Seema: 3,2,1, Ignition! Nutan's launching pad

Publié le 15 Décembre 2010


Seema (1955, Amiya Chakrabarty) has been hailed as Nutan Samarth’s cinematographical revelation. In this story of a wronged young girl, she shows a sensitivity and a maturity which are striking for one so young. At only 19, she effortlessly steals the show, so that one wonders what is left to say about the film apart from her. But rest assured, there’s lots.

Before I forget: thanks Madhu for having made it possible to see Seema, I had an unsubtitled copy and my level of Hindi isn’t yet that good to enable me to understand a movie from beginning to end. She indicated to me that some considerate fellow (thank him, too) had uploaded the movie on YouTube in 14 instalments…

If you’re reading this, you know I love Nutan, her vibrancy, her intense intelligence, her capacity to sympathise and create sympathy. But here, she obviously had a challenge to fulfil: she wanted to be recognised as an actress worthy of the name, and she gives everything she has. She has been blessed with that superior character and talent that so rarely goes along with sheer insolent beauty. So when she’s on screen, everything happens on that face.


Mind you, she’s tall (as Bollyviewer suggests in her hilarious captions of the movie) and her figure’s comely too, but the eyes! the mouth!  There are so many expressions of feminine charm here that I am each time at a loss where to start. She makes me think that when a face reaches perfection, you feel sucked in, you’re attracted beyond it, towards the soul, nothing stops you. With an imperfect face, you somehow remain stuck on this side of creation. But with such perfect faces, something eternal beckons and peers through. And you know what? I have realized recently that she somewhat looks like what my mother in her prime used to look like (and was also born on the same year!), so I shamefully realise that perhaps all my rambling is nothing more than transferring on her a son’s unconscious admiration…

Truth of life

Nutan the firebrand, says Sharmi : a good word! A troublemaker she certainly is, and of fiery mettle too! She reminds me of Durga and Shiva put together! But the whole idea is that she’s a victim of injustice, and that what burns inside, and radiates with such glare on her inflamed face is wronged kind-heartedness and hurt benevolence. Some individuals accept insult and are ready to sacrifice their rights as an atonement for the offender’s sins. But Gauri doesn’t, cannot and won’t. As a result, the friendly warmth of humanity that enchanted children outside her uncle’s house, when she used to tell them “kahaniyen” (stories), this warm friendliness turns into a windswept raging blaze, and naturally this will be used against her. Her offenders (a lustful co-worker and her jealous and avid Aunt and Uncle) just have to underline her verbal excesses and her violent reactions: they are easily turned into proof of her bad nature.

What’s original is Nutan’s handling of irony and mimicry. I’ve rarely seen her do that so well. At one stage, she’s playing with a helper’s authority at the ashram where she’s been shut up. First she pours hot water on her (her height helps her!), and then, as the poor creature shouts her indignation, the young fury is behind her, gesturing just like her to underline her submissiveness and lack of educational competence:

Mimicking authority

Later, as she’s still considered unruly and bad-mannered by the system, (the educational framework used at the ashram, but also social values in general) a system which only considers and understands appearances, she deliberately describes herself as degraded and impious, whereas a strict moral logic would make her say the opposite, in order to defend herself. But she knows that the only way to jolt the scale of judgemental values out of their distorted habits is to exceed the criticism by exaggerating it. Nobody would believe her if she defended herself by just saying the truth. Guilty people lie all the time and say they’re innocent. So how can you prove your honesty in such a perverted system? This is why I refuse to consider that Gauri’s story is one of reformation or redemption: there is nothing to redeem in her story, and her one temptation, when she had wanted to misappropriate a coin thrown to a band of paupers singing for food, is resisted. And this, even if at that moment the lyrics read:

Hunger and Honesty

Anger and rebellion might seem wrong, and for some people, be signs that she’s become corrupted. But anger is sometimes necessary! It’s a natural emotion which shows the person is reacting, and clearly Gauri’s reaction is as healthy as a fever in a body that erupts to fight against disease: aren’t injustice, machismo and slavery social diseases?  Isn’t she right to fight against the ingrained habit of defining somebody as a thief (it would the same for any offense, rape, murder, etc.) even though the person isn’t one? Your human nature hasn’t changed to thiefhood if you have stolen once or even twice. The society which bases itself on such an assumption, and defines individuals by what they have done in the past instead of trying to live with them in the present, is an unforgiving society, a cruel society which not only punishes the crimes, but also excludes the criminal forever. Without that second chance, justice isn’t justice. In the film, we see justice doing precisely what it should do, i.e., protect individuals against unfortunate circumstances (Gauri obtains court pardon the first time), but her uncle and aunt still throw her out without any consideration for what the judge has decreed.


