Revisiting a Bollywood gem from the forties: KHAZANCHI (1941)

By

Sharada Iyer

The rich heritage of our Hindi cinema is studded with several outstanding films which stand out for their uniqueness even today. Though we find a mention about a few of them now and then, there are many which have either been long forgotten or they are so old that they remain buried deep in the pages of history unless we go looking for them. These cinematic gems have not only captured a slice of life as it existed in the era in which they were made but also have interesting real-life anecdotes associated with the film’s cast and crew as well. 

In this post I am highlighting a brilliant film which I enjoyed thoroughly even though it was made 75 years back. The story is amazing, the songs are catchy, the dialogues are natural and the acting of the entire cast is enjoyable. So sit back and relax as I take you back in time to 1941 …

KHAZANCHI (1941)

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Khazanchi (meaning-treasurer or cashier) is a highly entertaining family drama with two murders woven interestingly into the narrative. It moves at a fast pace, with interesting twists and turns and also has a thrilling chase sequence and about half-an hour of dramatic court-room scenes towards the end where the father is being prosecuted by his own son albeit unknowingly.

Produced by Dalsukh M Pancholi and directed by Moti B Gidvani, Khazanchi was the top-grossing film of 1941 and the seventh highest grossing film of the entire decade. 

kz2The film’s revolutionary music by Ghulam Haider was a runaway hit and was considered the single most important factor for the phenomenal success of the film. This was the first time that Punjabi folk-style and rhythm was incorporated in film songs ushering in a new kind of music hitherto unheard of. Also for the first time the Punjabi instrument ‘dholak’ was introduced in Hindi film songs and thus changed the face of the film song forever. The songs especially ‘Saawan ke nazaare hain…’ sung by Haider himself along with Shamshad Begum became a craze and people flocked to the cinema halls just to see and listen to all the songs…

Saavan ke nazaare hain

Cast/Crew:

Playing the title role of ‘Khazanchi’: M Esmail (also the hero’s father)

Hero: S D Narang

Heroine: Ramola Devi

Important supporting roles: Durga Mota (as the heroine’s father), Manorama (hero’s sister) and Jankidas (a junior employee in the bank)

Story: Dalsukh Pancholi

Lyrics and Dialogues: Wali Sahb

Music: Ghulam Haider

Interesting facts associated with the film:

*Apart from being a producer, Dalsukh Pancholi was also a writer and distributor and his production house ‘Pancholi Art Pictures’ (PAP) was the largest film studio in Lahore at the time of partition of India. In pre-independent India, Lahore was one of the major film-making hubs along with Calcutta and Bombay.

*Pancholi was considered a pioneer in film making as he was responsible for making the first Punjabi film ‘Gul-e-Bakawali’ in which he introduced Noor Jehan as a child artiste- Baby Noor Jehan and her song ‘Shala jawaaniya mane…’ was an instant hit. With Khazanchi she was introduced in Hindi films and was part of the chorus. Pancholi was also responsible for launching Mohammad Rafi as a playback singer by giving him a break in his Punjabi film ‘Gul-Baloch’.

*To celebrate the spectacular success of the film’s music, producer Dalsukh Pancholi organized a singing competition and the judges were the film’s music director Ghulam Haider and another music director of great repute Datta Divekar. And guess what… it was our nightingale Lata Mangeshkar who was just 12 years old then, who stood first in the competition!!!  So impressed were they with her voice, that they were largely responsible for giving Lataji her early breaks in Marathi and Hindi cinema. For his immense faith in her talent and efforts to get her films in the early phase of her career, Lataji considers Ghulam Haider to be her Godfather…

*The actor Jankidas who made his debut in the film was a world cycling champion at that time and it is mentioned in the film’s credits under his name. He had broken eight world cycling records between 1934-42 and had represented India in the Olympic Games in 1936 at Berlin. 

 

kz17.jpg*Veteran actor Pran who had earlier got a break in Pancholi’s Punjabi film ‘Yamla Jat’ and ‘Khandan’ had a small walk-in part in this film as well…

kz15*Ace vamp Manorama is unbelievably shy and sweet in the film as the hero’s younger sister. She acts very well and reminds us of Tabassum from certain angles.

* Popular villain Madan Puri can be spotted in the cycle song alongside the hero…

khazanch-3

*For a film made 75 years ago, two scenes stand out for their daring approach:

       – When the hero and heroine go shopping together during their second meeting their packages get interchanged and when the hero goes home and opens his packet in front of his father and sister, they are surprised to find a lady’s undergarment!

      –  When the actress who befriends the Khazanchi takes him to a club to get him drunk, there is a foreigner performing a very seductive dance number wearing quite a bold costume…   

*Though the title role is essayed by M Esmail, it is the heroine Ramola Devi who gets the top billing in the credits of the film.

