Dulhan (1958)

Or, the Lamentations of a Bhartiya Naari

How much does being a model of Indian Womanhood suck? Dulhan counts the ways!

Thou shalt not read novels:

Lest thy mind become corrupted:

At mealtimes:

yea and also verily sons, sons-in-law, nephews, or any other person with a penis:

When thou snarest thyself a groom using thy virtues, thou shalt forgive him anything though he maketh thy life miserable and e’en misseth the birth of the firstborn son (as thou well knows, thou must not give birth first to a daughter).

Thou shalt tolerate all transgressions of thy husband, which includeth sins of which even the second-lowliest member of the household (behind thee) cannot approve:

When thy husband, in his despair at gambling away the family fortune, confideth in thee, thou must bow to his superior judgment rather than remonstrate with him.

If thou dost insist on argument, and he hitteth thee in anger, then it is surely no more than thou deserves.

When thy young sister-in-law, who loveth thee, ratteth on him to their father, then thou must diminish thy husband’s deeds and take the blame for his misbehavior.

If she followeth not your example, but insists upon the truth:

thou must placate thy father-in-law, and speak of honour, so that he sayeth of thee with goodly praise: “Wah! An Indian woman is great!”

And thou must teach thy young sister-in-law that it is better to keep the peace, though the tension simmering beneath the surface of thy household threatens to blow it to smithereens, so that thy home will come to resemble Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Neither must thou turn away thy husband’s former fiancee, characterless though she may be, when she seeketh refuge in thy house, having been driven from her own marital home for refusing to massage her mother-in-law’s head.

Though she enticeth thy faithful dog Tommy with liquor, and striketh him twice when he sensibly refuseth; and though she appeareth to be tempting thy husband, thou must bear it all.

If need be thou must cover these miscreants with heavy drapes torn from thy window, to hide them from thy father-in-law’s eyes and spare them his wrath. And yea a side benefit will be that thy father-in-law’s head may remain firmly in the sand; and that thy young sister-in-law may be further inculcated into the ways of Indian Womanhood.

In truth, she needeth these lessons for when she speaketh to her sahelis—who includeth Bela Bose!—yea, when she speaketh of marriage, she soundeth dangerously like a man.

When it comes to pass, as thou hast foreseen but done nothing to prevent, that thy household is ruined, she shall be sacrificed to the old man who hath led thy husband astray as vengeance for thy perfidy in rejecting him earlier:

But thou can hold to thy bosom the knowledge that thou hast selflessly taught her in turn to bear all; for the old man may mistreat her hideously but she shall never leave her home, no not even at the behest of her father, when he raiseth his head finally from the sand.

Thou only hast shown her the true path, though she be wedded to this spiteful and greedy creature:

and fall ill and die because of it.

And though she be dead at the tender age of fourteen or thereabouts, thou can take comfort knowing as thou dost that she was not denied that greatest prize of a woman’s life.

Though she may be forgotten immediately and never mentioned again, thou may rest assured that thine own steadfast loyalty and purity shall be rewarded when thy husband returneth to thy loving embrace, having learned his lessons mostly at everyone else’s expense, although I cannot screencap thy blissful reunion for mine own stomach churns.


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130 Comments to “Dulhan (1958)”

  1. Yup, ‘Kill me now’ is the perfect tag for this movie.

  2. Thy review warmeth the cockles of my heart, for, aloud I hear cries of “Thy quest for the holy grail of M7 (Most Miserable, Morbidly Maddening Movie Made by Mankind) is finally over! The cake has finally been taken.”

    What can I say, memsaab?

    Let me start with the positives.

    I am made extremely conscious of my inadequate vocabulary when I am limited to using the adjectives “brilliant”, “outstanding”, “amazing”, “mind-boggling” to describe your review. For it is way beyond all of these.

    This is certainly one of your best. If it takes repulsion of this magnitude to bring out writing of this magnificence from you, may you be forever repulsed, that we may be blessed with such reviews.

    This is really very very good. Enjoyed every word of it, every screencap.

    “No, Sadhana, he did not slap me. It was just a pat”.
    That is priceless!

    Reminds me of Elan(1947). The husband is a wastrel, gambles away all his money and treats his well-educated wife like dirt. When she finally summons the will (sometimes this is even more lacking than courage in women!) to attempt to dissuade him, he slaps her.

    So what does she do?
    She actually feels bad that he may have hurt his hand in the process!!!
    So she asks him “I hope you have not hurt your hand?”

    I wanted to hit my head against the wall!

    No wonder women used to get walked over.

    I know times are a-changing (and boy, am I glad they are!) but they are not changing soon enough for me. As long as there are still WOWs (walk-over women) out there indulging in SIM (self-inflicted misery), there will be men taking advantage of them.

    “Her forehead shines with her wedding dot.”


    • That’s what really got to me in this one, is that Nirupa did it all to herself (and poor Nanda, who was such a sweetheart and had such self-confidence before Nirupa entered the scene!). Everyone tried to help her, and if she had let them then disaster could have been averted but NO.

      Aaarggghhhh indeed.

      • I am in awe! Of you and Raja! And I echo, agree with, EVERYTHING he says. What I want to know is did this run? Was it a hit? Because then it is truly a throw-up and die kind of situation. Is ask because one of the worst films in my book ‘Doli’ with my beloved Kaka was a hit–the mind boggles.

        But your recap was truly delicious o Memsahib!

  3. Oh my word! i think i threw up a little.
    Poor Bela Bose- being a friend of a supporting actor in a saree :)
    I cant imagine u sat through the whole thing- didnt fast forward? even a little?

    • It’s the earliest Bela I’ve seen so far, and it was a brief shining sparkly moment (well I loved Nanda too, until she married Jeevan and became unbearably stupid).

      I did sit through the whole thing. It took more than one bottle of wine, but I made it.

      • wow- im v v impressed. wine/not, sitting through the entire thing sounds like an amazing effort!
        Re: Bela- I was talking to my mom/aunts, and looks like she was not a favorite of her generation- neither was laxmi chayya, by all counts. I wonder if this indicates that actors we don’t like now (for me folks like Booby Deol, Unit narayan’s kid, esha deol) will b huge favorites of the next generation of viewers. Its a scary thought :)

        • I don’t think they probably even noticed Bela or Laxmi, relegated as they always were to secondary roles. Even today in India it’s only the “big” stars who are talked about or noticed.

