12 comments on “Kismet (1943)

  1. Yes, this is an absorbing film, isn’t it? I’m not surprised it help get you rid of that block. :-) Such a pity that the remake of Kismet (the Shammi Kapoor-Madhubala starrer Boyfriend) turned out to be such a dud, despite fairly good music. I believe Shammi Kapoor had been really keen on making the movie, since he adored Kismet and had seen it around a dozen times or so.

    P.S. Thank you for the link to my review, Richard!

  2. Madhu, you’re welcome re. the link and thank you for inspiring me with the “what I liked/what I didn’t like” format. :)

    Also, thank you for the information regarding Boyfriend. I never saw that film (although I did see some of the songs from it) and I never knew that it was a remake of Kismet. It may be that this is common knowledge, too(?). It may even be that you’ve mentioned this somewhere already and I forgot. Oh, well…

    When I wrote about films that Kismet influenced, I didn’t think of Shammi Kapor, but, rather, his older brother, in Awara, Raj is quite a remake of Shekhar in that one – albeit a much heavier version. :)

  3. I think Greta may have mentioned Boyfriend being a remake of Kismet on her blog, when she reviewed Boyfriend. I’m not sure, though. I happened to watch Boyfriend not long after I’d seen Kismet, and was rather taken aback by how faithful they’d been to the original story.

  4. Richard,
    I saw the movie so long ago I have forgotten its story. What remains in memory is its wonderful music by Anil Biswas. About this being the first lost-and-found-child theme, ‘Taqdeer’, Nargis’s debut film by Mehboob Khan had double lost and found – both Motilal and Nargis are lost in childhood – you guessed where – in Kumbh Mela! They are raised by each other’s parents – must have been copied in many films later. They grow to be sweethearts. ‘Taqdeer’ is also from 1943, so it is difficult to say which came first. To give another twist, which even Manmohan Desai could not have thought of, Motilal is raised as a girl, Shyama, as his foster mother knew she had given birth to a daughter. When she was lost, the husband brought whichever another lost child he could get in the mela, who happened to be a boy. Therefore, he had to pretend it was a girl to comfort his wife. This was not funny, but so what.

    AK

  5. AK, thank you for the information about Taqdeer, You have added to the list of reasons why I’d like to see that film sometime (preferably with English subtitles). But I am not the only one who says that Kismet was the first film with the lost-and-found theme. There is an article circulated by Memsaabstory and Filmi Geek that also claims that Kismet was the film where this theme originated. I had only briefly glanced at this article before, but I wanted to take another, closer look at it before answering your comment — which I have done now. The article, by Roshmila Bhattacharya, originated at Screen magazine and can be found here:

    Click to access kismet_1943.pdf

    And it says:

    The lost-and-found formula that was exploited to the hilt by Manmohan Desai also had its genesis in this crime thriller. In the years since children have, time and again, been separated from their parents by natural calamities like floods and earthquakes, kidnapped by disgruntled servants or vengeful dacoits (Suhaag) or lost in a mela. And then miraculously reunited during a tearful climax with lockets, tattoos and songs providing the key to lost identities.

    Maybe this writer (and many others) don’t know about Taqdeer, or maybe Taqdeer came much later in that year. :)

  6. Richard,
    Nothing can be said definitely about the chronological sequence of the two films unless we know their dates of certification or release. In any case, this is purely of academic interest. I have seen both the films. ‘Kismat’ is very sophisticated, and no harm if ‘lost-and-found’ formula is credited to it even if it might have come later than ‘Taqdeer’. However, the latter also may be credited with several themes that became path breaking – double lost and found brought up in reciprocal homes, nature versus nurture debate, love affair between the poor and the rich, between a person of respectable legal family and another from the ‘lowly’ world of theatre.

    The possibility of being unaware of ‘Taqdeer’ may not be ruled out. It would be an interesting research to trace the first origin of different clichés of Hindi films. Lack of awareness of the early history of films is very endemic, and common misconceptions abound. One such is the debut song of Mukesh. This is very confidently credited by even creditable sources to ‘Dil jalta hai to jalne de’ from ‘Pahli Nazar’ (1945), whereas his debut was four years earlier in ‘Nirdosh’ (1941) – ‘Dil hi bujha hua hai to’. This one is not excusable, but less clear is who was the first female music director? Saraswati Devi or Jaddan Bai (Nargis’s mother) or yet a third person?

