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BLAST FROM THE PAST

Ujala (1959)

Shammi Kapoor, Mala Sinha, Raaj Kumar, Leela Chitnis, Dhumal, Kum Kum, Tuntun



SOCIAL DRAMA Though "Ujala" is an out-and-out Shammi Kapoor film, it has a clear-cut role for Mala Sinha (left, in a still from the film "Meri Duniya Mere Sapne").

This was amongst the earliest Shammi Kapoor starrers after a complete personality makeover of the actor by producer S. Mukherjee and debuting director Nasir Husain in “Tumsa Nahin Dekha”. Gone were the pencil-thin moustache, the gawky back-bent slow walk, a placid face, and formal shirts associated with the ’50s leading actors, though some continued to sport them till after their prime.

With a massive hit behind him, Shammi Kapoor, now minus the burden of flops and the tag of someone who had even appeared as a junior artiste in a song-and-dance sequence in brother Raj Kapoor’s “Awaara”, was the new confident man in trendy T-shirts and fitting trousers with a refined dialogue delivery and an adequate emotion-charged expression. The real churning actually happened with the same team’s “Dil Deke Dekho” opposite a new heroine, Asha Parekh.

Social message

It was scripted by Qamar Jalalabadi from a story by director Naresh Saigal whose Raj Kapoor starrer “Main Nashe Mein Hoon”, also released the same year. “Ujala”, like most other films of the period, too had a social message: honesty always triumphs.

The story belongs to a time when a hundred rupee note could buy a month’s ration for a whole ashram. Shankar-Jaikishen were at their peak when they set to music eight songs from Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri lyrics sung by Manna Dey, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshar. This was the first Shammi Kapoor starrer for which SJ composed the music, leading to an unmatched combination of a hero and a music director.

In fact, the narrative begins with the popular “Duniya Walon se Door”, though the later score, “Jhoomta Mausam Mast Mahina”, a duet by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar, continues to be amongst the most popular old-time hits. Other hit numbers from ‘Ujala” included “Ab Kahan Jaye hum” (Manna Dey and chorus), “O Mera Naadaan Balma na Jane Dil ki Baat (Lata) and “Tera Jalwa Jisne Dekha Woh Tera ho Gaya” (Lata). It is not difficult for the discerning music lover to differentiate a Hasrat Jaipuri composition here from that of a Shailendra.

The storyline

Shammi Kapoor here plays Ramu, a pickpocket working for Kaalu (Raaj Kumar). Ramu is a young man with a heart of gold who lives with his three siblings and a widowed mother (Leela Chitnis). Chabili (Mala Sinha) is in love with him, and though with limited means, is a big support to the family, and constantly reminds Ramu to make an honest living. After he is betrayed by his henchman Raju, Kaalu kills him and goes into hiding but not before making Ramu feel that he would be a murder accused because he was the last person to be seen with him. Full of remorse, a frightened Ramu with Chabili’s help now makes a new beginning as an honest hardworking guy at an outlet that manufactures knives, his first aim at raising a hundred rupees to ensure his sister’s wedding. But a hell-bent now out-of-jail Kaalu starts to create trouble for him again, and he helplessly watches the situation. Ramu steals a silver knife, which belongs to a police inspector, to give it to Kaalu. The knife gets used as a murder weapon and this leads to an interrogation. Meanwhile, Chabili sells her pair of cows to arrange money for the girls’ wedding. Helped by a guruji, who demonstrates faith in Ramu’s goodness, he finds shelter in an ashram. He is accused of cheating when he loses the hundred rupee note. Guruji accepts his argument, and gives him more money for the ashram rations. But this time Kaalu snatches it from him. Ramu chases, pleads with him, leading to a fight. It leads to the film’s climax where Ramu is able to prove his innocence.

The 109-minute fare, edited by Pran Mehra and cinematographed by Shivram Malaya, was produced under the banner of Eagle Films by F. C. Mehra with whom Shammi Kapoor later formed a lifelong alliance.

SURESH KOHLI

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