Rattan Kumar Choudhury (Kishore Kumar) stays with his widowed mother (Achala Sachdev) and sick sister, Uma (Noor), in the village. He is waiting for his college results and dreams about the day when he has a job and a house and can look after his family. Rattan passes his BA and leaves for Calcutta where his father’s colleague had promised him a job where his father had worked. He takes up boarding in a lodge where he is neighbour to three other uneducated youth in the ‘bekaar’ or unemployed wing of the lodge. At his father’s colleague’s office, he finds out the manager has given the job to a relative. Rattan doesn’t give up and perseveres applying for a job wherever he can. His sister, suffering from TB, is put on the waiting list at the sanitarium. Meanwhile in Calcutta, Ratan also finds love with Seema (Shiela Ramani), who stays in the house in the next compound, much to her father’s disapproval. Rattan struggles to get a job but to no avail. One day, even as he gets the news that his sister has been accepted at the sanitarium, he gets a telegram informing of her death. One of the other youth in the lodge, Shankar, tries to kill himself but Rattan stops him. Shankar gets a job later and is grateful to Rattan. Rattan finally gets a job in Bombay. He sends his appointment letter to Seema’s father to prove he has now got a job but the old man tears up the letter and now Rattan has to leave for Bombay but he cannot remember the name of the company. Rattan reaches Bombay and ultimately does make his way to the company. He gets the job but one day takes up the side of an old employee and the manager fires him. Seema runs away from Calcutta to be with Rattan in Bombay. He cannot bring himself to tell her he is jobless. He tries to commit suicide but Seema stops him and they decide they will face life together…
In Bimal Roy’s films we see a romantic idealist to whom any form of exploitation – social, religious or economic was unacceptable. If Do Bigha Zamin (1953) looked at the heart-rending plight of a farmer displaced from his land and Sujata (1959) touchingly looked at the plight of an untouchable girl, Naukri sensitively looked at the dreams and aspirations of the educated youth in post-independent India getting shattered as they struggled in the urban jungle for employment. The film sees Bimal Roy tackle yet another social problem in his usual impeccable and heartfelt manner. Naukri, in a sense, continues from where Do Bigha Zamin left off particularly in the sequences as we see Rattan in the city. Many of the same locations of Calcutta that Bimalda used in Do Bigha Zamin are repeated in Naukri and Jagdeep even makes a cameo as Lalu Ustad reprising his role in the earlier film.
Naukri is full of Bimal Roy’s expert little touches as he perfectly captures the desperation of the Indian youth wanting to work and earn a respectable livelihood for their families and themselves. In a memorable sequence (albeit inspired from The Good Earth (1937)), Rattan, on finding out that a man has committed suicide and overhearing that he worked in a particular office, goes running over there as if his life depended on it because he now believes a vacancy is there…only to be told that the man killed himself because he was fired…
Bimal Roy was a master of the use of irony in his films. In Do Bigha Zamin, Shambu stands outside his land and is not allowed to take even mud from there, in Bandini, when everything was going wrong he cut to images of the sentry saying Sab Theek Hai. Similarly in Naukri, you cannot help but cry silently with Rattan when he receives the news of his sister’s death along with a letter from a sanitarium telling him there is a vacancy and she can now be admitted there. And as Bimal Roy was a realistic filmmaker whose films mirror the very images of life even as he tackled social issues close to his heart, his stories by and large stuck to realistic endings. In Do Bigha Zamin, Shambhu is unable to retrieve his land, In Bandini, Kalyani chooses a life of hardship with Bikas Babu rather then with the doctor. Similarly, Naukri too ends with Seema and Rattan deciding to face life together rather than a all is well kind of happy ending. What life has in store for them – is left to the viewer’s imagination.
Naukri is one of the earliest films where Kishore Kumar gained prominence. Since his harebrained, comic persona had not yet developed totally and considering he was working with an understated director like Bimalda, Naukri sees an extremely sensitive and relatively restrained performance from him. Kishore Kumar is totally at home be it the more serious scenes in the film or even in the comic scenes. The comic scenes however are not the typical slapstick Kishore scenes but lighthearted and gentle like most Bimal Roy scenes and bring a smile to one’s lips rather than uproarious laughter. The germs are obviously there for Kishore’s developing personality as a madcap comedian. The scene where he sings out his dialogue is something he often did in real life himself!
Bimal Roy was one filmmaker, who traveled deeply into the mind of his women characters and created memorable roles for them, be it the title role in Sujata or Kalyani in Bandini (1963). However, with Naukri being an out and out Kishore Kumar film, the heroine’s role is not that well sketched out as it could have been and Sheila Ramani is admittedly a bit weak in her performance. A glamorous and stunningly good-looking star, who scorched the screen as a club dancer in Taxi Driver (1954), she doesn’t really look the simple girl next door. But then Bimal Roy was known to cast actors against their set image and often successfully. Even earlier in Do Bigha Zamin, he cast a westernised Balraj Sahni as the peasant Shambhu and Nirupa Roy, known for mythological films, as his wife. In Baap Beti (1954), he cast the swashbuckling hero Ranjan in an emotional role as the father and in Parakh (1960), he cast Sadhana as a simple village girl soon after she wowed the country with her glamour act in Love In Simla (1960). To her credit, Sheila Ramani does try hard and comes up with a sincere act but…
In the supporting cast, special mention must be made of Kanhaiyalal. Generally cast as a slimy ‘seth’ or moneylender or a crooked pundit, he makes the most of his positive role as the servant in the lodge Hari who tries to help out Rattan any which way he can, be it lying to the men from whom Rattan has hired a typewriter to type out his application by telling them he isn’t there or even helping him out financially, when he himself is in dire straits. And it is interesting to see Mehmood in an early bit part as a small time pickpocket in Bombay.
The music of Naukri is more situational rather than populist but one song Naukri is best remembered for and did become extremely popular was the optimistic Chhota Sa Ghar Hoga. Composer Sasi Chowdhury would re-use this tune 26 years later in the Malayalam film, Air Hostess (1980), starring Prem Nazir and Rajni Sharma, as a romantic song, Onnanam Kunninmel. The other songs of the film include Jhoome Ri Kali wherein Seema feels the first flush of love, a song rendered perfectly in her unique manner by Geeta Dutt, Ek Chhotisi Naukri ka Talapdar Hoon Main, the sad O Man Re and Arzi Humari Yeh Marzi Humari. The last mentioned deserves special mention for its writing as well as picturisation. The song is beautifully layered as Rattan talks about his job applications as well as gets his feelings across to Seema through the song. The music aside, special mention must be made of the song picturisations. The songs are picturised very simply in the smallest of locations like the lodge or Seema in her room and have a far greater impact as they go perfectly in sync with the film’s story. Perhaps our filmmakers and choreographersof today could learn a thing or two as all they can think of is running off to some exotic location with 200 dancers doing PT steps!
On the technical side, the film is greatly enhanced by Kamal Bose’s evocative camerawork, Sudhendu Roy’s art direction and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s fine editing.
Naukri, released in 1954, looks at a very real problem that exists in our country even now – that of huge unemployment amongst the youth. However, whenever one goes through Bimalda’s filmography or even discusses his social issue-based films, Naukri is hardly ever mentioned while his other well-known classic films like Do Bigha Zamin, Sujata and Bandini take centerstage. This is a real pity because Naukri is a film of considerable merit by itself and deserves to get its due.
Hindi, Drama, Black & White