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Chaudhvin ka Chand (1960)

11 Jun

This one was for me Guru Dutt’s less interesting films. In my teens I just couldn’t warm up to it as I had for Pyaasa, Kaagaz ke Phool or Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam or for that matter even Aar-Paar. Although nearly everybody loves the title song, even that didn’t much to me. All this changed completely when I read Cory Creekmur’s  notes on the film on Philip Lutgendorf’s site. I cursed myself for being blind and re-watched it. One thing is to be said of it: this film created more waves of contradictions in my heart than any other film ever has.

The film begins with a song singing paeans of glory of Lucknow and showing its wonderful architecture or what was to be seen through this shoddy print.

We learn that Pyare mia (Rehman), Shaiza (Johny Walker) and Aslam (Guru Dutt) are fast friends. Aslam is an orphan and Pyare’s family brought him up and got him started with his business. Shaiza’s father is a police inspector and not at all impressed by his son’s antics. He reminds me at times of Bertie Wooster’s friends.

During one of their strolls Pyare gets a glimpse of a lady’s face (Waheeda Rehman), who is wearing a burkaah and falls in love with her and is dead intent at marrying her.

His mother though has other plans for him. Due to her ill health she can’t go on Haj, but the religion allows sending somebody else instead of her and she gets the merit of it. The maulvi, whom she has chosen for the task is reluctant to go since he has a young daughter of marriageable age. She, the mother, promises that she will get the marriage arranged and thinks of Pyare, who in turn pushes this duty on to Aslam, who readily agrees.

Aslam’s wife is Jamila, the mystery lady! Since Aslam has not seen her, he doesn’t know that it the same lady, whom his friend craves for.

By accident he learns that his friend’s object of desire is his wife. Meanwhile Pyare’s marriage is settled with Aslam’s cousin, who he thinks is his beloved.

So what happens with this comedy, sorry tragedy of errors? Who gets the girl?

I don’t know what to make of this film.

On one hand you have this wonderful bromance Aslam-Pyare. You have to see the looks, which Aslam gives Pyaremia!

And then you have lots of Sitagiri. One would think it is out of place in a muslim-social. No, Sitagiri knows no such boundaries. It makes one feel like going and banging one’s head against the wall.

Then there is this game of hide and seek in the story, song and cinematography. It takes your breath away. Thanks Corey!

Women are treated as mere accessories to men’s lives. When Aslam trying to get counsel from his wife on their love triangle. He gives the example of two friends, one of whom covets a gem and the other has found it and regards it as his. His question: should he give the gem to his friend? Jamila thinking that the gem is meant as a gem asks him to ‘return’ it.

But you have to laud the fact that Minoo Mumtaz has been used here competently. She gets to mouth two songs and dance to it.

It is the purdah system, which is the main protagonist of the story. It is which creates the whole misunderstanding. I thought at the beginning, this would be a scathing criticism of a society, which bars men and women from freely communicating with each other. My hope lay in the fact that all the three friends are shown not to be so particular about purdah, mostly Aslam, since he always jokes of showing Jamila off to his friends.

SPOILER AHEAD

In the end when Pyare has committed suicide and asked Aslam to let the secret remain a secret, the latter goes and closes his wife’s face with the niqab. I was schocked!

SPOILER END

Interesting facts

Lata Mangeshkar sings for the first and last time for Guru Dutt Film Produtions

Geeta Dutt has only one song, a background song at that. Starting with this movie she stops singing for Waheeda Rehman.

Conclusion: good art, bad story

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21 Comments

Posted by on June 11, 2010 in Bollywood, Guru Dutt Series

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

21 responses to “Chaudhvin ka Chand (1960)

  1. bollyviewer

    June 11, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I am normally blind to artistic camera angles and gorgeous cinematography, which I did notice here. But nothing, in my opinion, overshadows the nauseatingly sexist aspects of the film and I must admit that I HATE it! (There, I’ve said it out aloud.) Like a friend on Bollywhat mentioned, the women are all caged-in and the purdah, in this case, gave me a strong feeling of claustrophobia. I’ve been a very big fan of Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aaftaab ho, but when put together with the context of this film, its no more no less than an exercise in female objectification, and that has dimmed the lustre of the song considerably! I kept thinking that a plot like this calls for a Bimal Roy or a Gulzar (who, to his credit, has never made a film like this!) – only they can transform a nauseatingly sexist story into a palatable film (check out Bimal Roy’s Benazir which is also very sexist, but does not offend the way CKC does). Well, this film has pushed Pyaasa and Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam further down on my to-watch list since I am not very charitably disposed toward Guru Dutt, these days!