  4. Ironic that this movie was made in 1958, the same year as BR Chopra’s Sadhna.
    Since “Dulhan” probably reasonably well mirrors the mass mind-set at that time, one’s admiration for BR Chopra’s non-conformist thinking only gets enhanced.

  5. I guess the intention of the movie has been well served. I can see so much of angst in each of the reviews. Maybe this movie was meant to be an eye opener for so many conservative minds of 1958.

  6. ouch….., it hurts!
    How, how in god’s name can you sit thro such movies and even make screen-caps?
    No amount of liquor can make me sit thro this!
    the character of Nirupa roy is a fool, but she doesn’t stop at that but makes Nanda imitate the foolishness as well!

    • I was sucked in by the promise of such a young Raaj Kumar, Nirupa as a heroine, and such a young Nanda…and music by Ravi. Music was good, Nanda was good, rest was awful :) Normally though the title alone would be enough to make me run screaming.

  7. Excellent review! No doubt, Dulhan is an exercise in melancholia. We used to have social movies and family movies and tear jerkers in the Fifties alright. This one is neither!

    • It’s too stupid to be melancholic. Luckily I figured out early on that I would either be laughing or crying, so I filled up on wine and giggled my way through it. Although poor Nanda had a very grim time of it, which did make me see red.

  8. Wow! I am speechless, floored, awestruck, dumbfounded! I was in splits of laughter reading this priceless review. Of course, this was typical of movies of the 50s and the 60s, (and some families even in the 90s and the 00s, even though the bahus may have chosen to ignore them!). Did this movie have any good songs? Somehow I don’t remember this name, as it was a little before the days when I became infatuated with film songs, but I may have heard them in the programs of old songs.

    Keep up the good work!

    • I see you understand me perfectly :)

      My favorite song in the film is this one where Nanda sings about the kind of husband she dreams of (before she knows she is stuck with Jeevan). It’s really lovely (and Bela Bose is there in the background!):

      • Wow. Beautiful song. Only, it makes me cringe at the thought of what is about to follow. The makers of this movie were really, really cruel.

        • No matter how abysmal the film, one can almost always find a song to like. Poor Nanda though…she did meet a very grim fate :(

          • I have to agree. Despite all the sadism of this movie, if I get the chance, I’m willing to watch it just for Nanda.Maybe because I’ve seen her so many times playing characters much younger than herself, it is refreshing to see her when she was actually young (I’d seen Diya aur Toofan ages ago).

            By the way, do you happen to know a certain Nirupa Roy movie in which she is Balraj Sahani’s wife, and for a change she’s playing the BAD woman (in a good meaning, misguided, motherly sort of way)? A very young Jagdeep can be seen in it too, among the younger generation of actors in it. The said movie was playing on a local cable channel once, and though I only saw a few scenes, and my film instincts tell me the whole isn’t anything that great, I was intrigued by the shades of grey in Nirupa Roy’s character. She seems to have adopted her poor sister’s son and brought him up as her own, and her love for this son makes her selfish and motivates her to treat her unfortunate sister rather unfairly…

          • If I were you I’d stick just to the song. This is a truly dreadful movie. I don’t know that Nirupa Roy movie, but I’ll bet somebody here will!

  9. I hate such films. But I did sit through Grihasti because it was not this vile and it had a young and pretty Nanda and a really cute Shashi dressed in white kurta pajamas. Plus, in the end, all was well.

    • I am just amazed by them, mostly. It is really interesting to think about women participating so enthusiastically in their own oppression…the same idea applies to people of the lower classes supporting policies which further oppress THEM (“The chickens have voted for Colonel Sanders!”)…I just don’t understand it, and truthfully I am glad that I don’t.

  10. That you are SO EVIL AND VIRTUE-LESS that you had to DRINK while listening to these RESONANT, WONDERFUL LIFE LESSONS says it all :) To quote Bart Simpson (though I wish it were Reverend Lovejoy, given the thunderous Old Testament-y style of this piece (which I cannot wait to hear more of, by the way, though I do not wish upon you the red mist-inducing films that brought it on): “The ironing is delicious.”

    • LOL!!! Resonant, wonderful life lessons indeed :D And actually it would be a lot of fun to take one of these films and add in a Bart Simpson-like commentary track! If I only had the skillz…

  11. Great review ! And this review summarises what was bad about the depiction of the so called “Bhartiya Nari”. Treating women as lowly creatures throughout the movie- it must be truly miserable, and I feel even more miserable by thinking that such movies were indeed watched and its “lessons” emulated by people in their loves. In a way, movies like this must have delayed Indian women’s emancipation, not that most Indian women’s fate even today is much better.

    In a way, I think this movie “Dulhan” is in the same league as “Badi Behan” which was also reviewed by you. Both these movies show Indian women at that sacrificing “best”. Sacrificing for the sake of getting the badge of a martyr and making everyone’s life miserable by one’s sanctimonius preaching- simply horrible.

    As it is, I do not have the patience to watch even better movies, I have absolutely no patience to watch movies like this.

    I have watched the songs of this movie, and after reading this review, I am convinced that this movie did not desrve its songs. The songs are very good, and beased on the songs, I was expecting this movie to be a good movie. How wrong I was !

    • No, the songs are MUCH better than the film itself. I know you have posted the one I linked above on your blog :) It’s so fun, although so depressing too in light of what happens to poor Nanda in the end.

      One of the things I love about Baburao Patel is that as cruel as he could be at times, he also condemned films of this type at the time when they were made and he was influential, and bless him for that.

    • I think Bari Behen was different in the sense the ‘sacrifice’ was not for a man/husband but another woman.

      I can understand her situation. After all, if your younger sister is running fast towards a precipice there is nothing you can do but run after her and stop her.
      Its another matter that there is another choice open, of letting her run, while you look after your own affairs.

