Naukari – Bimal Roy, Kishore Kumar, Sheila Ramani – A post-independence Realistic Tale of Unemployed Youth – Movie Review

It is often called the Golden Age of Indian Cinema, and plenty of examples keep coming through. This is the first film I’ve seen of Bimal Roy, one of the most acclaimed directors of the black and white generation, who told stories that were real and honest. Naukari is one such film which truly engages you right from the first note, where the protagonist Ratan Kumar Choudhary’s family is introduced – his old widowed mother who has to sell the last piece of jewelry to send him to Kolkata, his sister who suffers from TB, and his hope hanging on his BA results and the promise of a job the manager of his late father’s company made to him. Within the first 15 minutes, you know the plot, and yet you are drawn into it. He moves to Kolkata, experiences the harsh realities of life, lives in bekaar block which also houses 3 other unemployed youths in one room, and also develops a love interest (because Bollywood?)

No Bollywood Film is Complete without Love Stories, Apparently!

One of the most haunting scenes of the film is where a person commits suicide. Upon hearing that he didn’t do it due to unemployment as he worked at a particular company, instead of feeling pain, Ratan Kumar runs towards the company to tell them that since their employee has died, you will be having an opening here, please give me that job. The scene will haunt you, so will the film.

Chhota saa ghar hoga baadalo ki chhanv mein – A family dream of having just enough to live with love and dignity

The film stands the test of time and becomes even more apt today. As per the government stats, unemployment is highest since independence. The covid-19 attack further puts jobs at risk, with the economy struggling already. We all have hopes of getting a decent job, nothing fancy, especially after completing our studies. The song asking for a small job offer goes like this:

mai kal calector na banu or na banunga afsar
mai kal calector na banu or na banunga afsar
apna babu hi banalo mujhe bekar hu mai
ek chhoti si naukri ka talabgar hu mai
maine kuch ghas nahi kati kiya b a pass
maine kuch ghas nahi kati kiya b a pass
o samjhadar samjh lo ke samjhdar hu mai
tumse kuch or jo mangu to gunehgar hu mai
ek chhoti si naukri ka talabgar hu mai

The film is beautifully performed by Kishore Kumar as the protagonist Ratan Kumar. I did not expect him to be doing a serious role so beautifully. The pain in his eyes is visible at times as if it is he himself who is searching for a job. This was before method acting. Sheila Ramani as the love interest Seema is apt. The rest of the characters do their job very well, especially Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi as Hari Kaka (The Caretaker of the lodge). Balraj Sahni and Mehmood have a cameo. Mehmood has had a cameo in so many films before he was taken seriously – it is a journey in itself worth a story.

Indian Government issued postage stamps in the name of Bimal Roy in 2007.

Subodh Basu’s story and Paul Mahendra’s dialog are on-point. It is the direction of Bimal Roy coupled with the writing of these two that seems to have given this film a life that even after almost 6 decades, this film continues to be relevant. I am hooked on to the genius of Bimal Roy for now and would go on to watch his films. The last time it happened was with the great Guru Dutt. The cinematography by Kamal Bose is beautiful and poetic. I found out that he has won 4 Filmfare Awards for Cinematography. On to his other projects, soon.

Kamal Bose has earned 4 Filmfare Awards for Cinematography and is considered master of cinematography in both Black and White and Color.

Music by Salil Choudhury and lyrics by Shailendra help move the story forward more than anything. I found the music good enough that it didn’t feel a hindrance, rather a character in storytelling. These were the times when Kishore Kumar wasn’t considered a good singer, and the story goes that it took some pressure to allow Kishore Kumar to be the voice of his character’s playback. Again, listen to – ek chhoti si naukri ka talabgar hoon main, and you will know the genius of Kishore Kumar was already there – be it in front of the camera or behind the mic, and later it is proven he had talent even behind the camera.

Watch this film to be amazed with the film that is as relevant today as it was then, and how emotions work out at different levels when someone is searching for a job.

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