So Gauri has nothing to reproach herself with, and not only is her anger natural, but it is needed, as we have hinted, in a society where true declarations of honesty cannot be distinguished from the lying ones. And Ashok (Balraj Sahni) the astute babuji of the ashram isn’t fooled. For him such a violent reaction can only mean wounded innocence. Speaking to the head-supervisor who has come to complain of Gauri’s misconduct, he asks her how she would have reacted if she had lost her parents, had been wrongly accused, publicly branded a thief so that nobody wanted to give her work, had been thrown out of the only home she had with nothing else than the clothes she was wearing: the lady’s subsequent silence is the most eloquent answer.

It’s interesting to realise that the element of transformation of the tigress into a dove will be, not the prophetic shepherd himself (ie Ashok), but another inmate, Putli (Shubha Khote). It’s been said that Seema was Ms Khote’s best role. I’ve seen her in Anari and she was indeed wasted there. Here’s one of her photos:

Shobha Khote2

Now when it comes to Putli, the movie veers slightly to the preachy. Perhaps because not everybody is a Nutan, and can extract themselves from set roles by sheer artistic strength. Putli is made to catch a thief after a bicycle chase where she’s excessively shown as the valorous champ. But her reformation is nevertheless important in the story, because she’s Gauri’s friend (she allowed her to escape the ashram once, so that she could go and thrash her old enemy Bankelal – CS Dubey), and she serves as intermediary between Gauri and Ashok. Gauri has felt in her a true worth, and in spite of Putli’s past faults (she at first fights with her, not wanting to have anything to do with sneering inmates of her kind), she soon befriends her as a fellow sufferer of the injustice she also suffers from. Gauri thus needs to go through Putli, and Putli’s redemption, to understand that Ashok doesn’t belong to the hypocritical system of rehabilitation which she has all the good reasons to suspect. Thanks to Putli’s trust in Ashok, she will realize that within the midst of this corrupted system stands one who is trying to put forward the values of humane understanding and egalitarianism. For Ashok, all human beings are equal, and no one should be judged by appearances or on what a person has done. A person is always more than what he or she has done.


The last part of the movie deals with the struggle a little artificial sometimes perhaps (as the Upperstall review suggests) – between Gauri’s growing love for Ashok and the latter’s refusal to accept her because he’s sick (a heart sickness, hint, hint) and would not last, as a proper husband for her. So he tries to make her marry his assistant Murli (played by Sunder), but this is really forced. What one remembers very well, on the other hand, is the haunting melodies (immortal Shankar-Jaikishan!), especially the two sung by Ashok, Tu pyaar ka sagar hai, and Kahan ja raha hai? The reactions and expressions these songs create on Gauri are especially noteworthy. I also enjoyed Baat, baat me tutho na, sung by Putli for her new friend at the ashram, and full of inventiveness and mischievous spirit.


PS: I have one query for however knows: what does the title mean/refer to?

PPS: Extra pictures here!

Rédigé par yves

Publié dans #Nutan

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This was a very good movie. I watched it multiple times (for Nutan of course and the story). The most touching part is where she is very hungry and a coin falls at her feet. She first drags it under her foot and then her conscience does'nt allow her to keep it. Beautiful acting by Nutan in the second half particularly. I felt she slightly overdid the "angry girl" part in the first half. But being so young (19 years), it was a superb performance.
Yves do a post on Nutan's future projects had she lived. I'm sure she would be brought in to work with Kajol. I can completely imagine her in Dushman (1997) screaming at Kajol - "This is the police's work, let the police do it. Sonia has died, Naina. And forgettin her is our best interest." She would have loved to be a part of a feminist film again. I'm also thinking Baazigar where she would have played Shahrukh's mom. I could also imagine her in DDLJ.