      • Did you see Bari Bahen? Because the younger sister in that film made a mistake in choosing the wrong man, but then wanted to acknowledge her mistake and live with the consequences of the choice she had made, but was forced by her sister’s “noble” sacrifice to lie, which made her even more miserable than she already was, and it all further made everybody else around them miserable too. The younger sister would have been happier (and said so) living a true and authentic life, mistakes and all, but was bludgeoned over the head by her older sister’s insistence on sacrificing everyone’s happiness for “her sake.”

        It was a very stupid film with a very stupid Bhartiya Naari in it. Nothing noble, nothing sensible, nothing that benefited anybody.

  12. Even by the regressive standards of 1958, this movie takes the cake.
    I just wonder how the women who portrayed the roles in these regressive moveis felt on essaying these characters.

    Some of the dialogues makes me hang my head in shame, to think that these were the kind of movies made once upon a time in the not so distant past.

    Please do include some more of these lumpen movies, to at least make people who walk over women understand the angst of the women being walked over and also understand the mindset of the progressive people who pan these kind of movies, and the motives of the regressive guys.

    I may be wrong though!

    • That’s a great point, Mohan—I have wondered at Nirupa’s seemingly endless patience with this type of role. Nutan too seemed perfectly happy to endure them. But perhaps they too bought into it; many women did, and that’s the true tragedy of it all.

      I really enjoyed writing this post—it practically wrote itself, all I had to do was provide screencaps which said everything themselves!—because I do feel compelled to just scream out loud at times about how very WRONG these “morals” were (and ARE). Of course the people who might benefit from thinking about such things from our point of view would likely never read this and actually *think* about it. True “thought” has no place in this sort of thing.

  13. This is such a fabulous review Memsaab! Amen for not recommending this one because I did spot it while I was in London, and was happy to see Raaj Kumar in anything! Crisis of pie inducement is averted now!

  14. Rightly said, the guys who are supposed to read these posts are probably not even savvy enough to do so. Yet it should be the duty, almost crusade of every reader of this blog to compulsively scream out at these lumpen elements and ensure that these kind of movies will never be made again. Not unlike the metamorphosis of the collective conscience of Germany after the second world war, which ensured that the fascists, – and there are quite a few of them even today – never came to power again.

    Movies reflect social trends and while we cannot change society overnight, we can at least make incremental changes, small evolutionary changes, by shunning and panning such movies, the makers of these movies and the men who portray these roles in real life.

    “True Thought” has to made heard, a collective conscience has to be wrought.

    I generally enjoy reading your posts but this one left me disturbed and angry. Let the turbulence gather enough momentum to make at least some meaningful change in our values.

    • It’s good to be angry and disturbed at such injustice!!! I get so angry when I read about abuse and oppression being defended as “cultural tradition”—I’m sorry, but a culture whose tradition suppresses and torments half the people belonging to it because of their gender (or any other defining characteristic not in their control) is not worth preserving.

      It takes a long time to open minds…and this film is 52 years old. But a lot of the so-called values that it espouses still exist :( so we just have to plug along!

      • What kind of messages could Nanda have gotten about marriage doing this film? Imagine what she was going through as a teenager making this film, watching domestic violence scenes, forced to do marriage scenes with Jeevan, and then doing death scenes. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Nanda decided not to get married in real life, although she came close to marrying director Manmohan Desai.

        • Probably not just this film alone, but many she was in would have driven that point home :D She must have been pretty young in this, though…she looked like a baby!

  15. I vomiteth in my mouth.

  16. After the depression of “Dulhan”, I had to go back to our good old cross dressing Tiwari, (Chingari – 71) and I must confess his outlandish night gowns did lift up my spirits for a while.

    Thank you Tiwari

  17. As depressing as this movie is, I can understand where Nirupa is coming from. It is the feeling of “honour” and “losing face” that promotes self-sacrifice rather than personal happiness. Also, a very real fear of survival from lacking financial freedom.

    I will go now and watch junglee again. I need some happiness.

    • Honor is pretty empty and useless if there’s no happiness behind it. And all she managed to promote by covering up his misdeeds was her husband losing all the family’s money and rendering her, their son and his father homeless (he himself went to live in Leela’s nice house) and his sister DEAD.

      • She wasn’t to know it would end this way.
        Hope was probably the only thing she had
        As for happiness, I guess she was looking more for survival.

        Strange are the ways of people with *only one* choice, unlike us with lots of them with our financial independence.

        • Even teenager Nanda and Tommy the dog knew that what was happening was not going to end well!! And Nirupa did too. She repeatedly asked her husband to change his ways (until he smacked her to shut her up). She knew, and she had choices, she just made all the wrong ones based on the horrible rules she thought she had to follow as a “good girl.”

          I’m sorry, but every single thing she did worked against not just HER survival but the survival of the whole family. There was no concern for survival or hope for happiness! In any case, I don’t believe any plot or scenario exists that could make the ridiculous expectations of women espoused in this film make any sense. It just doesn’t. Brainwashing women into treating their husbands as gods and shielding them from repercussions no matter what harm they do does not benefit a-n-y-b-o-d-y. Sacrificing the people you love (poor Nanda) to save your “honor” is just plain selfish and stupid. Even Nirupa refused to marry Jeevan, but she let Nanda do it with nary a peep. Selfish!!!!!

          Thank goodness there are plenty of men who realize that treating women as inferior beings doesn’t benefit them in any meaningful or joyful way (see comments above from some of them). This post was not a criticism of Nirupa’s choices only, but of the culture which she—and her choices—sprang from: dysfunctional, oppressive, misogynistic and just.plain.WRONG.

          Sorry for the rant, but it is indefensible, and this movie’s plot is indefensible. PERIOD.

          • Oh, no. I wasn’t discussing the plot of the film at all.
            I was generally reflecting about the situation of women then (by taking the character from the film as an example. Sorry if I tread on your toes with these musings.

          • This film—and others like it—do not depict that reality and don’t want to. The movie presents this ideal of the way women are supposed to behave in a context that’s very different, and it’s just brainwashing, pure and simple. The purpose of these films is only to further regressive attitudes, not to point out inequities or injustice. That is what enrages me about them.

          • I totally agree with your rage Memsaab! Growing up with 5 aunts and numerous cousins brain-washed to behave this way, I was all rage (and labelled weird) for a long time. I wanted smack some sense into their heads.

