Of Low Moral Tone: Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo

Rehana (seen above in a still from the film Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo) was a popular actress in the late 1940s and early 1950s. One of Indian cinema’s earliest ‘jhatka queens’, Rehana scandalized the gentry classes of the day who regarded her dance moves vulgar even as she became a favorite of the frontbenchers through films like Shehnai (1947), Sajan (1947), Actress (1948), Sunehre Din (1949), Sargam (1950) and Sagai (1951). In particular, she formed a career-defining professional partnership with filmmaker PL Santoshi – a teaming that began with Dev Anand’s debut film made at Prabhat, Hum Ek Hain (1946), and ended with Chham Chhama Chham (1952) and  Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo (1952), a film in which Santoshi covered multiple roles of producer-director-dialogue writer and lyricist while Ramanand Sagar provided the film its storyline.

Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo, an orientalist fantasy, tells the story of Shin Shinaki (Rehana) out to avenge the murder of her parents. She is supported in her task by her lover, the bandit Boobla Boo (Ranjan). The film also featured dancer-actress Sadhona Bose in a key role with Santoshi regular C Ramchandra composing the film’s music. Ramchandra’s songs for Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo include the Lata Mangeshkar soulful solo, Tum Kya Jano, the whacky title duet sung by Mangeshkar and Ramchandra himself, and the suitably peppy Arre Baba sung by Mangeshkar and chorus that incorporates Ramchandra’s typical experiments with jazz and Latin American rhythms.

Even as the film readied for release, Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo became one of the earliest victims of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in post-Independent India. Even though the censor board had passed the film with a Universal certificate, the Central Government clamped down on Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo deeming it of ‘low moral tone’. The Ministry further argued that that the film “throws the glamour and heroism over criminal characters, treats sacred objects irrelevantly and is, in consequence, opposed to the interests of public decency and morality.”

Though the ban was ultimately revoked, it pretty much killed whatever chance the film had at the box office and Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo sank at the box-office when it finally released.

The film was also one among a series of flops that brought about a sharp decline in Rehana’s career as a leading lady. She ultimately migrated to Pakistan in 1956 but unfortunately, found little success as an actress even across the border.

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  1. That just goes to show that the Government of the day – along with the Censors were and are the sole custodians of Morality in the Country

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