Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam

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Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam poster.jpg
Directed byAbrar Alvi
Produced byGuru Dutt
Written byAbrar Alvi
Bimal Mitra
Based onSaheb Bibi Golam
by Bimal Mitra
StarringMeena Kumari
Guru Dutt
Waheeda Rehman
D.K. Sapru
Pratima Devi
Music byHemant Kumar
CinematographyV. K. Murthy
Edited byY.G. Chawhan
Release date
  • 7 December 1962 (1962-12-07)
Running time
152 minutes
Box office84 lakh (equivalent to 54 crore or US$7.8 million in 2018) [2]

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (transl. The Master, the Wife and the Knave) is a 1962 Indian Hindi film produced by Guru Dutt and directed by Abrar Alvi. It is based on a Bengali novel, Saheb Bibi Golam by Bimal Mitra, and is a look into the tragic fall of the haveli-dom and feudalism in Bengal during the British Raj. The title of the movie and the story is a reference to the plot simultaneously exploring a platonic friendship between a beautiful lonely wife (Bibi) of an aristocrat (Sahib) and a career-driven low-income part-time servant (Ghulam). The film's music is by Hemant Kumar and lyrics were by Shakeel Badayuni. The film is also noted for its brilliant cinematography by V. K. Murthy. The film stars Guru Dutt, Meena Kumari, Rehman, Waheeda Rehman and Nazir Hussain.[3]

The film was a major critical success but was a flop at the box office, with critics attributing it to Meena Kumari's performance as Chhoti Bahu, which is regarded as one of the best performances of Hindi cinema.[4] It won four Filmfare Awards, including Best Movie award, was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival, and was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars.[5] However it was not accepted as a nominee. The academy wrote a letter to Guru Dutt saying that a woman who drinks was not permissible in their culture. Indiatimes Movies ranks it amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films.[6]


The film opens at the ruins of an old haveli in Calcutta, where a group of labourers are busy pulling down what remains. When the workers break off for lunch, the overseer (Guru Dutt) wanders through the haveli. As he sits at a place, there begins a flashback to the end of the 19th century.

The lower-class and educated Bhoothnath arrives in colonial Calcutta looking for work. He lives in the grand haveli of the Choudhurys, a family of zamindars with his brother-in-law. He works at the Mohini Sindoor ('Aphrodisiac Vermilion') factory run by Subinay Babu (Nazir Hussain), a dedicated member of the Brahmo Samaj. Subinay Babu's daughter Jaba (Waheeda Rehman) is amused by Bhoothnath, whom she considers an unsophisticated rustic. Bhoothnath becomes fascinated with the goings-on in the haveli and every night observes the decadent lifestyle of the Choudhury brothers.

One night, the servant, Bansi (Dhumal), takes Bhoothnath to meet the younger zamindar's (Rehman) wife Chhoti Bahu ('Young Daughter-in-law') (Meena Kumari), who implores him to bring her Mohini Sindoor, believing it will keep her unfaithful husband home. Bhoothnath is struck by her beauty and sadness and inadvertently becomes Chhoti Bahu's secret confidante. A bomb explodes in the marketplace and Bhoothnath is injured in the ensuing crossfire between freedom fighters and British soldiers. Jaba looks after him.

Chhoti Bahu's repeated attempts to appease her husband fail until she becomes his drinking companion to keep him by her side. Jaba's marriage is finalised with Supavitra (a member of Bramho Samaj), but after her father's death she declines the marriage. Bhoothnath becomes an architect trainee and goes away to work on a training project. After his return, he finds the haveli in partial ruins. Chhoti Bahu is now a desperate alcoholic and her husband is paralysed. Meanwhile, he learns that he and Jaba were betrothed as children. One night, Chhoti Bahu asks Bhoothnath to accompany her to a nearby shrine to pray for her ailing husband. Their conversation is overheard by the elder zamindar, Majhle Babu ('Middle Master')(Sapru), who suspects that Chhoti Bahu is having an affair with Bhootnath (though actually it was not the case). He orders his henchmen to chase them. As Bhoothnath and Chhoti Bahu travel in the carriage, it is stopped by the henchmen. Bhoothnath is knocked unconscious and Chhoti Bahu is abducted. When he wakes up in hospital, Bhoothnath is told that Chhoti Bahu has disappeared and the younger zamindar is dead. The flashback ends.

