Monday, 18 August 2008

Bargain Bin Beauties III: Bahar (1951)

Apparently, this was Vyjayanthimala's Hindi movie debut and it has been claimed that the the movie was mainly designed to showcase her dancing ability. So, I was expecting a movie with a lot of dancing and not much plot. However, to my rather pleasant surprise I was wrong.

Bahar tells the story of two sets of lovers whose fates are intertwined. The movie starts of with a girl and a young man leaving work in their respective cars and quite literally bumping into each other at a cross-road. She takes a violent dislike to him, and he isn't to impressed with her either, so we know they are meant for each other.

Photobucket

Photobucket

She is very cute when she is angry:
Photobucket

The girl is Lata (Yyjayanthimala), the daughter of a college professor (Om Prakash) and the object of desire of her step-mothers nephew Shekar (Pran).

She is is heart's queen:
Photobucket


She was on her way to a function where she is to perform an elaborate dance, which takes us around the world:

Photobucket

Photobucket

She also has a crush on an author publishing stories in Bahar-magazine, and while she claims that she only admires his writing, neither me nor her friends are buying it.

Shekar, meanwhile, has had to travel to his village as his grandfather demands his presence. He isn't too keen on the whole idea until he sees a pretty village girl, who he then pursues with his attentions.

Photobucket

The girl is Malti (Padmini), a friend of his niece Shashi.

Hmmm, there might be some foreshadowing in this scene:
Photobucket

Her parents are very poor and badly in debt, and the elderly man they own money to has asked for Malti's hand in marriage in lieu of loan repayment.

Here he sees her for the first time:
Photobucket

Photobucket

She is understandably upset about this; and easily falls prey to Shekar's advances. Shekar returns to the city promising to come back after a month to settle the family's debts and marry Malti. However, three month pass without Shekar returning to the village. Malti then discovers that she is pregnant. She is all set to drown herself in the village well during a thunderstorm, but her path is blocked by a big branch, and she decides to go to the city instead, to look for Shekar.

Here she imagines what people would say if they found out:
Photobucket

Malti looking for Shekar:
Photobucket
(The voice-over explained that his was a poster for the movie "The run-away lover" or something along those lines, and the weeks running are used to measure the passage of time)

Unfortunately, she left a letter for her parents saying that she is going to leave this world forever and the news is too much for her father who promptly expires, though not without using his last grasp to break his wife's bangles. By this point I realised that the movie was going to be very heavy on the symbolism.

Meanwhile, the young man Lata bumped into in the opening sequence, and who works for Bahar-publishing, and indeed is no other than Ashok (Karan Deewan), though he goes by V. Kumar in real life, has moved into the house next to Lata's. They have adjoining balconies and the two continue to irritate each other, first he plays the tabla at 10 pm, the she dances at midnight, which leads to many a conversation:

Photobucket

She isn't impressed by his musical ability:
Photobucket

He seems to be rather amused by the whole affair:
Photobucket

Shekar, unaware of the heartbreak he left behind, is pursuing is suit with Lata. However, she claims to have other plans for her future:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

His suit is hampered by the fact that Lata's father has decided that she should choose her own husban; and he isn't willing to go back on this decision for Shekar's sake. Also, V. Kumar aka Ashok has introduced himself to the family, and has turned out to be the son of an old friend of Lata's father. Shekar is not pleased by this development.

Photobucket

Soon afterwards, Lata finally learns that V. Kumar is in fact Ashok and after some irritation on her part which results in her pretending to be her own fiance (though she really doesn't make a terribly convincing man) the two become a couple.

Either Ashok is being nice, or he needs new glasses:
Photobucket

Malti still hasn't tracked down Shekar and after an encounter with a couple of men who call her a prostitute because she is heavily pregnant (no, it doesn't make any sense to me either) she finds herself on top of a bridge:

Photobucket

However, before she can do anything foolish, she starts labour and is taken to a hospital where she gives birth to a baby boy:

Photobucket

She then manages to track down Shekar, but he is more than unwilling to accept her and her son. In fact, he throws her out of the house, after we have been treated to more symbolic imagery:
Photobucket

Photobucket

Malti does not take this very well. She leaves the child in the shopping basket of a kindly servant and walks into the sea. The servant turns out to work for Ashok, who all of a sudden finds himself saddled with a child. Unfortunately, the postman sees him and spreads the news in the neighbourhood that Ashok has brough his family to the city.

That was not on the shopping list:
Photobucket

Ooops:
Photobucket

Will Lata believe Ashok when he claims that the child isn't his? Has Malti really drowned? Will Shekar ever be found out?

I really enjoyed this one. Yes, the symbolism in the Shekar/Malti story is really heavy-handed, but it is interspersed with the much more light-hearted going-ons with Lata/Ashok, so it never became too much for me.The movie is really rather interesting in its portrayal of women: Malti's story was treated with much sympathy. Yes, she has made a mistake and she has to bear the consequences, but the movie makes it crystal clear that this is at least as much Shekar's fault as hers and aks why it should be just her and her child who bear the brunt of society's disdain while Shekar seems to get off scott free. Lata is quite a free spirit. Her step-mother complains that she stays out too long, and she chooses her own partner, but that is all fine. Yes, there are misunderstandings, but she is never portrayed as negative. The comedy is frequently actually funny and I enjoyed the music a lot. Subtitles with the songs would have been helpful.

Vyjayanthimala is extremely cute:
Photobucket

and Padmini has a great line in shocked faces:
Photobucket

I leave the last word to Lata's father in his summing up of Shekar's character:
Photobucket

5 comments:

memsaabstory said...

Well, I must see this for the oh so young Pran if nothing else. But it looks good!!!! :-)

antarra said...

This was the movie which finally made me understand why people get so excited about Pran. It is rather fun to watch.

Karan Bali said...

Another review of the film -
http://www.upperstall.com/films/1951/bahar

Sangu said...

hi

would like to correct u on this one. her name is not padmini, it is pandari bai. she was the quintessential mother in all old tamil movies.

Richard S. said...

Hi, I was just talking to someone at my blog about the fact that Panmini was NOT a star in Bahar, and I thought I'd look around to see where else this issue came up; that's when I landed in this old post on your blog (which I have linked to and read pretty often anyway).

And it is true that the actress who plays Malti is Pandari Bai. Padmini was in other movies around this time, and if you look at the two of them, they look nothing alike!

Anyway, I like this writeup, Padmini confusion notwithstanding. :) You are right that it was a good film, and I don't know why other people gave it a bad review.