     
    • harvey

      June 11, 2010 at 11:09 pm

      You have put all that I had in my heart in expressive words!!!!!
      Basically I find the story good, because it points out the evils of the social norms. It shows clearly the failings of the purdah system, but nobody questions it, rather they confirm it in the end and all is well in glorious Lucknow.

      So many people have recommended Benazir and since the time I read your review, have always wanted to see it, but the place where I live doesn’t have stores with old films. Will have to look for other resources.

      If you are so offended by Guru Dutt, don’t watch the Pyaasa now, but don’t give it the total miss.

       
  2. pacifist

    June 11, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Well here we must part ways harvey. 🙂
    This film is one of my favourite films of all time.
    I find the whole narration very gripping.

    I think it isn’t fair to apply modern theories to a society half a century ago.
    Jane Austen would never have been my favourite author if I started applying modern sensibilities to her novels.

    The women were treated with respect in this film. The very fact that he consults his wife about the ‘gem’ is progressive enough.

    Poetry was always this way with a woman’s beauty and the song is no different.
    Anyway I didn’t find ‘anything’ sexist or anti woman in this film.
    If Waheeda was showing sitagiri (LOL) then Guru Dutt was no less heart broken and languishing elsewhere.

    At least in India purdah is not very strict. If you had a good friend sooner or later he would join the family circle. In many cases the woman wearing a burqua threw it back as soon as she was away from her area.
    If you walk around some muslim areas you’ll see a lot of women like that.

    I didn’t get what your interpretation was regarding Aslam’s putting the burqua back on his wife’s face towards the ending.
    I thought it was symbolic.
    I interpreted it as *it’s over* to her question ‘kya hua?’
    The answer to her question would always remain behind a veil.

    The feeling I have whenever I watch it is as if this time over he’ll agree to his mother’s wishes and marry this girl and get the surprise of his life, and all things will be fine.

     
  3. dustedoff

    June 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

    harvey: It’s been a while since I saw Chaudhvin ka Chand, but I must agree with you and bollyviewer; the Sitagiri of this film makes it one of my least favourite Guru Dutt films. Just the very tone and lyrics of a song like Badle-badle se mere sarkar nazar aate hain are enough to make me grit my teeth! What riled me most was the idea that a woman could be switched – like a possession, not a human being with emotions of her own – from one man to another. This is definitely not the first or the last film to use that archaic premise, but one certainly expected something more progressive of Guru Dutt…

     
    • harvey

      June 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      “What riled me most was the idea that a woman could be switched – like a possession, not a human being with emotions of her own – from one man to another.”

      That is really painful. Nobody asks the women, what they want. ‘You are my friend and if you like her you can have her’ is the premise. Well, to tell the truth I didn’t expect anything progressive from Guru Dutt. But his art of film-making is so fine, that one wishes he would have been progressive.

      The story has great potential for a brilliant comedy and satire. A pity that it was only touched upon in the wonderful song ‘Yeh duniya gol hai’

      A remake in this direction would be a great idea

       
  4. harvey

    June 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    @ pacifist
    I agree with you that the narration is gripping.
    I also agree with you that modern theories shouldn’t be applied to stories of 50 years back. And on the face of it, the women are treated with respect. 🙂
    And I am glad you have a diffferent opinion! 🙂

    Even 50 years back the feminist movement was very strong, if not stronger than now. Like for e.g. during the independence movement, though many religious men were against women participating in it, people from all strata supported women in their struggle. This was a strong impetus for the feminist movement in India, both for muslims and hindus. Thus, the call for the men and women to communicate with each other on the same level is not of the 21 century.

    And as to the respect thing: It always comes with a price. Manu also respects women so long they treat their husbands as gods, even if he ill-treats them.

    The muslim families that I knew in Bombay, didn’t have the purdah at all. There were rich and not so rich families and there was no difference. And other muslim ladies, who wore burqah did open the niqaab when buying vegetables, which Jamila and her mother do while buying flowers.

    Your interpretation of the ending is, I must admit, the more attractive and poetic one. 🙂
    But the way, I interpret the story it doesn’t seem conclusive to me. For me the story is of three male friends young and liberal, two of them at least who try to look at the faces behind veil start the wheel of tragedy rolling. If Pyare mia hadn’t taken a peek at Jamila, he wouldn’t have fallen in love with her. Aslam in his liberal attitude shows his friend his wife’s face, which further aggravates the situation, leading to death and tragedy. Aslam learns the lesson and abides by the purdah.

