16 comments on “Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946)

  1. I can hardly remember anything of the film and when I saw the movie I’d no idea of the background of the story. But my mother used to talk about it a lot, altough she didn’t know much of the background as well. Not that I know it any better now, but eh, we have wikipedia!.
    K. A. Abbas was like Balraj Sahni a member of the Communist Party of India. I don’t think V. Shantaram had any such leanings though.

  2. The song ‘Chit dole, nit dole’ has nothing to do with maternity though. Loosely translated it would mean:
    the soul swings, it swings daily, morning till eve
    morning to eve may the mind be my beloved’s refuge.

    and she goes on to describe the hills and rivers and the views in general.

    No word of child, kid or son!

  3. Harvey, thanks for the translation of the song. Now that I know what the lyrics mean, that makes it more interesting.

    But I was careful to say it was the scene, and not the song, which brought out these maternal qualities. I was thinking of how Ching Lan obviously is serving a nurturing purpose, taking care of her sick husband and her child at once, and singing a song that does sound like a lullaby as she rocks the child. I was reminded of Sandhya’s song in Do Anhkhen Barah Haath in which her character sings to the children and all the other characters are lulled to sleep and we are also given images of various species other than human beings caring for their offspring in a similar way.

  4. When I first saw the film on DD, it served one purpose at least: to introduce us to a historical character that no one had told us about before!

    Wish other films would tell us more about the so -many interesting real-life figures of Indian history without descending into some pot-boiler. Hinid films by and large avoid this genre.

    Gurdas Mann made a film on the famous Punjabi poet Waris Shah, in Punjabi, and it was so dispappointing- except for some his poetry being used as songs, it could have been any old Indian film romance with all its trappings. Another oportunity totally wasted.

    So I admire this movie at least for more or less telling the story of Dr. Kotnis, something that most Indian directors are unable to do.

  5. Bawa, I wish I had thought of that word “trappings” :) – it is the perfect word to describe some of the usual patterns that this film avoids. I agree, whatever its oddities, give Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani credit for sticking to the story of this real-life figure without going down the potboiler path!

  6. “sticking to the story of this real-life figure without going down the potboiler path!”

    Oh, yes. I thought (why??!) that I’d learn something about medieval Central Asia by watching Changez Khan. Other than the fact that his birthname was Temujin and that he harried the Tatars (both of which facts I already knew), I don’t think I came across a single thing that could be considered historically accurate in that film!

    For me, Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani is one of those films that grows on you – I started off finding it terribly dated, but then as it progressed, I managed to overlook its flaws and appreciate it for what it was… good.

    By the way, I have my doubts about Jayashree being of Chinese origin. She doesn’t look it, and I remember reading a document on prominent Goan women, in which her name was listed – as being the daughter of a man from Korgaon. Of course, it could be that her mother was Chinese, but I’d think that a bit unlikely. The Chinese in India have always been a very small and very insular community, and the chances of a Chinese woman having married a Konkani back in the 20’s must’ve been pretty thin. Someone should ask Rajshree Chapman!

  7. I found the film interesting from the beginning, but I had a similar experience in that it seemed to become more emotionally moving while I was watching it, right up to the end.

    Re. contacting Rajshree – yes, that sounds like a good idea, but how can it be accomplished? Sandhya’s still around too and she would probably know, but maybe she shouldn’t be bothered with questions about the other wife (wonder how they got along as the years went on – seems like a rather odd and awkward situation to me :) …)

  8. I have never heard of this movie or of Dr K until now. Thank you for this very informative post.

  9. Lovely review, this looks rather tame than most V.Shantaram movies i’ve seen, as flamboyant as his films may seem for some, he always gives me bang for my buck, his picturisations and songs from his films are always a joy to behold

  10. Great review and information here Richard, but it’s all knocked out of my head after reading about the TWO (2!) wives in the comments. Sorry, I’ll have to process that for a while. ;) This reminds me ever so slightly of
    Ek Doctor Ki Maut
    Since that Dr. also injected himself in search of a cure.

  11. Always great to see a handful of such nice comments after a day away. :)

    Veen, you are welcome, and I am happy that you learned about these things from my blog here. After reading the Wikipedia history and after seeing the film, I am happy to spread the word about Dr. Kotnis, who seems very well worth remembering. :)

    Bollywooddeewana, thank you for the nice word re. my review, and I agree with you completely re. Shantaram’s picturizations and the songs in his films being a joy to behold. (I like Vasant Desai’s music a lot… And in the ’50s, when Shantaram wasn’t working with Desai, he was working with C. Ramchandra!)

