In “Lal Dupatta”, Producer-director K.B. Lall has given us a good picture. It is excellent in parts and good all around.
The story, however, suddenly becomes psychologically inconsistent at the most dramatic stages and the usual fetish of giving a happy ending spoils the naturally dramatic conclusion of the story which is assiduously worked up to a tragic ending after the interval.
Basically, the plot of the story is the common Cinderella romance in which a rich Zamindar ultimately married the daughter of a poor farmer, after the usual obstacles, misgivings and misunderstandings.
The young Zamindar of Amirpur returns to his principality after eight years of democratic education in England and finds his little kingdom tyrannized by his maternal uncle who is called the manager.
Kanwar is received by his handful of subjects. Among them is little Shobha, the daughter of Mukhiya Bhikan Dada, a kisan. Shobha is pretty and has prettier eyes which pull Kanwar to her and thus sow the first seeds of romance in his heart of blue blood. (These princes are supposed to have blood with a different tint).
The manager who is an aristo-brat resents this romance but finding no counter arguments to the high-sounding democratic sermons of Kanwar, resorts to intrigue to spoil this love story. Taking Sawan, a man of odd jobs, as his lieutenant, the manager manages to murder Shobha’s father on the day of her marriage with Kanwar. The wedding is thus postponed. The manager now cooks up a new plan and by forged documents and false testimony declares Shobha as an illegitimate child of sin adopted by her murdered father. With the help of Sawan, an unscrupulous woman is persuaded to claim Shobha as her long lost child.
It is here that the story gets a severe psychological jerk because Kanwar readily swallows the pill prepared for him by the manager and throwing his democratic training and sermons to the winds curses Shobha and even hits her with anger and contempt.
The man who had previously shown exemplary sense of justice and equality suddenly becomes a reactionary feudal lord swearing by the old blood tie stuff and refuses even to investigate the stigma flung at his lady-love.
If his old mother had been found guilty of this good-birth complex, one could understand the subsequent happenings better but Kanwar’s sudden transformation from a justice loving democrat to a narrow-minded feudal prince taxes one’s imagination quite a bit. It only proves that the lad had no backbone and in revealing himself thus he loses the sympathy of the audience.
Now the usual sophisticated vamp of the blue-blood variety is brought on the scene and she is thrown on Kanwar with dance and song punctuating the usual sequences.
The Cinderella now begins her cruel journey through the usual vale of tears nursed by Sukhiya, a royal girl friend of hers. Shobha complains of some mysterious pain in the side and the way she catches at it from time to time we expect her to kick the bucket any minute. But she doesn’t because the director wanted a good ending.
The manager’s plot is ultimately exposed by his accomplice, Sawan and after a small rebellion and a bit of shooting and beating we see the manager lying dead and the Cinderella triumphant in the arms of her Prince Charming with a pink dupatta (The Bohra painter’s version of red thrown over her head).
As Indian audiences love tragedies due to some mysterious masochistic tendencies, a tragic ending to the story would not only have been more logical but also more popular.
Technically, however, the picture has been beautifully photographed, artistically taken and well presented. The dialogue is sparkling and beautiful and Manohar Khanna deserves special praise. The lyrics are not much of a composition but quite few of them are attractively tuned. Recordist Moolgavkar has also done a good job in giving good tone to every word of the songs and the dialogue — a rare experience in India pictures.
Except in those parts where the psychological inconsistencies are noticed, K.B. Lall’s direction is good and effective. He has labored a lot over Madhubala and with admirable results.
Under Lall’s competent direction Madhubala acquires a new screen personality. The erstwhile child now looks an attractive maiden with all her curves well framed but not unduly emphasized. Madhubala plays Shobha beautifully and proves herself at once competent and versatile in both light and pathetic sequences. Her dialogue is also emotionally delivered.
Rajan Haksar plays Kanwar pretty well for a maiden effort. He speaks well and seems to be sincere about his work. It he stops his face from being flabby, by keeping away from the dining table, he will present a less flat appearance and prove a good addition to our screen talent.
Milestone of Maturity
Kesari, who rotted in Ranjit for a life-time, does very well in his slapstick role of Sawan. Making a team with the versatile Ranjit Kumari, Kesari punctuates the story with gags and laughter and becomes popular with masses.
Sapru plays the manager in a very stagy manner and his big fat cheeks have now swallowed his light eyes which were once his main attraction. Pandit Iqbal plays the Mukhiya and looks a sincere kisan every inch and minute.
Bhagabai gave us a bit of pleasant surprise as the sick mother the way she gives tongue to her dialogue. If all old women of the screen spoke their dialogue as well as Bhagabai,they wouldn’t become so boring.
“Lal Dupatta” is an attractive picture and the one-time little Madhuabala is the main attraction. The picture is the first milestone of her maturity in screen acting and as such reflects all the shy glimpses of her early maidenhood.
Year – 1948
Language – Hindi
Country – India
Producer – Akash Chitra
Director – K. B. Lal
Music Director – Gyan Dutt
Box-Office Status –
Cast – Sapru, Madhubala, Rajen Haksar, Ulhas, Ranjit Kumari, Neelam Kothari, Kesari, Gulzar
Miscellaneous Information –