Kathputli (1957)

It was Vyjayanthimala’s birthday on 13th August. So I thought I would watch and review a movie of hers. Of late I have been doing too many posts on songs and have actually been missing reviewing movies. So I sat down to search for a Vyjayanthimala movie in my collection and this was the only one I had.

The name sounded pretty interesting, and with a starcast of Vyjayantimala, Balraj Sahani I was so excited about watching it. But alas, the excitement ended after the first half an hour. I thought Guru Dutt movies had self-deprecating heroes. But his movies are well made, thought provoking and have lots of substance in them. The story and characters linger in your thoughts and disturb you long after the movie has ended. This was a self-deprecating movie with niether any justification nor any substance. It has amazing songs, but again unfortunately they don’t contribute towards the story.

Ok, let me start with the story without discouraging you any further 😛

 The movie begins with a puppet-show in a village, which I thought was a very relevant beginning.

Among the audience, is Pushpa (Vyjayanthimala), an innocent village belle. She is apparently mesmerized to see the puppets dancing. In between she peeps up and manages to catch a glimpse of the puppeteer.

She goes back home and dances in puppet style to the title track, a happy Bol ree  kathputli dori.  Shivraj (Jawahar Kaul), the puppeteer sees her dancing and is of the opinion that her dance was superb : it looked like someone had put life into his puppets. They start a conversation and she tells him that his show was very good.

Pushpa : Kahan rehte ho? (Where do you live?)
Shivraj : Sadkon par. (On the streets.)
Pushpa : Sadkon par? Ghar nahin hai? (On the streets? Don’t you have a home?)
Shivraj : Kabhi ghar ki zaroorat hi nahin padhi (No, never felt the necessity to have one.)

She feels sad for him and decides to help him. She takes him to a huge bunglow and tells Manohar (Aagha) about her idea – that they need a job. Shivraj would make the puppets dance and paralelly there would be few girls doing exactly the same steps as the puppets on the other side of the stage. They even do a live demo of it. But Manohar is not impressed. He is showing them the way out when Loknath (Balraj Sahni) comes and stops them. He offers Pushpa a job but she refuses and walks out saying people who work on stage/theaters are not considered good and she had come there to help Shivraj find a job, not for herself.

Pushpa goes back home and finds out that her sister Chandni is scared to go to school because she hasn’t paid her fees for three months and she may not be allowed to enter her class. She somehow manages some money but Chandni refuses to go to school. According to her, her education is taking up all Pushpa’s hard-earned money. But Pushpa is adamant about educating her and sends her to school.

Shivraj comes to their house later and says that Loknath has offered them a job at a salary of Rs. 200 each. But she sends him away saying she deosn’t need Loknath’s job. Chandni feels that was insulting. Shivraj had come to help them and Pushpa was so rude to him. So Pushpa goes to him to apologize. Just as they make up and admit their fondness for each other and promise to work together, Shivraj gets hit by a car and gets crippled. The hands that made the puppets dance and jump, skid and fight are no longer capable of doing the same again.

It’s then that Pushpa decides to work and earn, help Shivraj recover and also work towards fulfilling their dreams. She goes to Loknath’s house asking for a job. She meets Manohar and asks him for a job.
Manohar : Khana banana jaanti ho? (Can you cook?)
Pushpa : Haan (Yes)
Manohar : Bawarchi hai.(There are cooks)
Bartan dhona jaanti ho? (Do you know how to wash dishes?)
Pushpa : Haan
Manohar : Naukar hai (There are enough servants to do that)
Kapde dhona jaanti ho? (Can you wash clothes?)
Pushpa : Haan
Manohar : Dhobi hai (There are laundry men)
Boot polish karna jaanti ho? (Do you know how to polish boots?)
Pushpa : Nods her head
Manohar : Woh mera kaam hai (That’s my job)
Do me one favour, I’ll give you Rs. 50 per month, food and accomodation for free but never come here asking for a job again.

When Loknath finds out that Pushpa had come in search of a job, he calls her and immediately starts training her. She’s already a good dancer, he helps her polish her skills.

He sings Manzil wohi hai pyaar ki (Subhir Sen) and she dances to it. This song, undoubtedly a lovely number, but has nothing to do with the story. Loknath launches her on stage. Her first dance on the stage is Itne bade jahan mein ae dil . She becomes a superstar overnight.

