Dharmputra (An Adopted Son) (1961)




Director:     .

Starring:     Mala Sinha (Husn Bano), Shashi Kapoor (Dilip Rai), Rehman (Javed), Manmohan Krishna (Dr. Amrit Rai), Indrani Mukherjee (Meena), Tabassum (Rekha Rai), Deven Verma (Sudesh Rai), Rohit, Babloo, Jagdish Raj, Ranjit Sood, Balam, Nissar, Munshi Munakka, Ravikant.

set in Delhi, violence marks the partition of India in 1947  (Hindi language)


Spoiler Warning:

In many cases familial terms such as father, uncle, son and daughter refer not to blood ties, but to very strong friendship bonds between close families.


India 1925.  There is a parade demonstration for Indian independence going on.  The marchers shout:  "Hindu-Muslim we're brothers. Long live the revolution!" 

A servant tells Dr. Amrit Rai that the nawab has arrived.  The nawab is the doctor's uncle.  The doctor says that he did not know that his uncle was even in Delhi.  He asks him when did uncle return from Shimla?  He arrived last evening.  He comes because he is worried about the doctor's sister Bano.  She suffers from immodesty.  The doctor goes outside to the car where Bano is sitting.  She asks him to come inside the car.  Her immodesty seems to be that she fell in love with the wrong guy, named Javed.  Wrong guy by the standards  of the community. 

Javed was a teacher for her, but, gradually they fell in love.  They could not marry because father would not have approved. Then they got carried away.  Javed wasn't "pedigreed" because his family had no history, no lineage.  He was a simple professor.  When Javed approached uncle about her, he insulted Javed and chased him out of the house.  Bano starts crying. 

The doctor gets out of the car and goes to talk to uncle.  Uncle explains that when he found out how strong the bond was between the two young people, he tried to make amends with Javed, but the man had quit his job and moved no one knows where.  And that's why uncle came to the doctor.  The doctor asks to have the night to think the matter over before he offers advice. 

The doctor looks at a photo on the fire mantle and remembers back to when his father and his uncle would play chess.

Flashback.  Uncle wins the chess game against his brother, Gulshan Rai.  The future doctor tells the men that he has stood first in his class.  Both brothers are delighted for the future doctor.  Father says he wants his son to be a doctor.  Uncle tells his brother:  may his wish come true. 

The doctor also remembers the day his father died.  He remembers how he cried on his uncle's knee and how uncle would comfort him with soothing words.  Uncle says that he will send his nephew to Britain so the dream of the son becoming a doctor will come true. 

Now another memory washes over him.  He remembers when his sister tied a decoration on his right wrist that binds him to a brother's obligation.  Brother says that to protect his sister, he will even forfeit his life. 

Back to the present.  The doctor tells his wife, Savitri, that he is very troubled.  He adds that people from different religions are all demanding their rights.  Badruddin's daughter, Husn Bano, is pregnant.  He says his one-time neighbor, Badruddin, did him many favors and his daughter was like a sister to him.  The doctor does not want to see their family name tarnished. 

The next day the doctor visits uncle and says they need to leave Delhi, so could they go over to uncle's bungalow in Shimla?  Uncle consents. 

The doctor, Bona and uncle go to Shimla by train.  There is snow on the ground there.  At the bungalow, Bona sings a song remembering her beloved Javed.  In Shimla, Bona gives birth to a boy.  It appears that Bano has to give up her child to Savitri and the doctor.  After awhile, the family leaves for Delhi. 

A big party is thrown by uncle for the naming ceremony of the son of Dr. Amrit Rai. Uncle names the son Dilip.  Of course, Bona is very sad because she cannot play the role of mother to her blood son.  Now the doctor goes to get the baby for uncle to hold.  Uncle uses the occasion to announce that his property and money, upon his death, will be split between his only daughter Husn Bano and the other half will go to Amrit Rai's son, Dilip. 

The baby is now given to Bano and uncle asks her to come help him with the ceremony.  He wants her to give the baby boy his first drops of water after christening.  But then Bano has to return the baby to Savitri.  After she does so, she starts crying and runs from the ceremony room.  Savitri follows her and explains that she holds Bano's baby in trust and she will love the child.  She asks that Bano trust her with the child. 

Nevertheless, Bano is still depressed.  Her father comes to her and asks her to vent her feelings of frustration about not being able to have the baby as her own.  He says if she didn't approve of what he did as regards the baby, she should have told him so.  Bona says she holds nothing against her father.  Dad now says they should get out for awhile and says he would like to visit the tomb of Banda Nawaz.  Maybe that will bring them some peace.  [Syed Muhammad Hussaini, aka Hazrat Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gaisu Daraz (July 13, 1321 -November 1, 1422), was a famous Sufi saint from India of the Chishti Order, who advocated understanding, tolerance and harmony among various religious groups.  Sufism or taṣawwuf is defined by some adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam, others contend that it is a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion, the expression of which flowered within Islam.]

