One lesson that I learned is, be careful about posting a “teaser” before an upcoming theme post, because you might kind of ruin it that way. I wouldn’t consider it ruined, actually – I was very happy to see so many responses to the mere suggestion of a post about favorite nurses! This, of course, confirms the idea that occurred to me, that everybody has to love a classic Bollywood or Lollywood nurse. But for anyone who read the prior post on this subject, there will be no surprises here. And the comments to the prior post also confirmed my thought that a lot of people know about classic Hindi film nurses much more than I do.
Anyway, I have decided to split the “Nurses” theme into two posts. This first one consists of nurses in four films that I have seen and which came to my mind first. (Actually, if we are talking about the nurse as the heroine of the movie, there are only three such movies that come to my mind, while the fourth nurse is just a mystery woman who appeared in a film briefly.) And then in the next installment, I will talk about the nurses in films that I haven’t seen (or haven’t seen in full) but would like to. Those include Waheeda Rehman and Vyjayanthimala. A couple of readers in the prior post on this subject have also informed me that I should be more aware of the nurses played by Mala Sinha, so maybe she will make an appearance there as well. But for now…
The first nurse I wanted to mention actually appears in the film for only a matter of seconds(!), but she left a deep impression on me. Who is this nurse in V. Shantaram’s Parchhaiyan? I just love the expressions on her face (near both the beginning and the end of the song below). Lataji is the true star of this song, or course, and she is doing playback for Jayashree. But the real stars of the picturization are Lalita Pawar and the mysterious nurse (although the actress playing the sitar is nice, too – and I have no idea who she is either):
Speaking of Jayashree and V. Shantaram, one of my favorite nurse roles in classic Hindi films is Ching Lan in the 1946 classic, Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani. It is actually the earliest “Bollywood” nurse role that I thought about as well as the strangest. But there is nothing strange about what happens between the nurse and the doctor…
And there is also nothing unusual about the fact that some of the most touching scenes in the film happen when the doctor gets sick and the nurse gets to take care of him.
In Dr. Kotnis, the nurse actually gets to marry the doctor. However, I have discovered that this is not always the case… As soon as I mentioned the idea of doing a post about favorite nurses, I think everyone who read that idea thought of the same movie first. And it’s no surprise that they did. It’s the movie I watched that inspired me finally to do a post about nurses. (By the way, I watched it over at Tom’s place.) And the nurse in Dil Apna Aur Preet Paree is almost my favorite. How could she not be? It’s Meena Kumari…and I must say, she looks wonderful in a nurse’s uniform…but even better when she gets to change into something completely different.
Actually, it is curious how often, even when she isn’t in full nurse’s uniform, Meena can be found wearing all white – even when no one else in the hospital staff is doing so. Is this in part to show her purity of heart? She is the most pure and saintly character in the film, even though a twist of fate puts her in a situation where she cannot help but contemplate things she should not be contemplating…
However, Meena Kumari was not the only very famous actress who got to play a good girl working as a nurse who got caught up in a situation for which she might be accused of coveting someone else’s husband, who happened to be the doctor. In the 1952 film Dupatta, Noor Jehan is caught up in a situation very much like that, when she moves into the doctor’s house in order to take care of his insane wife, who is locked in the upstairs room like the loony wife in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. And then there is the nurse’s own husband, who was turned into an unrecognizable “monster” by an injury in World War II, who has found a way into the doctor’s house as well, in order to lurk around and become as jealous of the situation as the mad wife is. Who can top all this melodrama? But the best thing about seeing Noor Jehan as a nurse is seeing Noor Jehan in a nurse’s uniform. This is most unusual for the young Noor Jehan, whose roles seemed to be split between glamorous poets or music stars and far less sophisticated village girls. (Actually, she was that village girl at the beginning of Dupatta, but a lot of things changed in the course of the film.)
Anyway, Noor Jehan-as-nurse is just a totally unique watching experience. And for this reason, as well as all the beautiful singing, I have say that my favorite filmi nurse of all time still is Noor Jehan in Dupatta.
By the way, I have done an extensive writeup of Dupatta, a little over three years ago. It is one of the most full and comprehensive reviews-with-plot-summary that I have written (back when I was more inclined to write such things), so people should take a look at that if they want to see some more details about this classic Pakistani movie.
Richard, I read the heading of this post on my blog roll, and automatically, my mind went to Meena Kumari in Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi. :) I’m glad you had her here.
I do not know whether you mean to add this later, but one film that would fit this profile is Khamoshi. Waheeda Rehman is the nurse. She’s not singing it, but it is picturised on her.
Thank you, Anu. Yes, Waheeda Rehman in Khamoshi has definitely been on my list for Part 2.
Richard, I’m so glad you reminded me of Dopatta – I now remember reading about it on your blog, but had forgotten about it. That scene and the song from the film have convinced me I must watch it soon. (Have now found it on Youtube, and bookmarked it).
I’d forgotten about Qing Lan being a nurse. I thought Jayshree’s acting pretty theatrical in places, but it’s a good movie overall, and I believe fairly true to Dr Kotnis’s life.
Loved the second song from dupatta, ‘chandini raatein’. The story itself is intriguing. I’m also going to watch it.
It seems Meena Kumari wore a lot of white during the later stage in her acting carer as a maturer woman.
My favourite nurse is of course the one from ‘Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi’ :)
I was surprised to see that the uniform suited her so well. She looked elegant, and very convincing (at least I was very convinced) as a nurse. A vey well made and acted film IMO.
Haven’t seen Parchaaiyan. The song is good.I did see Dr Kotnis KI Amar Kahani after reading the review over at Dudtedoff. Nice film though as DO says – theatrical acting by the nurse Jayshree.
Looking forward to Part 2
Lovely post, Richard! Very interesting as well.
Meena as nurse in Dil Apna Preet Parayi is indeed iconic.
But what really caught my interest is Dupatta. The plot is intriguing but the acting leaves lot to be desired for my taste. The camera angles are also very interesting.
Looking forward to your Part 2
A tragic coincidence: the real Mrs Kotnis, Guo Qinglan, died yesterday, aged 96.
I’ve got to see Dupatta! I get nurses and nuns mixed up constantly, although I know they are not the same thing at all :D
Apologies to all for the long delay in response! I had actually started a response and it disappeared. Then, big distractions in life.
Madhu, someone else sent me an article about the “real Mrs. Kotnis” at about the same time that you posted this. That was quite a coincidence! Well, it was good that she lived until a decent age; 96 isn’t bad. Though it’s a sad thing to happen at any time.
Regarding Dupatta, since I last visited these comments, you wrote your excellent review. (I hope everyone checks that one out! And Harvey, I am assuming that you surely watched the film by now.)
Pacifist, that is an interesting point about Meena Kumari wearing a lot of white during the “maturer woman” stage of her acting career. (Though 30s doesn’t really seem that much “maturer” to me. But, of course, poor Meena never went beyond her 30s.) Would she always have the say in what she wore? It seems to me the directors, art and costume staff, etc. would play a big role in determining the clothing worn, but I don’t really know that much about the dynamics there.
Yes, I really should get to Part 2 soon…
Thank you, Richard, for the link to my review of Dupatta – and thank you for recommending it in the first place! I really, really liked that movie.
I’m looking forward to part 2!
Though Kanan Devi was not a nurse in Jawab (1942), if my memory is right, she quite embodies the spirit of one when she tends to PC Barua most tenderly. Barua insists that she sing to him, and only then will he sleep. Chhupo na jaana has to be one of the best lullabies in Indian film music.
Yes, you are right about all of that. I loved watching that film, especially Kanan Devi!