Ek Saal (1957) – the romantic year

ek_saal00064I’ve been on a murder mystery watching spree of late. For a change of pace, I thought I’d watch something romantic.  But what to watch? That’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Ergo, I spent several (happy) hours on youtube, trying to decide what to watch! After much research and mental debate, I settled on watching a Madhubala film – even if the film is bad, Madhubala makes up for many filmi flaws. Once the all-important decision was made, it wasn’t hard to decide that a re-watch of Ek Saal is exactly what the doctor ordered. It’s my favourite Madhubala movie, it has her paired with another favourite – Ashok Kumar – in my favourite kind of romance – the bad guy reformed by TRUE LOVE!!!! Who wouldn’t be reformed by love of Madhubala? Certainly not our revered Dada Mani.

The movie opens with a grim scene – a doctor (Mahmood, in an uncharacteristically serious avatar) telling a stunned father (?) that his daughter has only a year to live.
Cut to the happy daughter – Usha (Madhubala) – celebrating her birthday at her grandmother (Pratima Devi)’s place in Lucknow. The irony of the wishes – Tu jiye hazaaron saal (may you live a thousand years) – is completely lost on the suave society burglar Suresh (Ashok Kumar). He is intent on stealing grandma’s 10 grand necklace.

Unfortunately for Suresh, the robbery is complicated by the appearance of the Wodehousian detective, J. B. Pinto (Johnny Walker). Suresh is forced to hide the purloined necklace in Usha’s purse and lands up flirting with her to get it back. Usha is not at all taken with Dada Mani’s charming smile (Excuse her please, the woman has a tumour on her mind!) but he still manages to get back his spoils. Suresh’s flirting hasn’t escaped the eagle eye of his partner, Rajni (Kuldip Kaur), who is more alive to Usha’s loveliness than Suresh. He assures her that he is a businessman and unlikely to fall in love. (Geez dude, have you looked, I mean LOOKED at Madhubala?!!!)

Her birthday celebrations over, Usha returns home to her father’s estates near Bombay. Unbeknownst to her, her father – Colonel Sinha – has engaged a new estate manager who is none other than Suresh (with some forged qualifications). Suresh’s plan is to win Col. Sinha’s confidence and lay his hands on the estate’s liquid assets. This plan receives unwitting aid from Usha who finally wakes up to Suresh’s charms and falls head-over-heels for him. (Dada Mani triumphs over brain tumor’s sense-deadening effects. Yay!)

Suresh isn’t too keen to play along until Col. Sinha offers to pay him a monthly retainer to keep his dying daughter happy. Usha is deliriously and heartbreakingly happy in Suresh’s love, and her father’s consent for their union. Suresh’s note-counting dil (and equally mercenary brain) is very alive to the advantages of prolonging her life – the longer she lives the more money he earns. So, he begins to look for a cure, or at least a way, to prolong her life. Of course, he doesn’t realise that he is in a movie and the only fail-proof cure for everything in movieland is LOVE.

Suresh’s partner, the evil Rajni, isn’t convinced that the Suresh-Usha romance is all playacting on his part. She is scared of losing him to Usha. So she employs detective Pinto and his assistant (Minu Mumtaz) – to find out about Suresh’s real feelings! Even Holmes would be puzzled at how to read a lover’s mind, and Pinto is definitely not in the same league as the legendary sleuth. As it turns out, this is just the pointless comic diversion and we may safely fast-forward to the more interesting bits.

The more time Suresh spends with her, the more he is impressed with Usha’s goodness and the strength of her love for him. (Umm… being Madhubala has nothing to do with it, huh?) His conscience begins to trouble him for deceiving her. But just when Suresh is beginning to realise that his feelings for Usha go a lot deeper than his monthly retainer, Rajni reveals ALL to Usha. Poor, heartbroken Usha collapses, and her ek saal looks like its coming to a premature end! And poor, poor, Suresh who’s about to lose his new found love in more ways than one. How does it all end? Hint: this isn’t a Dilip Kumar film, so watch without fear! 😉

Madhubala is at her beautiful best. She teases, she laughs, she cries, she loves, and shines through it all. Ashok Kumar is great as usual and so charismatic! When I read Manto’s anecdotes about how he used to be mobbed by women fans, I found it hard to imagine (hey, I grew up watching him play benign grandfather!). But after this movie, I doubt no more! Here he is Ashok Kumar ‘the hero’ and the charismatic ‘star’. Kuldip Kaur (according to Manto she was very much the-lady-behind-the-man for Pran) was absolutely made for the role of evil vamp – heaven help the man who stands in her way!

