julie (1975) – that time is fleeting, time is fleeting, time is fleeting

Julie‘ was released in 1975. I was 10, and definitely not allowed into an adult movie, which its poster alone loudly proclaimed it to be. But what could stop the songs from reaching us? ‘My heart is beating, keeps on repeating, I am waiting for you’ was the rage for years, helped along by its singer, Preeti Sagar appearing on Doordarshan regularly, and singing it. Preeti Sagar with her fair skin and light eyes, and her long plaits and traditional sari never ceased to send a frisson of surprise down our spines when she began singing this very English song in her husky voice.

I had never felt curious about watching ‘Julie’ because Lakshmi was not an actress I was familiar with, nor was Vikram a big star. And the original notion of it being a sleazy film had stuck into my memory. So when I did watch ‘Julie’ recently on an appropriately rainy day, it was the right dose of nostalgia, a visit back to the 70s.

The village in which Julie lives could be the Kirkee of my summer holidays – the old cantonment style houses with the latticed verandahs, the dusty roads, the railway tracks and the small railway station, the water tank, the river and empty roads on which one could cycle around. Julie is an ordinary enough story of a young girl who falls in love and gets pregnant. But ah, the details. One could quibble over the fact that Anglo Indians are characterized into stereotypes – the drunkard father, the domineering mother, but the thing is that Nadira and Om Prakash make these characters, Margaret and Morris, so believable that they remind me of the uncles and aunties I knew when we were growing up.

Their house, the sofa set, the crocheted covers on tables, the games of carom, the mandatory guitar, everything adds up to creating a very believable world.

Julie (Lakshmi) and her siblings, Irene (a very young, chubby faced Sridevi)

and Johny (I’m sorry, I didn’t get his name) live with their parents. Their father is a railway engine driver, warm and affectionate, but prone to drinking through the day. This has their family finances on edge and their mother always hassled. Frequent fights between their parents can cause the kids embarrassment amongst their friends, and humiliation at the hands of older people like the grocery store owner or the office manager.

Rajendranath plays a very different role from his usual loud comic buffoon, that of the lecherous shopkeeper who tries to take advantage of the family’s debts to cop a feel of Julie whenever she comes to his shop.

But his ‘Chhoti Memsaab’ and ‘Bade Saheb’-ing are indicative of the way Anglo Indians were still perceived to be more English than Indian, even by the members of the community themselves. Margaret certainly is contemptuous of all things Indian and her dream is to go away to England facilitated by her elder son, Jimmy who works away from home.

Julie has a best friend, Usha (Rita Bhaduri) whose mother Mrs. Upadhyay (Achala Sachdev) a superstitious, very traditional Hindu woman does not approve of Julie at all, in her short frocks, her sandals that she brings into the house, her offering of Christmas cake which Achala suspects contains eggs even though Julie says it doesn’t, since she has made it specially for them. While Achala’s more broad minded husband, Mr. Upadhyay (Utpal Dutt) tucks into the cake happily, Mrs. Upadhyay thinks the cake is a device for the Christians to tarnish their Hindu dharma and convert more Hindus into their fold. Julie herself likes the Hindu household more than her own, which smells of fish frying and other meats and drink.

Once Julie comes into the house and sees Mr. Upadhyay in the kitchen, grating a lauki.

Mr. Upadhyay tells her jokingly that Mrs. Upadhyay has 4 off-days from the kitchen, when she has her periods, she is considered unclean and cannot enter the traditional Hindu kitchen. These small details bring forward the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Upadhyay quite clearly along with the beliefs of the time.

The director K S Sethumadhavan uses these well entrenched prejudices to build a portrait of both households, Hindu and Christian, quite effectively. His handling is delicate and in the end, Utpal Dutt’s plea for humanity over religion and caste, make a strong case against these familiar attitudes.

Julie has a sort of boyfriend, Richard (Jalal Agha) who takes her around on his cycle.

She likes him, but does not love him. Richard is madly enough in love with her to take the crap she deals out to him, but he is saved from being a wishy-washy character by being quite malicious and bitter in his remarks to her, making her aware that he knows what exactly she is up to.

Julie has fallen in love with Shashi (Vikram), Usha’s brother, who comes home from the holidays.

Shashi too is smitten with her, as he has seen her after many years.

