Hum Dono and Kala Pani

No, this is not a blog about Dev Saab, but about two of his movies, or shall I say, some aspects surrounding them? These movies depicted the life & times in India during the 50’s, before I was born. I saw both the movies last week, while on long flights between the East and West coasts of USA. I was in the middle seats both times, and not wanting to fall on the neighbors shoulder while nodding off, or not wanting to get caught snoring, I resorted to seeing these two movies. People sitting next to me would really have wondered, what strange old, black & white movies is this guy seeing? And seeing / hearing me hum those fascinating songs in the two movies, they would have found me quaint, to say the least…But one thing I can assure you is I must have been one of those rare persons who watched Dev Anand and Madhubala at 40,000 ft, while flying through dense clouds.

Hum Dono – Set during the Second World War with both Anand’s serving the Burma Corps. Lovely songs, reasonably OK double act by Dev Anand and quite serious a movie actually with all the war scenes shot & directed by a Gora!! Now it is coming out in color as well. Nanda and Sadhana have little to do with a double Dev hogging the screen time. Those were the times when Burma was well known in India, people used to go there to work in the plantations, like at Malay & Singapore. Remember the song ‘mere piya gaye rangoon’? Myanmar, as it is called now
still is crazy about Hindi movies though nobody understands it.

After the British occupation, the two countries became a part of British Empire. Burma was ruled by the British as a part of British India till 1937. The British brought numbers of Indians to Burma during its rule. On the morning of independence on 4 January 1948, there were some 300,000 – 400,000 Indians living in independent Burma.

During the 60’s Burma slowly started going pro-Chinese and when they did not support India during the border conflict with China, thinks took a turn to the worse. Then came up issues relating to nationalization of most Indian businesses in Burma. Many fled the country. Later on in the 80’s India supported the democratic movement in the country and with that bilateral relations hit an all time low.

How many of you know that 1992 Nobel Prize winning Burmese activist Aung Sang Suu Kyi graduated from N Delhi University before she moved to England and thence to Burma?? As you can imagine, she was deeply influenced by Gandhiji during her 4 years in India…She was a student of Political Science at Lady Shri Ram College - Class of 1964 (Her mom was the Burmese ambassador to India then). She is probably the only non Indian Nobel Prize winner who studied in India.

But listen to this for now….

Kala Pani – One image remains in my mind. That of the beautiful enigma Madhubala (her name fits her persona like a glove). What an incredibly beautiful face hers is. So I went on to read more about her, which of course is a story that
you can also read in Wikipedia. Then again, like Hum Dono, it was a reasonably serious movie. Dev Anand has done well, so has Nalini. But watch Madhubala curl her lips to the left in a broad smile and you are hooked, like Dilip Kumar was, like Bharat Bushan, so many others and like the person who converted to marry her just before she died - Karim Abdul (who could that be? Kishore Kumar!!).

Watch the chemistry between the actors in this song…

But what does Kala Pani mean? Black water? Again a mystery for me. The answer was fascinating. In the olden days, no Indian would leave the country of the Ganges to do trade in foreign countries. They left that to the Moors, Christians or Jews. Crossing the black waters was taboo and meant meeting with ill luck, death & monsters.

So when the English wanted to transport cheap labor to Mauritius, crossing the Kala Pani was a major issue. The matter was finally solved with big cauldrons of Ganges water accompanying the families on the ships. These were the first examples of major crossings of the Kala Pani.

But well, I was still wondering what the name had to do with the movie as Kala Pani depicted the Hyderabad Jail where Dev’s dad was incarcerated for life, in the movie. So I floundered on, in the depths of the internet, searching and eventually finding the answer. Well, life sentence convicts were usually sent to the Andaman’s across the black water. Thus the phrase ‘life sentence’ got intermingled with ‘Kala Paani’.

Nowadays there is a PC virus called Kala pani, so beware!!!


diyadear said…
wow thanks for the lovely song.. love that song.. though had never seen the picturisation.. my hubby also has a penchant for black n white hindi movies.. so nowadays i watch them too :)
Anonymous said…
Wow u must be really bored to right such things in your blog Maddy. Talk about being old. I dont really enjoy such old movies. Try another topic next time hah
Nanditha Prabhu said…
you are tagged!
Maddy said…
I had to laugh after reading the 'anonymous' comment which came from my 2nd son...he always complains about my penchant for history & the past...some day history will appeal to him...becuase it is always the past that led to the present
Ritu said…
In British India Kala Paani meant being tranported off to the Andamans.. gradually Kala Paani came to be associated with life imprisonment that the hero's father faces in this film. That's what it is.
Maddy said…
Thanks Ritu for dropping by - yes, you are correct, and I have summarised so in the ultimate para!!
kallu said…
They look so wonderful..:-) thanks Maddy for a bit of innocence.
Im yet to see Awara.. that they say is the ultimate?
I'm all that said…
I watched Hum Dono when i was about 11-12 years old. The soundtrack has one of my all time favorite tracks- "Allah Tero Naam". Simply mesmerizing.
Maddy said…
thanks - i'm all that, yup great song that..