            But you know, now I feel too old and too tired to feel rage, especially at older generation. I am happy that things are different for younger generation (although not immensely better) AND I am old enough to smack some younger males in the family :)

            As a side, I have no problem upholding ‘cultural’ values as long as those are followed by both genders of the society. It is the double standard that women have to follow a 200(0?)-yr-old custom but men can be all in 21st century.

          • I hope it’s obvious from this blog and my love for Hindi cinema that I celebrate cultural differences too. But I will never condone anything from any culture—including my own, which is not blameless by any means either—that seeks to elevate some people above others on stupid criteria like genitals :)

          • Violet I was all rage too but in India there was only space for the angry young man. So I packed up and left. I’ve done a lot of fighting here there everywhere. Now I’m tired and have developed that sense of humor we were all told to have about thiese things. Good memsaab and others are still fighting the good fight Actually, all this is a big big reason I haven’t been watching Bolly all these years.

  18. Of course it will suck coz it is a 1958 movie! I wonder who recommended this movie to you memsaab?

    • Nobody recommended it; I wanted to see it for young Raaj Kumar, Nanda, and Nirupa Roy as “heroine”…and not all 1958 movies sucked!!! One of my favorite films of any era is Sadhna, starring Sunil Dutt and Vijayanthimala—it was wonderful. This may have been more “representative” of the mainstream mindset at the time, but often art is way ahead of the mainstream—so you can never tell.

      This did not work out well, but I would never write off all 1958 movies based on this one, any more than I would commend all 1958 movies based on the good ones from that year :0

      • okay. keep me posted about the good ones from 1958! I have already made a note of Sadhna from your post on that movie. While I too would love to see a young and handsome Raj Kumar and a young and beautiful Nanda and Nirupa Roy – after reading your very well written review, I will give this movie a miss. Who knows my wish my still be fulfilled through another movie from your posts.

        • @Filmbuff – Some good movies of 1958 are Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Howrah Bridge and Madhumati. I don’t usually go for movies around this period is because my favourite – Dharmendra – was yet to make his debut and I didn’t find it appealing enough.

          However, the above movies are good since I happened to see them while they were telecast in Doordarshan ( possibly in my last birth :-) ) and I had absolutely no control of them whatsoever.

        • Filmbuff if you wish to watch a young and handsome Raj Kumar you should watch Nausherwan-e-adil 1957.

          Very good songs.

          • And no, there weren’t be any bharatiya naris in it because it is set in Iran long ago before Islam. :-)

          • I need to see that one…it does have lovely music. I think I even have it, just haven’t watched it yet.

          • It’s a Sohrab Modi film. :-)

          • That can be a decidedly mixed blessing at that period in time :D But worth a try, most definitely!

          • Sorry for the late response – was away on a 2 day

            Thanks for the recos here. Sashi, I have seen Madhumati and Chalti ka naam Gadi” – really enjoyed them. I thought they were much later and not in 1958! I will look for Howrah Bridge

            Pacifist, thanks once again. I prefer a DVD and am not much of a ytube person. WIll I be able to get a DVD of this in India on my next visit?

    • Here is a brief list of Hindi movies from 1958

      12 O’clock, Adalat, Aji Bas Shukriya,Aakhri Daao,Amardeep,Chalti ka naam gaadi,Detective,Dilli Ka Thug,Kaala Paani,Khote Paise,P.B no. 999,Madhumati,Mr Qartoon,Mujrim,Navrang,Samrat Chandragupta, Saadhna, Saweraa,Sitaaron se aage,Solva Saal,Parvarish, Phagun,Phir Subah Hogi,Raagini,Yahudi.

      Out of these I am sure Aakhri Daao,Chalti Ka naam Gaadi, Solva Saal, Ragini,Dill Ka Thug,12 O clock, Madhumati are definitely paisa wasool movies.

  19. Just to echo what everyone else must have told you a thousand times. You write amazingly well. My wife and I watched 3 idiots for the second time today (this time on DVD) and she showed me your name in the credits, mentioning that she has been an avid reader of your blog for quite some time. I read your post on 3 idiots, nodding in agreement with every line. I have now added your blog to my RSS feeds, and shall try to catch up on a regular basis. Thanks for a great read!

  20. Now I know why I have always instinctively HATED nirupa rai. Something in her blinding-herself-on-sewing-machine self sacrifice inspires a white hot rage inside me. The dimpled Durga khote, Dina pathak & so forth I have loved but rai … Grrrr…
    There is something to be said for the financial independence theory being aired here. It’s a vicious circle. You haven’t been given the skills / courage to fend for yourself and then brainwashed into thinking it’s a desirable state and then you indoctrinate more people.

  21. Did I see someone wondering how rai felt about her roles and if they had an effect on her.

    I rest my case.
    Disclaimer: don’t know how the case was settled so la rai may be as pure as the proverbial driven snow :)

    • Ram Ram Ram!!!! I will never be able to enjoy Nirupa in anything again :( And I am falling off my chair laughing at the sewing-machine-blinding comment :D (And am totally with you on Durga and Dina!)

      I agree with Pacifist completely about women’s oppression being a vicious circle that encourages their own participation in it. And a film which depicted that would be AWESOME. But these films exist purely to celebrate and encourage that repression, not to change it.

      I think that it’s a sign of how brainwashed the men (and women) who make these films are that they can’t even see how the “ideal behavior” in their stories is completely pointless, and doesn’t benefit anybody, not even the men! It’s mindless, totally MINDLESS. Ugh.

  22. Much of review and comments seem to feed off liberation ideology and caricatures. Ideology that seeks to see cultures and civilizations and their institutions thru bi-polar prism of victims and victimzers, oppressors and oppressed can become highly simplistic, ignorant, self-serving, elitist, political, ineffective and ultimately irrelevant from the masses and ground realities that dances to different tunes.

    Memsaab, I usually lurk in your blog as I like your reviews(most of them) and share your fondness for 70’s golden era of Bolliwood, but I have to disagree when your opinions/reviews meander into realm of ideology, politics, and provide commentary on traditional Indian ethos and culture. You are, of course, entitled to your opinions, and so also are those choosing to uphold and cherish their way of life without confirming to paradigms of liberation ideologies.

