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Saturday, 26 February 2011

For want of a good wife (Naukar)

Now that's what I call a funny family film. The story is good, the performances able, the execution is easy and the characters are well-etched out. The comedy is entirely situational and most importantly, done by none other than the gargantuanly talented Mehmood. Even though he is past his prime in Hindi films, is awkwardly bloated and wears a hideous wig, his comic timing is just too perfect. In Ismail Memon's Naukar, this comedian gets to wear the most ludicrous shirts and trousers but there is no moment when he is not in his elements. And he is just one of the good things about this 1979 film.

There's the awesomely talented Sanjeev Kumar at the helm of affairs in Naukar. Now this actor never fails to impress me. He is quite on a roll in this light-hearted entertainer and even dances a bit in the folksy track Pallu latkey. This is a film where he lets his hair down and even looks like he is enjoying himself taking everyone for a jolly good ride. Acclaimed as an actor who always gave his cent percent to a role, Kumar lives up to his reputation in this film also. Even though you might find that his character crossing the fine lines of subtlety in the last few minutes of the film, he does a commendable job throughout. The disguise game is enthralling, the romance is subtle and the fun is hundred percent pure.
Amar (Sanjeev Kumar) is a rich widower who is being implored by his sister and her husband (Anwar Hussain) to get married again so that his young daugther Arti gets a new mother. Even Amar's faithful servant, Dayal (Mehmood) wants him to get a new wife. But Amar is sceptical as he knows that stepmothers could turn out to be very cruel. He sees a live example in his friend's wife (a good cameo by Shammi) who treats her step son very rudely. So, when Amar's sister gets news of an alliance from two sisters who belong to a rich family, he agrees to go and see them in Bombay under the condition that he will pose as Dayal and Dayal will pose as Amar. Hearing this Dayal is in a fix. A simpleton cook who is most happy puffing bidis and is comfortable in his dhotis is aghast and scared when he is told that he would have to dress up in trousers and shirts and behave like a rich educated man. But since his master is a very good man and he is actually faithful to him, does he agree to put up the charade. There is a scene where Dayal dons a trouser for the first time and wear heeled shoes. He is literally tottering on them while getting Amar his cup of tea. It's just ribtickling looking at Mehmood walk and listening to him talk!
Amar, Dayal and Arti go from Bhopal to Bombay looking for the perfect wife. Amar is sure that this disguise will help him ascertain whether the girls he is going to meet are good enough to be a mother to Arti. On reaching Durga Mathur's house in Bombay, the three find that the house is run by a woman. Her husband (Manmohan Krishna) is a henpecked man. The two daughters Shobha and Sheela are not wicked but they are not that impressive, too. Durga is an amazing woman. She tells that servants that they should make Amar food cooked in pure butter while Dayal should be given some frugal fare made in oil. Amar (actually Dayal) is put up in a lavish air-conditioned room while Dayal (actually Amar) is made to sweat it out in the servants' quarters. What else would you expect from Lalita Pawar. Man, this lady always makes me want to wolf whistle!!
Dayal's hardships though has a positive side. He is cared for by Geeta (Jaya Bhaduri), a servant of the Mathur family who is also subject to the cruelty of her mistress. She is a simple and sweet girl who finds a friend in Dayal and starts liking him immensely. She even hopes and prays to God that Dayal also starts liking her so that her troubles end. She plays with Arti, who grows immensely attached to her.
In the meantime Amar (actually Dayal) is up to his own tricks in the house. He teaches the servants how to extract a higher salary from the stingy Durga. When the servants quit out of frustration, he even makes Durga cook. As time goes by we see Shobha getting closer to Amar while Sheela is still wary of him. It turns out that she is seeing Vijay, the younger brother of the original Dayal who is studying in a college in Bombay. Some complications arise but they are neatly evened out later.
Dayal (actually Amar) realise that the best mother for Arti would be Geeta but he is in two minds. Even though he beats up the sleazy Jaggu (Jalal Agha) for eyeing Geeta, he is not sure whether he should tell her how he feels about her.
Though the end is full of loud melodrama and the usual tears, I think this film turned out to be quite enjoyable on the whole. Coupled with good performances and lovely music, Naukar is a sweet simple film that is easy on the senses.
I'm not very fond of Jaya Bhaduri. I never thought she is very pretty and always found her a bit artificial. Here she starts off in a lacklustre way but then with time she gets into the skin of her character. Her exchanges with Sanjeev Kumar are good and she shares good chemistry with him. It's a welcome change to see her dance in that Pallu song (Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar magic) something she hardly ever does.It's clever on the part of the director also to repeat her clothes. After all she is a poor servant girl and should not be seen in a fresh sari everyday!
Lalita Pawar is fantastic as the clever and cruel Durga Mathur, who loves to rule by the rod in the household. I love how she sweet talks her husband into doing everything she wants, extracts anger when she is brash and rude with people and casually grants Jaggu his wish to marry Geeta. For an actor of Pawar's calibre, this role must have been a cakewalk.
Mehmood is definitely one of the best things to happen to this film. He is funny, endearing, loving and in good form. Only wish he would have put on so much weight. But still that magic of the earlier years has left its indelible mark.
Sanjeev Kumar is easy, effortless and fluent with whatever he does here. I love his smile and the way he convinces Dayal to go with the flow of the charade. I love the temporary goof-ups and slips of Dayal and Amar. In my opinion, Kumar and Mehmood share a more credible chemistry than Kumar and Bhaduri.
But all said and done I thing the best part of this film is the beautiful lullaby Aankhon mein meethey meethey sapney sajaikey. R D Burman's music is really fantastic (Aya na karo is great too). This song, performed more than once in the film, is simply so smooth that it will fall like honey on your ears. Comforting and soothing, it is certainly one of the best melodies from this master music director...


