Today I watched Bahu Begum, a 1967 movie starring Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar and Pradeep Kumar. Totally soaked in the Lucknowi haveli culture, this charming movie immediately reminded me of Mere Mehboob. Not just for the costumes but also for the family drama it represented without being over the top. I have always heard and learnt about Urdu culture as one with lots of tehzeeb and I love movies or art forms which showcase that. Every culture has its nuances and its wonderful to view or read about them.
Zeenat (Meena Kumari) is in love with Yusuf (Pradeep Kumar). He is the friend of Achchan (Johny Walker) who is a tenant at Zeenat's home. Yusuf's uncle controls his property though appears friendly. On the mandate that Yusuf's property will be his when he gets married, his uncle cleverly foils their love and marriage plan. On the other hand, Nawab Sikandar (Ashok Kumar) falls madly in love with Zeenat at first sight. He spots her at a jeweller's shopping,especially noticing that she likes a bangle but cant afford. On insistence of his caring sister, he sends a marriage proposal to Zeenat's father who happily accepts. He also gifts Zeenat the bangle she liked. Unaware of the sender she assumes it to be Yusuf and is all set to fulfill her dreams.
Yusuf, on the other hand is sent out of town on an errand by his conniving uncle who doesn't want to let go of the property. Thus the marriage day arrives. But Zeenat goes to the dargah to meet Yusuf once if she can ,as she promises to her friend or she will return to be Nawab Sikandar's wife. Unfortunately, she faints there and the marriage confirmation to the lawyer is mistaken to be of Zeenat. An empty palanquin goes to Nawab Sikandar's house, upon the discovery of which, he and his sister sadly but bravely manage to hide the fact from the world. Zeenat meanwhile tries to return home but rejected by her angry father she ends up at a kotha where Lalitha Pawar provides her a sympathetic roof.
A kind,gentle man, Nawab Sikandar tries to overcome his sadness and to get his sister married off . Such was the deep rooted culture that time ,it would be shameful if the bahu begum of the house doesn't actively involve in the marriage preparations. Thus he asks Lalitha Pawar to help him out and to send any woman to just act as the bahu bhabhi so that his sister can be married off. Fate weaves in and ofcourse it is Zeenat who comes to him and his sister. Though she has the monumental task of deciding which path she has to take.
I wish the ending was a different from what it was but nevertheless the movie stays true to what it intends-charm, culture and all the facets of a bygone era.
There never would be any words enough to outline Meena Kumari's acting prowess. There is not a single scene where she is hesitant or not Zeenat. From the ada, the moments when she knows the difference between to be sad and to be tragic or just the joy of meeting her lover, this brilliant actress does not have a thread out of place.
The male actors have also given due diligence to their roles. I'm a big fan of Ashok Kumar always. Though being a 80s kid my favourite movie of him will be Khoobsurat,hence I can never see him in a lover role! :) Always the well suited, jolly grandfather Dadamoni.
Do watch the movie if you love or miss the Muslim social era. The havelis always cast a spell don't they? Whether you see them in a painting or in a movie,they are forever so alluring.
Also take a moment to appreciate the credit screens. I love the images and the font. So pretty!