Wednesday 4 August 2010

Meri Surat Teri Ankhen (1963)

Meri Surat Teri Ankhen based on the bengali novel 'Ulka' by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta is another film i had seen ages ago that's been lying around waiting to be reviewed, plus it reminded me very much of a topic i had long wanted to delve into

Wealthy and vain Raj Kumar (Ishwarlal) is expecting his first child with his wife Kamla (Achala Sachdev)
the arrogant and vain Raj kumar

When the child is born, it turns out to be of a dark complexion, Raj rejects the child as he considers dark complexion ugly, he then lies to his wife that she gave birth to a still born child
chi chi look at the look on his face

he tells Dr Mathur (Tarun Bose) his friend to keep the incident a secret, Mathur is disgusted by his friends actions but agrees none the less, Dr mathur is left with the baby, he gives the baby to Rahmat Mijan (Ishwarlal) and his wife who are a childless muslim couple

Years go by and Raj and Kamla have another child, this time the baby turns out to be very fair and is considered the epitome of beauty by Raj Kumar. The fair child named Sudhir (Pradeep Kumar) grows up to be a womaniser and a hotel manager

On the other hand Pyare (Ashok Kumar) his long lost dark skinned brother grows up to be a singer under training from Rahmat his adoptive father, he also suffers severe shyness due to people's reactions to his dark skin which is considered ugly

Following Rahmat's death Pyare goes to Mumbai to meet Dr Mathur, he's tormented by his ugliness and Dr Mathur decides its time to right some wrongs and then promises to introduce him to his real family

The taunts Pyare has been subjected to over the years leads him to favour living in darkness, when Dr Mathur's daughter kavita (Asha Parekh) takes a liking to his voice and approves of his beauty, Pyare starts feeling good about himself and its not long before he starts falling for her

Trouble though is the fact that kavita is the love interest of his unknown younger brother Sudhir, Kavita is fond of him too, and they hope to get married. When kavita notices his affection towards her she makes it known to Sudhir which breaks Pyare's heart

Following a performance at Sudhir's birthday party, Raj Kumar is taken aback by Pyare's talent , Dr Mathur lets him know that Pyare is none other than the son he had rejected years ago

Raj Kumar meets Pyare and decides to offer him money to stay out of his life. which Pyare rejects, when Pyare confronts him over his act he eventually approves of him as his son but reveals the shame he feels towards his ugliness, and the taint he might bring on his honour. He begs Pyare not to tell his mother the truth which Pyare agrees to for some weird melodramatic reason

Meanwhile Sudhir becomes the subject of blackmail by his friend Prakash (Iftekhar) when he's accused of violating Bela's (Indira) honour, he must pay to avoid his family's honour being tainted plus there's the danger of his marriage to Kavita being called off

Will Sudhir give in? Will Pyare see sense and reveal the truth about himself to his mother? What will be her reaction when she realises her husband lied to her about the still born child?

Despite descending into a chaotic melodrama of sorts and dragging on towards the end a fair bit, the message of the movie was clearly that of true beauty being inner beauty, the film also raises the issue of honour and looks especially that of dark skin and how it's considered ugly and a taint on one's honour.
The performances are ok all around but I felt Ashok Kumar hammy in parts and a bit too old for the part of Pyare, plus the fact that Achala Sachdev played his mother seemed very out of place, something just didn't feel right with that combination.

Of course its interesting to draw parallels with the whole beauty is skin deep that the film advocates and the prevalent issue of skin bleaching which so many bollywood stars are pedalling these days

I've long wanted to weigh in on this matter on here but always somehow felt it was a question of choice, I myself have long known about the prevalence of such creams during my formative years in Africa, however back then people who openly admitted bleaching often got dirty looks, bleaching creams were in no way advertised on a massive scale, there was an element of shame to them, in fact there was a popular quote drummed into us at Primary School, about people not proud of their colour being shamed or something along those lines, i really don't remember clearly. Still though I always felt it was a question of choice until I saw the documentary below (please take time out to watch the mini documentary below)

I really do hope bollywood stars stop promoting the use of fairness creams, as can be seen from the documentary above, these creams can have a long lasting psychological effect, and are so not needed, given all the current stress and pressures of modern society, an individuals skin tone or complexion need not be an extra burden to carry.

