Teen Batti Chaar Raasta (1953)
Starring: Karan Dewan, Lalita Kumari, Leela Mishra, Sheila Ramani, Nirupa Roy, Sandhya, Shashikala
Having recently reviewed a movie directed by and starring V. Shantaram, I didn’t realize this film was also directed by him as well until I watched the credits. Let me just say, V. Shantaram could very well be one of the best directors of all time.
It starts off with a city street, and a stop/go sign centered in the middle. The camera pans into the sign, and the ‘stop’ changes to ‘go’ which then changes to another sign with credits…and that’s when the fun little beat starts, while the cast and crew list are underway. And with Lata Mangeshkar as a singer on this picture, there could be no doubt in my mind that even if the movie ended up being bad (which I am by no means saying it did) that the music would definitely be a treat.
It starts off with the wives of every member of a household getting constant phone calls, but due to lazy translators…I am sadly unable to divulge the details of their conversations. After this odd exchange (of which I daresay was unimportant, as nobody spent more than 5 seconds talking before hanging up) a young woman arrives at the doorstep. She is the daughter of their newspaper vendor, but as he is sick…she has had to take on the job for the day. Everyone in the house gets a different paper (Marathi, Hindi, English, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Sindhi) and as the girl passes them out, she exchanges a few words with everyone in their chosen language. Her name is Shyama (Sandhya) and her proficiency in these languages impresses them all. The father of the family, Mr. Kushalchand (well, father of the boys…father-in-law of the wives) pulls everyone but Shyama aside and says to them that to have such an intelligent girl in their house with such varied languages would be useful, and they agree that she should be taken on as a servant.
Shyama is very grateful for the job. When she gets home, she can’t help but sing to her mother and father about the good news. Her father asks her why she needs the job, when she already has one singing on the radio. Her mother says it’s an unpredictable profession, and her father contests that it earns her respect and fame. Shyama explains that she’ll take leave from her work whenever they need her at the radio station…then her father worries about her working in a place with so many men. This guy seems like one of those ‘the glass is always half-empty’ sorts…
A friend of Shyama’s who also sells newspapers rushes up to her later to tell her that all of the papers for the day have been sold. She’s cheerful enough about it, but she needs him to escort her to the radio station in the evening. He asks why he should…it isn’t as if she’s attractive. Shyama’s used to remarks like this from her step-mother (and I’m sure others as well) and brushes the remark aside…though she does check the mirror before the scene transitions to her singing. When she finishes, an eager crowd rushes up to a fair-skinned woman, calling her ‘Ms. Kokila’ and asking for autographs…she tells them that Shyama is Ms. Kokila, and points to her. They look at Shyama, surprised…and hold out their notebooks to be autographed. So Shyama goes by ‘Ms. Kokila’ when she sings…
One of her fans, standing close by says ‘she sings and writes quite well, but unfortunately she lacks the looks’…to which, I’m given to wonder…couldn’t the jerk have waited until he was out of earshot to say that about her? His friend tells him ‘If only she was pretty…she could achieve great heights’…and they’re not even really whispering…they’re stage whispering.
When Shyama gets home, this time she looks in the mirror distraught. But when she goes to her father, he comforts her tell tells Shyama that her beauty is ‘one in a million’. This is a sweet moment, and there are some really wonderful lines in her father’s speech. Shyama’s character is of a cheerful nature, and her father’s words quickly ease her sadness.
The next day at work, Shyama meets the over-worked chef…and helps him out. So as not to spoil the scene, I’ll just say ‘it is a very cute bit’ when she rushes out to serve everyone their food. Shyama manages to charm everyone into a good mood, and keep the house in order. Later on, several washer-people and a tailor drop by with clothing for the family…But before I go any further, I must point out one very integral part of the story…this really odd couch. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it…
The doorbell rings, and Shyama complains about all of the people dropping by…she exclaims that this one must be a barber. When she opens the door, he looks a bit confused about the barber remark, but says he is one…and takes a seat…then spins around for some reason. Shyama tells him to leave, but he refuses, so she picks up a chair…and he calls for his mom. Apparently the elder couple have yet another son, Ramesh. Shyama is more than a little shocked and embarrassed.
In the way of romantic comedies, Shyama gets the chance to apologize to him later when she brings him food. They talk, and seem to like each other well enough. But who could dislike Shyama? Honestly, she’s just too sweet. Ramesh is writing a dictionary, and finds that Shyama knows several languages, which just might help. Shyama sees a lovely portrait in Ramesh’s office, and asks who it is. He asks if she recognizes her, and Shyama says she doesn’t. He tells her that this is a portrait of a wonderful singer on the radio who he wishes to meet in the coming week…Kokila. Shyama is a bit startled by this remark. She warns him that the real deal may be a disappointment, but he disagrees. The man is smitten with ‘Kokila’, and refuses to believe that she is anything but ravishing.
For a moment Shyama allows herself to be overjoyed that someone has fallen in love with her…but she immediately decides that if he were to see her face, it would destroy his image of Kokila…so she decides that she will avoid him when he tries to meet her at the radio station.
Shyama tries to avoid Ramesh at the station, but he manages to catch her running away. He quietly leaves her, and goes to his room…where he tears his portrait of the fake Kokila to shreds. Shyama’s heart is broken…so she rushes into the pantry and sings. There is something about the lighting here, which makes the tears on her face glisten beautifully. The song suit’s the mood perfectly (at least the tone of it does…there were no subtitles, but emotion carries across language barriers pretty effectively.)
Not long after, all of the girls at the house decide to bring home a ‘modern’ friend of theirs…who forces Ramesh to dance with her, and grossly abuses her right to speak ‘hinglish’. She calls Shyama ugly, and asks why there are such hideous dark-skinned women in the world…she says it quite a few times, and finally Shyama decides she’s had enough, so she speaks up for herself…the ‘modern girl’ yells at her, slaps her, and inevitably knocks a tray of (soda?) all over herself, ruining her make-up. Shyama rushes off, and Ramesh follows…telling her that she insulted a guest. Shyama tells him off and quits.
And of course that’s when Ramesh realizes he truly loves Shyama…
So what happens next? You’ll have to find out for yourself. It’s not as good as Do Ankhen Barah Haath, but it is still pretty enjoyable. I give it 7 out of 10 bindis.
Entry filed under: 5 and more Bindis, Film Reviews, Hindi, Languages. Tags: bollywood, classic, comedy, hindi, Karan Dewan, Lalita Kumari, Leela Mishra, Nirupa Roy, romance, Sandhya, Shashikala, Sheila Ramani.