)”

  1. I dont recall ever seeing a shirtless Dev before and your screen cap explains the mystery – some things are all the better for being covered up! ;-)

    This film will go down in my memory archives as a Nazir Kashmiri film. Yup, even with young and handsome Dev knocking around in it – thats the power of memsaab‘s manhunt. :-D

  2. Yep! I’ll always remember this film as the ‘unveiling of Nazir Kashmiri’.
    And this review as the *star* review.

    LOL at Bollyviewer’s comment about Devanand and his reasons for being unsalman like :-D

    The film itself seems to have a complicated plot which many old films normally did, to make one lose the thread of the storyline.
    I don’t know much about Rehana. Haven’t seen her in any film. Time to start watching her films.

    • Probably my hurried writeup makes it seem more complicated…mostly it just added in a bunch of dumb and unnecessary side plots which distracted too much from the main story. But it was lots of fun, not a bad film at all! Lots of dancing if you like that sort of thing :) I like Rehana a lot, she’s very sparkly—one of my favorite qualities in anything or anyone!

  3. Memsaab, I am so happy you watched this. You must now see Rehana in SAGAI! She is twice as adorable.

    My copy of DILRUBA froze about 2/3 of the way through, but thankfully I was able to rent a working copy from Netflix, so got to see the remainder and enjoyed it for all of the same reasons that you did. Dev Anand of the early 1950s is so cute, and so is Rehana.

    In particular I loved that Rupa was not being at all shy about thinking that Dev was a hunk when he first boards their train car. She was certainly no shrinking violet! Usually, only the vamps get to have any sexy thoughts about the men, and then of course they die.

    • She is my new chhoti bahen :) I have Sagai, I realized after I read your review that I had it. Need to watch soon!!!

      She wasn’t shy, it’s true…but he didn’t love her until she made dinner for him.

      • Hehhe.. dats quite a typical Indian guy! Way 2 an Indian guy’s heart is definitely thru his stomach!!!

        Btw.. nice review.. i wil make sure I c this one!

  4. I like Rehana – she’s a non-manic, pixie girl. I think even Beth would approve of her.:-) I second the recommendation for “Sagai” and add another one – Shehnai(1947). It’s lots of fun and the music made C. Ramchandra a household name.

  5. Yesterday i watched this film…i was nervous about this film because some films of 40s to 50s were all not good….i was thinking that if it would be boring film so what would i do….but i was excited too because of cute Cuckoo…..then when i watched the film i became soooooo happy….because i saw some really entertaining things…
    1.Shirtless Dev Anand and his hairy chest.
    2.A new and beautiful Rehana.
    3.A verry young Dev Anand.
    4.Nazir Kasmiri of course….(for that i should thank you because without you i would never know him…and then i told my mom my dad and my bro about him..they were amazed that how i knew him…so i could take some credi
    ts too for that).
    5.A new and some really fresh music of Butaram Sharma.
    6.A lots of Cuckoo Rehana dances.
    7.The cute chemistry between Rehana and Dev Anand.
    8.Of course a good story.
    I enjoyed it a lot….

  6. Rehana!
    The first time I’m seeing her here. According tot he encyclopedia of indian hindi films, she seems to have acted in lot sof films around the end of 40s and early 50s. What happened to her afterwrrds. And she seems to have been in many films wiht Raj and Dev.
    Dev does look handsome here and shirtless at that. Quite adorable!
    So you are warming up to Dev slowly?
    His third film on your blog, if I’m not mistaken!

    • She migrated to Pakistan in the mid-50s when her career in Bombay declined, but didn’t do that well there either. Got married twice, now lives in seclusion (see Richard’s link below, and he links to a great Upperstall page about her).

      I have always liked Dev! I saw many of his films from the 50s before I started writing this blog so haven’t written them up. I especially like the Dev from the late 40s/early 50s when he had fewer “mannerisms” and was more natural, but he made a lot of great films.

  7. Dev is the good looking clean cut guy. So how can he have that hairy a chest. Arrgh, my illusions are shattered. I’m dying to see Dev in movies like CID. But I have a whole lot of Dharmendra (who I have grown to absolutely adore) to see before I get to Dev.

  8. Thanks for writing this up! As I’ve already said, I also much enjoyed this film, especially for Rehana and her dances with Cuckoo. In fact, it turned me into a Rehana fan.

    I thought there were possibly some big holes in the ending, though I guess we can’t discuss that without spoiling here. Wrapped up quickly…yes.

    Memsaab, as you might know(?), I did a post on Rehana a little while back including clips from Shehnai (1947) up through a couple of her Pakistani numbers in the ’60s:


    But this is the only full Rehana film I’ve been able to see so far.

    This isn’t the youngest Dev Anand that I’ve seen… He was a year younger in Shair, which I saw right after this.

    • I somehow missed that Rehana post!!! I’m glad you linked it here, it’s great :) I haven’t seen her really before, mostly because films from the 40s are difficult to watch (poor quality, no subtitles most of the time). I’m always really happy to find one with subs! And really enjoyed this. Cuckoo was so pretty as well, and they danced beautifully together, very well-matched.

      I’ve seen a couple of late 40s films with Dev but not many. Love him in them though.

      • On October 5, 2010 in Indian Express newspaper, Lucknow

        The Allahabad High Court has directed Ekta Kapoor, producer of film “Once Upon A Time In Mumbai”, to show a disclaimer that the movie is not based on former Pakistani actress Rehana. The Lucknow bench of the court also directed Ekta Kapoor, creative director Shobha Kapoor and director Milan Lutharia to publish
        an order to this effect in five leading newspapers of the country and also foreign newspapers. The order was passed by a division bench comprising Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice V K Dixit on a petition filed by relatives of Pakistani actress Rehana, a role played by actor Kangna Ranaut in the film.
        Munna Khad and other relatives of Rehana, who resides in Pakistan, contended that the portrayal of the character of Rehana in the film undermines the reputation of the erstwhile actress. In the pursuance of court’s earlier order, the replies were filed on behalf of Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor and Lutharia through their counsel. In their reply, the three had said that the film does not seek to depict the life or character of any individual living or dead.