    The foreboding of this tragic end is to be heard in the qawaali sharamaa ke ye kyo.n sab pardaanashii.n. The song in fact summarizes the whole story!

    betaab nigaaho.n se kah do jalavo.n se uljahanaa Thiik nahii.n
    aanaa sambhal ke pardanashiino.n ke saamane
    jhukatii hai zi.ndagii bhii hasiino.n ke saamane
    mahafil me.n husn kii jo gayaa shaan se gayaa
    jis ne nazar milaayii vahii jaan se gayaa
    ye naaz\-o\-adaa ke matavaalaa bemaut bhii maaraa karate hai.n
    (Lyrics from giitaayan.com: http://thaxi.hsc.usc.edu/rmim/giitaayan/cisb/3198.isb)

    tell the impatient glances it is not right to play with fire
    step in with care in front of the fair sex
    even life bows in front of them
    who enters their sanctuary loses their pride
    who looks into their eyes loses his life

    Thanks for your alternative opinion.
    Similar opinion gladdens the heart,
    Opposite opinion stimulates the mind.

     
  5. sunheriyaadein

    June 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Quite some time since I saw this film but I do agree with you, bollyviewer and dustedoff on this. This is the least favourite Guru Dutt films of mine.

     
    • harvey

      June 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      Storywise (better said contentwise), I think CkC vies with Mr. & Mrs. 55 for the last place on Guru Dutt’s list of movies for me.

       
  6. pacifist

    June 13, 2010 at 2:35 am

    LOL! I am the odd one out here – NOT REALLY!
    I can guarantee I’m as progressive if not more 🙂
    It’s just that I don’t cry wolf everytime there is a ‘burqua’ story or a woman heartbroken at seeing her home and husband in ruin.
    Even the most progressive woman should be allowed to feel heartbroken over that. 🙂

    Though there *is* now a post feminist period where one is standing back to observe, check and study the ‘achievements’ and take measure.

    @dustedoff
    There was no switching of women in the sense that Aslam is aware he would have to die. Switching would mean just handing over the woman – unlike in Sangam (there too I think RK thought his wife still loved Rajender Kumar, because she still had his letter).

    @harvey
    Ah! That’s one way of interpreting. 🙂 This makes it look like the film is preaching ‘purdah’ which I don’t think is Guru Dutt’s aim inspite of that qawalli. Being a quawalli I’m sure there is a pretty strong rejoinder to what you have quoted.
    The veil is circumstantial. It is the story of mistaken identities, love and guilt, and friendship.
    Something like ‘nav durghatna’ written by Rabindranath Tagore, made into a film ‘ghunghat’.

    three male friends young and liberal, two of them at least who try to look at the faces behind veil..
    Only **that face**..and..*only* when she would uncover her face which is different from trying to look at the faces BEHIND veil

    start the wheel of tragedy rolling
    IMO the wheel of tragedy started rolling when Pyare went around begging his friend to marry the girl…. or one could say when he saw her face…..or when they exchanged their dupattas.

    If Pyare mia hadn’t taken a peek at Jamila, he wouldn’t have fallen in love with her.
    Of course! But the story is more about his *having fallen in love*.
    You could even say that if they hadn’t exchanged their dupattas this wouldn’t have happened.
    Or if he had obeyed his mother and married the girl she said.

    I

     
  7. dustedoff

    June 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    @pacifist: Ah, mea culpa. I didn’t really mean ‘switching’ as in swapping or going back and forth, just that the woman would pass from one man to another. Which was bad enough if the woman had no say in the matter. That was what irritated me.

     
    • pacifist

      June 13, 2010 at 9:06 pm

      > Which was bad enough if the woman had no say in the matter. That was what irritated me.

      Neither did the *man* Rehman.
      Guru Dutt didn’t even ask him for his say in the matter. He took it for granted that he would be happy to get her at any cost.

      Discussion in a sticky situation is highly recommended, but when emotions are involved that too of high sensitivity I can’t see a situation where a man or woman will be asked.

      Its all emotionally driven by taking matter into ones own hands guided by ones own feelings, with no regard for others reaction – man *and* woman – Pyare *and* Jamila.

      What would he really gain by killing himself (based on a hope that Pyare might marry her), because who knows how Jamila would have reacted. She might not have agreed.
      Then again, if she did, would Pyare be pleased to have her as his wife at last – I would think not. It would always remind him of the ‘price’, thus taking away all the pleasure.