Also, I think she would have essayed the role of Indira Gandhi in some movie made about her. Either she or Nargis had they both lived. They would have been the top two contenders for the part.

Check out these pics:
OK! I had wondered...
I made them.
Thanks for the nice suggestion, but you realize it's a very difficult thing to imagine what an actress would have done 1) if she didn't do it and 2) if she has now been dead for so long...! I can think of many projects she could have embraced, but I also realize it could only be what my fantasy declares would be pleasant. It wouldn't say anything about Nutan, only about me.
Where do these pictures come from?
Thanks for commenting BTW; I'm always pleased to exchange with Nutan fans!
Did you notice? She jumps up and down in size through the film. This makes sense because she's supposed to hardworked and skinny in the first half and after her stay in the ashram, she becomes well-fed. But in the song sequence, "Chhoti se gudiya" and the scene where she pushes the little girl in the ashram, she appears healthier.

Also, it's a bit odd because her mother said in an interview that when she received an offer for Seema for her, she called her back from Switzerland. She was supposed to be plum by then but in the first half of the film, she is skinny.
Hi, these are good points, which I'm not sure how to explain... I know nevertheless that it's possible with the camera to do tricks with an actor's size and perhaps even his (or her) figure. Of course these means would have been more limited in Seema's days, but still some "special effects" existed and were used, to modify some parameters of an actor's appearance.
For me, this is her best role. She was merely a teenager at that time and they way she got into the character of Gauri and the energy she puts is simply amazing.
Yes, It's a good idea, that of her shooting for Seema at two distinct periods. It remains to be seen if the documentation about the film substantiates this theory.
Je ne pense pas. Elle a évidemment travaillé à Seema à deux temps périodes différentes.

She is a lot heavier and chubbier in the latter part of the film. That's how she appeared in her heroine films such as Paying Guest, Anari until the early 60s when she started getting slimmer again but this time, she wasn't lanky as her body had matured.

In the first half of the film, she looks almost as skinny as she used to in her earlier films.
Well, I should have said that this is my favorite role of hers. Yes, Kalyani was a much more complex role, but she had the reputation of the finest actress at that time. When she did Gauri, she was just making inroads and was also very young.
Hmm, makes me think: what is Nutan's best role? It's very true that Gauri in Seema is a fantastic character. I think nevertheless her role in Bandini would probably be n°1 in my list.
Seema = no one has yet replied to it? Usually all the movies name are hero/ heroine's name or characteristics/ profession based.. Chhalia, Pocketmaar, Jaali note, Jailor, Bandini, Devi, Gowri.. This movie name is a bit philosophical and is never brought out except in the end of the movie..... Seema = Limit or bound. In the whole move, you ca see, every person, especially Nutanji is always under shackles.. either her aunt who always keeps under a shackle, or then in the orphanage, Balraj Sahni too puts a limit on whatever she can do... and she is a rebel against all these. "You have againg broken the rules?"... "That I always do (so what's new in that?)" ... but still it shws that there are certain bounds that are there and she is aware of it. But still she has limited herself in her rebellion... if she promises then she would keep it. Balraj mentions it too... "I know that if you make a promise.. 'Vada', you wouldn't break that.... but that is till end.. when her would be husband, Sunder, tells her that there are circumstances when she should break even that shackle, when her hear and conscience tells her.. and then she goes in seaqrch of him. and when Balraj complains "but you promised".. she tells that seh could break that too, if the need arises.. and then the alst sentence when she pulls him up and walks with him "Let's go now.. now we don't have any shackles, any bounds.. we are now free of all, 'Now there is nothing which can limit us.. "Ab Hamaare saamne Koi seema nahi hai" .. the movie gives its moral in that last sentence.. we sometimes unnecessarily tangle ourselves in things and forget our happiness.... Balraj was tangled in his complex (age, sickness), Nutan in her (Promise given)..... "My life is more important than the promise I made" she tells breaking the only shackle she had put on herself...
seema..means the film there are so many borders border is emphasized. apart from the borders mentioned above there is one more important border......idhar jhoomti gaye zindagi..udhar hai maut khadi...koyi kya jane kahan hai seema, uljhan aan padi....say the most importatnt lines in the song tu pyar ka sagar is singing this side, and death is waiting that one knows where the border is.....this is the essence of the story...for, in a scene when the female assistant questions why ashok is patient with gauri, he explains that gauri is at cross roads in her life..if she is given love and affection..then she will go in the right direction, if not, it is death for her ..there is nothing in her is the most important border in the love, affection , understanding and warmth changes ones life ..that is the border between life and death....thank you
Thankyou for these answers and explanations!
Cheers, yves
In fact we have two ways of counting.. the anniversary, on the actual departure is zero or one? It always confuses me, so assuming it was the first, it is this year, if we take zero, it would be next.. .. as usual as we say.. opinions are divided :-) .. meanwhile I am increasing my collection, some times it looks unfortunate.. just a few years back, Guru Dutt's son did a revival of his memories.. of course Mohnish might not be in that strength, but there are other family members.. somehow they seem to be too disconnected.. like Nalini Jaywant.. she too was a loner.I was watching her debut movie Sister- 1941) interesting movie for that period.. a much older brother and baby sister..his love/possessiveness for her is almost incestual.. he can't stand her to be married. Too forward a theme for that age... and not limited by the language, I was trying to trace her through the movies that I have (the first one of course is missing, Hemari Beti), as well as the series of flops, 1952/53.. but whatever I have I was watching chronologically and studying the changes in skill she started having.. in the beginning few movies she was just an awkward kid, except a few scenes, (there are even in Hum Log.. especially in the scene where she meets the hero and he comes to know that she is having TB, and that's why she had rejected his advances (TB was almost incurable then) , ...though it was only a fraction of what she would be in a few years from then.... very interestingly she had landed up with heroes, much older, and rarely could be called handsome, in her earlier days...
Hello Sbasu, and thanks for the interesting description of the reasons for the meaning of the film's title. Indeed I think I think you sum up nicely the various reasons why Seema was chosen.
BTW, Sbasu, I realized that your recent reminder of doing something for Nutanji's 25th anniversary was one year ahead of time, because she died in 1991, not 1990. So realizing this, I was a little lazy, I must say! But don't worry, I'll certainly write a post about her soon.

