Aar Paar (1954)

08 May

Aar-Paar has been one of my favourite time-pass Guru Dutt films. And every time I watch it, I discover something new about it and I end up liking it more than ever. It is his first independent movie under his own production. Basically it is a bit like Baazi without the gamble and the dimensions toned down. And for the first time no K. N. Singh. Did they fall out? As far as I know Guru Dutt never repeated him in his films again except for C.I.D.

The story starts with Kaalu (Guru Dutt) in prison; he is serving a sentence for a car-accident. The scene is hilarious, where he thinks he is being summoned by the jailor for smoking a beedi. He apologises for smoking, citing how important a smoke is in the morning and he has been having trouble with ‘it’ since three days. But good news awaits him, he is being released earlier for his good behaviour. While leaving another prisoner mumbles something in his ear, a message which he has to bring to a certain ‘Captain’.

He tries to get his old job as a driver, but since he has been a jail-bird now, he is not trusted by the boss anymore. Kanoon ne maaf kiya to kya, duniya mujhe maaf nahin karti (What if the justice has pardoned me, the world doesn’t!). No he doesn’t say any such thing. But my mind, seasoned to lots of masala films, starts mumbling such dialogues without my consent.

When he is strolling through the streets he stumbles over somebody, who is repairing a car. It turns out to be Nikki (Shyama). He is surprised to see a woman under the car, but that doesn’t stop him from flirting with her. Kabhi aar, kabhi paar laga teer-e-nazar! (Dustedoff, how does one translate such a phrase?). Anyway, when he repairs her car, she drives away without so much as a thank you and also takes away his coat. I wonder if men in Bombay used to wear coats (which are in fact jackets) in the 50s.

Well, what do all good heroes do when they get released from the prison? They go to maa. But Kaalu doesn’t have a maa, but he has a sister (Ameer Banu, whom we also saw in Baaz as Neesha’s friend’s mother in the opening scene and as the palm-reader in Jaal). His brother-in-law though, is not so happy to see him. He fears he will have bad influence on his son. So out he goes!

He lands on the street, where he is befriended by Elaichi (Cardamom in Hindi, Jagdeep). Both sleep on the pavement. The next day, when they are strolling in the streets, they find the car again. Kaalu goes inside the garage to ask, whom the car belongs to. It is Nikki’s father’ garage and he manages to get a job there as well as a place to sleep.

But he has not forgotten the task given to him by the prisoner. It is a night-club, where he meets a dancer (Shakila). But he can’t get it through, though the dancer in very much enamoured by him. Babuji dheere chalna

Meanwhile he gets further with Nikki (Sun, sun, zalima). So much that, her father throws him out.

His next attempt to bring the message to Captain (Bir Sakhuja) is more successful and he also manages to get a loan for a taxi from him. The boss would like to use the taxi for his own smuggling purposes, since his car is being watched by the police. And although there is cigarette-smoke hanging very heavily and he can hardly see the ‘Captain’s’ face he never thinks that it all sounds very fishy.

Although his new riches have impressed Nikki, her father is not much impressed by his proposal. Desperate Kaalu asks Nikki to elope with him, for which she agrees, but on the proposed night she gets cold feet, leading Kaalu to sing ‘Mohabbat kar lo, jee bhar lo’.

Meanwhile Kaalu gets caught by the Captain while he is snooping around. He must have watched no films at all, otherwise he would have known that it is never good to tell your smuggler/bank robber boss, that you are leaving the job. He is overpowered and tied up.

The dancer is ready to free him, but he is not ready to accept her. But even she can’t accept that he will be killed and advises them to kidnap Nikki and thus pressurize Kaalu to work for them. And they kidnap not only Nikki but also Elaichi. Why they kidnap Elaichi as well is beyond my comprehension.

Will Kaalu be able to save Nikki? Will Kaalu rob the bank and thus become a criminal? Will the dancer get a name? Will the Captain get a ship?