This is a perfect movie for those Sunday nights when you don’t want to face up to the Monday just round the corner. Or any other day when you just want to curl up on the couch with a good movie, complete with great actors and lovely songs.


27 Responses to Ek Saal (1957) – the romantic year

  1. Anu Warrier says:

    🙂 You are evil, woman. Now, you make me want to go rewatch this!

    Laughing at: this isn’t a Dilip Kumar film, so watch without fear!

    I had written about watching it when Madhu reviewed it over at her blog. (Incidentally, I had also mentioned how you and I had decided we were masala twins – I think this was after one of our earliest email exchanges.)

    • bollyviewer says:

      You mean you don’t take the Ek Saal DVD off the shelf once every couple of years?! Why not? Its even on youtube, now.

      I just went to Madhu’s post and re-read the comments. I’d forgotten when exactly we decided we were re-united masala twins. It’s great that there is “documentary” evidence, since we’re now saat samundar paar from each other, and never hit upon a re-union song. Now, we can both ask each other, “Madhu ki Ek Saal waali post padhi?” and we’ll instantly recognize each other! 😉

      • Anu Warrier says:

        I plead guilty, my lord. Taime kahaan hai as we said back in Bombay. And why are you saat samundar paar? You ain’t comin’ back this side of the world? Oh, how I hate you for being in India!

        we can both ask each other, “Madhu ki Ek Saal waali post padhi?” and we’ll instantly recognize each other! 😉

        Ha! Did you ever read my husband’s ode to me and Madhu? After one too many coinkadinks in our lives?


        • bollyviewer says:

          Until I come back to your side of the pond, you and I are saat samundar paar from each other.

          Oh, how I hate you for being in India!” You would rather face 40 degC plus weather, with electricity that spends more time away than in the house? If yes, do come and join me. We can both wander around singing your masala twin song, trying to locate Madhu in Delhi! 😀

          You and Madhu have an entire fillum devoted to your masala twinliness?! [green with envy] Can I be the Mona Darling who gets to wear fab dresses, drink loads of classy wine, and turns out to be the heroines’ “andhi behen”? She was “andhi” till picked up by the villain (after being lost, also in the 26th Jan parade) and coached in the vamping arts. Then she was given her sight back through plastic surgery in Switzerland, thanks to villain-in-chief. She was so grateful to villain-in-chief that she stayed on vamping, till a chance sighting of a shoe reminded her of the long-lost twin sisters she never had.

          • Anu Warrier says:

            I like your addition to the plot. 🙂 But I thought I was the wicked sister – the capitalist one, while Madhu was the gentle, activist. Where are you going to fit in? Besides, it’s not fair that you get to have all the fun – slinky dresses, classy wine, et al. I’m not promising anything, but we shall SEE!

  2. dustedoff says:

    Bollyviewer, the captions you put on the screen grabs have always been hilarious, but you surpass yourself here (especially with that OMG! I can’t believe I didn’t fall for you before! one – Madhubala’s expression, the folded hands, and the caption all fit together so perfectly). And the asides. This had me giggling all through. 😀

    One thing I especially remembered appreciating about Ek Saal (besides all that you’ve already mentioned) is that Johnny Walker’s and Minoo Mumtaz’s characters aren’t the stereotyped Hindi film Christians, speaking that broken Hindi which may be common in Bombay but not elsewhere… that was a refreshing change, even though the comic side plot itself was pretty pointless.

    • bollyviewer says:

      Thanks, dustedoff. 🙂

      I was so focused on Ashok-Madhubala that I didn’t even notice Pinto and Mary’s accents! It’s true that they do not sound very “Christian”. Plus, they neither have a drinking problem, nor do they cross themselves often. Not very good Christians, are they? 😉

  3. Anu Warrier says:

    I watched Ek Saal again (bad, bad Bollyviewer!) because I’m down with cold, cough and fever and didn’t feel up to living. The problem is that the film in YouTube is in parts and Sab kuch lutake hosh mein was completely missing. 😦 How could they?! And then, Kuldip Kaur as the femme fatale was a bit hard to swallow. She looked horrible. But otherwise, it’s a nice film to watch once in a while. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

    • bollyviewer says:

      Poor you, Anu. Hope you are feeling better now. Though having to watch Ek Saal without Sab kuch luta ke is not exactly likely to make you feel better! Bad youtube.