    • You can of course disagree (although I have no idea what you mean by “liberation ideologies” as if the freedom to live one’s life in happiness is a bad thing—assuming you do not achieve that freedom on the broken backs of others), but I cannot embrace any culture or ethos which demeans and seeks to keep down an entire section of the population based on characteristics they cannot control or which should not matter, like gender. I don’t believe that it’s defensible. People who come here and offer differing opinions are welcome to (as long as it’s polite) but I don’t think that any reasonable, compassionate, intelligent person can condone any ideology which hurts and oppresses people—and if that seems simplistic to you then possibly you are overcomplicating things or seeking excuses. You can hide behind all the rhetoric and academic phrasing that you want, but you aren’t fooling me.

      I also know that the discussion that has taken place here is not between people who fundamentally disagree, but people who are looking at my review from different viewpoints. Which is entirely fine, and I hope that I have clarified my position for them on why I abhor this film and its ilk. To be frank, if you think that the rules put forth in this film for women to live (and die) by are worth “cherishing” then you probably really don’t belong here.

      • To answers your question – Socialism, communism, liberalism, feminism etc are good examples of liberation ideologies that specialize in viewing the world strictly thru the bipolar prisms of victims and victimizers, oppressed and oppressors. They engineer their own self-fulfilling prophesies to empower their own ideologies to acquire absolute powers over Statism and expand their Statism worldwide. Their politics of redress, equality, empowerment and ‘progress’ are nothing but crusades for dis-empowering all other power centers, spheres, institutions and roles and centralizing them in Statism while throwing few crumbs of power at few of their votaries. There is no other expansionist, colonizing, enslaving and oppressive force than this. Its amazing that its votaries view such ideologies as liberators. In India, it does not fool very many, though most of urban elites and so-called educated class easily falls prey to its rhetorical appeal. It seems to dominate political discourse and pop culture in India. But in India, appearances can be deceiving, and more things change, more they remain the same. They merely add fewone more layer to an already highly layered society.

      • To answers your question – Socialism, communism, liberalism, feminism etc are good examples of liberation ideologies that specialize in viewing the world strictly thru the bipolar prisms of victims and victimizers, oppressed and oppressors. They engineer their own self-fulfilling prophesies to empower their own ideologies to acquire absolute powers over Statism and expand their Statism worldwide. Their politics of redress, equality, empowerment and ‘progress’ are nothing but crusades for dis-empowering all other power centers, spheres, institutions and roles and centralizing them in Statism while throwing few crumbs of power at few of their votaries. There is no other expansionist, colonizing, enslaving and oppressive force than this. Its amazing that its votaries view such ideologies as liberators. In India, it does not fool very many, though most of urban elites and so-called educated class easily falls prey to its rhetorical appeal. It seems to dominate political discourse and pop culture in India. But in India, appearances can be deceiving, and more things change, more they remain the same. They may merely add few more layers to an already highly layered society or get swept away when pendulum swings back in other direction.

        Memsaab Said: “don’t think that any reasonable, compassionate, intelligent person can condone any ideology which hurts and oppresses people”.
        “I cannot embrace any culture or ethos which demeans and seeks to keep down an entire section of the population”

        KP:I can say the same about opinions stemming from liberation ideologies that are expressed in this thread. You characterize traditional Indian culture, its traditional way of life, notions of traditional ‘Bharatiya Naari’ as hurtful, oppressive, imposed and not chosen out of freewill or love, and not leading to happiness. Don’t you think they are generalizations and self-serving stereotypes? I hope they are not insufferable colonial hangovers and white man’s burden of civilizing the savages and liberating them from themselves. Keep up the good work.

        • Thank you for clarifying your stand.

          Stupid equality and empowerment!

          I guess I don’t need to say anything further.

        • Ah yes of course. Use that rotten old chestnut of “you are white and therefore to blame for every shitty problem that has happened on earth” when you can’t argue your way out of the morass of incomprehensible jargon that you put out.

          Honestly Greta, it’s your blog and all but can’t you do something about trolls like these? Is this guy–I refuse to believe a gal could be this self-defeating–trying to JUSTIFY this film as ‘ye olde Indian tradition’? Yikes!

          • Well I could delete it (hopefully him although I think we have determined here that it *could still* be a girl) but I think it’s proof that there is still a lot of dark ages thinking out there. And also, I am kind of having fun watching it dig its way deeper into its hole.


          • KP, through all these “isms” that you have thrown up here, are you seriously suggesting that a movie that glorifies women as having to suffer, just for being women, has merit?

            Memsaab’s reference here about “bharatiya naari” was to that one specific point. That this movie seems to promote the mindset that “it is the lot of a bharatiya naari to suffer in life”.

            Do you agree with this thinking? That if you are born in India as a woman, it is your “fate” and you should suffer.

            Just curious to know. A “yes/no” answer will do. No need for “isms”.

            And this “white person” comment does hurt me, both as an Indian and as a regular visitor to this blog.

            But then, this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Indians have sought to use the “white man” card.
            Easy straw to clutch.

          • >I think we have determined here that it *could still* be a girl)

            Do you mean me? …since it would seem I’m the only one (other) not on board with you.
            I am, but differently. :-)

            Something that I’ve always been keenly aware of in all its different forms…in India, *and* in the ‘west’ cannot suddenly make me get all angry and passionate.
            My understanding of it is different from yours, and thus my reaction.
            I aim to never throw the baby away with the dirty bath water.

            Above all, I’m no feminist. Never was.
            I’m a diehard humanist. Always was.
            I firmly believe the latter’s the only way to achieve equality and spreading around the empowerment.

          • Maybe a little, but mostly I meant that there is ample evidence in many comments that women still very much buy into their own oppression today.

            I’m proud to be a feminist. I don’t think you can be a “humanist” without it :)

          • >I’m proud to be a feminist.
            I’m happy for you :-)

            >I don’t think you can be a “humanist” without it

            Of course it includes ‘women’ along with the other species of humans…as well as babies.

            >that women still very much buy into their own oppression today.