    Sita-ji, thank you for the nice words also, and for the link to this other movie, which looks good, even if it is much newer :) …

    By the way, V. Shantaram had THREE wives. I read that he married Jayashree while he was already married to someone named Vimla, and then he added Sandhya a little later. I don’t know if there was a time when they all lived under one roof… I have seen Jayashree and Sandhya in a film together (Parchhaiyan – in which they play rivals for the love of the hero played by V. Shantaram), but that may have been before Sandhya became the third wife.

    Harvey, I thought I read somewhere that Jayashree became alienated from V. Shantaram and maybe didn’t live with him for a long time. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the addition of Sandhya. :) I have rather traditional western attitudes about these things; as with Sita-ji, it takes some effort for me to process.

  12. I’ve never heard of Dr Kotnis or this movie either. Thanks Richard–there is always wonderful infromation on your blog.I first started reading when I came across something interesting you said about Balraj Sahni.

    About Rajashree, just speculating–she doesn’t look half or even quarter Chinese. Full Indian–a tad South Indian if you ask me.

    About third wives and such, it might have to do with the older rejected wives not leaving their wayward husbands (in Hinduism, its a terrible thing to not have a husband. In fact it is the fervent wish of a Hindu woman to die “sumangali”–i.e. before her husband and to not be a widow.)

  13. Sophy, you are welcome, and the comment about “wonderful information” is much appreciated!

    I haven’t been able to find much more information about Jayashree and her heritage (or Rajshree in respect to this), but I was looking through Mihir Bose’s Bollywood: A History (a couple of years since I read it), and there was some information about Shantaram and his wives. They did not actually all live under one roof, but close enough, and they mingled. Writes Bose (who sometimes spells the name “Jayashree,” more often “Jayshree” guess it doesn’t matter?):

    Shantaram moved to Bombay, and though he hated Barua, and the movies he made, the two men’s life styles now converged. Like him, he now had two wives, who lived near each other. Jayshree, producing more children for him, including Kiran, lived opposite Vimal and her family, Jayshree and her children in Cambridge Terrace at Pedder Road, Vimal and her brood at Shahburg, across the street. The two families often met during Hindu festivals and other occasions. In time, Shantaram even bettered Barua and left Jayshree for a third wife.

  14. I must have missed this post when it first appeared. :) Shantaram’s movies were, well, interesting. He, like many other theatre and film personalities of the time, did have communist/socialist sympathies. In India, that’s not a bad word. :) In the process of nation building, many movies of the time resonated with socialist messages. Until he became besotted with Sandhya, his films were pretty bearable. (I know you disagree on that. :) )

  15. Hi, Anu.

    Regarding communist/socialist sympathies within Indian films of the time, that’s one of the things that made me so interested in the Golden Age (and then the Vintage era) to begin with. It’s not just that I have socialist sympathies myself (and I might even say “communist,” also, though I would consider that an idea for much farther down the road and I never went down the Bolshevik path, which I would not say was real communism to begin with – but I’ll stop there, because that is stuff for another blog or forum :) )… It’s because the popular and blockbuster films in India showed commmunist/socialist sympathies at exactly the same time that the anti-communist blacklists were tearing Hollywood apart. Most of these directors and actors in Indian cinema who were involved in making the most popular entertainment in the late ’40s and ’50s would have been banned and thrown out of the profession if they’d tried to express their political sympathies the U.S.!

    But in the past few years, “socialism” has ceased to become a dirty word in the U.S. So, the thought of seeing socialism advocated in a popular forum somewhere does not seem as alien in this country (at least from what I see) as it was when I began this blog in 2007 (and started focusing almost exclusively on the old Indian films in 2008). “Socialism” has actually become a very appealing word for large portions of the population (and it looks to become more appealing in the new recession/depression too).

    Regarding your comment: “Until he became besotted with Sandhya, his films were pretty bearable. (I know you disagree on that. :) )”

    LOL Yes, I am glad to see you have caught on to how much I would disagree regarding Sandhya! I do really enjoy her performances. I could kind of understand why some say that the films starring Sandhya were not as good as much of Shantaram’s earlier work, especially if you are looking at films for subtler qualities, realism, social expression, and other things that arty Westerners like to praise – this isn’t Satyajit Ray here. But I think the music and dance is really good sometimes. I loved it in Navrang, and I also think the basic concept of the film was kind of refreshing/different. Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baage was not a good movie at all in the traditional senses; I thought the acting was terrible in that film and if there was any good dialogue, it didn’t carry through so well in the subtitles. But the music was very good, and for those who don’t love Sandhya’s dance style, we got to see Gopi Krishna, who was undeniably great (and who probably did an amazing job training Sandhya in classical dance).

    Anyway, I went on a bit there… I hope that wasn’t an overly long response to your nice, brief comment above. :)

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