hi yves,

recently watched seema on youtube. nutan is in one of her best-known roles. she beautifully handkes both her arrogant and sweet shades in the movie. Balraj sahni is the perfect in the
role of an orphange head. he shows such GRACIOUSNESS !  

SJ's music is awe-inspiring. "manmohana bade jhoothe" doesn't appear to be a film song but flows like a classical bandish (raga jaijaivanti). i want to especially mention the great

1) TU PYAR KA SAGAR HAI:- this prayer song is a cross between a bhajan and a church music. here vocal orchestration plays a vital role cinematically, musically, thematically. SJ's
orchesta is at its  peak. also the song is based on raga darbari kanada.

2) SUNO CHHOTI SI GUDIYA KI:- SJ also had mastery over composing for visual or cinematic considerations. in this narrative song, the orchestration is kept minimal, and the plucked
string,sarod, is well used to facilitate comprehension of the narrative content.

3) BAAT BAAT MEIN ROOTHO NA:-  this song has an extraordinary dholak
accompaniment.  Catch the laggi "Dhin taak taa dhin Dhi taak taa dhettaa" played over the last line of every antraa for e.g.,"Jeevan Safar Mein Sukh Ho Ya Dukh Ho, Rona Padega


the music is one of SJ's career best.




Thanks VK for this very careful analysis of Seema's songs which I fondly remember as beautiful and very meaningful.


Thanks Yves for that encouraging response. Who knows 2011 may be an eventful year for me. BTW, wishing u and ur family a happy and prosperous new year 2011. I can see the hard work when i
read blogs. Strong reactions/ opinions do not deter me and i agree that makes life more interesting. It is only the narrow minded nasties who take pleasure in simply continuing and not letting go
once a discussion has reached a certain point - i have observed this on other blogs. I can deal with it though.


Thanks Filmbuff for your kind words and wishes. I take the opportunity to extend mine, for your family and friends too.

I know that what you say is true, I mean about a certain type of people nagging others who do not share their opinions, but I've seen this happen more on forums dealing with politics or religion.
Not so much when films are the main topic. But one never knows, of course.

