Half Ticket Movie Review: Half Ticket: Full Price Funnies
It's as if the phrase 'ethereal beauty' was coined to describe her. Her looks put her more comfortably in a Raja Ravi Varma painting than a simple Bollywood film. Alongside her contemporaries Nargis and Meena Kumari, Madhubala completes the triumvirate of Hindi cinema's most beautiful and spellbinding actresses. Starring in films like 'Mahal', 'Howrah Bridge' and 'Mughal E Azam', her acting career is the stuff of Bollywood lore and legend.
Named Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehlavi, Madhubala was born on Valentine's Day, 1933, into a conservative Muslim family in Delhi. Her family was a branch of the Afghani royal family, exiled to India, thus explaining her captivatingly exotic looks. Entering the film industry in the erstwhile Bombay due to familial problems, Madhubala started her film career at a tender 9 years of age, as a child actress in the film 'Basant' in 1942. More films followed as a child artiste, during which she caught the eye of screen star Devika Rani, who groomed her for lead roles.
Madhubala finally made her topline debut with 1947's 'Neel Kamal' opposite Raj Kapoor. Though the film wasn't a blockbuster, the industry knew a star had arrived. Big screen success followed with '49's 'Mahal', where she upstaged even the legendary Ashok Kumar, with that immortal Lata number, 'aayega aanewala'. Films like 'Howrah Bridge', 'Mr and Mrs 55' and 'Kalapani' turned her into a screen siren. Her beauty was also epic enough to immortalise her as the legendary 'Anarkali' to Dilip Kumar's 'Salim' in K.Asif's magnum opus, 'Mughal E Azam'. However, in the midst of a positively flourishing acting career, Madhubala was also beset by grievous heart problems that would eventually snatch her away from her innumerable fans at the relatively young age of 36 years in 1969.
One of Madhubala's most famous screen pairings was with the iconic Kishore Kumar, whom she met during the making of the Ganguly brothers' starrer 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi'. The two spotted a spark between each other and were married in 1960, Kishore leaving his first wife, Ruma, to do so. Though it was a troubled union that they shared, the love between the two was obvious, both on screen and off it. In fact, film lore states that Kishore Kumar didn't start singing sad songs in Hindi cinema until Madhubala passed away in 1969.
One of the films, that the two shared screen space in, was 1961's 'Half Ticket'. Directed by Kalidas, the film was liberally inspired from 1955's Hollywood vintage, 'You're Never Too Young', starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. However, with Madhubala going toe to toe with Kishore in the film, 'Half Ticket' is a classic all of its own making.
The plot revolves around Vijay, Kishore Kumar cast as the hilariously eccentric younger son of a Bombay 'seth', who runs away from home to escape a marriage his father is forcing on him. Short on cash and on his way out of the city, Vijay is inspired by a rotund child he spots at the railway station, and decides to disguise himself as a child, 'Munna', all to score the titular 'half ticket'.
As 'Munna', Vijay runs into Raja Babu, played by Pran, a notorious diamond smuggler on the run from the police, who decides to hide his booty on Munna's person, claiming to be his 'chacha'. When this 'chacha' gets a bit too close for comfort, 'Munna' bolts, and runs into Rajnidevi, played by Madhubala, a beautiful, independent girl, who take pity on him and takes care of the manchild, even as Vijay tries to romance her instead. The rest of the movie deals with Vijay and Rajnidevi's flirtations, even as Raja Babu and his moll, played by Shammi, try to recover their diamond from 'Munna'.
Though director Kalidas works with a borrowed script, he fits in laughs perfect for Kishore's persona, in sequences like Vijay taking all of his household servants on strike against his father, and Munna pretending to be terrified of the thunder while in Rajnidevi's train compartment. While 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi' is an out and out Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar film, in 'Half Ticket', Madhubala is a comic revelation, more than able to hold her own against Kishore's comic genius in scenes like the one where Rajnidevi discovers 'Munna' to simply be a ruse spun by Vijay.
A highpoint of the film is also Salil Chowdhary's score, a classic unto itself. While 'cheel cheel chillake' plots Kishore Kumar perfectly, as the voice of the kiddish 'Munna', 'jo ek nigah kya mili' is a superbly fun filled Lata Kishore duet picturised on Kishore and Helen. 'Aankhon mein tum' and 'chand raat tum ho saath' show two variations of classic romance, the first one a light hearted rivalry between two lovers, while the second is a more conventional romantic duet. Undoubtedly though, the winner on the soundtrack is Kishore Kumar at his best, in 'aake seedhi lagi dil pe', picturised on Kishore in drag with Pran chasing him. The comic number is still remembered by film fans for the fact that the duet is, in fact, Kishore voicing both, the male and the female tracks on the song, something that even the best of singers would find hard to carry off.
A thorough Bollywood classic, 'Half Ticket' frames a ton of laughs, with Kishore and Madhubala, both, in their element, even as Pran, Shammi and Manorama, the latter as Rajnidevi's aunt, hold onto the comic pace. Salil Chowdhary's music too never slips out of the comic mood, as director Kalidas crafts a positively side splitting comedy, in the same league as a 'Padosan' or a 'Golmaal', full price funnies, all for a 'Half Ticket'.