Bhoothnath's workers inform him a skeleton is found buried in the ruins of the haveli. From the jewellery on the corpse, Bhoothnath realises it is the remains of Chhoti Bahu.

The last scene shows a nostalgic Bhoothnath riding away on a carriage with Jaba, who is now his wife. In this, the filmed version departs significantly from the novel, where Jaba and Bhoothnath do not get a happy ending.

The film also depicts the decline of the old landed zamindari families of Bengal during the late 19th century.




From the beginning of the project in 1958, Meena Kumari was the original choice for the role of Chhoti Bahu but on Kamal Amrohi's suggestion she backed out from the project. According to Amrohi, playing Chhoti Bahu would have tarnished her image of an Ideal Indian Woman. The role then went to Nargis Dutt and a London based girl Chhaya Arya but both of them too rejected the offer. Eventually around 1960-61, Dutt again sent the script of the film to Kumari who this time agreed to do the role and got cast as Chhoti Bahu.[7]

Guru Dutt wanted S.D. Burman and Sahir Ludhianvi for the music and lyrics but S.D. Burman was unwell and Sahir declined the offer.[4] Shashi Kapoor was the first choice for the role of Bhootnath, losing it when he showed up two-and-a-half hours late for a meeting with Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi. The next choice was Bengali actor Biswajeet, whose Hindi film debut it would have been. Biswajeet backed out because he didn't want to be tied into an exclusive contract with Guru Dutt. Finally, Guru Dutt cast himself as Bhootnath, the Ghulam.

Waheeda Rehman wanted to play the role of Chhoti Bahu. She even did a screen test, but the photographer V.K. Murthy realised that she was too young for the mature role. However, when Alvi offered her the role of Jaba, she accepted it despite the fact that it was a secondary role to Meena Kumari. Guru Dutt felt the role didn't go with her box office status and forewarned her that her name would come after Meena Kumari's in the credits, but Waheeda wanted to be a part of the movie and she did the role.

The film was shot at Dhankuria Mansion near Calcutta, but Meena Kumari didn't come to the haveli, its interiors were recreated on a set in Bombay.[8]

Directorial controversy[edit]

The controversy about who directed Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam has increased over the years. Since the film is characteristic of Guru Dutt's feel and style, it is difficult to think that he did not direct the film. However, Dutt never denied Abrar Alvi's role in the film, nor did he make any counter claims when Alvi won the Filmfare Award for Best Director for the film. Alvi has stated that Dutt did direct the songs, but not the film in its entirety. The editor, Y.G. Chawan, says that it was Alvi who sat with him. "Abrar worked so hard on that film but he never got any credit. People say it was produced by Guru Dutt so it had to be Guru Dutt's film."[4] Waheeda Rehman, one of the film's stars, also confirmed that it was Alvi, not Dutt, who directed it.[9]


The music of the film was composed by Hemant Kumar. Shakeel Badayuni wrote the lyrics.

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
Soundtrack album by
GenreFilm soundtrack
ProducerGuru Dutt
Hemant Kumar chronology
'Dui Bhai'
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
'Nav Diganta'
Title Singer Picturised on Duration
"Koi Door Se Aawaaz De Chale Aao" Geeta Dutt Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt 1:43
"Piya Aiso Jiya Mein Samaaye Gayo Re" Meena Kumari 4:15
"Na Jao Saiyaan Chhuda Ke Baiyaan" Meena Kumari, Rehman 4:07
"Meri Jaan O Meri Jaan" Asha Bhosle Bimla Kumari, Rehman 3:38
"Bhanwara Bada Naadaan" Waheeda Rehman, Guru Dutt 4:29
"Saaqiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahin Aayegi" Minoo Mumtaz 5:46
"Meri Baat Rahi Mere Man Mein" Waheeda Rehman 4:01

