Friday Classics: Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi for Kishoreda’s Birthday

This is a classic, but a fun classic.  The kind of movie that you don’t want to pick at too much because then you will end up ruining it.  Which means, yaaaay!  Probably a short review.

This is one of the few Hindi movies, maybe the only movie, that has 3 brothers playing 3 brothers.  And on top of that, the future wife of one of the brothers plays the future wife of his character.  It’s not the most real-reel overlapping movie in Indian film history, but it’s at least tied for the top.

Image result for chalti ka naam gaadi poster

The first time I watched it, I was all ready for conflict and drama and angst spilling from the real to the reel.  But no, it’s the opposite!  The happiness and good feeling they all have for each other in real life spills over into the reel characters.  This is an extremely happy movie, that is why it is a classic, 3 brothers having a good time together, and a young woman falling in love with a man who makes her laugh.  On and off screen.

Kishore is known primarily as a singer, that was the majority of his career.  But before he became a full time singer, he was a singer-actor.  His brother, Ashok, was the bigger star.  But Kishore didn’t try to imitate him, to ride his coat tails, he came up with his own way of being onscreen.  Kishore was a comic star, not afraid to make a fool of himself, to laugh at himself and at others and to encourage us to laugh too.

Kishore’s comic style doesn’t quit fit in with the way anyone else does things.  He had a patter, a fast talk.  But it wasn’t wise cracks, it was a kind of innocent fast talk.  He could also fight, be romantic, and be a little bit childish too.  Maybe the best way to explain it is my favorite song sequence from this film, when he storms into a romantic beautiful stage performance to sing a duet patiently asking for the money owed him by the lead performer.  He isn’t showing off, and he isn’t angry, he is just determined and stubborn.  And this is Kishore’s movie, he sets the tone.  So it is comic and makes the whole real world seem a little comic as well after you finish the film.

Sometimes humor comes from laughing at the way we suddenly see the world itself is funny and the illogical logic of the leads is common sense.  That’s what this film lives in, ridiculous plot twists and main characters who just plow through and accept them all.  The title means “if it goes, call it a car”.  That’s what this film is about.  If it goes, it’s a car.  If there’s a boy and girl, call it a romance.  If there’s an older brother, call him an authority.  None of these things are really true, but they are almost true, so close to being true that they make the real “truth” suddenly seem strangely false by revealing how shallow it is.










Ashok, Kishore, and Anup Kumar are brothers and play brothers.  In real life, they are 3 brothers working together to make a film.  In reel life, they are 3 brothers working together in their garage.

Ashok is the oldest by several years, practically raised the younger two (again, in real and reel) and they respect him.  And that is why they obey his orders that none of them should have anything to do with women (okay, that’s not true in real life, Ashok didn’t care).  Things start to change in their happy bachelor life when Madhubala suddenly appears in the middle of a rainy night and insists on Kishore fixing her car.

Kishore is intrigued by this gorgeous smiling woman.  But not so much that he forgets what she owes him.  Madhubala takes off without paying which leads to Kishore stubbornly following her to a dance performance and insisting on his money.  And then following her back to her apartment that night and causing a scare when he is discovered hiding and waiting for his money.

Somehow, with all this stubbornness and silly view of the world, Madhubala falls in love with him and vice versa.  This is one of those romances that I knew was coming from the start of the film and couldn’t see how it was going to get there.  And then it made complete sense!  Madhubala has a restrictive over protective guardian.  This funny little guy who keeps singing to her and stubbornly following her is just what she wants.  And Kishore can’t resist Madhubala’s laughter at all his silliness.

At the same time, Madhubala’s forward friend Sahira is exactly what Anoop wants, too shy to talk to women, he needs someone who will take the lead.  And so both younger brothers are in love, but of course marriage is forbidden so long as Ashok Kumar forbids it.  And so they go to him and try to persuade him that woman and marriage aren’t so bad, which is when Ashok tells his sad story.  He was in love once, and she betrayed him!  Married a richer man.  He has always kept her photo to remind him of her betrayal, and forbade his beloved younger brothers from women to save them from the same broken heart he suffered.

Well, this is an impossible fix!  Right?  Something that could only be solved by a heavy dose of movie magic.  And that is provided.  In a completely silly-and-we-know-it-is-silly kind of way.  Kishore is kidnapped and threatened with death unless Madhubala and her rich father agree to her marrying a layabout who will take all her money.  And, totally coincidentally, also held at the kidnappers den is Veena, who Kishore recognizes as THE WOMAN IN ASHOK’S PICTURE!!!!!!  You see, she didn’t leave Ashok for a richer man, she was taken by force and has been made to stand around and work for the gang all these years.  And now she is ready to help Kishore escape.  And as she helps him out, who should arrive but Ashok!  Former boxing champion (did I not mention that before?), here to beat up everyone who would hurt his little brother and just generally save the day.