She’s offered a plush flat in an apartment and she moves in with Shivraj (I guess Chandni was included by default, though they don’t show her). 

Pushpa does a lot of stage shows. Her next performance is Mini mini chi chi, a lovely duet by Lata and Mukesh picturised on Pushpa and Manohar.

When she doesn’t find Loknath around after the show she enquires after him. Manohar tells her that his little son, Bhola is a sickly child and his condition has gone from bad to worse. That’s why he had to rush home.

She goes after him. Bhola is very happy to see her. She feels sorry for him and promises to come and see him everyday.  She even sings a lori Soja re soja mere raj dulare and puts him to sleep.

 Pushpa and Shivraj get married. Shivraj, however, doesn’t like Pushpa bonding so much with Bhola. And the fact that he’s incapable of earning and that she’s the bread-winner hurts his ego all the more.

Her next performance is Bakad bum bum baje dumaroo. It’s a fun number with a peacock dance.

At the end of it, she faints and Loknath summons a doctor. When Shivraj finds out that Pushpa fainted he comes and accuses Loknath of trying to kill her. According to him Loknath was always in love with her. When he couldn’t win her with his love, he  used his son to attain Pushpa. But even that didn’t work because Pushpa got married to Shivraj. So out of jealousy Loknath wants to kill her! Now that was a very ridiculous logic! After delivering all this nonsense, he slaps Loknath. Just then doctor comes and announces that Pushpa is pregnant.

Pushpa gets engaged in her family life and she takes a break from stage. She delivers a baby and it’s only in the hospital that Chandni is shown again (wonder where she was all this while).

In the meanwhile Loknath retires from the stage giving Manohar and Co. all the responsibilities of running the shows. They are not happy with his decision but he’s adamant about it. Shivraj’s slap and accusations hit him too hard.

Now that Pushpa has stopped working, they find it hard to meet ends. Shivraj makes some toys and takes them to a local dealer. But he says nobody buys handmade dolls but lightens Shivraj’s disapppointment saying he knows a man in Patna who deals in such toys and gives him the man’s address. Shivraj, with a hope of finding employment sets out for Patna immediately.

That’s when Pushpa finds time to visit Loknath. She doesn’t have any money left even to pay the house rent and she’s almost finished selling all her jewels. She’s desparately in need of a job. So she goes to his mansion seeking a job but is shocked to see him.  He’s still recovering from the misery of Shivraj’s accusations when Bhola passes away leaving him all alone. She feels the best way to bring him out of his loneliness and despair would be to get him back to work. Left alone there are high chances of him going insane. So she tells Manohar about getting him back on stage. It’s then that Manohar reveals the truth about the incident with Shivraj. She’s devastated to learn how rude her husband was to the person who did so much for her and her family.

She takes it as a responsibility to bring Loknath back to normal. She leaves her baby, Munna with Chandni and helps Manohar find a good dancer. Their plan is  to get a very good dancer and present her to Loknath. He would spot the talent and focus on training and presenting her on stage. They find one such girl, Kamla Lakshman. She dances to Haye tu hi gaya mohe bhool re, and Loknath is thoroughly impressed. Her dance was awesome. I found it better than Pushpa’s. He takes her under his wing and works towards doing a show with her. But her greedy uncle demands more money just before the show and threatens to stall the show if he doesn’t give in to his demands.

 Pushpa comes to his rescue and does the show  herself dancing to Bol ree  kathputli dori. Now, as expected, Shivraj comes back. His journey to Patna goes in vain and returns home disappointed. Finding only Chandni and Munna at home he asks for Pushpa’s whereabouts. When he learns that she’s gone back to Loknath and stage, he takes Munna and goes away.

Pushpa is heartbroken and the grief of losing her child is too much for her to bear. Loknath again comes to her rescue and helps her find Shivraj. She falls down at his feet and pleads with him but he refuses to give the child back.

What happens next? Will she ever get her child and husband back? Why does Loknath go out of his way to help Pushpa?