            Such comments always remind me of Emma’s comment in the novel ‘Emma’.
            “One half of the world cannot understand [the pleasures of] the other.”
            I don’t think anyone is buying into any oppressions.

  23. ‘Honour’ and ‘sacrifice’ have done more harm to this culture than anything else I can think of. And films are so powerful in reiterating these messages. Girls grow up with these notions, even now. My switch-off point came at ‘girls should not read novels’. I’ve had that dinned into my head by my grandmother when I was a kid, and how I hated it. And thought it utter nonsense.

    • It is utter nonsense. I shudder to think how empty life would be without books—novels, biographies, the whole spectrum! And I know regressive and oppressive messages are still put out there, everywhere, in varying degrees of subtlety, which is why I feel the need to express my outrage at this film even though it is 60+ years old.

      Notions of “honor” and “sacrifice” are generally ideals imposed on OTHERS by those who have no intentions of burdening their own selves with them. Those who are imposed upon will naturally sometimes accept those ideals as meaningful in order to be able to live with them—and will in turn perpetrate them—but that doesn’t make it right.

    • For centuries, men (being the physically stronger gender) have dictated behaviour, whether at home or in society. The role of women has largely been confined to the home, to the kitchen and bringing up children whereas the man was supposed to be the “bread-earner”.

      With these roles defined as such, a natural requirement was that each had to build skills to be able to fulfil that role. Hence a girl did not need to read but she did need to know how to cook. The opposite was true for the man. Gradually, regardless of a person’s innate interest or ability, this became the behavioural norm.

      I believe this to be the mindset all over the world, not only in India. The difference is that western society evolved earlier than India. It began getting more gender-neutral in its thinking and now (to a large extent but still not entirely), opportunities for lifestyle are not necessarily dictated by gender.

      India is getting there, some parts quicker than others. Key to this is women’s education. It allows them to think for themselves, gives them self-respect, an opportunity to be financially independent. Most importantly, it may make them feel the equal of man (which some women will argue is “compromised thinking” anyway ;-) ).

      Right now, a huge number of women in India still consider themselves subservient to men. That is the social order. One common thing you may hear even now is “aurat ko mard ke do kadam peechhey hi chalna chaahiye” (The woman should walk two steps behind her husband).

      This is all symbolic but it does signify disparity in treatment. Double standards are all over the place. A man may get away with an extra-marital affair, for a woman it is the “ultimate dishonour”.

      Times are a-changing. As each generation of women gets more educated, it will hopefully gain self-respect and not feel inferior to the menfolk around it. And pass this on to the next generation.

      One of the biggest obstacles is not just the home but the outside environment. This faceless entity that we call “society”. It has succeeded in carving out niches for man and woman, in laying down expectations of behaviour and in passing judgment on all and sundry. It requires a fair amount of courage to defy society and not many can take it on. As a result, compliance, however self-demeaning, becomes the “practical” route.

      Movies like Dulhan have been made by people who genuinely believe that this is the way society should be. They are the status quo people and happy to propagate this.

      BR Chopra in Sadhna was breaking that status quo, way back in 1958. For his time, he was progressive.

      Today, 52 years later, we pass judgment on Dulhan – condemning it as regressive, as promoting all those “values” that are red-flag items for us. At that time, this was just normal behaviour. I don’t know how it did at the box-office but it was probably not trashed. At least not for propagating these values.

      While this movie is a big “no-no” for me, you know what would shock me even more?

      If a movie with this type of thinking, gender-inequality et al, “women should not read”, is made today – and becomes a hit – I will hang my head in shame! I don’t expect a movie to be made – and if it is, I don’t expect the public to support it – but if this does happen, that will be a sad reflection of today’s society.

      I don’t see and don’t know many new movies, so if there is any such movie out there (maybe in the last decade), somebody can enlighten me. Thanks.

      Whew! Another long comment! Sorry, memsaab! :-)

      • I don’t know if it counts as last DECADE, but DDLJ really annoys the bejesus out of me too.

        • As an example of Dulhan-like shit being foisted on us now, I present to you the newly minted ‘Paa’ (2009) with its 21st century exhortations from the house of Bachchan to “have a child to take care of your gynacological problems”, “no need to adopt” in a country with kids dying by the minute, “thank God I wasn’t wearing a condom”, in a country bursting at the seams in all ways imaginable, and such like.

          It is quite possible that I’ve let slip the dogs of war though Memsaab :-)

          • No no, that is an excellent example of how *not* far we’ve come, although I have not yet had the pleasure of viewing “Paa” despite your attempts to fob your copy of it off on me :D

            It was a pretty big critical hit wasn’t it? I seem to remember it winning awards etc. Although I also remember that my fellow bloggers who reviewed it were not too enamored of those regressive messages either.

          • Care to explain further Suhan? I didn’t understand a thing (my fault). :-)

            -“have a child to take care of your gynacological problems”,
            – “no need to adopt” in a country with kids dying by the minute,
            -“thank God I wasn’t wearing a condom”,

            Perhaps I was too dumb to catch these, but honestly I didn’t. The only strange thing was a tall AB sr. The rest seemed simple enough. 2 people in love, woman gets pregnant, won’t abort, has a child who gets diagnosed with a disease, she faces it bravely (all alone) etc etc.

          • Thanks, Suhan. I have not seen “Paa”. Maybe based on your mini-review here I should. :-)

            But this is what I mean. In 1958, society may have been Dulhan. In 2009, we would hope that we have left behind Dulhan.

            Apparently not!

            I tend to think there is still a very strong segment, even among the richest bracket in India, that is steeped in conservatism and celebrates elements of Dulhan.

            I steer clear (actually run miles away) from Indian saas-bahu soaps but the fact that they are made and are so popular amongst the masses says a lot.
            Most of them, in the name of trying to uphold “traditional Indian values”, seem to keep women locked well within their stereotypical roles in society.

            They do seem to be totally decked, head to toe, in Tanishq jewellery though. ;-)

            I may be out of my depth here and may even be out of line, so anybody who disagrees with me is free to put up a counter-view.

