starring Meena Kumari, Om Prakash, Kishore Kumar, Gemini Ganeshan, Jamuna, Achala Sachdev

The divine genetic plan certainly seems to have gone awry. Otherwise, what else can explain why we do not see a combination of talent, grace, simplicity and charm in any of the modern actresses performing today? Watch some of the most ordinary films of Meena Kumari, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and Sadhana and you'll understand why they have become everlasting favourites of masses; unlike present-day actresses, the yesteryear heroines displayed histrionics and not ‘assets' and hence walked into the hearts of the cinegoers. And if you need any proof, just watch Miss Mary which, despite being an average film, is eminently watchable because of Meena Kumari's emotive genius.

Much before she battled with personal tragedies and health problems, Meena Kumari was a refreshingly uninhibited actress who remained completely unaffected by the structured and theatrical mannerisms that were the order of the day. Simplicity and spontaneity along with outstanding harmony of vocal and facial expressions were always the hallmarks of her acting, but in her younger, petite days, she was also agile and graceful beyond comparison. Nicknamed ‘tragedy queen', Meena is largely remembered for serious roles though she was a storehouse of talent who revealed her prowess in several light-hearted roles in films like Azaad , Shararat , Kohinoor and Miss Mary . In fact, apart from enchanting songs, the last mentioned film has nothing much except Meena Kumari and an equally talented Om Prakash to commend its creation.

Though the film also stars Kishore Kumar, Gemini Ganeshan (Rekha's father), Jamuna and Achala Sachdev, they are mere peddlers of their acting wares. Those misled into billing Kishore Kumar's wayward antics as comic genius would be well advised to see this film and realise how the naturally ebullient Om Prakash makes mincemeat of the singer-actor. The hand-eye coordination as well as voice modulation of Om Prakash is an apt lesson for young actors. It's a skill most perfect with immense practice but came naturally to Om Prakash without film school training.

A routine lost-child-comes-back-home story, the film is made immensely pleasing by Hemant Kumar's wonderful music. If the heavenly Rafi-Lata duo renders classics like O Raat Ke Musafir Chanda Zara Bata De , Brindaban ka Krishna Kanhaiyya and Ye Mard Bade Dilsard Chalo Ji Maana with serene ease, Asha shows why she was never less talented than Lata in the classical duet Sakhi Re Sun Bole Paapiha Us Paar . Enthralling solos like So Gaya Sara Zamaana (Lata), Pahle Paisa Fir Bhagwan (Rafi) and Gana Na Aaya (Kishore) are also gems in their own way.

The story is about two unemployed but competing teachers Miss Mary (Meena Kumari) and Arun (Gemini Ganeshan) who pose as a married couple at a rural school which seeks such a duo for its students. The compromise is necessary as Mary needs the money to help her parents pay off an old debt while Arun is completely broke, and to carry on the farce, they also take along a kind-hearted conman Nakdu (Om Prakash) as their servant. A series of interactions not only makes the strangers turn into lovers but also reveals that Mary is the long lost daughter Laxmi of the school owner. And as the story ends on a happy note, you are left wondering what was the need for Kishore Kumar and his buffoonery in the film?

Frankly, it's not much of a plot but then the AVM family made films for masses and if this too made millions delirious, it certainly shows they were shrewd businessmen with a strong connect with ground realities. If Prasad's direction is deft, camerawork by Muthuswami, aided by set designing of Shantaram, gives you alluring pictorial moments. A large credit for the film's appeal is also because of the slick editing by K. Shankar which never allows any scene to drag. So despite a fluffy story, watch Miss Mary for all the above reasons.

deepak mahaan

Meena Kumari is largely remembered for serious roles though she revealed her prowess in several

light-hearted roles.