At the tomb the singers sing that fights between Hindus and Muslims are a result of ignorance.  At the tomb Bano runs into Javed.  They stare at each other and then Javed turns to go.  Bano's father grabs Javed saying he will not let him go.  He says:  "With you, the joys of my household have left."  He says he will get Bano married to him.  And he asks Javed to forgive him.  The two men hug. 

A big wedding ceremony takes place. 

The following night, the newlyweds eat over at Savitri's home.  The two women are going to eat off the same plate.  Bano expresses surprise saying that Savitri is a Hindu and Bano is a Muslim.  Svitri says that's alright.  Is religion greater than humanity? 

Bano watches over Dilip and sings a song to him.  It's a sad song about her having borne a child, but she is still barren.  Tears roll down her face as she sings. 

Bano tells her husband that she is going to have a baby.  That makes both partners very happy. 

Tragedy strikes.  When running down the steps, Bona falls and rolls all the way down to crash at the bottom.  Brother has to tell the newlyweds that he could not save their baby.  More heartache for poor Bano and new heartache for Javed. 

Savitri gives birth to twins.  Her husband thinks hard about the situation where Savitri now has three children and Bona has none.  And he tells Savitri that Bano will never be able to have a child.  Bano has not yet been told.  At this very moment Bano and Javed are just outside the door about to visit with Savitri and the babies.  When Bano learns the news, she freezes in her tracks and drops the flowers she has to the floor.  Bano goes home and cries and cries.  Her husband says that this is Allah's will. 

Bano must have told her husband the truth about their son Dilip.  He tells her that this only increases his respect for Amrit and Savitri. Now Bano wants to take Dilip, but her husband says no.  She protests that her agony has increased greatly ever since she saw the new twins.  Dilip comes to visit the pair and they are both very glad to see him.  Bano cries over the boy and Javed decides to take the boy from her.  The little one marches back to his mother. 

Bona says she wants to join the two houses so Dilip does not have to walk so far to go back and forth between the houses.  Javed agrees to the idea.  The connection is built.  Now the adoptive mother tells Dilip that his mother is Bona and Bona too calls Dilip her son.  But Dilip says he wants to stay with Savitri as he feels that she is his mother. 

There are more freedom demonstrations.  At a meeting the leaders says that the revolutionary fever has led to arson throughout India.  This, in turn, is destroying the peace and unity among the people.  The speaker condemns this activity and calls the instigators ingrates who do not appreciate anything the British have done for India.  And now the speaker calls on Khan Bahadur Nawab Badruddin to speak.  He gets up and says he wants the friendship of the British, but he will not sacrifice our freedom for this British friendship nor sacrifice the revolution.  Speaking of the commissioner:  "I want to tell him that a mother who denies being the son of his mother can belong to no one.  He who can betray his own nation can be nobody's friend."  This riles up the audience, some in support of the nawab and others against him. Rather than stopping his speech, the nawab starts insulting the audience saying they are a bunch of traitors.  He walks up the aisle and out of the building. 

The doctor tells nawab that the "non-cooperation movement" has gained momentum.  There will be a big strike in the city.  The doctor adds that Gandhi and other leaders have been arrested.  Nawab says he never agreed with Gandhi's peaceful struggle.  He just doesn't believe that treating the British gently will bring freedom to India. 

The Nawab goes out to tell the demonstrators that burning foreign goods is not the way to freedom.  Rather they should have courage enough to burn down the British flags all over India.  Nevertheless, he is with the demonstrators and burns his foreign scarf hanging around his neck. 

All of a sudden, the British fire a pistol into the air and a man shouts that the Commissioner orders this assembly to end immediately.  The Nawab is defiant against the British so the British start firing over their headd.  The demonstrators start to disperse.  Nawab asks them:  "Why are you running away, you cowards?"  He rallies them and tells them:  "Destroy that flag of slavery!  Tear it to shreds!"  He rallies them to push forward to the flagpole.  They start taking down the Union Jack.  The Brit in charge fires his pistol in the air, but the Indian troops with them fire into the crowd.  The Nawab is the first to get shot and he falls against the flagpole.  The old man dies holding the flag of India. 

1947.  It's fifteen years since the Nawab died.  Javed and Bano left India.  Cries of "Hindu-Muslims are brothers" made the British panic.  They used new tricks to destroy the unity of the two groups.  The British practiced divide and conquer and the two religious groups grew farther and farther apart. 

Javed and Bano now return to India.  This was a new India for them.  And the talk is that under the Muslim leader Jinnah the Muslims will start a separate country called Pakistan.  Javed expresses his regret that relations between Hindus and Muslims has deteriorated so much in fifteen years.  The Nawab spilled his blood over the same ground the demonstrators just walked over.  But the only thing Bano is thinking about is that Dilip must now be a young man.  Bano goes over to see Savitri.  They hug each other.  Bano watches as two young men and a young woman play ping-pong. 

