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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Not really Shammi-esque (Ujala)

I guess Shammi Kapoor was just not cut out for these roles. Dark, depressing and gloomy. In Naresh Saigal's 1959 drama, Ujala, my favourite Kapoor plays a poor young man suffering from the drudgery of life, yet trying to eke out an honest living and due to some unfortunate co-incidences has his self-confidence battered and bruised. He tries to prove himself time and again, with the help of an aged reformist and his sweetheart but the road to perdition is strewn with thorns. He does redeem himself of all the aspersions cast against his character but the journey towards redemption is too tedious and full of depression. Naah! Shammi Kapoor is definitely not cut out for such a gloomy role!

I prefer him as the stylish debonair, all jazzy and smart, wooing the lady love with his signature tricks. His sexy smirk is missing here. His swagger is not to be seen. He is not dressed in uber cool attires. So, Shammi here is hardly as appealing as his romantic persona. There are films where he is shown as a struggling youngster in the throes of poverty, but somehow that Shammi is a much more polished individual able enough to take the struggle in his stride and turn the tables on it with aplomb. I'd much rather prefer the smart Alec Shammi. Not the cowering, grovelling, deplorable Shammi of Ujala.
But yes, Shammi does act very well here. He makes Ramu look very convincing in his drudgery. He's mostly wearing tattered clothes and living a hand-to-mouth existence. He continuously tries to prove his innocence and diligence in front of people who matter who he is cast aside with rudeness and distrust. Till he comes at the doorstep of a aged and believing reformist who is willing to give him as many chances as is required to make Ramu a better man. In that, Ujala is a sound story.
Living with his mother and siblings, Ramu is a daily wage labourer, who balances his travails with a happy-go-lucky air. There is always a shortage of food at his quarters but he shares all that is to be had with his siblings. He is incessantly lured by the local goon Kalu (Raj Kumar) to follow his footsteps to rid himself of the poverty. But Ramu is righteous and honest. Till one day, a freak accident takes the life of his little sister Munni. It is then that Ramu is forced to step into the dark world of crime with Kalu who promises him that from now on he and his family will never go to sleep hungry.
Ramu is fast in learning the ropes of Kalu's deceitful trade. But soon, Chhabili (Mala Sinha) who is madly in love with Ramu, finds put that there is nothing honourable about Ramu's new job. She beseeches him to leave Kalu's company and earn an honest living. Ramu also wants to do that. He hates lying to his mother (Leela Chitnis) and doing bad things but dithers thinking what will happen if he is not able to gather enough money to marry off his young sister Sandhya (Ratna).
Then the dangerous happens. Kalu commits a murder and convinces Ramu (I wonder why this lad does not reason for himself?) that the world will consider him to be the murderer because he was last seen with the victim. This scares Ramu and he leaves Kalu's den. The regular supply of money is hindered and Ramu has to soon look for a fresh source of income. Chhabili, always eager to help him, comes to the rescue, and lands him a decent job at a knife sharpener's shop. However, despite Ramu earning an honest living and actually having nothing to lose sleep over, is tremendously jittery when he sees policemen near the shop. He mumbles vague answers when the police question him about Chandu's death and he is visibly all nerves.
Kalu on the other hand, is continuously trying to push Ramu off the honest seat by instigating him more than once. He even steals a silver knife from Ramu's employer and the blame is on Ramu. Ramu does nothing wrong but gets blamed for all of it. After a point, this gets my goat!
Then there are more blame games and running around. Till, Ramu reaches the doorstep of Acharyaji (Shivraj) and tells him that he is tired of having to prove himself all the time. No one trusts him, not even his own mother and he wants to live a clean livelihood now. Despite the management's caution, the Acharya shows faith in Ramu and thus starts his journey towards redemption...
Not the usual Shammi Kapoor caper, this one does of course has some riveting performances. Shammi Kapoor is good with his act as the struggler Ramu who just wants to live a peaceful and happy life. Mala Sinha is awesome as the rustic belle with a heart of gold. She is the person who is almost wholly responsible for bringing back Ramu from the dark recesses of crime and destruction. Leela Chitnis delivers an able performance as Ramu's helpless mother. Raj Kumar carries his magnetic charm and swagger. Here he is the villain and he is utterly believable as one.
The songs (music by Shankar Jaikishan) are good, too, though most of the ones lip-synced by Shammi have been sung by Manna Dey. Perhaps he was yet to find his voice--the inimitable Rafi! Jhoomta sawan, Duniya walon se door, Chham chham, all are quite good. But I personally like Tera jalwa jisney dekha and Mora Nadaan balma much more. They are catchy, feet-tapping and have Kumkum in them. She's a scene stealer when it comes to expressions and dancing.
Well, not quite happy with how Ujala panned out, I'm off to watch a regular Shammi fare, one with lots of romance, dance, songs and fun. What about you?


  1. Agree about Ujala not being one of Shammi's best, but the songs! Oh, the songs! And no, Rafi was Shammi's voice from long before Tumsa Nahin Dekha made him *the* Shammi.

    It's strange that Rafi had just one song in the whole movie, though. And Mukesh sang one song for Shammi too.. Hmm...

  2. Yes, the songs are fabulous - and Tera jalwa jisne dekha is my favourite of the lot. But this one is among my least-favourite post-Tumsa Nahin Dekha Shammi films.

  3. @Anu: And that one song also wasn't that great! Wonder why Shankar Jaikishan toyed with Manna DEy and Mukesh as Shammi's voice :( The only song I like with Manna Dey singing for Shammi is Yeh umar hain rangeeley from Professor. That one is fantastic.

  4. @Dustedoff: Ya mine too. Not great at all.

  5. I haven't been able to get past the moment Raj Kumar persuades him to do what he did. I mean to complete the film some daythough. When I can bear a gloomy Shammi, that is.
    Repeating the popular opinion about songs.


  6. @Pacifist: Ya it's quite a task especially Shammi is not his popular self here :(

  7. @Sharmi: You are right, Ujala is not a typical Shammi Kapoor film. I do like the movie though, in spite of its gloominess. Mala Sinha's role was endearing.

  8. Sharmi - Did you happen to see Dharmendra in a blink-and-you-will-miss-him role? I heard he was also in the movie, but not sure....

  9. @Shashi: Oh, I think I missed him !