Revisiting Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957)
Filmistan Studios in Mumbai has been in the news for some years now.  The property value has escalated and even real estate developers are eyeing it. Here we review one of the earliest successful films that was produced by Filmistan Studios.
 
Sometimes you wonder what is so great about some of the super hit films of the past. This is the feeling that overtook me when I watched Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 62 years after its release. Mostly shot in studios and in the verdant landscape near Thane’s Ghodbunder Road, if the film is fairly engaging it is mainly because of its super hit songs.
 
The film was produced by Filmistan Studios, which is often in the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2011, there was a talk of Filmistan Studios being sold for Rs600 crore; in 2015, film maker Sajid Nadiadwala expressed his desire to buy the studio from its owner Anil Jalan. Anil is the son of film financier Tolaram Jalan.
 
 Tolaram was known for his fiery temper and crude behaviour but he was soft on some of the girls who wished to try their luck in Bollywood. Ameeta was one such actress who became the beneficiary of the benevolent glance of the super-rich Marwari businessman from Kolkata. In fact, comedian Mehmood made a film Sabse Bada Rupaiyya (1976) where he based his character on Tolaram Jalan who often remarked – “The whole thing is that ke bhaiya… sabse bada rupaiya”.
 
The decrepit Filmistan studio got a facelift in 1976 thanks to the efforts of Tolaram’s girlfriend Neena who married him after his first wife passed away.
 
Neena acted in movies like Nanhi Kali, Jalte Badan and Shagun. The youngest daughter of a barrister, Neena was defiant about making a name for herself in Bollywood but once Jalan started fancying her, Neena did not flinch before quitting films to marry the money bag. Neena also owned a major share in Filmistan studios. Unconfirmed reports say that she passed away a few years ago.
 
So here we take a brief look at a film that was made by Mumbai’s oldest and iconic studio Filmsistan that was founded in 1943 by Ashok Kumar and his brother-in-law S Mukherjee. Later Filmistan was sold off to the Marwari businessman Tolaram. Nasir Hussain had joined Filmistan in 1948 as a writer (Munimji, Paying Guest) and Tumsa Nahin Dekha was his directorial debut.
 
Aamir Khan recalled in an interview that his uncle Nasir Hussain was given a tight budget by the fastidious Tolaram Jalan and the shoot of the film was completed after overcoming many challenges that looked insurmountable initially.
 
Jalan had paid Shammi Kapoor Rs32,000 as salary for Ham Sab Chor Hain (1956). He shocked Kapoor by paying him Rs20,000 for Tumsa Nahin Dekha and when Kapoor protested, Jalan told him cryptically, “Take it or leave it; get out.” Kapoor remembered that Jalan was a crude man.
 
When Jalan passed away in 2001, there were hardly any encomiums or obituaries for the film financier who had often rubbed people the wrong way. Interestingly, Tumsa Nahin Dekha was a launch pad for Ameeta, a Muslim girl from Kolkata, whom the dark, stodgy and crude Jalan had taken a liking to. Sadly, Ameeta could never capitalize on the success of the film and instead Kapoor walked away with all the credit. After the torture that he experienced at the hands of Jalan (he was such a micro manager), Nasir Hussain made Dil Dekhe Dekho in 1959 (Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh) with support from S Mukherjee. Then there was no looking back for Hussain and his protégé-cum-girl friend Asha Parekh.
 
Great care was taken with Ameeta’s make-up, wardrobe and lighting, to present her in the most flattering way possible.  The film’s publicity focused on Ameeta and sidelined Kapoor who was the hero of the film. Ameeta played the lead in Goonj Uthi Shehanai (1959) which was a major hit – it was a role that was originally written for Meena Kumari. Despite both these successes, Ameeta got typecast with supporting characters in films like Around the World and Mere Mehboob.
 
She quit films in the early 70’s. She had a daughter Sabeeha who acted in films like Anokha Rishta and Khiladi before vanishing from the scene altogether. In the mid 80’s, Ameeta had a major spat with Rajesh Khanna accusing him of molesting her daughter.
 
Tumsa Nahin Dekha begins with a man Gopal (BM Vyas) who commits a murder after he is cheated of his wealth and becomes a fugitive. He changes his name and adopts a girl Meena (Ameeta) but life’s bitter experiences have made him cantankerous and grumpy. He misses his wife and son and lives in an area that is surrounded by the forest. In response to an ad, two men approach him for a job and both call themselves Shankar. Gopal (who is now known by his new identity Sardar Rajpal) now wants to know who his real son Shankar is.
 
 
The plot then meanders through by introducing a set of unruly adivasis who later become friends with the hero Shankar (Kapoor). Pran is the archetypal villain. After a narrative which flounders now and then, Gopal gets killed. The lead actor is reunited with his sweetheart and the villain falls to his death from a cliff. The buxom dancer Sheila Vaz (who hailed from Goa) gets to play a character role in this movie as the sister of the tribal chief. It is remarkable that Vaz who quit films to get married way back in 1960 shunned all media attention thereafter. It was only recently discovered that she is very much in Mumbai but chose to maintain an extremely low profile.
 
 
The mellifluous music by OP Nayyar is the only saving grace. “Yun to hum ne lakh haseen”, “Chupnewale samne aa”, “Jawaaniyan yeh mast mast”, ”Dekho kasam se”, “Aye hai door se” and “Sar par topi” continue to be chart busters even today. Kapoor delivers a stellar performance and his lean avatar is a pleasant surprise (he began putting on weight as we can see from his later films).
 
Ameeta is fresh faced, looks charming and has been photographed well. It is a pity that she never got any major roles in Bollywood in her later years. She also scores on the acting side. Kapoor and Ameeta don’t share great screen chemistry in the film mainly because Kapoor (as per his own admission) was intimidated by the fact that the leading lady was his producer’s girl-friend.
 
Character actor BM Vyas played the role of Gopal and as per reports he lived till the age of 92 years in his Kalyan residence. He was the brother of poet and lyricist Bharat Vyas. Raj Mehra and Pran as the villains are passable.
 
Tumsa Nahin Dekha deserves to be watched at least once … you can only look at and sigh at the beautiful forests in Thane (where the film’s outdoors have been shot) that have now been replaced by concrete roads and buildings. The songs add to the film’s allure and the credit for this has to go to the legendary OP Nayyar.
 
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
Comments
Ramesh Poapt
4 years ago
vow! bahut khub!! kya baat hai!!!
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