Tumsa Nahin Dekha
Director: Nasir Husain
Aka – Saw Nobody Like You
Tumsa Nahin Dekha was the debut film for director Nasir Husain and the film
that saved Shammi Kapoor’s career. It is a light frothy romantic comedy with
a number of enjoyable spritely songs that did very well at the box-office.
It was a long time coming for both of them.
Nasir was brought up in a middle-class family in Bhopal where his father
was a professor. This studious nature was not passed on to Nasir who did poorly
in High School and then at university in Lucknow. After his father
passed away when Nasir was only fifteen he began to go to the movies a lot
but his studies did not improve. The one thing he had some aptitude for was
writing and after graduating and having no idea what to do with himself he
moved to Bombay. A year later he ran into S. Mukerji who asked him what he
did. A writer. Read to me something you wrote. Nasir did but did not hear
from him for months until Mukerji called Nasir to help with the dialogue for
a film. Mukerji then hired him full time to be a script writer. Nasir’s family
was very upset that he went into the film business – not a proper career
Mukerji was a legend back then. He had left the most prestigious film studio
Bombay Talkies to form Filmistan Studio in 1943 and had one hit after another.
He wanted his directors and writers to spin out entertaining films – Masala
films with laughs, music and romance. He was married to the sister of Ashok
Kumar, his son Joy became a popular actor and among his nieces are Kajol and
Rani Mukerji. There are other film connections as well too confusing to figure
out. Algebra is easier. Over the next ten years Nasir contributed to scripts
and eventually began writing his own. One of the directors that he specifically
wrote for was Mukerji’s nephew, Subodh Mukerji, and they had a few hits together
with Dev Anand as the star.
Finally by 1957 Nasir felt he was ready to direct and put together this
script and went to one of Filmistan’s money people who said – ok – but with
as small a budget as possible (fairly clear in the film). But the money man
Mr. Jalan had two demands. The hero had to be Shammi Kapoor and the heroine
a newish actress named Ameeta. Nasir didn’t want either, especially Shammi
Shammi was expected to be an actor from birth. His father was the famous
Prithviraj Kapoor who had been in theater and film and his brother was Raj
Kapoor, one of the top directors and actors in the 1950’s (Shashi Kapoor as
the youngest brother was to come along later). But after nineteen films
Shammi had simply made no impact on the audience – he was accused of just
imitating his brother with his thin moustache and mannerisms. He had decided
that this film was his last shot – if it failed, if he failed, he would leave
the business. So he shaved off the moustache, gave his hair a cool combed
back modern look and decided to play his character with an insouciant nonchalanance.
Fresh, funny, teasing and charming. He even originates his famous "Yahoo"
This sort of portrayal went against everything Bollywood heroes were. They
were a serious lot – the big stars at the time were Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor
and Dilip Kumar – all as serious in romance and drama as a shot in the head.
Shammi completely went against that and lo and behold he danced. No Fred Astaire
by any means but he got out there and danced and looked so happy doing it.
Most male actors thought dancing was beneath them – and during music sequences
would just stand or walk about – maybe shake a leg. Women danced, men watched.
Not Shammi. Shammi was to influence many of the actors who came after him
– not so much the big action stars such as Dharmendra or Sanjay Dutt who
also rarely danced or smiled but actors such as Shahrukh Khan and Akshaye
and Hritihik who are able to make fun of themselves and can dance.
But Nasir was horrified that he was getting stuck with Shammi. He wanted
Dev Anand – but Dev didn’t want to play opposite Ameeta who he considered
a B player. Neither did Nasir want her. He tried to get Madhubala or Meena
Kumari – two huge stars – but they didn’t want to give time to a first time
director. Ameeta was a huge fan of Madhubala and her performance is clearly
influenced by her. So with no budget and two actors he did not want Nasir
went about making the film. And it was a huge hit. For him and for Shammi
whose new persona caught on like a forest fire and that he hung on to for
hit after hit in the 1960s. Nasir was to go on to a number of very popular
films – sometimes as director – Yaadoon Ki Baaraat, Caravan, Phir Wohi Dil
Laya Hoon, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai and Dil Deke Dekho and as a writer the
incredibly great Teesri Manzil and Qayamat Se Qayamar Tak (1988) that made
a star out of his nephew, Amir Khan. Ameeta went on to a solid career for
the next ten years but never quite got the golden ring. She is fine here though
– very cute, feisty, perky and a good match for Shammi.
The film is entertaining – fun, light on its feet, mischievous, excellent
verbal foreplay between Shammi and Ameeta – influenced by Hollywood films
I think of the man falling for the girl but the girl thinking he is a jerk
and he has to prove over the length of the film that he is not the dick she
thinks he is. A very common narrative now in Bollywood but apparently back
then not so much. Nasir has been accused both by fans and critics of basically
making the same film every time. I think that is harsh at least from the ones
I have seen but certainly his next film Dil Deke Dekho feels like a copy
of this one. One element he uses a lot is the coincidence – in Yaadon Ki
Baaraat three brothers are separated at birth and find themselves all together
fighting the bad guys not knowing they are brothers. Corny but quite a wonderful
film. In Dil Deke Dekho, Shammi finds himself working for a woman who thinks
he is a fake – who turns out to be his long lost mother. This one has a similar
theme and coincidences step on coincidences that are buried under other coincidences.
This used to strike me as ridiculous - a poor shortcut for idle writing
– but perhaps Indians are more accepting of this because they believe in
fate, destiny so much more than we do. It works in mysterious ways. Especially
in the movies.
Gopal (B. M. Vyas) loses his money in a poker game – likely cheated – and
kills one of the brothers he is playing with and runs away leaving his wife
and young son to fend for themselves. Jump ahead many years. It has been reported
that his wife and son died in a fire but Gopal doesn’t believe it. Under
a new name he has become a wealthy man and adopted a young girl Meena (Ameeta)
to be his daughter. He has her advertise in the paper for two men to come
work at his plantation and to also put in an ad for his wife and child.
She goes into the city to do so – in the meantime the mother sees the ads
and tells Shankar (Shammi) to go work for this man – and to hand Gopal a letter
that informs Gopal that this is his son but not to say anything because Shankar
hates his father. On the way Shankar ends up in the same train carriage with
Meena – he does his best to annoy her, she thinks he is a jerk. He is rather.
The coincidences continue – the brother of the murdered man (who also saw
the ad) sends his son (Pran - voted Villain of the Millennial) to pretend
to be Shankar the son in order to steal Gopal's money and kill him for revenge
– and amazingly he finds the letter lying on the ground that the other Shankar
had dropped. The real Shankar gets another letter from mom and both men show
up as Shankar with a letter and Gopal doesn’t know which is the real one
and so hires both. See what I mean. Lots of twists and turns and It flies
by quickly. Shammi is my favorite Bollywood male actor so I am grateful that
it turned out this way.
Thanks to Akshay Manwant's book - Music, Masti, Modernity: The Cinema of
Nasir Husain for all the bio information relayed here. It is a great read.