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Upperstall Review


New Delhi


Hindi, Comedy, 1956

Anand (Kishore Kumar), a Punjabi boy comes from Jullunder to Delhi 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 caste. Desperate, Anand masquerades as a Tamilian, Anand Kumaraswamy, and finds a place to stay with a Tamilian family. There he meets the daughter of the South Indian Cultural Association Head, Janki (Vyjayantimala). Romance develops but Anand is unable to reveal his true identity to her. Daulatram Khanna (Nasir Hussain), Anand's father and Janki's father, Subramanyam's (Nana Palsikar) superior, gets transferred to Delhi. Anand's sister Nikki (Jabeen) comes close to Anand's friend, Ashok Banerjee, a Bengali painter who teaches 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 to discuss the marriage. But soon they are found out and Daulatram opposes the marriage. Subramanyam too turns against his daughter who tries to kill herself. She is saved by a kindly shop owner (Radhakishen) and passed off as his Punjabi niece, Mohini. Both Subramanyam and Anand are kept in the dark and are convinced Janki is no more. 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. All's well that ends well.

New Delhi is one of those few films that prove you can make entertaining films which are sensible and thought provoking as well. The purpose behind New Delhi was to expose and emphasize the cross and inherent stupidity of that widely prevalent attitude in India called provincialism and which makes the people of one linguistic region deride and distrust those of others (something that continues even today).

New Delhi's attempt is commendable more so since it adopts satire as the form of denunciation. Before New Delhi, satire was a form not really used in Indian Cinema. Perhaps the only other earlier 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 sharply razored dialogues, New Delhi excels in the departments of screenplay and dialogues. Full marks to writers Inder Raj Anand, Radha Krishnan and Mohan Segal as the dialogues are funny yet hard hitting and with several references to contemporary politics of the time.

What further helps the film greatly is that laughs come naturally from characters in their normal behaviour and situations in which they are involved rather than being apparently forced. In fact the comic scenes appeart to be well thought out and nicely executed. Likewise the drama and romance come naturally too. In fact the romantic track between Kishore Kumar and Vyjayantimala is brisk, energetic and appealing. And to its credit, the film doesn't flag in spite of its 3 hours length.

The film is ably manned by Mohan Segal at the helm. Segal was born in Jullunder in 1921. Armed with a degree in literature, he studied dance at Uday Shankar's India Culture Centre, Almora. He was a member of a theatre group invited by IPTA and PWA to tour their Shadow Play in working class areas throughout Bombay to raise funds for Bengal famine relief. He then worked in Prithviraj Kapoor's Prithvi Theatre as actor and choreographer while being closely involved with IPTA in Bombay. Segal wrote and directed the play Desh Bhakt and also directed Balraj Sahni's play Jadu ki Kursi. He joined films as as actor and assistant director to Chetan Anand. He made his directorial debut in 1954 with the films Aulad and Adhikar. However Segal's best known films are the freewheeling Kishore Kumar satires of the 50s and early 60s- New Delhi, Apna Haath Jaganath (1960) and Karodpati (1961). His spectacular hit Sawan Bhadon (1970) introduced Rekha to Hindi films and his other films include Devar (1966), Kanyadaan (1968), Saajan (1969), Raja Jani (1972) and Ek hi Raasta (1977). But it is New Delhi which is perhaps Segal's best and most well known film.

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 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. Add to that his phenomenal acting talent and amazing singing voice and you have a performer who bordered on the genius.

Vyjayanthimala proves to be the perfect foil for Kishore Kumar. She was the first South Indian actress who made it as a national star and was one of the biggest ever Hindi Film female stars in a career lasting almost two decades. Besides her ability as an actress, which was considerable, her greatest legacy to Indian Cinema perhaps is that it has become a must for any aspiring actress in Indian Cinema to be an accomplished dancer. Vyjayanthimala has always had the mandatory dance sequence in practically every film of hers evoking 'classical art' associations. She excels in the two main dances in New Delhi - the solo Bharatnatayam Aliruppu number and the Bhangra folk dance in her Punjabi avtaar and she is absolutely brilliant in the Bhangra folk dance. Kishore Kumar and Vyjayanthimala proved to be a successful screen team teaming up again successfully in Asha (1957) and Rangoli (1962).

The lead duo are ably 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 both the looks and histrionic departments. What is interesting in New Delhi however is that barring Vyjayanthimala playing the Tamilian Janki, none of the other cast members played characters from their region. Kishore Kumar, a Bengali played a Punjabi, Palsikar from Maharashtra played a Tamilian and in her second avtar even Vyjayanthimala played a Punjabi girl and most successfully too, one might add. Interestingly life imitated art as in real life too Vyjayantimala, a South Indian ultimately married a Punjabi, Dr Bali.

The music by Shanker -Jaikishen is one of the highlights of the film and proved to be extremely popular. However, the one song which outdid the others in terms of its popularity was Nakhrewali with Kishore Kumar dressed as Fred Astaire with a cane and top hat. The song is perhaps one of the earliest where the famous Kishore kumar yodelling began. The other extremely propular songs in the film included 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. 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!

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

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