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Updated: June 4, 2010 19:56 IST

Garam Coat (1955)

Suresh Kohli
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Nirupa Roy
Nirupa Roy

Starring Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy, Jayant, Rashid Khan

A thin storyline, over-padded with socially realist dialogue, this melodramatic saga scripted by Rajinder Singh Bedi could as well have been titled “The Hundred Rupee Note”. But presuming the repeated reference to a torn winter coat, the title of the original story (written by Bedi himself) and the pre-climax shots about the recovery must have tilted the scales in favour of “Garam Coat”.

Note in order!

Girdhari (Balraj Sahni), a generous, honest friendly soul, who works as a money order clerk in a non-descript township, finds it difficult to make ends meet with his wife, Geeta (Nirupa Roy), two daughters and a son. In the discharge of his duties one day, he forgets to collect money from an irate customer, but eventually manages to recover it by paying the guy a visit after being severely reprimanded for his behaviour and returns home with his salary slickly avoiding co-workers, Sher Khan (Jayant) and Munnilal (Rashid Khan) with whom he had planned a drinking bout.

While trying to buy gifts for the family he once again manages to lose the 100-rupee note and that sets in motion a series of predictable events: the house rent, the electricity bills, insurance, and other deliverables.

Unable to retrieve it, he tries to commit suicide, but having missed the train he tamely returns home and confides the truth to his doting wife.

Failing to cope with domestic needs and work pressures, including part-time jobs – depicted through a dramatic sequence – and borrowing, he is unable to pay even ration bills. Finally he makes one last desperate bid at dishonesty by pocketing the balance amount erringly left behind by a customer. A confrontation follows, leaving doubts and suspicion about his behaviour even in his friends. But pricked by his conscience he goes and returns the money to the customer who eventually testifies in his favour and saves Girdhari's job. Unable to cope with mental pressure he starts making mistakes at his work places.

Wife Geeta tries to come to his rescue to make ends meet by quietly taking up part time jobs.

Tired and frustrated he returns home one night to find the kitchen stacked with necessities. One evening he finds the door locked, his wife missing, and his children playing outside.

When she returns he questions her about her movements, and finding some money in her hands, which she tries to hide, he assumes she has taken to prostitution. Unable to control his rage he tries to strangle her and then rushes towards the railway track onto a speeding train but is rescued by the hefty Sher Khan, and the liliputian Munnilal who refuse to buy the story of Geeta's infidelity and bring him back home. Ultimately, he finds the missing 100-rupee note in the lining of his coat's pocket.

Geeta gives the note to Sher Khan, requesting him to buy the fabric for a new winter coat. Deftly edited by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, “Garam Coat” was fairly competently directed by Amar Kumar.

With cinematography by V. Kunkhekar, music by Amar Nath and lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri for producers the 129-minute long black and white proved to be a failed attempt which didn't find favour even with audiences fed on melodrama.

An unusual and innovative aspect of the credits is the opening title Playback: Lata Mangeshkar, though not a single song was hummable.

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