December 26th, 2009

Andaz (1949)

Andaz (1949)

Nargis, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar in Andaz (1949)

Mehboob Khan’s Andaz opened the prestigious new Liberty cinema in Bombay. Nargis plays the role of Neeta, a modern woman who mixes freely with men, rides horses and wears western clothes. She seems to be falling in love with her father’s manager, Dilip Kumar, while we ignore all the signs that become so apparent on a second viewing of the film, namely that she has another man in her life. This is her fiancé, Rajan, played by Raj Kapoor, with whom Nargis starred in many hit films of the 1940s and 50s, and whose choice of an image of the pair together as his company’s logo supports the widely held belief that she was his lover as well as his inspiration. Rajan is an infantile, spoilt brat of a man, and many in the audience hope that she will change her mind and end their relationship. However, the film’s text seems to say that she never loved Dilip, but that he misinterpreted their friendship. While the text supports the latter, conservative argument, the film shows clearly that Neeta has indeed fallen in love with the more sophisticated Dilip. Neeta marries Rajan, and they have a child. Rajan begins to suspect an affair and has a fight with Dilip, who is thoroughly beaten. Dilip seems to go a little mad, and finally declares his love to Neeta, who responds by shooting him dead. This is driven by the narrative, in that he has ignobly threatened her family, but it is also part of the subtext that she loves him and is punishing them both for this transgression. The justification for murder is that the family can never be threatened, so Dilip is punished by death, whereas Neeta, whose complicity is more dubious, is jailed for murder. In many Hindi films, the law of the state is inadequate, and Rajan’s forgiveness of Neeta would be all that is required, but here the state is in control and she is incarcerated. She does not regret her action, but rather blames it on her westernized behaviour, protesting that ‘Foreign flowers cannot flourish on Indian soil.’ This rejection of westernization goes against much of the film, in which the viewer is invited to enjoy the western decor of colonial-style houses, where lovers dressed in western clothes gather around pianos, and play tennis and other sports.

This is one of Mehboob’s last black-and-white films, before he became one of the first in Bombay to experiment with color, as he did in his 1952 film Aan (‘Savage Princess’). His filming of Nargis is particularly striking, and she shines in this luminous performance as daughter, lover, wife, mother and modern woman. She did not act with Mehboob again until her last film, Mehboob’s Mother India in which she played the eponymous heroine. During these intervening years, Nargis is best remembered for her roles with Raj Kapoor, in which they played some of the most memorable romantic characters, including in Barsaat, which was released in the same year as Andaz. Yet in this film, it is her partnership with the great tragic actor Dilip Kumar that is most remembered. The film also reverses norms, in that Mukesh sings for Dilip Kumar and Mohammed Rafi for Raj Kapoor. The romantic feel was supported by Naushad’s music (with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri), which was a major hit, in particular the songs of Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar.

Cast and Production Credits

Year – 1949, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Mehboob Production, Director – Mehboob Khan, Music Director – Naushad, Cast – Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Cuckoo, V. H. Desai, Anwari Bai, Jamshedji, Abbas, Amir Banu, Murad, Wasker

Drama