Manzil (Mandi Burman, 1960) – the moon, and you and me

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I really liked the first half of ‘Manzil’ (Mandi Burman, 1960); the romance between Raju (Dev Anand) and Pooja (Nutan) had all the innocence of first love with the physicality of young hormones at play. There are stolen kisses and romping around on the floor, and holding hands quite naturally, and lots of cuddling. The family drama with the strict, uncompromising father Mehta-Ji (K.N.Singh) doing what he does best, with his raised eyebrows and stern voice, plays out quite well with a son who wants to be a musician and a father who wants him to join the family business. Everyone else around, mother, sister, family friends and Pooja herself, are sympathetic to Raju, not quite in tandem with Mehta-Ji but still believe that music can only be a pastime, not a profession, and I like the conflicts of that dilemma with Raju’s mother (Mumtaz Begum) and sister Shobha (Achala Sachdev) hoping that Pooja will be able to hold him to home and hearth, will seduce him into staying back, into not following his dreams. Pooja herself is torn between her love for Raju, and wanting his happiness, and wanting her own.

It helps that the film is beautifully shot by Nariman Irani. There are some truly cinematic moments. Raju goes to a bar, and lifts up a glass of drink, leaving a rim on the counter. His subsequent drinking is marked by a shot where the rim marks on the counter grow. Raju’s house in Simla is also well-used, the architecture of the hills where the first floor in the front of the house could well be the ground floor at the back, which lets Pooja and Raju slip out as they please, hand in hand, right into the forest. There is romantic banter across adjoining windows, and there is a masterful shot when Raju’s father finally gets Raju’s piano thrown out of the house. Raju storms into his room, ready to leave the house. We see the women, Pooja, Raju’s sister Shobha, and Raju’s mother, Pooja’s mother, all framed in one shot, at different places in the room, against the wall, against doorframes, sad, helpless, until Pooja, walks into foreground, towards camera, determined. Even in a terrible digital print, it is obvious, the black and whites must have been lovely, there is so much darkness, so much play with shadows, with light.

And the music by S.D. Burman, (lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri), is faultless. Teja has recently acquired a record player, which I have almost usurped. It’s the first record player I have had, and I am amazed at how wonderful music sounds on vinyl. And each one of these songs on an album, you would like to listen to. My favourite is

(Geeta Dutt, Mohammad Rafi) for the teasing and joy of a young courting couple who finds themselves alone at home.

Where the film completely loses its charm and credibility is in the second half. Raju’s entry into Bombay city, being looted by a thug on his first night, being befriended by a musical panwala (Mehmood) who turns in a stellar performance in a song,

are all very stereotypical, as is a famous nautch girl Titli Bai (Zaibunnisa) being enamoured by him, and actively creating a rift between Raju and Pooja. The DVD has also been mercilessly hacked in this portion and the jumps do nothing for the story. Titli Bai mysteriously disappears at one point. Raju becomes famous too easily.

The film picks up a bit again when Pooja gets married to Captain Prem Nath (Krishan Dhawan), and Shobha comforts Raju as he drinks. Later, she confronts Pooja. Again, the unsaid tensions between families, between people, the misunderstandings, are portrayed quite subtly. But the leap to a dramatic end, with the Captain’s mad leap into jealousy and out of a window are too idiotic to mean anything to the story.

A pity, I thought. It would have been really nice if the premise of a man trying to make it big in the music world and being torn apart by his family and his love, could have been explored more deeply, with all the nuances the first half promised. But the formulaic demands of a Hindi film do not allow for that. Instead we have an evil vamp and a conniving servant and a jealous husband. And the husband must of course die, before Pooja can get back to Raju. After it being established time and time again, that for some reason, Pooja is still a virgin.

9 thoughts on “Manzil (Mandi Burman, 1960) – the moon, and you and me

  1. Ah, if only this had been made by Nav Ketan. Then Pooja wouldn’t have had to remain a virgin. That was one thing I always gave the Anands mad props for – their women could be as flawed as the men and still be happy in the end. And have a life. And fall in love and be married again, or not.

    Yes, Manzil did disappear into the curse of the second half. Honestly, though, after the doom and gloom, I was happy to have Pooja get back with Raj, and was willing to throw the Captain out of the window myself. 🙂

    (And when I first saw Manzil on my sidebar, I thought, Amitabh! only to discover it was another of my favourites. 🙂 )

    1. Anu, Kalpana Pictures seems to be another version of Navketan. At least, that’s what I thought. Actually, even so, Pooja at least was not forced to stay with her husband. And even while mouthing the predictable lines of ‘sin’ and all, she was obviously willing to run off with Raj. 🙂

  2. Hello,
    Thanks for this pleasant review, which I read because of my love for the lady (I don’t mind Dev, of course!). I think you’re quite right, as Anu confirms, about the fact that the movie’s second half is a let-down. But I think that when you say that “the formulaic demands of a Hindi film” have obliged it to remain on the simplistic level, I’m not sure. Shree 420, for instance, which dates back to 1955, had explored a similar theme in a very satisfying fashion. It would have been possible to take the moral situation more seriously, and come up with a reinforced human interactivity. In fact I simply believe the director supposed that having Anand and Nutan on the screen was sufficient work to fill his book.

    1. Yves, I know you love Nutan. 🙂 I do too. I think here, specially, she lights up the screen with her innocence and smiles and her love. Of course, there are great examples of formulas well done. I agree. Just that ‘Manzil’ suffers.

  3. Did you always have the record for Manzil, or is this some re-issue? When they started releasing CD’s of old film songs they really cocked up on the sound engineering. The reproductions were flat, there were no dynamics at all. I wish somebody would really digitize those old recordings properly from either the master tapes or even the films. So much of the preludes, interludes and verses are lost because of the limitations of the old 78 rpms. On our last visit to Bombay I purchased a Madhumati LP and was bitterly disappointed with “Suhana Safar” and “Toote hue khwabon ne”. They used the 78 rpm versions instead of the longer version in the film.

    1. SSW, I still don’t have a record of ‘Manzil’ but I’m hoping to get it. When I do, it will be an old used one. Yes, the new issues are all digital, so don’t have the same quality at all. We have one of the best collectors and traders of old LPs living next door to us. The next time you are in Bombay, I promise to take you to his place if you want.

      1. Oh yes, we will ping you before we land up so you have ample time to warn the person. A year ago I rescued an old Technics turntable from obscurity and since then have been enjoying some old albums that had been safely packed away. Luckily I invested in a really fabulous amplifier that has a phono input so sound reproduction is quite exquisite. Over here I visit a small place where I have found real treasures at $1.

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