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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The truth of life (Asli Naqli)

There is seldom anything wrong with the films made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Even when he was yet to dabble with wholesome comedy, he was making films that were sweet, simple and sensitive. His characters were immensely likable, his narrative was crease-free and his stories were absolutely enthralling. It is hard not to enjoy films such as Anupama. And, the same can be said about the beautiful film called Asli Naqli, a joyful enterprise about life and love...

Asli Naqli is almost devoid of errors. Every scene is perfect, each character is well-etched. The moral is subtle yet effective and the performances are superlative. It pairs Dev Anand and Sadhana to the best effect and Shankar Jaikishan throws in some awesome tracks to make the 1962 film complete. In short, Asli Naqli is a revelation each and very time I watch it. With every viewing I keep falling more and more in love with the characters and their elegance. And, more firm becomes my faith in Mukherjee's brand of filmmaking...
Anand (Dev Anand) is the spendthrift grandson of the rich Seth Dwarka Das (Nazir Hussain). Fed up of the sycophants around him, Anand sets out on the streets of Mumbai is search of true love and happiness. The catalyst in his search for the truth is his grandfather's materialism that provokes him one day to walk out of his opulent abode. Dwarka Das wants Anand to marry Rekha, the daughter of a rich industrialist. In the liaison, the gainer will be Dwarka Das himself. Anand has everything at his disposal--money, food, drinks, shoes, clothes, cars and what not. But Anand is not happy. He is pained by the fake love that everyone showers on him courtesy the surname he carries and the riches that he is surrounded by. Anand lives a disillusioned world where he knows that all the attention he gets is due to the money he will one day inherit. He is pained by the shallow greetings of his friends. A ray of hope suddenly streams into his desolate existence in the form of Colonel Misra (Motilal), who directs him towards the truth. And hence starts Anand's journey towards realising it...
Many might feel that Mohan befriending the homeless and unemployed Anand is a tad forced. But then anything for the story to move forward. Anand's meeting some simple and poor individuals is a ready reckoner as to how true love should be. Mohan (Anwar Hussain) is loud yet a loving brother with no ulterior motives. Shanti (Sandhya Ray) is an indulging sister who loses her cool at the drop of her hat. But then, sweet words come back to her lips even before the hat can be picked up. She is bright, chirpy and a breath of fresh air in Anand's life. These people prove that money is not a mainstay in life. Yes, it is important to earn your bread but that does not mean that you forget all your joys and sacrifice all ties and bonds to run behind lucre. Frugal meals will be eaten with satisfaction as long as there is love. Here no ruthless industrialist will ask for money in exchange of the breads spent on someone. So, Anand enjoys these meals more than he did his expensive liquors in his grandfather's palace.
Blissful with the filial love and attention, Anand goes in search of a job, bolstered by the encouraging words of Shanti that no labour is mean. As lomng as work is done with dignity, every kind of work is great enough to sustain oneself. Why didn't Anand get this kind of education in his ancestral home? Does money seriously dilute the foundation of sensitivity in life?
Anand's life was never deprived of women as long as he was 'prince'. In fact, there were always a bevy of beauties trying to grab his attention. Then why does Renu (Sadhana) appear to be the best person Anand can love as a sweetheart? Because, Renu is mature, simple, sweet and honest. She is living a dangerous secret, but she is doing so because of her filial obligations. She is hardworking and a strong individual. She is the one who will make Anand's life meaningful. Their encounters are cheerful, with promises galore of the good times ahead. When Anand is attracted to this charming 'teacher' he is dead sure that she loves him because of what he is today. There is no pull because of his past. She loves him not because he is rich heir. And that's what is enough for Anand to love Renu. When he proposes her with Ek but banaaonga (Mohd Rafi), he knows that she will accept his prophesies. When they celebrate their love with the youthful and buoyant Tujhey jeevan ki dor se, we know that true love shall prevail over all odds. Here is a young man who has now got what he deserves and he cherishes Renu the most. What an awesome romantic number...
More beautiful is Lata Mangeshkar's Tera mera pyar amar but then there is a sense of foreboding in this romantic song. It is lilting yes, but in its crevices are hidden the forthcoming dangers to Anand and Renu's relationship. The only bliss is Renu's beautiful visage, so pristine and lovely...
Even though there is enough scope of preaching, Mukherjee's deft execution bars that. The end is easy and effortless. The editing is crisp. One scene flows into the other like a brook and the dialogues are well written. The best part is that there is an equal dose of everything in the film. There's humour (Mukri takes care of that), melodrama (Leela Chitnis does it well) and verbal gymnastics (who else but Dev Anand).
Yes, Dev Anand lends his character a subtle charm. He is not loud. Always restrained and drop dead handsome, his Anand is a treat to watch. Sample the scenes (the prologue to Ek but banaaonga and the lunch scene) where he is flirting with Renu and your heart will go out to him. The rakhi scene is sensitive and emotional. And yes, this flamboyant actor makes his character extremely credible. Kudos...
Nazir Hussain is another master in the film. Playing the obdurate and proud Dwarka Das, he lends a robustness to his shrewd character. Deftly handling the role of a ostentatious indutrialist, this actor's talent never surprises me. Sandhya Ray is lovely. Though her Hindi diction is far from perfect, she makes up for it with her flawless portrayal of the sweet Shanti. I love her in the song Lakh chupao. Wonder why she never got cast as the female lead in Hindi films. She was very pretty and extremely talented. She would make a sufficiently sweet heroine, devoid of the saccharine quality of many of her peers...
Last but not the least, there Sadhana, the woman who leaves me speechless all the time. Such is her charm. Here she is the strong and sincere Renu, balancing lies and truth effortlessly. She is pained but she never cries. She is a dutiful daughter, a hardworking citizen and a charming lover. When it comes to duty, she does not think twice before sacrificing her own happiness. That's why we declare that she is the best better-half for Anand...