  1. WHAT??!! Are you serious? You don't think Jaya Bhaduri pretty? OMG! She is one of the classic beauties of hindi films.. she looks soooo good in plain cotton sarees as well as western outfits (jaan-e-jaan.. dhoondhta phir raha..), IMHO. Look her in Abhimaan.. see her in "bole re papihara..." she is such a coy beauty..
    Anyway, back to the film.. yes.. its a very well done family entertainer.. with such talented names attached to it. Lalita Pawar is bang on as the matriarch. This one makes for a lovely watch. :)

  2. @Punya: Nopes I don't like her too much. Yes, she was good in Abhimaan and some other films but as an actress. I never found her beautiful. And actually you know my mum and all have seen her from close quarters when she was still struggling and I have heard that she was really unimpressive in the looks dept. Our family knew her too well to sort of like her. She was very vain (despite being a nobody) and now she is even more vain. A personal interaction confirmed that. But yes, she did perform well sometimes. But all this is just a personal opinion and has nothing to do with her acting!
    Yes, I really liked the film for being so easy on the senses. It's fun and uncomplicated. Predictable but really good :)

  3. I haven't watched this one... but from what I read in yoiur review... it sounds good. Will try to catch this one some time.

    ... Jaya Bhaduri is very good in the Bengali movie 'Dhonni Meye'. Watch it...

  4. @Roshmi: Yes i have seen Dhanni Meye many times (I'm a Bong u see!!) It's damn good. But i like it more for Uttam Kumar and Sabitri Chatterjee. and the supporting cast was very good. I've reviewed it also. You can read it here at:

  5. Thanks for the review. I somehow have missed seeing this film even though I like all the actors (yes, Jaya too) and I like lighthearted films. Sanjeev especially had great comic timing (but then he was great in many ways). I'll definitely see this one.

  6. @Suja: Yes you can. It's quite enjoyable :)

  7. @Sharmi: I love Sanjeev Kumar but am not fond of Mehmood. I thought Mehmood overdid his South Indian antics. Naukar seems to be a nice movie. I will check it out :)

  8. I've seen Naukar, but so long back I'd actually forgotten that it also starred Mehmood! But Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri were great in this. Both, in my opinion, were such good actors in their own right that a film that starred both of them would at least have good acting from them, if nothing else!

  9. @Sreenath: No no I think Mehmood was delightful. He never fails to make me laugh !!

  10. @Dustedoff: Yes, this comment of yours reminds me of Koshish! What a stupendously brilliant film!!

  11. I'm fond of this film. Had an interesting story, and the people acted well.
    I love Jaya. Her simple nextdoor looks were very uplifting.

    I think Jaya and Sanjeev Kumar acted in a lot of films together.


  12. @Pacifist: Yes they did quite some films together. The best ones I think were Koshish and Anamika.

  13. This is one HECK of an entertainer and worth watching just for Sanjeev Kumar! I LOVE him. :)

    and the idea behind the film is also so unusual (for that time at least!) and the song pallu latkey is just too cute for words haha.. :) -- Neha (

  14. @Neha: Hi and thanks for your blog address. I will definitely visit.

  15. two non dancers shakin hips in pallo latke........and they pulled it off with such charm!!!! hats off

  16. I bought this one recently ... and watched it too. Quite good. However they could have maintained the fun bit instead of turning it into a shrieking melodrama towards the end.

  17. @Roshmi: Totally agree with u. But I quite liked the film despite the ending melodrama