The movie started on a very good note but went haywire after the first half an hour. So I googled for found out – This was supposed to be produced and directed by Amiya Chakrabarty, who had made classics like Daag, Patita, Badshah and Seema  but unfortunately Amiya could not complete Kathputli as he passed away while making the movie and Ajit Chakrabarty and Nitin Bose completed the film. Wonder if that’s why the movie is so vague.

Shankar-Jaikishan’s music is fabulous. Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri (Soja re soja mere raj dulare, Bakad bum bum baje dumaroo by HJ, all the others were by Shailendra) had penned the lyrics. Songs are good but except for few, the others look like they’ve just been put in to fill the gaps.

Story is very predictable. I’m extremely fond of Balraj Sahni but found him every theatrical most of the time here. Except for the scenes with is son, he was just ok rest of the times. When Pushpa goes to meet Bhola the first time, he says,
Bhola : Papa kehte hai aap bahut achhi hain. (Dad says you are very nice)

That moment of uneasiness is portrayed extremely well by Balraj Sahni.

There was no chemistry between Vyjayanthimala and Jawahar Kaul. And even when Vyjayanthi was in distress, I just couldn’t feel sad or feel at all for her. The soul…the essence was missing in the story and in the performances was well. None of the actors looked convinced of what they were doing or even interested in it except for Agha. If I could sit through this movie it was just  for Balraj Sahni and Agha. I know it was a wrong choice for the lady’s birthday. But that was the only movie of hers I had. So couldn’t help it.

P.S : For a change I’m giving the credit to Doordarshan this time. I was watching Rangoli on 8th morning and the entire episode was dedicated to Vyjayanthimala. But inspite of learning about her birthday so much in advance, I couldn’t watch the movie until 15th and complete this post till now.

Couldn’t find the videos of Mini mini chi chi, and Soja re soja mere raj dulare. Am uploading them on youtube. Will put share the link once done.

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21 Responses to “Kathputli (1957)”

  1. Nasir Says:

    Thanks for the review. I always wondered what it was about before. Of course, the songs of Kathputli were superhit. But at the box-office the movie was just average. Subir Sen’s song was also popular. We used to think that it was Hemant Kumar singing. Some three years later, it was in Chhoti Bahen that the duet of Subir Sen became very popular unless I’m mistaken because there’s another singer too who has an identifical voice. That was MAIN RANGILA PYAAR KA RAAHI. Hey, now this is a beautiful co-incident: Today is Raksha Bandhan day. Anyway…

    I love those songs of Lata, especially the title track.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      If only they had put in little more effort in the story and it’s execution, this film would have been great. The songs are fabulous. Even I thought it was Hemant Kumar when I first heard Manzil wohi hai pyaar ki . Subir does sound a lot like Hemant da. Main rangeela pyaar ka rahi is certainly a Subir-Lata number from Chhoti Behen, what a lovely track it is!

  2. archana Says:

    I haven’t seen this movie but it has my 3 favourite songs : Bol ri kathputli, manzil wahi hai pyar ki, and bakad bum bum …

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      DVD chahiye toh bolna. Not all that great a movie but music is amazing. dances are good too but knowing what a great dancer Vyjayanthimala is, I felt her potential as a dancer wasn’t exploited much either.

  3. dustedoff Says:

    I reviewed this last year, just after Vyjyantimala’s birthday. 🙂 And my impressions of the film – and my screen caps – were very similar to your own. Certainly not one of the best films that either of the leads acted in. In fact, the only reason for which I’d recommend Kathputli is the songs (and those, as you mention, don’t have much to do with the film).

  4. Sharmi Says:

    I read about Kathputli in one of your earlier post and ran and bought the DVD. Will see it soon. It sounds interesting. And Jawahar Kaul…my god isn’t he the thin Vikram in Sheesh Mahal??? He looks so different here!