        BTW, Rehana belongs to Lucknow and not Mumbai as has been claimed.

    • Richard S., what a wonderful write up on Rehana…in fact it is so nice to see all this love for her! I do hope she knows she still has fans worldwide. Too bad more of her films are not available on DVD.

  9. Mmm. I’d see this for Dev Anand, if for nothing else – he looks so gorgeous in some of those screen caps (well, I’m not a fan of all that chest hair, but to each his own…)!

  10. And some interesting, and sad about our beloved Cuckoo…
    Cuckoo remained the top dancer of Hindi films till she was displaced by Helen and such dancer-actresses as Vyjayanthimala. Ironically, it was Cuckoo who had initiated a 13-year-old Helen into films as a chorus dancer.

    Cuckoo continued to dance until the beginning of the 1960s, the last few years as part of the chorus.
    Did you know?

    It has been recently confirmed that Cuckoo’s real name was Cuckoo Moray.

    Cuckoo died a slow lingering death, penniless and unattended.

    Her predecessors were many, including a dancer called Azurie, who it is said Cuckoo modeled herself on. But in terms of the sheer body of work and its impact, Cuckoo would have to be the first among Hindi cinema’s dancing queens. It was with her that “cabaret” became an almost indispensable part of films made between the 1950s and 1970s.

    Like so many other co stars for eg. -Bhagwan Dada whose full name was…. guess, can any 1 ?….Bhagwan Abaji Pandav. a master of 600 films spread over five decades. That what we call holding power, and in those days. I SALUTE THIS MAN. and Cuckoo ofcors.

    See if yu can get her images from Shabistan 1951…




    • Is Cuckoo part Gora?

    • The real name of Bhagwan dada was BHAGWAN ABAJI PALAV.
      Perhaps the longest film career was by JANAKIDAS( MEHRA)-1-6-1910 to 18-6-2003.He appeared in over 1000 films from 1930 to 1997,a cool 67 years.
      Jankidas,who did only side/minor roles in his life-due to his frail bodyframe,was a world champion in cycling and broke many world records during 1934 to 1942.he was the only Indian in the International Olympic Committee at Olympic Games in Berlin-1936,in presence of Adolf Hitler.(Even Shubha Khote was an all-India Cycling Champ before joining films.)
      Jankidas died at his Juhu-Mumbai Bungalow on 18-6-2003,a very happy and contented man.
      -Arunkumar Deshmukh

      • Thanks for the correction Deshmukh Saheb :), btw another g8 person who is coming very close to Jankidas bhaus record is the beloved Shammi. She is still around after 6 decades and I really do not know how many movies she acted in ! Her presence on the screen was/is good enough to attract us, the front benchers. Cheers

        • As per my info Shammi started her film career with MALHAR-1951 and her last film was UF,YEH MUHABBAT-1996,a total span of 45 years and over 250 films.
          Shammi ji has kept herself in limelight due to her enchanting appearances in TV serials.She was also in news for her 80th Birthday celebration in April 2009.
          I do not know of her any movie after 1996.
          -Arunkumar Deshmukh

          • If I am not mistaken we saw Shammi in Khap 2011 and Accident on Hill Road 2010, good to see her in cameo roles….let us hope we keep on seeing her wonderful presence in more phillums. Cheers

  11. Cuckoo in Shabistan 1951


  12. I remember the film most for its lovely songs (the absolutely divine Humne Khayi Hai Mohabbat Mein Jawani Ki Kasam at the top of those) by the renowned music director Gyan Dutt, Rehana’s acting, Dev and of course Cuckoo’s dancing. A really nice movie.

  13. Link to the divine duet by Geeta Dutt and the fabulous G.M. Durrani for all to enjoy. The chemistry between Rehana and Dev is also quite infectious.

  14. I’d just bookmarked this film to watch, Greta, and was looking to see if it was worth it. I decided to pop over and see if you had seen it – and of course, you had. :)) Thanks for the summary. Now I shall settle down to watch it. :)

    And I like Dev, hairy chest and all. Can’t stand the waxed, tweezed, buffed, shiny heroes of today.

  15. I found the background score of Dilruba to be absolutely divine. Several times I wished the characters would shut uo so that I could hear the music undisturbed, Too bad the background soundtrack was never released for Hindi movies just the songs.

    The Chhaliya character as played by Balam is so overtly gay, though he is romancing Cuckoo, Surprising to me for a movie made in conservative 1950 India.

    Finally, unlike many of the other posters, I was not charmed by Rehana. I kept wishing Geeta Bali was cast in her role instead. It was the perfect role for the vivacious Geeta.

  16. Achala Sachdev’s first release movie. who was baby in the film ?

  17. Dev Anand was not the debonair handsome hero we got to idolise later.
    Rehana is dainty but a poor match looks wise for Dev.
    Cuckoo as always was suberb. To think that she in poverty?
    All in all a quaint offering.

  18. wonderful movie,good photography,lilting music.
    Loved innocent Dev in his younger days, Rehana is believable.
    But why make Cuckoo act so dumb?
    This picture was released when I was 5 years old!!!!

  19. Saw the movie today, I was 5 years old when it was released.Liked your review.
    Dev and Rehana win our hearts.
    Music and songs lilting

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