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Issue:January' 2018


1957: O that year !

Sharad Dutt

It is almost a century and a quarter ago that the Lumiere Brothers projected their one-minute films in Paris on July 7 of 1896; a year after these films were screened at Watson Hotel in Bombay. Whosoever saw these movies was spell bound and enthralled. Lumiere Brothers had never envisaged that their enterprise would become the biggest source of entertainment and create a celluloid frenzy the world over.

Some enthusiast had attempted to make short films in India but it was Dhundi Raj Govind Phalke, popularly known as a Dada Saheb Phalke, who was so inspired by an English film, Life of Jesus Christ, that he made his first silent feature film, Raja Harish Chandra, in 1913. Almost 20 years later, the first Indian Talkies, Alam Ara, was released in 1931, produced and directed by Ardeshar Irani.

India takes immense pride in producing the largest number of feature films in the world. Nearly thousand films are launched every year in different regional languages, wherein Hindi scores above the rest in sheer numbers. But in this plethora of movies, that the cine goers get to watch, very few films leave a memorable trail. And one such exception happened 60 years ago.

In 1957, more than a dozen films were released that were seen time and again, are still re-run, and passionately discussed. Some of these became alltime classics, i.e. Pyaasa, Mother India, Naya Daur and Do Ankhein Barah Haath, while others were blockbusters and gross earners. Let’s have a re-look at these films released in that awesome year.


Guru Dutt produced and directed one of his classics, Pyaasa, this year. He had a story, Kashmkash (Conflict) that was languishing for a long time. The protagonist of this film was a journalist, but one day when Dutt’s writer Abrar Alvi read out Sahir Ludhianvi’s anthology of poems Parchhaiyan to him, he changed the character to a poet.
He wanted to cast Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Madhubala. Dilip Kumar declined to do this role saying that it was far too close to his Devdas role. Nargis and Madhubala couldn’t decide which role to play. Finally, Dutt himself played the role of Vijay, with Mala Sinha and Waheeda Rehman as Meena and Gulabo.
The film was a hard-hitting assault on the hypocritical society, which rejects the poet in his lifetime but begins to revere him after his rumored death. The creative use of Sahir’s poetry as integral part of the film and SD Burman’s immortal compositions, Jaane kya toone kahi, Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo, Jaane wo kaise log thei and Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye, turned Pyaasa into a sterling amalgamation of art and commerce. No wonder, Pyaasa was rated by Time magazine as one of the best hundred films.

Mother India

Mehboob Khan’s film, Aurat, in 1940, was based on Nobel laureate Pearl S Buck’s novel, The Good Earth. He was so greatly inspired by this literary tome that he wanted to transpose the story onto celluloid. And, yet again, he wished to remake that version as Mother India with the lead role of Radha offered to Nargis, who belonged to Raj Kapoor camp at that point in time.
But Dilip Kumar declined to play her son saying he had paired with Nargis romantically. Mehboob even offered the double role as both husband and son, but this too was politely refused by Dilip Kumar. Eventually the roles went to Raj Kumar (who plays Nargis’ husband Shyamu) and Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt (who play the roles of sons Ramu and Birju).
Radha is an ideal wife and ideal mother. Shyamu’s mother had taken a loan from a crooked money lender Sukhi Lala (Kanahiya Lal played the same role in Aurat). Sukhi Lala grabs three-fourth harvest of Shyamu and Radha as they are unable to repay the debt. In an accident Shayamu gets hurt and disappears from the village due to incessant humiliation by Sukhi Lala, who has an evil eye on Radha, a dignified self-respecting woman refusing to succumb to his advances.
Circumstances compel Birju to become a dacoit, as he seeks to avenge Lala, and kidnaps his daughter. Radha pleads with her son to release her as daughters are the honour of the village. Since he doesn’t relent she kills her own son, and thus, Radha become Mother India.

This film was a finest example of team work that dexterously blended Mehboob Khan’s skilful direction, Nargis’ acting prowess, Faridoon Irani’s amazing photography, Shakeel Badauni’s captivating lyrics and Naushad’s melodious music. Mother India bagged five Filmfare awards for best picture, best director, best actress and two honours for technical finesse, that is, best cinematography and best sound recording. It was also the first ever Indian entry for Oscar in the best foreign films category but lost by a whisker - just one vote.