While Shashi as a character is limited to the hormonally driven boyfriend, the love between Julie and Shashi is so, so real, having little to do with knowing each other, but pure chemical attraction as is likely to happen when you are 17. πŸ™‚

The two barely talk, and apart from some perfunctory ‘I love you’s thrown in, they begin smooching, leading up to sex, via the famous ‘Julie, I love you’.

Being the world of Indian films, this of course, means pregnancy for Julie. Shashi to be fair to him, does not know she is pregnant, because he has gone back to the city by then. Margaret is not only upset about Julie’s pregnancy per se, but also by the fact that she has done it with an ‘Indian’. The only way she can see out of the situation is to pretend to Morris and the rest of the family that Julie must work now to provide for the family, she has a job with the convent and has to go away. Morris doesn’t want Julie to leave college and work, but he shuts up when Margaret says she cannot run the house on his meager income, further depleted by alcohol. Margaret takes Julie to a distant auntie, (Sulochana, the old one, Ruby Meyers)

who refuses to give in to Margaret’s solution for abortion. Instead, Julie lives with her during her confinement and they give away the child to the orphanage after he is born. Morris meanwhile dies, leaving Julie who was his favorite, further bereft.

Once Julie has returned home, there is a wonderful scene when Julie hears a child wailing outside her room, and her breasts overflow with milk. Her younger sister, Irene immediately guesses why Julie was sent away from home. None of this is sleazy, by the way, but handled quite realistically. Julie, confused, wakes up her mother in the middle of the night, with a plea to get her child back.

The story of course, runs its course. But it does not create unnecessary melodrama and stretch the point.

Though Lakshmi was 23 in this film, she plays an absolutely gorgeous 17 or 18 in this film,

a mix of sexuality and innocence which she holds through the film, except for a couple of scenes after she learns of her pregnancy where she overdoes the crying bits. But Nadira takes your breath away.

She brings a complexity to her character, veering from anger towards her husband to a flash of helpless affection, to rage at her daughter to pity for her, doing it all with no pyrotechnics.

Surprisingly, ‘My heart is beating’ is not a love song, but one Julie sings at a family evening. All of them dance, and it is one of the rare moments of happiness at home.

The other love song, ‘Yeh raatein nayi purani’ is sung by Usha at the Railway Institute dance, where Julie and Shashi smooch oblivious to all eyes, and despite the fact that they hardly know each other.

There is a sparseness to this film, an unfinished feel that Sur talks about here, that reminds you of summer holidays, things said and unsaid, relationships that follow their own course, and young love. Just watch ‘Dil kya kare jab kisi ko kissi se pyaar ho jaaye’. I’m sure it will remind you of someone you knew and mucked around with years ago. Or maybe not so many years ago.

And may God forgive Ultra Video for their watermark.

36 thoughts on “julie (1975) – that time is fleeting, time is fleeting, time is fleeting

  1. A beautiful write up Banno, now I have to watch this one! And I share your feelings for Nadira, always find her so interesting. Can you please do a write up on her movie Chhoti Chhoti Baatein?

    1. Thanks, Violet. I find Nadira a very powerful actress. Maybe one day I will write up something on my interactions with her. I’ve never really seen ‘Chhoti Chhoti Baatein’ completely, but want to some day. You have given me a motive. πŸ™‚

      1. Wow.. you have actually interacted with her, is it? Now I can tell people that I have interacted with someone who has interacted with Nadira πŸ˜› Who else do you know, tell me now!

        1. Violet, I worked with her on a serial for Zee TV, called ‘Margarita’. I was writing the screenplay and dialogue, and she was acting in it. Other people I know, hmmm, haven’t made a list. I do know that I don’t know as many people as I should know. πŸ™‚

          1. Hey.. Wish you a very Happy B’day, and a great year ahead. Is it really your birthday today? I randomly checked your blog to see your reply, and searched for the serial Margarita, and it took me to a page about FTII which says its your birthday. How serendipitous!

  2. May God forgive Ultra, for I cannot πŸ™‚

    What a great review, wish you did them more often! I saw this a long time ago, and of course it didn’t have any nostalgia resonance for me but I remember liking it. Must watch it again.

  3. Lovely write up and i love your screen caps too, i saw this a few weeks ago and i loved it so, in fact I think I’ll purchase the dvd. Indeed i rolled my eyes at the hindu/christian references but your write up makes me feel different about the way it was portrayed and the songs are to die for, I can’t stop singing My heart is beating.

