Classic, Film, Hindi, India, Review

New Delhi

Anand (Kishore Kumar), a Punjabi boy, comes to Delhi from Jullunder but is unable to find a place to stay as everywhere he goes, people want to give their room only to a person of their ‘biradari’. Desperate, Anand masquerades as a Tamilian, ‘Anand Kumaraswamy’, and finds a place to stay with a Tamilian family. There he meets Janki (Vyjayanthimala), the daughter of the South Indian Cultural Association Head. They fall in love but Anand is unable to reveal his true identity to her. Daulatram Khanna (Nazir Hussain), Anand’s father, gets transferred to Delhi. Meanwhile, Anand’s sister, Nikki (Jabeen Jalil), comes close to Anand’s friend, Ashok Bannerjee (Prabhu Dayal), a Bengali painter teaching her art. When Daulatram finds out, he kicks Ashok out. Anand makes his Tamilian servant, Kumaraswamy (Dhoomal), masquerade as his father and they even meet Janki’s father, Subramanyam (Nana Palsikar) to discuss the marriage. But soon they are found out and Daulatram opposes the marriage. Subramanyam too turns against Janki, who tries to kill herself. She is saved by a kindly shop owner (Radhakishen) and passed off as his Punjabi niece, Mohini. Subramanyam realizes his mistake but sadly, he thinks it is too late. Thinking Mohini to be a good Punjabi girl, Anand’s family readily agrees to his marriage with her and also fix Nikki’s marriage within their community. But the marriage is almost called off when the boy’s father demands a huge dowry. It is Ashok who offers his family jewels to Daulatram so that Nikki’s marriage can take place. Daulatram’s eyes open and he calls off the wedding and marries Nikki to Ashok. The truth about Janki/Mohini also comes out and now that both the groups have shed their prejudices, Anand marries Janki.

New Delhi is one of those films that prove you can make entertaining films which are sensible and thought provoking as well. The purpose behind the film is to expose and emphasize the inherent stupidity of provincialism or regionalism, which makes the people of one linguistic region stick to their own even as they deride and distrust those from other parts of the country. Something that continues in India even today. New Delhi’s attempt is all the more commendable since it adopts satire as the form of denunciation. Before New Delhi, satire was a form rarely used in Indian Cinema. Perhaps, the only other earlier notable efforts of this form were done by Master Vinayak, father of the actress Nanda, in the late 1930s with films like Brahmachari (1938) and Brandi Ki Bottle (1939). The satire in New Delhi provides plenty of laughs and amusement and at the same time effectively communicates the film’s message. And since a good satire is dependent on wit and razor sharp dialogues, New Delhi excels in the departments of screenplay and dialogues. Full marks to writers Inder Raj Anand, Radhakishen and Mohan Segal as the dialogues are funny yet hard hitting and with several references to contemporary politics of the time.

The film is more than ably directed by Mohan Segal. What further helps the film greatly is that the laughs come from characters in their normal behavior and situations in which they are involved rather than being obviously forced. In fact, the comic scenes appear to be well thought out and nicely executed. Likewise, the drama and romance flow naturally too. The love story between Kishore Kumar and Vyjayanthimala is brisk, energetic and appealing. And to New Delhi’s credit, the pace or the engagement quotient doesn’t flag in spite of its 3-hours length. It does get a trifle melodramatic towards its end but fortunately, the film comes back on track just when it has to.

What is interesting in New Delhi is that barring Vyjayanthimala playing the Tamilian Janki, none of the other cast members play characters from their region. Kishore Kumar, a Bengali, plays a Punjabi, Palsikar and Dhoomal, both Maharashtrians, enact Tamilians and in her second avatar, Vyjayanthimala impersonates a Punjabi girl and most successfully too, one might add. Interestingly, like the film, in real life too Vyjayanthimala, a South Indian, ultimately married a Punjabi, Dr Bali.

New Delhi is full of wonderful performances. Kishore Kumar is in full form and carries the film on his shoulders. His comic timing is spot on and he is as madcap and energetic as ever. The traditional concept of a comedian has always been one of lowly stature, that of a sidekick. It was Kishore Kumar who successfully became Hindi cinema’s comic hero whose popularity relied primarily on his comic talents. Along with his his phenomenal acting talent, razor sharp comic timing,  his amazing singing voice ensured that you have a performer who bordered on the genius. Vyjayanthimala proves to be the perfect foil for Kishore Kumar complementing him perfectly, playing the characters of Janaki/Mohini with much spunk. Vyjayanthimala has always had the mandatory dance sequence in practically every film of hers evoking ‘classical art’ associations. Here, she excels in the two main dances in New Delhi – the solo Bharatnatayam Aliruppu number and the Bhangra folk dance in her Punjabi avatar. Already having worked together in Ladki (1953), Pehli Jhalak (1954) and Miss Mala (1954), Kishore Kumar and Vyjayanthimala proved to be quite a successful pair, teaming up again successfully in Asha (1957) and Rangoli (1962).

The lead duo are well supported by Nana Palsikar, Radhakishen and Dhoomal. However, on the flip side, Jabeen Jalil as Kishore Kumar’s sister, Nikki is a big no-no, coming up woefully short in the histrionic department while Prabhu Dayal as Ashok is adequate at best.

The music by Shankar-Jaikishan is one of the highlights of the film with the songs being extremely popular. However, the one song which outdid the others in terms of its popularity was Nakhrewali with Kishore Kumar dressed like Fred Astaire with a cane and top hat. The song is among the early ones where the famous Kishore Kumar yodelling is heard. It is also an early instance of back-to-back songs in a film, followed immediately by Zindagi Bahar Hai. The other extremely catchy songs in the film include the Bhangra number, Tum Sang Preet Rachayi Rasiya, and Ae Bhai Zara Nikal Ghar Se.

New Delhi was a tremendous success at the box office and was one of the rare films which pleased Filmindia owner Baburao Patel. In his review of the film, he said, ““New Delhi, Mohan Segal’s maiden effort in production and his third attempt in direction is a picture, which is entertaining, enlightening, purposeful and topical – all at once. In our sorry industry it is indeed an unusual feat and its young producer-director therefore draws all praise for making an intelligent effort to entertain through the usually abused film medium.”

Interestingly one of the writers, Inder Raj Anand, went on to script another extremely popular film which had the lead duo separated by linguistic and regional barriers with one family being Punjabi and the other, Tamilian. Only, this film was not a satire but an intense love story. The film? Ek Duje Ke Liye (1981) starring Kamal Haasan and Rati Agnihotri!

Hindi, Comedy, Drama, Black & White

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