  4. dustedoff says:

    Guess what? Major coincidence happened the other day. On Saturday, my husband and I were driving to Meerut, and to keep ourselves amused, turned on the radio. There was a programme with Annu Kapoor, talking about (and playing) old songs. He mentioned – and played – Sab kuchh lutaake hosh mein aaye, and recounted an anecdote about it. The day Madhubala was shooting for that song, Ravi happened to visit the set, and was introduced to Madhubala, who praised the song and told him how much she liked it. Shortly after, she returned to her makeup room. And a little later, sent a girl to ask Ravi if he would please come to madam’s makeup room.

    Ravi was a very shy man, and so was surprised, but Devendra Goyal encouraged him to go. It was to hear a request from Madhubala: Would Ravi please sing the song for her? Because – even though she’d just shot for it – the shooting was done one line at a time, so she hadn’t really got the full effect of the song. So Ravi sat and sang the song for Madhubala, and she burst into tears when he finished – confessing that the song reminded her of her breakup with Dilip Kumar (which had just happened around that time).

    • Ruchi says:

      What a lovely anecdote! So, I guess it was the female version of the song that reminded Madhubala of her breakup with Dilip Kumar…ik bewafaa se pyaar ka anjaam to mile …?

    • Anu Warrier says:

      How coincidental that I should miss hearing Sab kuch lutake hosh mein aaye and that you should listen to it – on Saturday too. 🙂

      And what a delectable anecdote. Poor Madhubala. And poor Dilip Kumar. Like every filmi romance, her father played villain. 😦

      • dustedoff says:

        Yes. She, and Suraiya too. 😦 I wish these women had been, in their own personal lives, rather more the feisty heroine who will do anything for love, than they actually turned out to be.

        • bollyviewer says:

          Considering what Dev Anand turned out to be (imagine being married to him in his “evergreen” days!), it’s probably not a bad thing for her that Suraiya wasn’t more intrepid. But Madhubala may have taught Dilip Kumar not to take himself so seriously…

      • bollyviewer says:

        Hehe, Anu. I was thinking the same thing. Such a coincidence that I did not listen to Annu Kapoor, either!

    • bollyviewer says:

      Dustedoff, that is such an interesting anecdote. Now that you mention it, the lyrics of Sab kuch luta ke hosh mein aaye to kya kiya do seem to fit Madhubala’s ill-fated romance quite well. My mother listens to Annu Kapoor’s program on FM, everyday. But I am usually busy with morning coffee and newspaper at that time! 🙂

      • dustedoff says:

        I never listen to the radio, so this was really quite unexpected. 🙂

        • bollyviewer says:

          Have you heard the Geetmala series CDs brought out by Amin Sayani? He has compiled his favorite songs from each year of the Binaca Geetmala, with interviews and interesting anecdotes about movies and songs. The song selection is great, particularly the 1950s selection, and I loved the anecdotes and interviews. Annu Kapoor is doing something similar in his radio show, but Sayani does it better!

  5. Miranda says:

    This film seems kind of a adorbs. I recently read Manto’s filmi memoir and was surprised by the all the Ashok anecdotes, too! I feel like I’m in a minority because I actually find him more attractive when he starts to go gray and looks like the distinguished gentleman. . . However, he does look rather dashing in this.

    • bollyviewer says:

      Miranda, it all comes down to childhood conditioning. My earliest filmi memories are of grandpa Ashok Kumar, so it was hard to assimilate the fact that he was, once upon a time, young and dashing, and that women went crazy over him. Manto’s filmi memoirs are such a great read, even though I am not familiar with a lot of the actors he talks about.

      • Miranda says:

        I loved the layers in Manto’s recollections. You almost have to play chess with his own narrative–not just trying to decide what he means by certain statements, but also trying to detect his purpose in telling you one anecdote or another. Not to mention wondering which bits were true and which were “fish tales.” I certainly had no idea who he was talking about most of the time, but I was deliciously entertained.

        • bollyviewer says:

          Oh yes, it did have a lot of layers and was really entertaining. I wish I could see some of the films he wrote for – none seem to have survived. I am familiar with his short stories, but it would be interesting to see how his writing worked in films.

  6. Anu Warrier says:

    Hoye, what? Here I am sitting bummed out and in pain because of a sprained neck and right shoulder/arm and you don’t write a review for ages? 😦 Where are you, woman?

    • bollyviewer says:

      Your wish is my command, Anu! A new review is just up. 🙂

      Do get well soon… (I like to think that suffering a Delhi summer gives me monopoly on pain!)

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