What I liked about the movie

The fast pace of the movie. Photography by V. K. Murthy. The shots through the car windows are fabulous. It gives the frames not only a depth but also an urgency and sense of claustrophobia. The lovable Lalaji and Kazi (M. A. Lateef). Fine acting by all the actors. The consistently fine dialogues by Abrar Alvi. The dialects of the different characters is never mixed up. The dancer and the captain speak proper Hindi. Nikki’s father speaks a Hindi with Punjabi accent. Kazi speaks Urdu. Kaalu (according to Abrar Alvi speaks a sort of dialect form Madhya Pradesh), Elaichi a bambaiya dialect. Rustom a Parsi one. The way Kaalu and Elaichi exaggerate their life conditions reminded me of some people form my childhood in Bombay. The wonderful songs by Majrooh set to tune by O. P. Nayyar.

What I didn’t like

The csp. Compared to other movies it was short but on the other hand it gives us the good duet ‘Arre na na na na aisa kaisa hoga’.

The film depicts a romanticized life of an immigrant. In the film it is Kaalu. He came most probably in search of a job from a village to his sister, who must have married a factory worker. We don’t see or hear of their parents. Though he proclaims himself to be undemanding and not wanting much in life, he would love to have luxurious life, which is seen in his passion for cars. Stubborn, street smart, at times naïve and very much conscious of his gender (mard ke bacche hai sar uthake chalne ki aadat hai) but all the same very endearing character.

Nikki: Quite a confusing character. Having grown up with her father in the garage she knows it seems the basics of car mechanics, but after her first scene we see her mostly in traditional feminine work: sewing and bringing tea, though during the song ‘Sun sun zalima’ we see her in working overalls. She has the typical role of being caught between her father and her lover.

The dancer: Her name is not revealed. She is Nisha’s (from Baazi 1951) sister. Both want a new life away from criminality with the hero. But she is not a whore with a golden heart, she doesn’t sacrifice anything. All the same it is a multifaceted role (see the song ‘hoon abhi mein jawan’). We don’t know what happens that night, the song ends with her closing the door on Kaalu’s face. This role could have been developed a bit. Shakila looks breathtaking beautiful!

Some nice scenes :

It is funny to see the irony in the scene that Kaalu barges in with Nikki in the jailor’s office right at the moment, when he is being reprimanded by his superior for being soft on the prisoners.

All the scenes with Lalaji and Kazi. Their bickering was cute and reminds one of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. They are sort of forefathers of Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khilari. Only that they are not nawabs and work hard (at least Lalaji).

And last but not the least I loved to see old Bombay trams!

A remake would be great if treated right.

Kaalu: Aamir Khan
Nikki: Kajol
The dancer: Kareena Kapoor
Lalaji: Anupam Kher
Kazi: Om Puri
Captain: Boman Irani
Director: Sanjay Ghadvi

The Thirdman has written a good review of the film at the Upperstall.


Posted by on May 8, 2010 in Bollywood, Guru Dutt Series


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19 responses to “Aar Paar (1954)

  1. dustedoff

    May 9, 2010 at 6:17 am

    Ah, I need to see this again. When we first replaced our battered old VCP with a VCD player (no DVD players in India back then), Aar Paar was the first VCD I bought. And it’s been soooo long since I’ve seen it, I’ve forgotten the story. The songs, of course, are too memorable for me to forget!

    Kabhi aar kabhi paar laaga teer-e-nazar? My goodness, that’s a toughie. Literally, it might be a lot of fun. Let’s see… Now here, now there, the arrows of your eyes are shooting at me?

    Ouch. 🙂

    • harvey

      May 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm

      It is funny, how you remember the first VCD you bought.
      Mine was Hu tu tu! Just imagine, I had asked a friend of mine, who was visiting India to buy a Video cassette of the latest Gulzar movie and she commmes with this VCD and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had heard of DVD but VCD? I felt as if i had just arrived from Stone age!
      I’d have translated it as ‘sometimes past, sometimes through, meeting the arrows of your eyes’! 😉
      Ach, you should try singing it with the melody, it is lots of fun!
      A freind of mine and I used to have our translation antakshadis. Others used to drop by and go away shaking their heads!