    1. Bollydeewana, it is a catchy song. The Hindu/Christian references were strong, but I think quite realistic in the way people did think at home, in more politically uncorrect times.

    1. Vegetarian Hindus in India don’t eat eggs, since it is an unborn life. One can naturally argue that all the battery (is that the right term) eggs are unfertilized and thus not really life. I am a vegetarian and I eat eggs.

  4. This is the first review of a film, I am reading at your blog.
    I saw this film on DD in the 80s, I think. And had nearly forgotten about the story except for bare essentials and had the notion that it was pro-Hindu.
    Thanks to you, now I know it is not that way and can enjoy the bhajan in this film, which I like a lot!
    And yeah, great write-up! Ho sake tho, do more reviews.

    1. Harveypam, I would love to do more reviews, if I had more time. But you can go to my page, filmi notes, and there’s an index of reviews I have done earlier. Maybe you’d like to read some of them.

  5. Somehow this part was left out while sending the comment, so here it is:

    Julie! Wow, it was at that time, the quintessential ‘A’ movie, about which all talked in whispers.

    My uncle had a pretty pomeranian whose name was also Julie, and she had black fur in the regionof her eyes, which gave her a look of carrying those big sunglasses of that time. Lovely Julie, but she didn’t like me! 😦

    1. Harveypam, the pom with big sunglasses is a lovely image. Pity she didn’t like you. But poms don’t get friendly too easily, isn’t it?

  6. Next rainy day and I am going to watch Julie. I know all the songs, I know the story, I know the feel, although i have never seen the film. Osmosis, i guess.

    But now I want to see all the little details that you write about with such care , and so beautifully.

    1. Surabhi, nice, definitely good watch on a rainy day. I know what you mean by the osmosis bit, I think all of us felt the same, the songs and the story had permeated our minds so much, that we felt we had seen the film even when we hadn’t.

  7. Have never actually seen this film, but I remember all the songs being very popular. Now that I’ve read your review of it, I want to see it! Thank you for that. πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks for writing about this movie. Yeah, I remember Lakshmi in pink-striped dress being on posters all over the place, way back then. I love all the little details you’ve pointed out – those 4 days, yes, it was a practice in so many South Indian Hindu households especially. The movie is a remake of the Malayalam `Chattakari,’ (the `shirt’ed female) if I remember the name right.
    I watched stunned as a 20-something maybe, when they showed it on DD one Sunday evening. Squirming in the presence of so many elders as the I-love-you song came on and my mother tsk-tsk-tsking away. But I had to find out how they resolved the whole thing and was quite satisfied. Nadira turned in a good performance and I wept when Morris died. Sridevi, minus the rhinoplasty.
    Lakshmi looked lovely and seemed to pick many of these `hatke’ roles – I’m thinking of another Tamil movie by K. Balachander, Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal – she plays a character that eventually befriends her accidental rapist, building a life for herself after that incident, taking on her orthodox family and putting them in their place.

    1. Thanks, desi-at-large. I loved Sridevi without her rhinoplasty, though I can imagine why she needed to get it done when she became a heroine. πŸ™‚ Lakshmi was really good. I hadn’t expected it somehow, thought she would be too melodramatic, as most South Indian actresses were then, but I was wrong.

  9. [Note to self: Get. Julie. Now. The movie. Ofcourse.]

    Great writeup. I used to follow your blog quite seriously up at blogger, and just landed in here for the first time. That was probably one of the only occasions (maybe the ONLY) where I read retro Bollywood stuff in here. And thank god, I did not miss it.

    Scribblers Inc.

  10. I was 15 then, could not see the movie for the same reason. My older brother and other boys did and were over the moon about Julie. I saw the movie on doordarshan in early 90s and was blown away by it. It was not a movie merely about seduction, it was about life.

    Om Prakash and Nadira blew me away. What a performance. Same to Lakshmi. I also loved the small details, the railway quarters, the poverty of Julie’s home, a summer romance with a boy that sours for the girl.

    It has been a long time since I saw it but I seem to remember that the movie does not get judgemental with Julie. Ah that scene when milk flows from Julie’s breasts.. that was superbly done. I also remember vividly the scene where Om Prakash misses his daughter and hears her voice reprimanding him for drinking, just before he dies. That was very touching.

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