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Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam (Master, Mistress and Slave)

July 31, 2007

Title: Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam (Master, Mistress and Slave)
Language: Hindi
Country: India
Year of Release: 1962
Director: Abrar Alvi
Actors: Meena Kumari, Rehman, Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman
Awards: This movie won 4 awards at the 1963 Filmfare Awards for Best Movie, BestActress (Meena Kumari), Best Director (Abrar Alvi), Best Cinematographer (V.K.Murthy)….
Also the film won the President’s Silver Medal that year

Five years after the release of Pyaasa and it’s subsequent commercial failure, almost the same team of actors along with Meena Kumari this time, teamed up to act in the movie Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam. Based on a book by Bimal Mitra, the film directed by Abrar Alvi and produced by Guru Dutt, the film was about the lifestyle of the upper class Zamindars in the pre-independence era and its subsequent fall.

The story revolves mainly around Choti Bahu (Meena Kumari) who’s the wife and also the youngest daughter-in-law in the haveli of the local Zamindar (Rehman). Coming from an ordinary household, all she aspires is to literally “worship” her husband, and heed and follow his wishes. But the only catch is that, he really doesn’t bother about her; instead he spends his nights in mehfils, drinking all night. One fine day, Boothnath (Guru Dutt) comes to the haveli and stays in one of the outhouses and works in a Mohini Sindoor Factory outside in the city. There he comes across Jabba (Waheeda Rehman) the daughter of his employer and what starts as a silly fight, develops into fascination for one another. Choti Bahu asks for Boothnath’s help in getting her the Mohini Sindoor which is rumoured to have special powers. Boothnath smitten by her beauty has unparalleled respect for Choti Bahu and it matures into a deep friendship. One night, out of desperation, Choti Bahu pleads her husband not to leave her that night and to prove that she can go to any length to please him, consumes alcohol. What follows latter on is a tale of sorrow, traditions which are too deep-rooted to change and a devastating end to what was once a majestic lifestyle.

The film is about the lifestyle of Zamindars and the women in these havelis. The usual desire for adorning more gold and leading a lavish lifestyle is questioned by a simple girl who places the desire to serve her husband above everything else. What struck me most about this movie was the way the characters were moulded in the story. Especially that of…Meena Kumari and Boothnath. Both of them start as someone extremely innocent to those who are quite confident and someone who can stand on their own feet. In that sense, I think, the major part of the entire credit for the movie should go to Meena Kumari for her role as Choti Bahu. She is stunningly beautiful and all those closeup shots of hers in this black and white movie simply illuminate the whole screen! I think the camera man was just awestruck by her beauty and every single time the focus is on her, she just stands out with her acting. Her role as a woman who would forgo the normal traditions (in this case…read as consuming alcohol) just to please her husband and later on looking after him amidst lost glory would go down as one of the best performances in Hindi Cinema.The rest of the star cast is good and in this movie too…the dialouges and music stand out. The music is by Hemant Kumar and lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni and together they have come up with some memorable songs like Na Jao Saiyaan(Don’t go my dear) and others. Songs are shot in sync with the mood of the film and also they add more meaning to the characters thoughts…esp the song Na Jao Saiyaan….

Do watch the movie for the story of the pre-independence portrayal of the zamindars, the prevailing customs and traditions in the society at that time….a good and strong story…great performances, music and Meena Kumari…she’s definitely the heart and soul of the movie!

To listen to probably one of the best songs from the movie…Na Jao Saiyaan….click here
Another beautiful song from the movie featuring Meena Kumari….Piya aiso jiya mein

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