  1. @Sharmi: Great review as always! Asli Naqli is one of my favourite movies. It is such a feel good movie. The characters are etched out so well. The theme of rich guy posing as ordinary man and wooing heroine always impresses me and it's made even better with Dev Anand and Sadhana doing it. They make a great pair. There are some sequences like Sadhna helping Dev Anand with typewriting that shows her love towards him so subtly. You did not mention the song Gori Zara Hans De. It is a very different kind of number with kids. Chheda Mera Dil Ne Tarana is another lovely song by Rafi.

  2. @Sreenath: Yes those songs are nice. But somehow I feel the former slackens the pace of the film. Chheda is a lovely track. I love this film and I can see it umpteen number of times. :)

  3. I somehow don't like Asli-Naqli as much as some of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's other early films (especially Anupama - that is one of my favourites). I like the cast, the music, even to some extent the story, but the main character has inconsistencies in his character that puzzled me (for instance, though he needs a job very badly, he does not really make any effort to hold on to it when he gets it; is that because deep down he knows that all that money IS there?)

  4. Before I go on to my comment, how do you manage my child, you are so quick with your reviews, are you sure you have a good night's sleep, well you do make me feel old, for I am unable to keep up with my comments.
    Asli Naqli for me holds a special place in my heart just for the songs, they are timeless, I can spend hours in front of you tube just watching and listening to the songs. One thing about Hrishikesh Mukerjee's films, his characters look so natural not at all filmy.

  5. Dear Sharmi
    Awesome space you are just taking me to good old days. Let me see all your potings.
    have a nice weekend and bhalo theko

  6. @Dustedoff: Yes, even I thought Dev Anand's character was a bit unstable. Perhaps he did have it in his mind that all that money IS there. He does even try too hard for a job. Reason enough to not like him so.
    Yes, Anupama is like a shining light. I l,oved every bit of it. :)