*Ramola Devi was an Indian actress of Jewish origin and her actual name was Rachael Cohen. She worked in the theatre before entering films and the success of Khazanchi turned her into a leading actress of the forties.

*The hero S D Narang was a doctor who started his career in the entertainment industry as an actor but later went on to become a producer, director and studio owner and continued to act also.

* Wali Sahb was a junior clerk in the Lahore medical hospital and Ghulam Haider was a dentist before Pancholi spotted their talent and signed them to be part of his Pancholi Art Productions.

kz18.jpg*Incidentally the film was remade in 1958 under the same title ‘Khazanchi’. Directed by P N Arora, it had Balraj Sahni essaying the title role of Khazanchi and Rajendra Kumar and Shyama as the hero and heroine. Interestingly in this film Manorama reprises the role of the wicked stepmother!!!

The Story:

The film basically revolves around an upright and honest ‘khazanchi’ who lives with his son and daughter in Lahore.

khazanchi-4

In one scene he is shown admonishing a junior employee (Jankidas) for trying to modify some account statement in order to cover up for having committed a fraud. He advises him to be honest in life and also shows him the special watch which the bank had gifted him for his honesty. (The watch has significance later in the film).

 

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One day the bank manager entrusts the khazanchi with the responsibility of carrying some important documents and also bringing large amount of cash from a bank in Bombay and he is asked to leave for Bombay immediately.

Being new to the city he is forced to befriend a woman who pretends to be alone in the city awaiting her father’s arrival. But unknown to him, she is an actress in cahoots with the hotel manager where the khazanchi is staying and is actually part of a gang out to rob him of all his money.

To put her plan into action, she takes him to a club, gets him drunk and once in the hotel room she tries to take all his money. But just as she is going to escape with the loot, two of her gang members, one of them being the boss himself enter and in the ensuing scuffle she is killed and they manage to escape with the loot. When the khazanchi wakes up, he is stunned to see the woman lying dead on the floor. He realizes that the bank’s money is also stolen and now ashamed of his behaviour and to escape being arrested he runs away from the hotel and remains on the run till the very end.

Meanwhile his son falls in love with the daughter of a very wealthy man and their first meeting and subsequent meetings make for interesting viewing.

kz1Though the heroine is shown to have a friendly relationship with her father, her wicked stepmother fixes her marriage with a wastrel who not only has his eyes on her wealth but is actually involved in dishonest activities.

As the news of the khazanchi’s Bombay fiasco is splashed all over the newspapers, the hero and his sister have to face the wrath of the society for being the children of a murderer on the run. He is not only unable to fix the marriage of his sister in a decent family but also decides not to marry his lady-love and spoil her future also. 

While they are discussing  about not knowing whether their father was dead or alive and if alive why he was in hiding instead of coming out and try and prove his innocence, unknown to them their father who had come to see them listens to their conversation  and decides not to confront them. Instead he decides to go to the bank manager first and tell him the truth.

kz13.jpg

But at the bank he spots a shady looking man in possession of his special watch which had been stolen in Bombay. Out of curiosity he follows him as he leaves the bank. At the same time Jankidas also had spotted the man with the watch and he also decides to follow the man.

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That man was actually the boss of the gang who had murdered the actress in Bombay. He reaches a house inside which there are other gang members as well as the heroine’s wastrel fiancé who is busy flirting with another actress. The boss meanwhile has an argument with one of the gang members over some money settlement and suddenly pulls out a trigger and kills him. Jankidas witnesses this from his hiding place.

 Unfortunately when the khazanchi is frantically rummaging through the hanging coat to take his watch back, the boss spots him, drags him out, manages to call the police and gets him arrested by blaming the murder on him. And before the police arrived, he also manages to drag Jankidas from his hiding place and asks his henchmen to tie him up and imprison him in a far-off place.

 

kz16

The khazanchi now faces a trial for murder and the prosecutor for the case is none other than his own son who is now a lawyer. With his long shaggy beard no one including his son recognizes him. When the court is almost going to declare him guilty, Jankidas arrives at the court (after the interesting chase sequence) and reveals the truth about the murder and father and son are united.

khazanchi-7Meanwhile, the heroine’s marriage which was to take place that very day is waiting for the groom to arrive but the police had already arrested the wastrel. Now the heroine’s father happily goes to the court to bring the hero, his sister and his ‘khazanchi’ father and finally it is ‘all’s well that ends well’…

Here are some other songs from the film

Romantic duet

 A fabulous song conveying flush of first love

Diwali song

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14 thoughts on “Revisiting a Bollywood gem from the forties: KHAZANCHI (1941)

  1. Two things came to mind. Another Jewish actress was Sulochana, real name Ruby Myers.
    Not to be confused with a later marathi actress Sulochana.
    Shubha Khote was a national cycling champ.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A fabulous film with a great story line, great music, great acting ( particularly Romola and the sister played delightfully by Manorama) and what an enjoyable ending!

    Liked by 1 person

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