      • dustedoff

        May 10, 2010 at 6:44 am

        I tried singing the translation to the tune, but couldn’t manage it! You have obviously loads more experience with this! 😉

  2. sophy

    May 10, 2010 at 1:59 am

    I wanted to see the movie just for the context for Babuji dheere chalna. But from you review, it doesn’t look like much context was supplied. That is my favorite bolly niteclub song.

    • harveypam

      May 10, 2010 at 8:23 pm

      O! I love ‘babuji dheere chalna as well! It has got this real old world charm to it. As to the context, what do you mean?

  3. bollyviewer

    May 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I LOVE the songs from this one, but the only time I sat down to watch it (a few weeks ago), I lost interest about 30-40 min into the movie. Guru Dutt the actor, doesnt do much for me. I think its because I’ve always seen him in very sexist roles. But this one is in my DVD collection – so I will get to it again, sometime…

    • harveypam

      May 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

      O really! What a pity! You should watch the camera movements and angles. it is one of the most rewarding things in a guru dutt movie. Moreover the dialogues are great!
      You are right, he is a sexist, but you should see his goofy smile in the first scene, when the warden asks him for his name.

  4. sunheriyaadein

    May 11, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I haven’t seen many Guru Dutt films, I have this movie in my collection but havent watched it yet. I simply love the songs. I find Shyama very pretty (wish she had more movies in leading roles) and Shakila looks really breath-taking in that screen cap.
    I love the translation…and I too love playing translation antakshari, it’s so much fun.

    I think I should give this movie a try now.

    • harvey

      May 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      I think you will like the film.
      The leading ladies are so beautiful! And even Guru Dutt looks good. Particularly his goofish grins!

      It is simply great to hear that you play translation antakshari as well. I am out of touch nearly for 18 years now. :-(((
      But it makes me feel I have met somebody on a desert island!

      Do tell me what you think of the film, if you watch it!

      • sunheriyaadein

        May 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm

        Definitely….will try to watch it over the weekend. It’s been so long since I watched a movie.

  5. bollywoodeewana

    May 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I still haven’t seen any Guru Dutt films as i’ve been waiting to get my hands on a special moserbaer 6 dvd set, that i’ll be able to sink my teeth into. But i’ve always loved the babuji song and he poster is fab, something about it feels very 1950’s americana

    • harveypam

      May 23, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      You are right about the feeling, which you describe.
      I have the Moserbaer set, but the picture quality leaves a lot to be desired.

  6. pacifist

    May 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I love this film! It was one among a collection in Guru Dutt pack from Induna. And my views match yours 🙂

    Let me try the translation.
    aar paar represents the two sides. aar is the front and paar is the back. So when a thing goes aar paar it means it has gone right through….from front through back.

    Kabhi aar kabhi paar seems quite a torturous description of the arrow’s path LOL

    So my translation would go something like this;
    Sometines goes through sometimes goes back the arrow of your looks.

    Gosh, that was fun. 😀

  7. harveypam

    May 30, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Wow, that was awesome! What we need now is that it fits the melody and then we can play translation antakshari! 🙂

    BTW I didn’t know that aar means front and paar back! I just thought it is word play like ishq-vishq and dil-vil!

    • pacifist

      May 30, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      >I didn’t know that aar means front and paar back!

      Well, not literally. They are the two ‘sides’ of ‘through’.
      One might even refer it to ‘across’.

      You may have heard ‘nadiya ke paar’.
      The paar meaning across/through to the other side.

      I made an error by calling ‘paar’ back when it is actually the other side, and aar the nearer.

      I must say I can’t think of any occasion where aar can be used without paar though paar can be used independently.

      • harvey

        May 31, 2010 at 10:21 am

        That’s true!

        So the real translation of Aar-Paar would be through and through?

        But sometimes through and sometimes through sound svery tedious. And as you say “quite a torturous description of the arrow’s path” 😀


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