And indeed if there's a gripe i have about bollywood, its the whole fairness equals beauty mantra, one only has to look at the prevalent use of white dancers in bollywood numbers plus numerous song down the years that praise fair skinned beauty. Indian Supermodel Lakshi menon has called the whole bleaching cream thing schizophrenia on a very large scale, i've embedded the interview below

Anyway enough of my ranting i'll end with this quote from Known Turf about the power of celebrity

"Perhaps, the trouble with too many artists is that they forget their own power. The power of media. Films and books are as much a tool for challenging social ideas as they are tools for emotional discovery or just plain storytelling. You can break stereotypes. You can stretch limited imaginations. You can help others become less judgmental human beings. You can save children. But you have to want to"

Lovely soundtrack from S.D. Burman, a lovely Mukesh & Suman Kalyanpur duet 'yeh kissne geet cheda' the beautiful 'teri khalayon mein' & 'tere bin sune' and the wonderful Rafi number (be sure to check out Asha's lovely dance moves in this) 'nache man mora magan' & a smooth Manna Dey number 'Poocho na kaise' my favourite of the bunch is the jazzy 'Tujse Nazar' with Indira as the Vamp

Paisa Vasool rating: 5.5/10


Sharmi Adhikary said...

I have heard so much about the film but could never imagine that Asha Parekh would be in it. I always thought it would like Baiju Bawra (a classical singer on a quest etc). Your review now makes me want to watch it. I love Asha Parekh. Though it is difficult to tolerate Ashok Kumar as the protagonist/ hero I think I'll watch this for the lovely lady.
Achla Sachdev looks lo lovely in the firsts screen cap!
Thanks for the post :)

Daddy's Girl said...

Thanks so much for this review, it looks like a very interesting film. I love the videos on the fairness issue - so topical!! Siddharth recently tweeted about how he refused a huge sum offered to him to promote a fairness cream (the largest amount he's ever been offered for an endorsement), and he denounced the fairness craze very frankly. I really applaud him for that, and wish other celebs would do the same instead of perpetuating the 'fair is beautiful' myth. It's definitely a very unfortunate phenomenon.

Rosalind Francis said...

I was so shocked to read about Ashok Kumar being treated like he was deformed just because he has dark skin!!

I find skin bleaching and "fairness" creams all really horrible.

bollyviewer said...

I love the songs of this film, but the film itself struck me as rather extreme - it doesn't convey it's message as much as it batters it home! Darker children would most likely be discriminated against, but I don't think anybody would abandon a male child for that reason. No matter how ugly, a son is still a son and a potential source of wealth in the traditional Indian family!

Indians' obsession with fairness goes a whole lot deeper than a simple "post colonialist hangover" as Lakshmi Menon is suggesting. I think it owes a lot to the fact that most ruling classes in India, from the days of the Aryans, have been fairer than the native Dravidians, and have perpetrated centuries of systematic racial discrimination that shows up in fairer higher castes and duskier lower castes.

Ava said...

I thought the story of this movie was taken from Phantom of the Opera. The songs are absolutely lovely. Pyare should have been given some kind of a deformity to make him look ugly - instead of just a dark skin. A hunchback maybe...

It is good to sight Indira Billi, she usually played a vamp in hindi movies, but was a top heroine in Punjabi movies.

dustedoff said...

That fair=beautiful prejudice has been along long enough for film-makers to want to do something about battling it, but I can think of less drastic ways than showing someone giving up a newborn because it was dark!

I must admit to not liking this film too much. Admirable, of course, for speaking up against what amounts to racism, but otherwise not a film I especially liked. Except for the music - that was fabulous.

Veen said...

Hi BD, Never heard of the movie until now and the quest is to find the record after your thumbs up on the music. Thanks for sharing.

Nasir said...

Yes, Indian do seem to have a hangover of the colonial past and prefer the 'goree mem'. Fair and Lovely says some face cream and this was given a fitting reply in a Bollywood movie called TRAFFIC where a boy who is obsessed with fair skin finally throws away the cream in disgust towards the end of the movie when he finds he has simply wasted away his money. Indians should especially know that dark skin is preferred among the white females especially in Germany where the males of African origin are literally invited to their homes for fun and pleasure. That's an irony and sort of poetic justice. The funny thing is that if an eastern person is much fairer than even the westerners, he is still referred to as black. Anyway..

MSTA is known more for the songs than the movie itself. Even the most popular one, POOCHHO NA KAISE MAINE was first given to Rafi Sahaab but he got so much emotional that SDB had to drop him and rope in Manna Dey.

Ashok Kumar's role of a dark-skinned man is one of the kind which can only be matched by Dharmendra's role in Kamal Amrohi's Razia Sultan though the latter is made to appear handsome to the Sultana.

Excellent review BD.


intresting story amazed me as i read thru d review..gud job done esp in bringing abt an "awareness" of sorts!!

