It is difficult to really give a proper review of this film, directed by K Amarnath, as the version available is just about 90 minutes running length with several sequences not there. Still, from whatever one saw, it’s actually not a bad 1940s film and relatively less stilted than a lot of films of the time. But why it is called Village Girl beats me as it is basically the adventures of the ‘Village Boy’, Jaani with Noor Jehan’s role kept to the standard romantic track and little more. And she would have even less to do if she didn’t have the songs.
So we follow Jaani (Nazir), a good-for-nothing mischief maker who though kind hearted keeps having run ins with Hari. His mother (Durga Khote) is often rebuked for Jaani’s ‘misdeeds’ and the family is treated as outcasts. Once while in a neighboring village, Jaani comes across Billo (Noor Jehan) and the two fall in love. Hari also has his eyes on Billo and one day Jaani sees Hari give Billo a large sum of money for her father. The two men fight and Jaani decides it is time to do something with his life. He mortgages his house, buys a couple of bulls and starts work on his land. Hari arm twists the money lender into tearing up Jaani’s papers, gets the bulls confiscated saying Jaani got them illegally. The money lender is killed by someone else in anger and Hari conveniently has Jaani framed for the murder. Fortunately, the real killer is discovered and Jaani is set free. Jaani is then recruited into the British army to fight the Japanese in World War II and returns home a hero only to find that Billo is to be married to Hari. Of course, it all ends happily after as Hari had impregnated another village belle and so he is forced to marry her while Jaani and Billo re-unite.
The screenplay of whatever one saw keeps things moving smoothly and at a pretty decent pace. Of course, there are creaky and dated elements like the innocent village belle the villainous Hari has made pregnant and some of the performances like Noor Jehan’s are embarrassingly stagey and have not held up well at all and there are the odd really tacky sequences using rear projection. But Nazir, even though much too old for the role, is not bad at all with his performance actually holding up even today while Durga Khote has her strong moments as expected as the mother as does Jagdish Sethi as the understanding village priest.
One can’t really talk too much about the technicalities as the quality of the print is woeful in particular the sound track. And with the film appearing drastically cut, even the music by Shyam Sunder fails to have the impact it did in its time. Of course, of the songs that remain in this mutilated version of the film, Noor Jehan is in fine form vocally but her best song Kis Tarah Bhoolega Dil – one of her best ever – is in the bits not there though the clip has found its way on YouTube. Sigh! One wonders if it was perhaps better not to see the film than to see it in such mutilated shape.
All in all, Village Girl seems to be pretty watchable for those who would want to see vintage films of this type. If only it was more complete… I refuse to rate it as the print is too far mutilated and it would not be fair to the film.
Hindi, Drama, Black & White