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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Before Bharat beckoned (Banarasi thug)

When Manoj Kumar started toying with the idea of portraying severely patriotic roles, someone should have held him by the ears, sat him down and given him a thorough brainwash. For, he not only skewed his own career prospects and popularity doing those utterly inane portrayals, but also fobbed us off with those nonsense characters uselessly steeped in excess doses of nationality. Before the Bharat mania gripped him, he was every bit the hero that girls would fall for, romancing pretty ladies, singing some lovely songs and doing pretty charming and naughty things, too. With a handsome face, an attractive smile and tall debonair looks, he really could have done a whole lot for himself if he had not succumbed to the patriotic fever! What a loss...

Manoj Kumar plays Shyam in 1962's Banarasi Thug and he entertains to the hilt. This Lekhraj Bhakri film shows him in such a different light that I too was surprised. He is the son of a wealthy woman played by Lalita Pawar (so the good performance is a given), who has to go to Girjapur to stop his friend from marrying a woman of ill repute. He takes Rs 20,000 with him to stop the marriage. That money becomes the reason for much greed and misunderstandings. Benarasi Prasad (a weasly miscreant played by I S Johar), is a thug who sends his cronies to rob the money from Shyam as he is travelling in a the train. But is too smart and he outwits the goons (Brahm Bharadwaj, Vijay Dutt and Mallika). Fact is I couldn't take my eyes off him when he sings that clever song called Ab mohabbat se jo pehley (Mohd Rafi). He is so sweet, so suave and so smart!! The music by Iqbal Quereshi is very good, indeed.
After duping the goons when Shyam reaches Girjapur, he is traded off by the threesome to Bhairav Prasad Chaudhary (Radha Kishan in a lipsmacking role that is too short for my liking), who forces to come with him to his house pretending that Shyam is his son-in-law. In captivity, Shyam meets Koili (Vijaya Choudhury), who Bhairav had kidnapped very long ago and had brought up as his daughter. He uses her to go ahead with his illegal activities. Koili is attracted to Shyam and begs him to free her from this bondage. But Shyam is least bothered. Koili helps Shyam escape Bhairav's clutches and while on the run, causes a stirring in Shyam's heart with a lovely song called Yaad suhani teri (Lata Mageshkar).
Shyam, after getting his friend married to the girl (he changes his view towards this marriage after meeting Koili), he goes back to Koili's house to rescue her. This is no surprise as we all know that this had to happen. The hero has to come and rescue the girl. But what is super is that he dons the disguise of a pathan (after singing and dancing with two village girls to the tune of Dilbara jab tera naam liya) and pulls it off with elan. For a second even Koili cannot recognise him. But when she does, it is too funny. Bhairav Prasad is caught in his own web, Shyam is smirking away and Koili just does what she has learnt from Bhairav so far. She dupes everyone and runs away with Shyam.
While all this is happening, Benarasi Prasad is fuming. He is also in love with Koili and wants her to himself. So he goes to Shyam's mother in the disguise of an old man and ticks her off about Shyam wloping with his daughter. Lalita Pawar is angry and when Shyam brings Koili home she will have none of her.
All this while anyway, Shyam gives Koili a makeover (and also flirts with her quite a lot... Ah drool!!) and she starts resembling a fashionable city girl. Shyam then tells his mother that she is the girl that his friend wanted her to marry. But he will not marry her until he knows how she is in character and asks his mother whether he can bring her home. His mother agrees. Koili comes to live in Shyam's house as Kaushalya and Lalita Pawar grows quite fond of her. But Bararasi Prasas is not ready to eat humble pie and is dying for revenge... What is does not however is that Shyam and Koili are already married and heavily in love with each other... The film is some fun I must say...
The love story of Shyam and Koili is quite sweet. Especially because Shyam is really proactive here. He displays acute attraction for Koili and even expresses some severe carnal desires towards his pretty wife!! Who would have thought that Manoj Kumar is capable of these emotions, huh?!?!?!
They sing some lovely songs together such as Aaj mausam ki masti mein, Khuli khuli zulfon ko (Mukesh and Usha Mangeshkar) and Ek baat poochta hoon... They serenade away and look blissful together.
One thing really put me off in this film however. I S Johar. He is such a mighty irritant. He is a goon who mouths poetry, calls himself a guru and is so detestable. I do not like him at all. In fact, when Manoj Kumar beats him up, I kind of feel so satiated and happy. Thank God he is heavily disguised in the song Sun sun mere bhai, or else we would have to tolerate his pesky disposition in this catchy Mohd Rafi number.
I did not know who Vijaya Choudhury was before I saw Banarasi Thug, and I'm afraid I have to say that I do not care much for her. Yes, she acted very well. In fact, her expressions and movements are so natural but she looks so average that I can't be sighing away about her beauty. Even after her makeover (that is supposed to be stylish) she looks like the girl next door, pretty plain Jane. I wish they would have cast Sadhna in Koili's role. She would've made such a pretty village girl. Smart, sweet and full of life. And then as the city girl, she would have won over not just Shyam's heart, but our's too. And yes, she would have looked quite something with the handsome Kumar.
The best thing about this fun film is Manoj Kumar. He is frollicky, romantic and smart. He has no emotional baggage, wears his heart on his sleeves and acts darn well. I really wish that brainwash would have happened!!


  1. Yes, Manoj Kumar post that patriotic fervour was a crashing bore. :-( But I do not agree at all with those who think he was terrible throughout - in fact, I like him very much in a lot of his early films (even some later films for that matter - films of a non-patriotic bent, such as Gumnaam or Saajan). Others,which I like include Shaadi (he and Saira Banu make an awesome couple!), Nakli Nawab, Woh Kaun Thi? and Anita - he's good in all of them.

  2. @Dustedoff: Yes I totally totally agree with you. Now that is quite some list you've given me and I will be at it instantly. While I've seen Gumnaam and thoroughly enjoyed it, Anita was a bit of a disappointment. Now I have to see Saajan, Nakli Nawab and Shaadi, soon :)

  3. @Sharmi: Nice review of a somewhat unknown film. Regarding Manoj Kumar's patriotic roles, I think we have very few heroes who tried a totally different genre so we have to aprpeciate him.. Not that I like all those movies. I.S.Johar seems to have a major role in the film. Yes, he can be irritating at times :)

  4. @Sreenath: No, but Manoj Kumar overdid that patriotic persona. Hence it got idiotic. IS Johar tries to be intellectually funny but can never pull it off. At least I think so !!