      • Raja – LoL at “head to toe Tanishq jewellry”! Totally agree. What a contradiction. As if the average Indian woman ever dresses like that esp when she is at home. I think the TV soaps are only trying to imitate the glamour quotient of bolly movies in keeping the grandmas/tradl sas -bahus hooked to them! I openly display my aversion to these saas bahu serials on various channels when i visit India. The typical reaction of the female audience “hooked on” these programs is to glare at me leaving unsaid “here goes the NRI person again”! chuckling coz i don’t watch any TV soaps here either!

  24. Needless to say, I agree with all your points. However, the one question I have is — “What wine did you drink with this movie ?”; or “What wine would you recommend drinking with movie ?”. My guess would be “Two Buck Chuck”. Unless of course, you like “Two Buck Chuck”; and if that is the case, I apologize in advance.

    • Ha ha, I confess that I don’t really dislike Two Buck Chuck (as with fillums, my requirements are fairly lowbrow and easy to fulfil—I am cheap and easy!), but I had a *good* bottle (and a half) of red zinfandel which was lucky because at least there was only one reason for the bad taste in my mouth and I could alleviate it a little with every sip :D

      If I drank whiskey, I might have been tempted to consume an entire bottle of VAT 69 but alas, I cannot tolerate it.

      I would recommend dispensing with the film altogether and just enjoying the wine, unadulterated :)

  25. Despite my gianormous love of Abhishek and general appreciation of Vidya, there is no way in aych ee double hockey sticks I would watch paa. It sounds DIRE. Stay strong, Memsaab!

  26. Here is Amrita’s review of Paa, which I think she mostly liked—except when she is in agreement on the points which Suhan mentions above.


  27. @ Pacifist – Amrita’s review linked by Memsaab above says it nicely. When that bit with the DINK couple happened, I was at young Rum’s state of throwing pie at the screen! The thing is it began really well. They said (a) they didn’t want to have children (I cheered, I don’t either); (b) they would adopt when they were ready to be parents (I cheered though I am not interested in parenting anyone else but my dogs but this was the first time I had seen someone talk of not procreating but adopting in Hindi film—I don’t watch too many new films so sorry if others have espoused this too). And then KA-POW, the self-righteous Vidya B, a gynacologist no less, tells them, you know this is your body saying you NEED to make a baby, this is how you’ll heal your body! So in one fell swoop, they demolish two lovely ideas – you don’t need to populate the world in your own image, and if you must be a parent, you can adopt.

    Second major pie throw-inducing moment, when Abhishek proclaims on national TV that he was so glad he hadn’t worn a condom because that enabled Auro to come into being. I’m all for love, repentance, penance, absolution, what-have-you—are you telling me, however, that that message couldn’t come through without that declaration? Folks like the ABs know better than anyone else the power of cinema in India amongst the masses. They could’ve got the points they wanted across without those particular messages.

    • True Suhan, these were truly yuck moments, and pretty jaw-dropping unbelievable! Film makers don’t realize the damage they do, they underestimate the power of films.

    • Oh, OK. :-)
      Here’s my POV. (I had to watch the film again to refresh my memory).

      First point: (What’s DINK?)
      Vidya utters this cure/advice **after** physically examining the woman’s body who had come to her with some problem (ailment).
      Vidya tells *her* that having a baby would cure *her*.
      It is *this* woman’s body which needs this cure.
      I’m no doctor and hope that they got their facts right. (I must say I ‘have’ heard of such things).
      Perhaps the problem can be cured(suppresed rather), with medicine, but Vidya wanted to suggest a natural cure, I guess.

      I didn’t get the impression that Vidya was speaking in general for *all* women that they would develop a problem if they didn’t have a baby.

      She was also so matter of fact when saying this, rather than getting emotional or manipulative.

      I see no problem here :-)

      The message I got from Abhishek’s statement was a different one.
      To me he seemed to say that he loved his handicapped/diseased child, and was proud, not at all ashamed, self concious and therefore had no regrets.
      A message to love your child inspite of his/her not being as you would have liked them to be.

      This is how I saw things. :-)

      • DINK=Double Income No Kids

        There is no legitimate medical professional on earth who would say that having a baby will cure any gynecological problem!!!! ARGGGHHHHH! Having babies is HARD on a woman’s body! It can KILL them! You have probably heard it before in other movies.

        And as Suhan said, there were much less damaging ways to have Abhishek get across the message that he loves his child than to encourage not using a condom! Overpopulation and AIDS by themselves should preclude that kind of message!

        *Bangs head on desk*

        • Hahaha re.DINK. :-)

          I don’t know. Are people/Indians so stupid as to follow a film so blindly? re; condoms.
          I have a higher opinion :-/.
          I don’t imagine a scenario where they are all throwing away their condoms, and the sale has gone down drastically, and the industry shutting down. :-)

          As I said there are still a lot of untangled and knotted stuff around. Hopefully one day they are removed. And yes, India lives in its villages where men are no better off. Farmer suicides?

          • I go with Pacifist’s interpretation of the scene
            where Vidya Balan advises a patient in Paa. I also overlooked the AB bit about contraception.

            While I agree with the points made by Suhan,
            I still reckon that Paa is worth a “dekho” and
            memsaab and Beth should not be put off coz
            overall the movie did have something worth
            watching – this is my 2 cents on this discussion on Paa!

  28. In response to Raja’s comment above. (the first one)

    Yes, your reasons are well explained.
    I also feel that the older a culture is the longer it takes to change because over thousands of years the values established earlier got twisted during the next stage of change along with newer values wich went through a similar course as the first….and finally over years and years developed a well tangled and knotted up situation which takes time to get untangled and unknotted.

    For example very early in time a *symbiotic situation* might have been established with the roles of man woman defined. Man is ‘god’ and the woman is a ‘devi’ (godess) etc It might have worked well then but with changing society got twisted with the weak being exploited.

    Even so ‘Dulhan’ doesn’t really represent ‘a culture’ as such, but a section. Because at the same time there were films being made where a woman (think Lalita Pawar, Leela Misra, Manorama) were hardly pativratas or thought of their husbands as Gods.

    IMO people flocked to see films then especially if they were family dramas. Whether it affected them is debatable.
    Main reason being that, as far as I gathered, Raj Kumar is rich with a family fortune. Not many had that.
    Most men were struggling to make both ends meet considering that rich men were far inbetween. Its another matter that the hindi films liked showing a rich hero quite a lot. That didn’t mean India had a surplus of rich people squandering their wealth away.

