A Purr *Ahem* Review: Chori Chori (1956)

I watched Chori Chori (1956) recently, and may I say, it was a supremely pleasant watch. Exactly what I needed, too.

[Personal note: It's been a rough month; heck, it's been a rough week up my way in the wilds of Minnesota. A new job, real estate drama, multiple winter vehicle incidents, snowstorm after snowstorm, a sore throat that lasted two weeks, all combined in a whirlwind that has now transported me to a strange calm. If this place is not exactly the abode of zen and enlightenment, it is at least a place characterized by ample appreciation for the fickle turns of Murphy's law and the Fates. Also, I think my Hindi class is trying to kill me via past-tense construction. Wait, did I say that out loud? *Looks around with anxious deer eyes* No, this last month definitely hasn't made me paranoid . . . did someone tell you I was? Wait, I'm calm. I'm calm, I swear.]

This movie is the perfect example of why I don't spend a lot of time watching "serious" films. It's not that I don't appreciate things that SAY something IMPORTANT, it's just that I don't always like being shouted at, or told what to think . . . AND I get enough realism in my life shoveling my car out of snowbanks and working with sick people.

I'm happy to say Chori Chori takes pains to portray life as it ought to be. It wants you to believe that fathers will always choose their daughters' happiness over everything else . . .
that people thrown together in weird circumstances can find happiness together . . . and that the princess and the journalist can easily bridge their difference in social status and upbringing to form a lasting romantic bond (take THAT, ending of Roman Holiday).

Pretty much the only people who don't find happiness here are those out to make a quick buck at other peoples' expense.

This comic sideplot of the couple trying to get the reward money was actually comedic. Go figure. 

This film is a straight-up retelling of It Happened One Night, and because of that, I won't waste much time explaining the plot.

I kinda liked Raj as Clark Gable more than I like Clark Gable as Clark Gable. 
Basically, heiress Kammo (Nargis) runs away from home to marry her true love (who everyone else knows is a money-grasping scoundrel) and along the way runs into journalist Sagar (Raj Kapoor), who is currently angling for his big scoop. After figuring out who she is, he offers to help her reach her scoundrel fiance in exchange for permission to print her sensational tale of romance and rebellion under his byline.

Grumpy faces. Adorable. 

Along the way, you can count on some amusing hi-jinks, subtle and poignant realizations growing on them (and you), and a songlist by Shankar Jaikishan that is bound to end up on your most played list.  What it won't feel like is frame-by-frame a carbon copy of the original. Definitely, absolutely not.

It's been a while since I saw the original Colbert/Gable film, but it seems to me that the original film achieved the developing relationship between the main characters mainly through arguments, gags, and battle of the sexes comedy . . . while this film uses the power of face, song and rural locations to portray the heiress's inner progression from spoiled rich girl, into a socially and inter-personally conscious woman.

It is only when she begins to appreciate the simplicity of the gaon (village) that she can find her place in the shehar (city).

This may smack loudly of populism, but it also a fairly classic backdrop for the arc of a hero's journey. And I'm certainly not going to complain that this time, the hero is a woman.

A powerful scene from Raj, when both he and the character
decide to become a tentative, self-effacing hero.
I said that this film harnesses the power of face. Sure, the best films (and especially those of the silver screen) all do that. But maybe because the actually conversations between the the would-be-lovebirds are less than satisfying, I didn't take much stock in what they said to each other. They were usually talking in circles around their real feelings, desires, and fears anyway . . . so I sort of just got in the habit of searching their faces rather than their sentences to figure out what was going on. Not to say that the dialogue is bad, far from it. But the Raj/Nargis bond, and the combined wattage of their screen presences, immediately blow out all the fuses of anything that dares try to distract from it.

This puppet song is a keeper.
I said this was supremely pleasant, and I say that because I can't really pick out a scene that I found grating to watch. And that's saying something. For me, most Hindi films have some scene that's not only unnecessary, but also irritating. For a lot of people on the interwebs that scene would be part of the ubiquitous and odious comic sideplots. For me, the comedy is sometimes less grating than screechy tragedy ad nauseum happening to secondary characters (which is why the masala prelude is sometimes a great burden to bear just to get to the rest of the film). Happily, the two major sideplots of this film are if not extremely funny, kind of fun at least. Both of those sideplots get songs that I actually enjoyed. And even Raj and Nargis's moments of oddity work to push the story forward. They aren't there just for laughs.

My two favorite songs/sequences in this film would have to be Aaja Sanam . . . which is near cinematic perfection in my opinion . . .

Nargis' face in this song breaks my heart. 

And the poignant third-person expression of loss (all the more poignant for its callously public setting) that is Man Bhawan Ke Ghar Jaye . . .

It's an eleventh hour sequence/montage song, too. [Love those!!!] Shiver-worthy stuff.

I love the fact that this film is pretty much devoid of big declarations of love. It's all about the little things here. . . and Kammo's journey from thinking that "love" is one big, all encompassing emotion . . . to realizing that it is actually the sum total of small ones. This is underscored by the song lyrics . . . which say precious little about love, but rather are concerned with the beauty of the current moment and blissing-out in the heady magic of the atmosphere.

Perhaps that's the best way to describe this film, too. Atmospheric and calming and serotonin-inducing. Like a perfect summer thunderstorm with none of the tornado warnings.


  1. Chori Chori is famous for its songs. Raj Kapoor and Nargis were a famous jodi back then. I felt chori chori was a combination of It Happened one Night and Roman Holiday. A relatively recent version of It happened one night is Mahesh Bhatt's 1990s Dil Hain Ke Manta Nahin - pooja bhat and Aamir Khan were the leads - this too was quite successful and famous for its songs

    1. I've been on a Raj Kapoor and Nargis streak lately, but this film is my favorite by far. It's not really as socially meaningful as some of their other collaborations--but it is so very pleasant to watch that I don't really mind. The songs and picturizations are probably better than the film as a whole, but there are so many songs total, that I can't really judge the film apart from them.

      By the way, I think there's actually 3 or 4 Hindi versions of IHON! Bollyviewer cataloged them at one point.

  2. Miranda,

    The RK-Nargis duets were all the more poignant, because they split up personally during this film. So I can actually feel the poignancy in Aaja sanam and Ye raat bheegi bheegi.

    1. I have heard that this was their last proper film together as romantic leads . . . and of course then Mother India happened, and perhaps more importantly, Sunil Dutt happened. I do feel the heartache-factor in those particular songs. There's something happening behind their eyes and in their faces that I haven't seen in any of their other films together.

  3. This was the last film they did together; the only other appearance that Nargis made for an RK film was for Jagte Raho where she appeared in a cameo. Then she walked out of RK's life and banner and into Sunil Dutt's life.


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