Naya Daur

BR Chopra has been among the most respected names in the Hindi film industry and his films always carried a social message. In Ek Hi Raasta, he dealt with the issue of widow marriage. Sadhana delved into rehabilitation of prostitutes. Dhool ka Phool produced by BR Chopra and directed by his younger brother Yash Chopra underscored the social stigma of an unwed mother.
In Naya Daur, he took up the issue of man versus machine, narrating the story of a happy-go- lucky Shankar (Dilip Kumar), a rustic tangewala. When the village landlord Kundan (Jeevan) brings a bus to the village, Shankar protests along with other tangewalas. The landlord challenge Shankar for a race between a horse carriage and the Bus. Shankar dares to defy and the entire village cooperates with him. They construct a road and a bridge to win the race.
BR Chopra put on view the Nehruvian vision of cooperative labour and self-resistance. This film lent a new image to Dilip Kumar, for earlier he was labelled as a tragedy king. With shades of romance, comedy, emotion and action, Vyjayantimala, Ajit and Johnny Walker did full justice to their performances. The hallmark of the film was Sahir’s lyrics and OP Nayyar’s compositions which won him the first Filmfare Award of his musical career. BR Chopra showcased Nehru’s socialism mantra so successfully that despite stiff competition with Pyaasa and Mother India his Naya Daur held fort.

Do Aankhen Barah Haath

V Shantaram was basking in the glory of the enormous success of his colour film, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, when he decided to launch his new film based on a true story of prison reforms. Enthused by such an experiment of jail authorities in Aundh near Pune, he wanted to make this film in black & white, even though his associate was not in favour of this project. But he went ahead and made a memorable Do Aankhen Barah Haath.
He chose to play the lead as Jailor Adinath and for six hardcore criminals he picked up Ulhas, Tiwari, SK Singh, BM Vyas, Pal Sharma and Gajendra. He starts farming along with these criminals. Initially they are reluctant and even plot to kill him but his sincerity of purpose wins them over. To give relief to the theme and break the monotony of the male cast he introduced the character of a clay toyseller played by his third wife Sandhya.
One of the criminal’s mother leaves his child with him, and thus, it becomes a family. Criminals are sent to the market to sell the vegetables grown by them. One of the local brokers wants to corrupt them but fails. Seeking revenge, he sends a wild bull to the fields to destroy the harvest. In the last bull fight scene the Jailor is seriously wounded and dies. Ironically, though he changes the heart and mindset of these criminals, he becomes a victim of violence.

The film deservedly won the President’s Gold Medal for best feature film and Shantaram also became the first Asian to receive Silver Bear at Berlin Film Festival. Eminent director Jean-Luc Godard sent a telegram to Shantaram lauding Sandhya’s acting. While Balakrishan’s black & white photography and lighting beautifully captured the spirit of the film, music by Vasant Desai and Bharat Vyas’ lyrics became popular nationwide. The spiritual ode, Ae malik tere bande hum, was made compulsory in schools as a morning prayer across the country. Like Pyaasa, Do Aankhen Barah Haath, too, blended art and commercial cinema.


In 1957, among the release of socially relevant films, AVM’S Bhabhi was a joint family drama. The eldest son promises his dying father that he would take care of his brothers. The harmony of a happy family is disrupted by one of the brother’s wife creating havoc in the nest. The cast was a mix of south and north actors with Balraj Sahni and Pandhari Bai (who acted for the first time in a Hindi film).
The film is still remembered for its musical renditions by Chitragupt: Chal ud ja re panchhi, a hit song that was used in three stages of the broken family. Originally this song was in Talat Mehmood’s voice but later replaced by Mohammad Rafi. Among other lyrics, Tie laga ke mana janab ban gaye hero, was a satirical attack on education system; Chali chali re patang, Jawan ho ya boodha, and the classical number, O ja re ja badra, enticed the audience. This film came at a time when the joint family system was intact in India and ran to packed houses.