    Most of India, even today, lives in its villages. More so then. I always think of a Balraj Sahni, struggling to pull a rickshaw to earn money, or a Raj Kumar (yes, he ;-) struggling too, and dying at the end, of hunger.

    Dulhan (and other such films) represent the mind of the makers of the film, and some others in society, but I wouldn’t think of it as showing a society where a man does this and the woman that, because to balance out we have other different films.

    • Society and culture are of course much more complex than any one film can be. But there are a LOT of these films floating around out there, and the fact is that the people who watch them then continue perpetrating these ideas.

      And women are still struggling against this suppression that seriously doesn’t benefit anybody—not even the men who rule their lives. But at least some men are capable of learning that too.

  29. Is “dulhan” as “smoke” as in Arabic “dulkhan”?

  30. “Dulhan”=Bride in Hindi

  31. hi memsaab.

    as usual, another great review.

    these kind of views are still going around 60 years later. there is a serial going on in sahara one channel which endorses similar things. the woman is insulted, put down by the man in all ways possible, beaten up, and finally he gets drunk and rapes her, but still she is in love with him and prays and fasts for his long life. people will act in any role for money. and the girl who is doing the role, good looking, educated and modern girl, still endorsing such views. god only knows when this is going to change.

    i agree with what raja says “If it takes repulsion of this magnitude to bring out writing of this magnificence from you, may you be forever repulsed, that we may be blessed with such reviews”.

    clap clap. u are at ur best here.

    • Wouldn’t it be too too fabulous if Fearless Nadia showed up with her whip and taught that guy a lesson he’ll never forget!!!!

      *Make it happen, Universe!*

      Thanks Sangeetha, I appreciate your support :)

  32. hahaahahahahahaha

    i’ve nothing more to say :P

  33. @Filmbuff
    I know what you mean. I too don’t really enjoy watching films on ytube, but..’marta kya na karta’ :-D
    (drowning person clutching at straws).

    It’s so difficult, especially after I faced problems with paypal payments at Induna which incidentally they have abolished :-(

    So I gave in and am gradually getting used to watching on ytube.
    I don’t know whether you’ll get it in India.
    You could try downloading and burning a dvd. I am not always successful, but ash has given some instruction (Tarun Bose part5).
    I too will be leaving for India in about 3 weeks and hope to come back with a suitcase full (whatever I get). :-)

  34. How much do I love ‘The Vigil Idiot’? :-)

    Mr. Karan Johar who never fails to deliver on ‘Indian family values’ and gave us such stalwarts as the Ma of ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ in Mrs. Jaya Bachchan, has just come up with ‘We are Family’. Please to see depiction of said values by the fabulous Sahil Rizwan of ‘The Vigil Idiot’!


    Dear Memsaab. While we have the likes of Mr. Johar running the show, we shall NEVER be bereft of the likes of ‘Dulhan’ :-(

    • I absolutely love “The Vigil Idiot”.
      I read that one a few days ago and could not help thinking exactly what you’ve said here.
      Looks like we have a long way to go still in Bollywood.

    • I love the Vigil Idiot too (he’s in my sidebar :)…that was hilarious.

      Ironic too that a man who is likely gay makes these “traditional Indian values” fillums. Oh the complexity of human emotion! I guess he gives the people what they want!

  35. Indian saas-bahu serials are still promoting the same even today… God Bless !

  36. You are hilarious. This post was nonstop laughter for me.

  37. What a rant! After reading your other rant about Moore’s Endhiran review, this review doesn’t help much to differentiate you two. Actually it is the trait of us all, we defend what we like and bash what we do not. I bet ya there were women in Indian households who would have empathized with this woman’s character, who would have found some hope of a delayed morning in their lives after watching this movie. See I just defended this movie without even having seen it. So do not make such an issue when someone bashes a movie you like. I found Endhiran stupid, and you found time to defend it with a lengthy article just because you think you have more grasp on Indian films than your other American counterpart. Get a life and leave the blogosphere in peace. Bon Journée.

    • You missed the point entirely, probably because you are reading with your own preconceptions and prejudices. I have not seen Endhiran (which you would know if you’d actually read my post), and was not defending the film. I was defending Hindi cinema as NOT being a one-size-fits-all thing. I have a perfect right to NOT like this particular film that I HAVE seen, for all the reasons I listed. You don’t have to come here if you don’t like what I have to say; in fact, I would prefer that you not if you can’t find anything thoughtful and intelligent to say.

    • Mr Suri, I hope you have more grasp on Hindi movies than Memsaab. If so, then good for you.

  38. Mr.Suri, I’m afraid I feel compelled to intervene here as I find your comments extremely offensive. Especially your last line “get a life and leave the blogosphere in peace”. WTF!!!

    If you do not like memsaab’s writing, that’s just fine. But that does NOT give you the right to go about making such rude comments.

    Most long-time readers of memsaab’s blog, including myself, will vouch for the fact that when she reviews a movie, she says it just as she sees it, without trying to toe any popular line or pretend to be “seeing it through Indian eyes”.

    If you’d just bothered to spend a little more time on her blog, you’d realise that memsaab’s endeared herself to many Bollywood lovers around the world (both Indian and non-Indian) for her passion for old and often-forgotten Bollywood cinema. She’s brought to light little-known characters from yesteryear, she’s played, in her own way, a role in reviving interest in old Bollywood that even today’s Bollywood industry, obsessed with itself, couldn’t seem to care less about.

    And you come here telling her to “get a life and leave the blogosphere in peace”?

    This is HER blog and she is FULLY entitled to express her views here. If you don’t agree with her views, fair enough! But you’ve NO business using such language on somebody’s blog – it is atrocious!

    I would have requested you to tender an unconditional apology to memsaab for your comment but I guess I won’t bother.

  39. What a stupid stroyline and what stupid reactions here by few people. What the dog understood in movie cannot be understood by people?? I am flummoxed :( :(

    Memsaab and everybody else on this side of the matter, no need to waste your energy on them. And memsaab you already said that …..

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