       
      • harveypam

        June 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

        “I can guarantee I’m as progressive if not more”
        I’m sure you are. Liking Chaudhvin ka Chand is surely not enough proof to stamp you non-progressive! 😉

        “cry wolf everytime there is a ‘burqua’ story”
        That would be a pity! 🙂

        “or a woman heartbroken at seeing her home and husband in ruin”
        That would leave you with a sore throat. 😉
        That a woman is heartbroken at seeing her home and husband in ruin is completely a normal reaction. But if she goes on about being a slave to him and that he take up another wife and so on and so forth…, I think is an occasion enough to cry wolf and that alone leaves one, while watching Hindi movies, with a sore throat. 😦

        In the qawaali, as an answer, it goes on further

        koii in hasiino.n ko puuchhe duniyaa me.n na ho gar dil_vaale
        nazare.n jo na hotii.n to nazaaraa bhii na hotaa
        duniyaa me.n hasiino.n kaa guzaaraa bhii na hotaa
        nazaro.n ne sikhaayii inhe.n shoKii bhii hayaa bhii
        nazaro.n ne banaayaa hai inhe.n khud bhii khudaa bhii
        ye husn kii izzat rakhane ko har zulm gavaaraa karate hai.n

        The gist would be: if there were no admirers, the person to be admired won’t exist. The admiring looks have taught ‘women’the playfulness as well as modesty and made them god
        The admirers would bear any inconvenience to keep their respect.

        This fits my interpretation of the story quite well. The person behind the veil is expected to maintain the modesty, this is what brings them respect. After all, men have taken up the task to see that it is maintained. The male-dominated society decides upon, when the respect is due for the women. See the Manu quote.

        The last stanza goes on in the same lines as the first one.

        One can naturally discuss for a long time, if Pyaremia is himself curious about the faces behind the veil like Shaiza or when the tragedy starts rolling and the story is surely of “having fallen in love”. Basically nobody has anything against the basic storyline. It is the way it is treated and the interpreted. If it was treated in a form of comedy of errors (as Creekmur points out), it would have made a wonderful comedy and satire. But what I read and interpret from the story as picturised by Guru Dutt and co. (the reasons as mentioned above), as sexist and opposing the mingling of men and women with each other. Though the story itself would say, that the fact that men and women who are unrelated are not allowed to mingle, can have fatal consequences.

         
        • pacifist

          June 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm

          LOL! harvey. Agree with getting a sore throat. Thanks for not labelling me as non progressive for liking this film immensely.

          In urdu shairi a woman is always adressed as ‘purdah nashee.n’ or any other such word. The reason being the language and shairi *does* belong to a culture of ‘purdah’.
          They are not differentiating between two kinds of women.
          So the lyrics are not about ‘purdah’ but the woman herself.
          Its not about *these* women but *the* women.

          In addition there is the beautiful poetic play with words like ‘nazrein’ and ”nazaara’ for example.

          All I can say is that I am willing to disagree because rebutting your comments with an explanation from another angle could go on for a while. :-).
          So I can continue to enjoy it as a sweet film with romance drama and tragedy – and good songs especially the quawalli 😉 which I have always liked but have understood it differently from you.

          Ah yes, another thing, about looking at faces. I have always taken it as ‘boys will be boys’ kind of thing. Nothing to do with purdah actually. The cluster of boys outside ‘women’s college’ is a parallel. 🙂

           
          • harvey

            June 14, 2010 at 4:10 pm

            Yes pacifist, this is how I perceive it as well, we are just two people who have seen a movie with different perspectives and different interpretations. Thank God, for that, thus we could have this exciting discussion.

            I meant women and not these women. I wrote ‘women’ since women are not mentioned explicitly in the lyrics, but as the beautiful/fair sex (hasiino.n).

            The word play is wonderful in the qawaali.
            Also the line:
            nazaro.n ne banaayaa hai inhe.n khud bhii khudaa bhii, which can be interpreted in different ways.

             
      • harveypam

        June 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm

        The ‘sacrifice’ happens all the same, but by Pyare mia. Either way Jamila suffers, for no fault of her own!

         
  8. Richard S.

    June 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    This is also my least favorite Guru Dutt film. In fact I can’t even comment on it in detail because, if I recall correctly, I started using the fast-forward button.. But I like the Minoo Mumtaz songs!

     
    • harveypam

      June 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm

      The songs are all nice, aren’t they?
      And both Minoo Mumtaz and Johny Walker get two to sing.

       
  9. yves

    June 18, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Hello Harvey,
    Yeah, well I recently saw Chaudvin ka chand too, and like you and some others, I just couldn’t love the movie. It’s too predictable and contrived, I think. I was going to do a review, and something told me it would be a waster of time. But it was very instructive to read what everybody thought, thanks!
    yves

     
    • harveypam

      June 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      I don’t know, it would have been nic to see your take on it. At least it happens to me, as soon as I start writing the thoughts take up the form of words and it spills out. At times in each word in the sentence in a different language, but it comes!

       

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