LV Prasad made his directorial debut with film Sharda, wherein the plot revolves around the central character Sharda (Meena Kumari), who works in a naturopathy centre. She serves her patients with care and dedication. Shekhar (Raj Kapoor) gets his friend Mohan (Om Prakash) admitted in the centre and he seems impressed by Sharda’s devotion to work. He falls in love and promises to marry her. Son of a rich man he leaves for China and declared dead in a plane crash. His father Kashiram (Raj Mehra) is shocked and falls sick. Sharda is brought to take care of Kashiram. She looks after him and endears everybody in the family.
Given the unusual circumstances she marries the old man. Meanwhile, Shekhar returns and he’s astounded to see his beloved as his stepmother. He hits the bottle and turns alcoholic. On Sharda’s advice Shekhar marries Chanchal (Shyama), but she casts aspersions on the pious relationship of mother and son. Shekhar leaves home in disgust but with great effort Sharda brings him back home and recuperates him.
One song of the film, O chaand jahan woh jayein, is hummed even today. Though the film was bold for its time, LV Prasad’s direction and Shivaji Awdhut’s crisp editing made it very popular among the film buffs.

Miss Mary

Another film from south was AVM’S Miss Mary. Gemini Ganeshan (actress Rekha’s father) and Jamuna were seen for the first time in a Hindi film. Meena Kumari, who again played the title role in the movie, was an absolute contrast to Sharda. Miss Mary and Arun, in a bid to get a job in a school pose as a married couple, since that is the essential condition of the school. Soon enough, they come close. Kishore Kumar and Om Prakash supported the cast.
The hallmark of the film was Hemant Kumar’s music: O raat ke musafir, Vrindavan ka Krishna Kanhiya, Pahle paisa phir bhagwan and Gana na aaya bajana na aaya, Ye mard bade bedard, and the classical number, Sakhi re sun bole papiha us paar, were the chartbusters among other musical hits that year.

Paying Guest

Filmistan’s Paying Guest starred Dev Anand, Nutan, Shubha Khote, Jagirdar and Yakoob. This simple love story created a spell with the musical genius of SD Burman and lyricist Majhrooh Sultanpuri. Maana janab ne pukara nahin, Ah chhod do aanchal, Chaand phir nikla, Hai hai ye nighein became a rage across the nation.

Tumsa Nahin Dekha

Producer-director Nasir Hussain commenced his career with Filmistan as a writer. After penning two successful hits, he made his directorial debut with Tumsa Nahi Dekha.
Originally Dev Anand was signed for this film but he didn’t agree to act opposite the new heroine Ameeta. So, Shammi Kapoor was brought in this typical lost and found story, which Nasir Hussain rehashed in his later films. Shammi Kapoor became a star overnight as he lip-synched these wonderful compositions of OP Nayyar, and Yoon to humne laakh haseen dekhein hain tumsa nahin dekha, Chhupne waale saamne aa, Jawaniya ye mast mast bin piye, Sar pe topi lal and Aye hain dur se, became superduper hits.

Nau Do Gayarah

Vijay Anand, who wrote a stupendously successful film, Taxi Driver, for Navketan, made a head start as writer-director with Nau Do Gayarah. Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik played the lead pair in a screenplay wherein the hero travels from Delhi to Bombay in a van numbered Nau Do Gayarah to inherit a property.
The film is still remembered for its lilting music by SD Burman: Hum hain raahi pyaar ke, Anchal me kya ji, Kali ke roop mein chali ho dhoop mein, and Aaja panchi akela hai, and cherished by music lovers till date. The film was very well received by the masses and established Vijay Anand as a director of repute.


Another musical hit by MV Raman of south was Asha. A crime cum love story, it was a comic version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. With Kishore Kumar and Vyjayntimala in the lead, this film was partly shot in colour. Music was scored by C Ramachandra, who created an all-time great number in two versions, Ena Meena Deeka, sung by Kishore and Asha separately. Kishore’s slapstick comedy was more than worth a watch.
These films, made in different genres, have entertained the masses. Some other films, too, merit a mention, having been acclaimed by the critics. The editor Hrishikesh Mukherjee became a director with Musafir. Director Amiya Chakarvarti’s Kathputli that year became his swan song. Bandi by Satyan Bose had Kishore Kumar in his very first serious role. Janam-janam Ke Phere mesmerized the audience with an ardour for mythological and religious films, and its song, Zara saamne to aao chhaliye secured number one position in Binaca Geet Mala that year.
How one truly wishes that the magic of the year 1957 were recreated on the big screen!