Savitri tells Bano that her son is not down there.  It's the twins:  Susheel and Sudesh.  The girl came after the twins and her named is Rekha.  Bano calls for her son Dilip, but he does not recognize Bano.  Savitri tells him to touch her feet.  He does so put is repulsed by the act.  He is super religious and says that Muslims don't belong in India. 

Dilip goes to scold his sister and brothers saying they act and look like the British.  His siblings start teasing him.  

At dinner, Dilip is not there.  He ate early and then left.  Savitri says that a family with one daughter asked for an arranged marriage with Dilip, but Dilip refused simply because she lived abroad for two years.  Bano tells Savitri that she would like to meet this young woman.  Savitri says they will meet her tomorrow. 

The next day Bano meets Meena.  She is very pleased with her.  She tells the girl's mother that Meena is theirs now. 

Dilip tells his adoptive mother that he wants to remain celibate.  He asks why breed slaves when there is no freedom in India?   He says it's possible that in the future he could be imprisoned or hanged.  And, if he did marry, it would have to be with a girl who follows the sacred Hindu traditions.  Mother doesn't like this and reminds Dilip that wives were treated like slaves under Hinduism.  They were burned alive in the pyres of their dead husbands.  She mentions several more injustices toward women.  "One must be noble in thought, my son."  Her son must change along with the times, not resist the changes. 

Savitri is very upset with Dilip and she tells his biological mother that the boy will blacken their faces before he is through acting out.  Bona comes up with an idea.  Her son has never even see the girl so they will introduce the pair.  She says she will handle this matter herself. 

Dilip takes the stage with Rekha and Meena in the audience.  He says:  "We must free our Mother India from the shackles of slavery."  After the meeting. Rekha introduces Meena as a very close friend and one that thinks that Dilip is great for himself and for his poetry.  And brother is floored by the looks of Meena.  The meeting was a success. 

At home Dilip asks all sorts of questions about Meena from his sister.  Sister says she can't even remember the person he's talking out.  Dilip gets frustrated with his sister and marches her out of his room.  She comes back and opens the door to say that the girl's name is Meena. 

The next day Rekha telephones Meena and asks her to come over so they can talk.  She mentions that someone is going to the college now to look for Meena.  Rekha has a good laugh at her brother's love-struck behavior.  Meena asks permission from her mother and gets it. 

Meena comes over and Rekha takes her to her brother's room.  She even lets her read from his journal.  Dilip comes home.  He goes to find his sister and thinks he's found her with her back to him, when it's really Meena.  He tells his "sister" that he really likes her friend Meena and he would very much like to meet her again.  He is shocked but pleased to find out that it's Meena he's been talking to and not his sister.  He reads her a poem he just wrote last evening.  It's a love poem and Meena likes it.  Rekha and mother spy on Dilip.  Mother comes forward and asks Dilip why is he holding Meena like that?  Rekha says something to tease her brother and he chases her out of the room.

Mother asks Meena to go see Aunt Bona. 

Javed says the Muslim-Hindu talks have broken down again.  His wife tells him she does not want to have the same old religious argument with him.  So he leaves and Meena comes in.  The two women talk.

Meena comes out and goes for a walk with Dilip.   It starts raining and they get wet. 

Dilip is such a fanatic that he goes to kill his biological mother and father because of their Muslim-Hindu marriage.  Dilip gathers a mob together and they march with burning torches to Javed and Bano’s house to kill them.


The DVD just conked out on me at about two hours into it.  I don't know the ending of the film.  Sorry about that.

IMDb asks:  "Will Dilip learn of his true parentage? Will his hatred for Muslims allow him to reconcile the religion of his birth and his upbringing?"

He does find out that he is a Muslim by birth.  And now the Hindus who were his friends are now his enemies.  He feels very sorry for himself and declares that he is an orphan today.  And he doesn't belong to any nation.  He says that now he has nothing in life and today the Hindus will come to burn him,  The religious conflicts begin and thousands are killed.  People start moving out:  Muslims in India go to Pakistan and Hindus in Pakistan go to India.  Cities, towns and villages are burned down.  Dilip saves a little child crying near a burning house.  He picks the child up and carries it with him away from the fires.  People fully pack the trains and their roofs in order to get away from danger and get somewhere they can live in peace. 


I would imagine that the ending calls for tolerance between Muslim and Hindus since the religious battles associated with the 1947 partition into Pakistan and India led to so many deaths of people of both religions.  As I mentioned above, the DVD failed me at the ending part of the film.  The movie is good and it's good that the film does stress tolerance between the two big religious groups.  It was sad that Bona had to give her child up to her friends.  And it was a shame that some of the believers in the two religions became so hateful and bigoted against people of the other faith.  The hatred eventually led to an explosion of religious violence.  And the hatred between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India still exists to this very day.  The acting was good from the ensemble cast. 

The film covers a lot of Indian history from the early  days of Gandhi to eventual independence of India, followed by the breakup of the country into three countries:  India, Pakistan and, eventually, Bangladesh. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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