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Monday, 26 April 2010

Gauri's tale of grit and gumption (Seema)

I'm absolutely convinced. If you have Nutan on the screen, you don't need anyone else. And, if that Nutan is a 19-year-old teenager, the effect is bound to be doubly fresh and scintillating. In Seema, Amiya Chakraborty's touching tale about an honest and brave girl, Nutan shows that she can perform like it's nobody's business...
I read up a bit about Nutan after seeing Seema. Here's a piece of information: this beauty had won the Miss India crown in 1952. Hardly surprising!!
Nutan's looks are impeccable, something that could inspire any poet, worth his poetry, to pen paeans of love. After debuting in Hamari Beti as a 14-year-old, she got her big break in 1955's Seema. There was no looking back. With the first Filmfare Award in her kitty for portraying the multi-hued Gauri, Nutan went on to climb the glorious echelons of moviedom.
Gauri's tale is moving. Most interesting is her seamless transition from a weakling to a fiesty woman all out to win back her lost honour. She starts off as a downtrodden, helpless teenager wallowing in the misery meted out by her abusing aunt and uncle. She's always neck deep in household chores (sleeps with an empty stomach), earns a meagre sum as a maid, but the money is snatched away by the malicious aunt. Her only respite from these grim realities are the story-telling sessions with the neighbourhood children. She laughs with them, cries with them and sings her poor heart out before them.
Her sorrows multiply when she is accused of theft in the house she works in, courtesy the devious ploy of a rogue called Banke. She pleads innocence, but no one believes her. Though she is acquitted, her guardians throw her out on the street, to fend for herself. She runs from pillar to post to make a living but is unable to wash away the stigma of theft. At this juncture, she spots Banke, her old enemy and vows revenge. In the scene where she accosts Banke there is mock satisfaction (mindblowing expressions) on her face. But alas, she is duped again and is handed over to an orphanage.
Gauri is disillusioned and becomes rebellious. She keeps plotting revenge against Banke and says, "Mujhey kisisey purana hisaab chukana hain." From a girl who is too mum to stand up against the misbehaviour of her aunt, Gauri metamorphoses into a fire-breathing dragon. She is not ready to listen to anyone, forever nursing an urge to break into a quarrel, argues every point and makes sure she is heard all the time. But, instead of being irritated by her sudden change in personality, you sympathise with this young woman. Here is someone who has lost all faith in humanity and has been instigated by the society to revolt. She says, "Ha ha mein buri hoon, mein kabhi achhi nahin thi." This is her modus operandi for being heard and noticed...
But her rebellion stops short before Ashok's stern calmness. Ashok, the owner of the orphanage, is the first person to understand the predicament of this woman. Balraj Sahni is tailormade for this role. He is good natured and benevolent. But he lacks the charisma as a male lead. I feel, he is best suited to play the elder brother and later, the father. Not the romantic saviour of the damsel in distress. But Sahni is not our subject here, I guess...
Initially, Gauri breaks all the rules of the orphanage and is kept in solitary confinement but slowly Ashok's patience wins her over. He is the first person to trust her, resulting in her being absolved of the wrong accusations. He always has pleasant and caring words for her, something that she is not used to. This is a catalyst for an alteration in Gauri's persona. She is gradually drawn to him. In the later stages of the film Nutan is more tepid, but lovely nevertheless...
In the song, Manmohana , one can spot the gradual change in Gauri's disposition. Peace is replacing fire and angst. This is one jewel in the otherwise lacklustre score by Shankar Jaikishen.
The story is dotted with interesting side characters, namely Shobha Khote's Putli. Everytime she mouths, "Kya baat hain" to Gauri, you know she is trying to needle the poor girl. Watch out for the catfight between the two, it's a sheer spectacle!!!
We come back to Nutan. She is mesmerising. Minimal makeup, rag tag clothes notwithstanding, Nutan is bliss for the senses. When she is mellow she is beautiful and dainty, when she is fiesty, she appears like a Goddess, with her hair all unkempt, her eyes on fire and mouth spewing a barrage of powerful lines. She is a ravishing sight, replete with a fabulously hard-hitting performance. If morning shows the day, Seema is only a trailor of what moviebuffs would be enjoying in the years to come, from this gorgeous cracker of an actor...


  1. The engaging way you have written the post makes the film a must-watch (though I don't know on which Sunday!)
    Thanks for the post and keep writing.

  2. @Dwaipayan: Now it's almost a mountain of movies that you have to see...but trust me..they are a delight...if you have the love for classics that is...Thank you for the appreciation...

  3. Hello Sharmi,
    Great, fantastic post for one like me who has decided to become a supporter of Nutan's glory (you can go and check reviews on Bandini, Sujata, Dilli ka thug, Manzil, Saudagar... and lots of pics...on the blog!)!
    You know that you're right, she's often had what I'd call Cinderella roles, those of the poor, pure and beautiful rejected girl; it seems like something in her character must have suggested directors to use her in that way.
    I'd seen on Imdb that Seema attracted no comment and had concluded perhaps a bit fast, that the film wasn't worth watching... I understand you waould recommend it?

  4. @Yves: I absolutely think you must watch Seema. Yes, it might not be in the league of say, Tere Ghar ke Saamne or Bandini, but it stands out for the fiestiness of Nutan. And she was just 19 then!!! I've written on Sujata also as I love the film!! It's supremely poignant!! Yes, you're right. Directors often cast her as the downtrodden girl. May be it was her eyes. They had a tinge of melancholy in them!!! But, she simply shined nevertheless.
    Thanks for the comment Yves!!
    P.S. Do send me your blog link. :)

  5. yes... if you have Nutan on screen.. it's a MUST watch.. LOVE HER. Great write-up.

  6. @Sarbani: Yes, you are right...Great to see that many people echo my thoughts!!

  7. Hi Sharmi,

    I finally got round to seeing Seema, thanks to Madhu who told me where to find a version with subtitles!
    BTW, you don't know what "Seema" means, do you?

  8. @Yves: Seema means boundaries. I guess that's why Nutan crosses many boundaries of society to emerge a strong woman :)

  9. There is no mention of kahan jaa raha hai. Rafi rated as one of his best songs. Melancholic and fantastic range.

  10. @Sreeram: Really? Then I must check it out :)

  11. Hi there Sharmi
    Long time no see! I'm back because I have a proposal from Seema Patwardhan who has sent me the translation of Lalita Tamhane's book on Nutan, you know, her biography, and she suggested I could inquire whether you might be interested. Just let me know, and supply me with an email address if yes.

  12. @yves: hi yves. I knowwww. So busy juggling work home and baby. My email id is

  13. Hi Sharmi

    wow!how beautifully you wrote on Seema as well as Nutan!loved it
    Seema Patwardhan

  14. wow!Just loved the way you wrote on Seema and Nutan too.
    Seema Patwardhan