  7. @Shilpi: Hahahahahaha.. thanks Shilpi for all the praise. I think I can just multitask. I am a journalist, I cook, manage home, drive around the city, entertain guests from time to time, watch films and write the posts. Just don't know how I do it, but I just do it. Actually I have a fantastic memory and function with supersonic speed. Thank God for that. And yes, I sleep very well at night, too. :)
    Yes, the songs are beautiful. Especially Tera mera pyaar and Tujhey jeevan ki dor se. Sadhana is so so lovely :)

    1. There is something divine about the song 'Tera mera pyar amar' saadhna ji looked so lovely that I have goosebumps everytime I listen to this song and especially whenever there is a wide angle shot closing in on sadhna ji's angelic face. I have been a shankar jaikishan and shailendra fan throughout my youth, what lyrics so simple yet so much depth in them.... I am just 23 yrs old yet I find old songs and old movies close to my heart... I find it very difficult to have someone of my age to talk about all these gems,all of them listening only to noise.

  8. @Ushnish: Welcome Ushnish and thank you. I'm glad you liked my work. Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  9. After reading your review here I had such a longing to watch it that I left without commenting, watched it last night, and here I am back to say, *sigh*, beautiful.
    I agree with all that you say.
    Dev Anand looks so handsome, and Sadhana so beautiful.
    I'm such a fan of Hrishikesh Mukherji's later comedy films too which are less serious.


  10. @Pacifist: Yesss. Everything about these old films are sooo good. Sadhana is ethereal. Glad I love these and not the trash that is passed off as cinema today :(

  11. I watched it eons ago when it was shown on the telly in in the 70's but i can't say I remember the story. But i do remember the beautiful music! Thanks for the review, it makes me want to watch this again. And truly, what one absorbs from a movie as a teenager is very different to the experience of a mature adult, isn't it? I have to say though that the overtly socialist messages in many of the films from that era leaves me cold. Glorifying poverty and implying that 'goodness' exists only where there is no money is a tad too simplistic for me.

  12. Nice review :) You are so positive about the film that I want to see it again !! I saw it in my teen's when it was on the telly but I can't remember much except the music..which is beautiful. What one gets from a film in one's teens is so very different to the same experience as a mature adult! I am disappointed at times..films I liked very much turn out to be not that nice after all :) This sounds promising though. I have to say that the overtly socialistic messages of the films from that era leaves me cold - associating poverty with 'goodness' and wealth with 'evil' hmmm - I kind of rebel at these simplistic associations.

  13. @Suja: You are right. Somehow all these films glorify poverty and the simple living. They won't stand today. BUt somehow I love these films for being so romantic and so musical :)

  14. @Suja: there must be some freaky thing hapenning in blogger. For, I see your comment twice !!

  15. That's a very nice review. You seem to have enjoyed every minute of the movie. I like Hrishi da's movies quite a bit (having watched Golmaal around 30 times, and still not bored of it :)). What I love in his movies is the simplicity, the etching of characters and the realism in it. Need to check out this movie soon. And this was some musical score by SJ. I was just listening to the stand-out song, the exquisitely composed 'Tera mera pyar amar';Lata Mangeshkar's voice is truly angelic here. Other songs are quite good too; 'tujhe jeevan ki dor se' was my childhood favourite and I still love it to bits (how could screeching violins be made to sound so pleasing?) and 'Ek but banaoonga' is another quaint, charming melody.

  16. @JSk: Welcome and thanks. Yes, this is one films that I totally love. I've watched it so many times but have not still got enough. Do watch it soon. The acting is awesome, the story great and the songs awesome. Thanks again and keep reading :)

  17. It is one of the best films by Dev and Sadhana after "Hum Dono".Be it songs,performance everything is superb.The picturisation of songs is very beautiful esp in "Tera mera pyar amar".Dev and Sadhana lend an aura of charm and sweetness to the movie,Sadhana looks so natural without her "fringe".
    Although the plot is similar to Maya(1961),but Asli Naqli far better than the former......

  18. @Coolone: Yes, this is a much better made film!

  19. Here is a post on Sadhana from my blog----
    Hope you like it :)

  20. I just love this movie and every character. Dev Anand and Sadhana....OMG! Great review. Thanks a lot!!!