The song "Sahil Ki Taraf Kashti Le Chal" sung by Hemant Kumar was edited out of the film. The song had a shot which showed Chhoti Bahu resting her head on Bhoothnath's lap in the carriage. Audiences reacted sharply to this, so Guru Dutt removed the song and the "offending shot", changing the carriage scene to a dialogue exchange between Chhoti Bahu and Bhoothnath. He also shot an additional scene with the paralysed husband repenting for his sinful and debauched lifestyle. Hemant Kumar reused the tune for the song "Ya Dil ki Suno" from Anupama (1966).[4]


In spite of being a commercial failure, the film was a huge critical success. To quote the review featured in The Times of India dated 24 June 1962:

The well-knit screenplay, achieving an effective balance between the various characters and emotional phases, provides a neat dramatic pattern. It appears to be a specially successful job considering the verbosity and digressiveness of the novel of Mr. Bimal Mitra who, though often brilliant, writes in a highly disorderly way. commented: "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam is a romantic and somewhat nostalgic tale of a bygone era. The film is a magnificent and sombre work with heightened atmosphere, rich dialogues, haunting cinematography, extraordinary song picturizations and brilliant performances." It also praised Meena Kumari's performance: "While each of the performances are spot on, if there is one person who is the heart and soul of the film, it is Meena Kumari. Her portrayal of Chhoti Bahu is perhaps the greatest performance ever seen on the Indian Screen. The sequence where Chhoti Bahu dresses for her husband singing "Piya Aiso Jiya Main" is a poignant exploration of a woman's expectations and sexual desire. And later on when she has become a desperate alcoholic, you cannot help but cry with her in the sequence where she pleads with her husband to stay with her and then angrily turns on him to tell him how she has prostituted her basic values and morals to please him. However, the common factors between the actress's life and Chhoti Bahu are too dramatic to be merely coincidental – The estranged marital relationship, the taking of alcohol, turning towards younger male company, the craving to be understood and loved – all elements evident in Meena Kumari's own life."[4]

Indiatimes Movies, while listing it as one of the "25 Must See Bollywood Movies," wrote, "The film remains with you forever simply because of the splendid performance of Meena Kumari."[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

National Film Awards
International Film Awards
Filmfare Awards
Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards

In popular culture[edit]

In 2004, a modern-day adaption of the film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was to be made by Pritish Nandy Communications.[14] However, it got shelved and paved way for a TV series. This series was helmed by director Rituparno Ghosh and consequently titled Sahib Biwi Gulam, drawing comparison to the film. It was aired on Sahara One.[15]


  1. ^ "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam". Times of India. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Box Office 1962". Box Office India. Archived from the original on 22 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam 1962". The Hindu. 30 August 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam Upperstall.
  5. ^ ""Sahib Bibi" to vie for Oscar". Careers and Courses. Vol. XV no. 4. April 1963. p. 352.
  6. ^ a b 25 Must See Bollywood Movies – Special Features-Indiatimes – Movies Indiatimes.
  7. ^ "'Meena Kumari used to wear her roles like a dress' – Birth anniversary special". Cinestaan. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Indian cinema@100: Five facts about Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam …".
  9. ^ 'Nobody really knows what happened on October 10' Movies, 11 October 2004.
  10. ^ "10th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Archived from the original on 29 September 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  11. ^ awards Internet Movie Database.
  12. ^ 1st Filmfare Awards 1953
  13. ^ "Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards". Archived from the original on 27 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Priyanka might play chhoti bahu!". rediff. 28 March 2005. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  15. ^ ""I am taking to television as a challenge"". IndianTelevision. 28 August 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2018.

External links[edit]