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Enjoy! The songs are certianly delicious but I can’t say the same about the movie. Enjoy watching! Would love to read your take on it. Looking forward to it.
      Yes, it’s the same guy! It usually happens na, you suddenly come across somebody and keep bumping into him/her.
      When I saw Bhabhi I didn’t know who he was or what his name was. Recently discovered his name while doing Rafi special post, then I saw this movie and read bollyviewer’s reveiw of Sheesh Mahal. So it’s Jawahar Kaul everywhere now for me! 😛

  5. bollyviewer Says:

    This one would’ve been so much better without the Shivraj character – just a straight dance-romance between Loknath and Pushpa! Such a pity to spoil all those songs and the great cast.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Exactly! I would have loved to see something brewing between Balraj Sahni and Vyjayanthimala. Thanks for the recommendations. I will get hold of Daag and Dekh Kabira Roya , as soon as possible and be done with Jawahar Kaul for good! 😉

  6. Richard S. Says:

    Now it’s time for a somewhat dissenting opinion… On first viewing, a little over a year and a half ago, I called it my favorite Vyjayanthimala film:


    Since then, I watched it again and saw that maybe I was a bit too over-charmed first time around by all the great dancing and the fine music to be sufficiently bothered by the evident flaws in the movie (mostly related to Jawahar Kaul), but, then, the music and dancing really are exceptional. (Sunheriyaadein, we agree completely about this – including the fact that Kamala Lakshman’s dance was even better than Vyjayanthimala’s dances – which were also very good!)

    I thought the relationship between Pushpa and Loknath was charming and the chemistry between these actors (at least) was very nice. (And, if anything, the way that their relationship went was kind of UN-predictable, because in a more typical romantic story, they would indeed have become the couple at the end.)

    Jawahar Kaul’s character, Shivraj, was kind of a sorry sort, but how could one not love his puppets? (What a fantastic opening scene that was!) And I always enjoy this theme of people feeling as though they’re mere toys or puppets, often trying to find some semblance of free will, in the hands of the fates.

    I also appreciated the social content, even if the messages weren’t conveyed in a perfect way. I think that Shivraj could at least earn some sympathy in the beginning because he had been homeless and living in poverty, and Pushpa also had to pull herself up from poverty (and keep her little sister in school), often battling forces beyond her control (of course, a connection to the puppet theme). And, by the way, in addition to having some social content about poverty, this film has an even stronger comment on the plight of woman – as is made fairly obvious through Pushpa’s speech at the end.

    And if you think Vyjayanthimala’s performance in this film wasn’t moving, I have to disagree. (A little over-the-top near the end, maybe, but a seasoned vintage Bollywood fan shouldn’t mind that so much).

    So, anyway, if you ask me, I think you picked a very good film to write up for Vyjayanthimala’s birthday. 🙂

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      So, anyway, if you ask me, I think you picked a very good film to write up for Vyjayanthimala’s birthday. – This made me feel so much better! Thanks 🙂
      Had a very hectic weekend. Just finished my post on Mukesh. And it’s 03:15 am already. Will go through your post tomorrow. From what you have written here, I can make out that you really enjoyed the dances and liked the movie.

  7. john Says:

    Thanks for sharing. I will bookmark your website.

  8. harvey Says:

    I remember watching this movie long long time ago on DD and was always of the opinion that it has many similarities to Agar Tum na hote.
    Vyjyanthi’s dances are nearly always great except for Jewel Thief!
    Balraj Shani is great as usual. I, like many others always thought that Hemant Kumar sang ‘Manzil wahi hai pyaar ki’.

    • sunheriyaadein Says:

      Now that you mention it, they are very similar. I’m surprised that the resemblance didn’t strike me earlier!
      Yeah….she is a good dancer. But I always felt the Jewel Thief dance was over-hyped!
      Balraj Sahni is just superb in everything. I love this man 🙂
      So did I initially. It’s only after I listened to it very carefully I could find the difference.

    • Richard S. Says:

      Believe it or not, when I posted my long response above, I actually had edited a little out. 🙂 One thing I’d also mentioned at first is that this movie reminded me a lot of Seema. I guess that comparison is the most obvious – Balraj Sahni plays virtually the same character in that, eager to make the same sacrifices. But who can play that kind of character better than Balraj Sahni? 🙂

      • sunheriyaadein Says:

        Arey…you shouldn’t have edited it 😉 Yes, the comparison between this and Seema , I guess are inevitable. Thanks to Balraj Sahni’s character. True, cant imagine anybody else doing that kind of roles.

  9. Kiran Kaur Says:

    I like the review…!
    I’m new to Sunheri Yaadien….

    Will keep myself posted…. !!!

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