    But I must say, Roshmila Bhattacharya’s article is wonderful. Especially interesting is the insight about the internecine war within the Bombay Talikes. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Kismet was released in January 1943, so its likely that it preceded Taqdeer. Even if it didn’t, the release should have been a few days apart, which means that the lost & found theme occurring in both movies could have been a mere coincidence.

  8. Hi Richard. I watched Kismet just today. It was indeed an adorable film, and I felt Kismet was essentially story of a bad boy falling for a good girl. Fortunately, the bad boy in Kismet, Shekhar, played by charming Ashok Kumar was not a typical bad boy. In fact, he was guiltless about his profession (pick-pocketing) before meeting Rani. The belief that ‘essential goodness in a human being can be awakened by love and understanding’ was my takeaway from Shekhar and Rani’s romance.

  9. Hello, Anup. It’s good to see that you found this review and you agree that Kismet is adorable! Your “takewaway” regarding the film looks fine to me. It has been seven years since I saw Kismet, and I actually feel somewhat the way that AK says he felt above, in that my memory of the story has slipped away a little but I can clearly recall most of the wonderful soundtrack by Anil Biswas. But, also, the actors’ performances… I don’t think anyone else could have played Ashok Kumar’s character quite the same way. I also do think highly of Mumtaz Shanti’s performance. She is underrated. (As you might have noticed, I have reviewed a few films starring Mumtaz Shanti, at least partly because she was the star.)

    You mentioned Ashok Kumar’s character being a “guiltless” pickpocket, but I think that there have been a few Hindi films about pickpockets who cheerfully practiced their talents without much guilt but without being villains in any true sense either. Right now (and for probably a while in the future), I have a picture in the top-right corner of this blog of Nimmi from the film Bhai-Bhai, with the subtitle below it, “Everyone is a thief in this world.” The dance that she did to “Is Duniya Mein Sab Chor” was at the point in the film where her character began her acquaintance and inevitable romance with the pickpocket played by Kishore Kumar. (Ashok Kumar was also in this film, but he played a different sort of character entirely – though the two brothers turned out to be brothers on screen, too. )

    My impression is that pickpockets were not taken so seriously as criminals in many old Indian films. Enough Vintage and Golden Age Indian films, with their socialist bent, make the point that common pickpockets are less crooked than many prosperous businessmen. So let’s not judge the pickpocket too harshly because everyone is a thief in this world! :)

  10. Wow. I didn’t had that perspective about Bollywood’s pickpockets. Can you please suggest me these movies where there are guiltless pickpockets?

  11. I can’t, at this point, pinpoint multiple films in which there were “guiltless pickpockets.” One film, Bhai-Bhai (1956) came to mind, because I can distinctly remember how carefree Kishore Kumar’s character was when it came to practicing his “trade.” (It’s also quite clear just in the song sequence that I referred to – which I have watched multiple times and much more recently than the film, itself.) He is also one of the sympathetic characters. (Though I thought he was a bit abusive toward Nimmi’s character at some point, but I think that was relatively accepted back then. And Nimmi was so good at playing abused women, too!) I’m sure there were more. (Per Madhu’s (i.e., “Dustedoff’s”) comment, Boy Friend (1961) was basically a remake of Kismet, so I guess that’s another one right there. :) )

    But maybe I should have made my point more generally, regarding characters who were basically forced by circumstances to become common criminals. While many have remorse for what they have done, the characters are often heroes – or maybe anti-heroes – and not the villains in the films. They are therefore treated sympathetically.

    I think Awara is the classic example of this. Then there is Dev Anand in Kala Bazar… I also saw that well over a decade ago, so I can’t remember it in detail, but while this character feels guilty and remorseful about his trade as a black marketer and seeks to mend his ways, there is a general message that someone who is pushed into crime by circumstances is not necessarily a villain and is certainly less villainous than the society – and often the people who run it – who create misery/poverty in the first place. Dev’s character becomes quite a moral leader in this film. This also happens as a result of a romance with a woman.

    The concept of a woman helping to reform a male character is probably pretty common in these films too. Sometimes such a man might be the villain of the film, but most often, he definitely is not. (Though not as common, I think that there might also be female criminals who were rendered soft-hearted by male characters too. Doesn’t that happen a little bit in Baiju Bawra?)

  12. Thanks for such an elaborate reply, Richard. I have relatively just discovered your blog a week or two ago. But I keep coming back here as your bonhomie and respect towards the reader is infectious. I am a Mass communication student in India, and studying Bollywood. In my pursuit of Hindi cinema, I’d like to tell you, yours insightful blogs help a lot. Again thanks a lot.

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