The era of the 50’s was when the Hindi film industry began to gain momentum with some legendary film-makers like Guru Dutt, K.A Abbas and Raj Khosla among others, and also with some great artists including Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman and Nargis. When it comes to a sibling relationship, we have known to have seen a bunch of films which depict the bond of a brother and a sister in a rather beautiful manner. This includes films like Iqbal, Fiza and Hum Saath Saath hain, but there was a notable film in the 1950’s which made its mark on Bollywood, and that too, with two young artists depicting the bond of love with an innocent yet powerful screen presence.
Boot Polish, a 1954 drama film, directed by Prakash Arora, and starring Kumari Naaz (Belu), Ratan Kumar (Bhola), David Abraham Cheulkar (John chacha) and Chand Burke (Kamla Devi) in the lead roles. The story revolves around the siblings Belu and Bhola, who are forced to beg and then clean boots in order to stay with their aunt, after the death of their mother. The mother has died of cholera and the father leaves the two kids at the doorstep of Kamla. Kamla’s character is nothing short of a devil as she teaches them to beg and also snatches away all the money they get.
John chacha is the one lone bright star in the miserable lives of Bhola and Belu. He understands them, plays with them and treats them like his own children. Growing up, both Bhola and Belu have learnt how to beg in their own ways, until Bhola finds out that shoe polish also is a good idea for earning money and it also gives them some dignity to earn money rather than begging for it. This is where, the struggle of the siblings for money, respect and love starts. Bhola reminds his sister that they must not beg no matter how hungry they are and never accept anything unless earned. There are a lot of emotional scenes in the film, especially the one where Belu has fever and is dying of hunger, and Bhola tries his best to anyhow find a customer in the pelting rains Bombay. Also, the scene where Belu and Bhola fall apart from each other at the railway station, makes us feel vulnerable towards our emotions.
This is one of the finest performances i have seen as far as child protagonists are concerned. Both the characters were believable and made us root for them throughout the film. And without a doubt, David sir won our hearts with his effortless acting. The songs were as good as they could get. Notably, all of them were based on the situation in the film and did not seem random at any point. “Nanhe munhe bacche” is the one that garnered a lot of popularity and is still one of the favourite songs for young children. Talking about the screenplay, it has written very well and the story seems to go smoothly and without any dull moments. Even the scenes where there isn’t much for the actors to do, they make it interesting for the audience.
All in all, if you are looking for a feel-good and a film full of brother-sister bond, Boot-Polish is highly recommended. At the end of the film, the tears are tough to hold back, so make sure you carry tissues with you while watching this. This not only depicts the bond but also reflects upon the fact that even young children have their dignity and people who believe in hardwork rather than begging, often have a strong character, and do succeed.