Desh Premee (1982) & Leprosy


deshpremee4 deshpremeetitle3

The word association I have with leprosy is Mother Teresa, India, and Jesus. After reading this,

Many doctors view leprosy as a scourge of Biblical times or faraway places, but there are still thousands of U.S. cases, with more diagnosed each year, experts say (source)

maybe I’ll associate leprosy with the U.S. now too. This map shows that I wasn’t too wrong to associate leprosy with India. The WHO has all the latest leprosy statistics HERE.


deshpremeeinquilabjesus2With all the Bollywood movies I’ve seen, you’d think I would have run across a leper sooner than now, but it took Desh Premee (1982) to expose me to my first Bollywood leper, Shamila Tagore, as Bharati. Finally! And speaking of me associating Jesus and lepers, Amitabh breaks out with the most Jesus looking parts in this film. Just look at him suffering here. —————>

If that doesn’t remind you of Jesus and his crown of thorns, I don’t know what will. I know with Christmas right around the corner it’s baby Jesus time of year and not crown of thorns Jesus time, but still, I’m technically working in a Christmas theme.

Since it’s a Manmohan Desai film, I’ll save my self a lot of explaining and refer you to this SYNOPSIS. An extra bonus to the film is Shammi Kapoor playing a lovable, chunky Sikh. You can see a bit of Sikh Shammi in this number.

More and more I’m loving Kader Khan as a villian. Have you seen him in Tawaif? In Desh Premee Khan plays Sher Singh who snatchs Bharati from her freedom fighter, patriot husband (Amitabh) as part of a revenge plot. Sher Singh lusts after Bharati for years, yet she remains faithful to her husband who believes her to be dead. Bharti is repulsed by the scoundrel and tells him:


Careful what you wish for Bharati! Evil Sher Singh puts Bharati up in a filthy rat infested hovel and she comes down with leprosy. I don’t think leprosy is passed by rats, but you get the point watching the scene in her new home when a rat crawls out of a hole in a wall: Rat = dirty = bad = leprosy. As a means to depict how depraved Sher Singh is, he’s shown frolicking with trashy goris. Look! One gori is drinking, the other is smoking, while one clutches his leg. Dirty! Bad!

When I see them, I lose track of the film and am instantly plopped into reality and think stuff like, “Are these German toursists? They look German. How did they get these parts? I wonder why they were traveling in India? Are they friends?” OK, back to the film. After years Bharti returns, in the midst of Sher Singh’s debauchery. He thought she’d never come around to his advances and that this is finally his lucky day!


Then she says what he’s dreamed of hearing her say…


HA! Tricked! Take THAT Sher Singh!





deshpremeeshirt1Have you seen leprosy in any Bollywood movies? I would also like to include the image of another one of the bad guys from the film, just because I wanted to show the world his shirt and scarf.

OK, to end on a happy note, forget about the leprosy and check out Hema Malini and Amitabh in blackface performing Gori Nahin Hum Kaali Sahi, with music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The playback singers are Asha Bhosle and the song’s writer, Laxmikant. This video either needs no introduction or a really big one, I can’t tell.

If you click on the video and it says embedding disabled, just click it again to get there.

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11 thoughts on “Desh Premee (1982) & Leprosy

  1. Is there a persona Amitabh has not touched? This is really interesting. I recently got some of his 1970s works, many of which I haven’t seen (it’s hard to keep up with someone who’s always worked in so many films!) along with my Guru Dutt hamper (to make it sound like a holiday shopping spree), look forward to checking them out!

    Word associations never fail, do they? LOL to the goris’ comment. And yes to the Kader Khan comment! I really like some of his comedies too.


  2. Nicki,
    Thanks for stopping by and let me know what you think after you’ve seen it. Shamila did look glamourous as a leper though, something about the false eyelashes. :)

    Nawab theBollywoodFan,
    I know, it’s seemingly endless, like a giant treasure chest! I would have liked to have seen Khan’s TV show that I read about and the comedy he’s done. I could see him being hilarious. I read that he’s quite a dialogue writer too. How fun that he actually wrote some of the outlandish lines he gets to say in Desh Premee. I liked the film, but in my personal rating book I gave it a 6.5 out of 10, still worth a watch though if simply for the outlandish gori scene. And speakng of leprosy, I did read a great book on a leper earlier this year called the Pearl Diver.

    Thanks for your visit. :)

  3. Yeah, leprosy is not the most common theme in hindi cinema. I found this link on how India is trying to stop leprosy.

    And this is a film about a doctor who finds the cure for leprosy, but the credit goes to american doctors. The film is called Ek Doctor Ki Maut (Death of a doctor), released in 1990.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Hey there, I visit your blog often, but leaving comments for the first time. :-)

    You asked about leprosy in Bollywood movies. Just watched Sanjeev-Jaya’s “Naya Din Nayi Raat” this week. Sanjeev Kumar plays 9 different characters in that movie, one of them being of a benign millionaire– after being affected by leprosy, all his fair-weather friends disappear, and he is left homeless, loveless, etc. until Jaya helps him out.

  5. I had no idea this movie was even out there, but my immediate impression is more “OMG, Sonu Sood *does* look incredibly like Youngitabh!” than anything else. ;-D

  6. oh…I was just thinking of watching this, being on a Manmohan Desai kick and all…

    but. Maybe I’ll wait until after all the holiday eating, when I need to go on a diet.

  7. Stella_1-ji,
    Thanks for that interesting link on how leprosy is being fought in India. Very interesting data, especially the work done in conjunction with broadcasting. Ek Doctor Ki Maut is added to my list now, especially since I see Irfan Khan is in it! Thanks. :)

    Thanks for visiting and making a comment. Welcome. Thanks for suggesting Naya Din Nayi Raat. It sounds a bit like Kamal Hassan’s Dasavathaaram in that it’s a movie with on actor playing many parts in the same film. I found this @ wikipedia under Sangeev Kumar : In Naya Din Nayi Raat (1974) Sanjeev Kumar reprized the nine-role epic performance by Sivaji Ganesan in Navarathiri (1964), which was also previously reprized by Akkineni Nageswara Raoin Navarathri (Telugu; 1966). This film has enhanced his status and reputation as an actor in Hindi cinema. I was happy to find it online and am starting to watch it.

    So many movies, so little time :)

    I know you’ll enjoy Shammi in this.

    Amitabh is totally in Jesus mode, not only in his parallel crucifixion scene at the beginning, but also in the end when he embraces the leper. Go Jesus! Go Amitabh, get yo Jesus on!

  8. Pingback: Life imtates art: Tiwari does a Bollywood scene. « Bollywood Food Club

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