Anyway if you do start something, make sure you inform us!


Thanks for the greetings Yves. I don't have a blog as yet. Who knows what is in store in 2011? I don't know if blogging will work out for me coz a) i have strong likes and dislikes where movies are
concerned b) am too forthright in expressing those c) watching movies is an intensely personal experience and quite often watching movies trigger personal instances which inevitably will creep into
my writing and am not sure if it is a good idea to share so much personal info on a blog d) don't know if i can handle nasty emails or people who take pleasure in carring out a "blog war" ! I
landed up watching the 2010 movie "Once upon a time in Mumbai" instead of Seema. Once upon is a good movie - taut script, good acting and i would recommend this movie if u r interested. I have seen
Seema before. It is a personal fav coz it not only features Nutan but also Balraj Sahani who is my fav actor (male)


Hello Filmbuff,

Well I for one wouldn't mind you starting a blog where you might express yourself strongly! I don't fear the consequences of a blog war, as you say! In fact, ideas which are forcefully
expressed are probably doing a greater service to the community than silence. But of course, this is all up to you. You would have to decide if you put in the work that a blog demands. But it
gives also a lot of satisfaction, so, all in all, I hope that you'll start: you can already count me as a regular reader.

Merry Christmas!


Hi Yves - glad u managed to see this movie. I must be repeating myself here - i think this is one of the best Nutan movies. I managed to get a DVD recently from India and intend to see it
this evening after reading ur post.

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you and your family


Hi Filmbuff

Many thanks for your visit and Christmas wishes! I hope you will have enjoyed Seema as much as the rest of us!  Do you have a website where you write your filmi impressions?

Thanks and have a wonderful Christmas too.


Just stumbled upon your blog and must say it's great! I am a Czech Bollywood/Indian cinema fan and always enjoy commentaries written by fellow non-Asians. Just wanted to recommend a couple of
movies that you may enjoy (if you haven't seen them already): Mr. and Mrs.Iyer (very touching but serious movie) and Loins of Punjab (you can get it from Induna) - it's actually an American-Asian
movie but one of the best comedies ever...

Keep up the nice work!



Hi Eva,

Thanks for your comments and appreciation. Yes, I heard about these movies, which I haven't seen yet, so thanks a great deal for the suggestions!

warmly, yves


Seema means boundaries... i'm glad you liked the film :)


Thanks Sharmi.

I suppose the idea behind the title ("boundaries", or "limits") refers to those social boundaries which cannot be crossed when you are on one side, and when you are thrust on the other side, it's
almost impossible to get back to where you were. If this is true, the title would then be a commentary on Gauri's plight, who was branded a thief and sent to reform school, and so was shut up
behind the fence of her (falsely) guilty identity. It took all of Ashok's efforts to make her cross the boundary of innocence once again.



Yves, I'm so glad you managed to see Seema! Definitely one of Nutan's best roles, I think - she's so very expressive all through the film. By the way, 'seema' means limit or boundary or border -
it's been too long since I've seen the film, so I've forgotten the nuances of it, because of which it's impossible for me to say why that should be the title of the film, but maybe it makes more
sense to you...?

Regarding Nutan's height, I remember my sister and I being very astonished as teenagers to discover how tall Kishore Kumar (who always struck as rather dumpy!) was - simply because we used Nutan
as a comparison. We'd seen Paying Guest, in which it's obvious that she's as tall as Dev Anand. And then, in Dilli ka Thug, we discovered that she's also as tall as Kishore Kumar. Which means
Kishore Kumar is not quite so short as he appears to be! That came as something of a surprise.


Thanks for the information!
Nutan was probably 5'4". You can use comparisons between her and Tanuja and Tanuja and Kajol. Kajol is 5'3". Don't they use camera angles in films? Not saying that Nutan wasn't tall. She was for her time and she had statuesque figure. Nutan was shorter than Sridevi and Rekha and both of them were/are 5'6".

Hello Madhu,

Thanks for your message! I have given my opinion about the possible meaning of the film in my answer to Sharmi's message.

Yes indeed Kishore was tall, wasn't he? I think one might believe he's short because of his round face, and because often round faces are associated with short statures.