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Sharmi You're welcome indeed Asha's story isn't as developed here as in her later films, where no matter what she seemed to be centrestage

@ Daddy's Girl Great to hear from you, indeed i applaud Siddharth as well and i do hope many more celebs will follow in his footsteps. Celebrities are powerful forces when it comes to endorsing, and Meri Surat Teri Ankhen is definitely interesting but the whole message gets jumbled up in melodrama chaos

@ Rosalind i do too

@ Bollyviewer some great points you've made there, indeed the film didn't drive home the message as cleverly as it should have which is why apart from the songs doesn't earn the classic status.

@ Avdi Thanks for more info on Indira and yes the story did seem somewhat far fetched but since it was based on a book I'm thinking it might have been inspired by real life events, who knows

@ Dusted off Definitely it was nice for the subject to be approached but whole thing especially the second half goes all haywire

@ Veen You're welcome, good luck finding it, its a great record for sure

@ Nasir Thank you for that additional info on how Rafi found it hard to sing 'Poocho na kaise' Lol at the German comment, but i definitely see your point. Thanks for mentioning Traffic i'll check it out

@ The Bard Thanks, Indeed the storyline was interesting but i just wish it had been executed better

sunheriyaadein said...

I have always loved this film's music but somehow never got around to watching the songs/videos or the movie itself. I had just heard the songs on radio, so had no idea who starred in the film or what the film was about.
Reading this I was reminded of this book called The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.
That wasn't about complexion but it's about a doctor whose wife delivers twins - a son and a daughter. The daughter is born with down's syndrome so he asks his nurse to take her away to an orphanage. Then tells his wife that their daughter was still-born.
And the fair-vs-dark thing has been prevailing for sooo long. There are so many movies and tv serials made on this dark girl vs fair girl concept

Nasir said...

I think the title of the movie seems to suggest that Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Now some say that Laila was very dark (contrary to what some might have imagined) and yet she appeared very beautiful to Majnun.

BD, regarding the story, is any question raised by the father why a darkish child was born? I wish some explanation were given which would have have enhanced the story there, as in the novel referred to by Sunheriyaadein.

Filmbuff said...

It is not only Germany but through out the western world, dark skinned people are considered to be very good looking. Guys keep complimenting us Indian women all the time. I personally know a lot of western women (from diff countries) who find dark men very attractive. Unfortunately, it is a known fact that socially Indians are obsessed with fair skin. As Bollyviewer said, successive foreign invasions over the centuries from elsewhere via the Khyber Pass (now in Pakistan) into India meant a lot of Indians esp in the North being fairer - intermingling of races over a period of time. Indians in other parts of India like South and Bengal are dark skinned which is beautiful. I fully second your view that celeberities should not be promoting such creams and Siddarth deserves kudos for this!

As for the movie, itself, i have heard the songs before. I am not inclined to see it after reading the plotline. Excellent review BD.

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Sunehri Thanks for interesting Info about that book, i'll look out for it. Although it was shabbily delivered Meri Surat teri ankhen is one the only movie that i know deals with the fair dark issue, do you know of any other

@ Nasir Not at all, we're just told he hates ugly things, not for once did he doubt his wife.

@ Filmbuff Bahut bahut Shukriya, Indeed Siddharth should be applauded for this and i hope many more will follow suit too

sophy said...

Nasir brought up Dharmendra in Razia Sultan. I heard Kamaal Amrohi made him up that way to get revenge for the Dharam-Meena affair. Never mind that Meena was cast-off by Amrohi.

With MSTA, the whole black child thing is extremely off-putting. Like someone said, they could have made him a hunchback. As is sometimes the case with ho-hum movies, the music is really out of the world. (BD, I've seen your youtube posts. Thanks. Did you understand the lyrics. They are heart wrenching.)

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Sophy I'm yet to see Razia Sultan but that's rather childish of Kamal if its true. The music is fab indeed, as i don't understand the lyrics, i go with the melody and i found them very beautiful in this

Shilpi Bose said...

I stumbled upon your blog rather late in the day but I can’t help but leave this comment. My father (Tarun Bose) who plays Dr Mathur had seen Ulka being staged in Calcutta --- this was before he became a film actor and was still an amateur stage actor in Nagpur where he grew up.. He loved the play and decided to stage it in Nagpur. He directed as well as acted in the play. He played the role Ashok Kumar plays in the film. It was a great success and he received a great deal of praise both for his direction as well as his performance. Being much younger to Ashok Kumar he was reluctant to play Dr Mathur’s role in the film but he later relented and did it.

bollywooddeewana said...

Wow!!!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting Shilpi, thanks for that additional info too, i definitely think the film would have definitely been a whole lot more different even better perhaps with him in Ashok's role as one of my compalints about the film was that Ashok was a little too old for the Pyare character

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