That’s my favorite part, that Ashok gets to save the day.  Because it is such a blurring of real and reel.  Ashok was 47 when this movie came out, Kishore and Anoop were 18 and 15 years younger.  But Ashok was the oldest brother, of course he got to save the day and be the big hero in the movie.  It was the only appropriate happy ending.

(Also, Helen and her mentor Cuckoo do an item number together.  It’s just the best movie!!!)


14 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi for Kishoreda’s Birthday

  1. Kishore as a romantic hero is too goofy for me.He should stick to character roles like in Padosan (terrible movie, but Kishore made it better). I’ve only ever watched Ashok in character roles.So I’d check this out just to see him in full fledged hero mode.I haven’t watched enough Madhubala films.But she comes across very jolly.Unlike Meena Kumari who can drag down even a comedy.


    • If you want to see Ashok as a real hero, and another Madhubala movie, check out Howrah Bridge. In this one, Ashok is more kind of backgrounded.

      But I would be really curious to see what you think of Kishore in this one! For me, it is the perfect balance of mostly comic, but still a little bit of a hero. But mostly comic. And Madhubala is perfection, she is having such a good time that it makes you in the audience have a better time too in sympathy with her. Also cheered me all up about Madhubala’s sad life, Kishore clearly was better for her than drippy Dilip, dragging us all down.

      On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 10:04 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • I just added them to my playlist so I can listen to them at work.

      On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 11:07 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. I read somewhere that Kishore Da did this film to make it as loss venture ,and to over come the income tax problems, so movie done in very casual way, surprisingly film become superhit ,so he had transferred the Movie rights to his Manager.

    Ashok kumar had helped him to over come the tax problems,and asked him to move into stage shows, as movie actor he is troubling the producers with his eccentric behaviour.
    Initial days Kishor Da was nervous and struck with stage fear, and reluctant to do the stage shows,
    He agreed to be behind the curtain singer for Sunil Dutt show, (for which Kishore Da cannot say no as Sunil Dutt is his good friend and who has given him much needed break) , in the middle of the stage show Sunil Dutt , revealed the singer ,by lifting the curtain.
    Later years Kishore Da earned name and fame on stage shows.

    All his serious sincere movies like Mera Saya become super flops ,but casually made Chalte ka naam Gadi become a classic Super hit movie.
    Mere Saya later purchased by AVM group from Chennai, softened the teary eliments and turned the movie into Super Hits in both Telugu (Ramu (1962 ) and Tamil.

    Thanks for reminding Kishore Da and once again Senior Dutt saab.


    • It’s funny that Kishore, so fearless in speaking his mind in private, should be shy about speaking in public.

      On Sat, Aug 4, 2018 at 5:01 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. You know, I had dismissed the stagefright story as Kishore Kumar seems such an extrovert. I thought it was a gimmick thought out by Sunil Dutt and Kishore for the stageshows, giving the audience a Padosan touch where they did the same. But it’s true.Kishore was petrified of singing before crowds.Namrata Dutt Kumar narrates it in her book about the Dutts and posted a picture of Kishore standing behind Sunil as the latter lipsynches to the songs.


  4. I watched this a few days ago and I LOVED it and was exactly what I needed! I heard that Kishore Kumar thought/wanted this movie to fail which is so baffling to me because it’s so much fun! And some of the jokes were actually clever and everyone, especially the brothers, had really great comedic chemistry with each other!
    Also can I take a moment to talk about how awesome the women were in this movie??? They all had agency and were active characters in the story in some way! I thought that Madhubala was just going to be a love interest that shows up for like 10 minutes and disappear for huge chunks of the movie but no! Her character is probably as big as Kishore’s and she is out their investigating stuff with him and everything! Even the other two love interests get their moments to shine even though they have less screen time by getting for help and calling the police at the end!
    I also found the romance super charming and thought it was perfect! I like how they actually spent time together and you could see that fell in love with each other because they just loved having each other’s company. Madhubala and Kishore just seem so happy to be around each other here and just gave off such a positive vibe together that I couldn’t help but love them (they actually reminded me of Anil and Madhuri in their fun films now that I think about it)! And as silly and happy as this movie was, I feel like they did give some moments the emotional due they deserved. The scene where Madhubala tells Kishore about her upcoming marriage threw me off guard because I wasn’t expecting this light happy comedy film to make feel super sad and emotional! I loved the way how the two of them played that scene and how the director allowed there to be some genuine emotional sincerity instead of just instantly filling that moment with jokes. It’s rather ironic that Kishore Kumar did not want to be an actor because I thought he did a really good job in this film! As for Madhubala, I thought she was great in Mughal-e-Azam but I really did not completely understand what exactly was so special and enchanting about her until I watched this movie (and to some extent Mr. and Mrs. 55′). I almost don’t want to go back watch her serious stuff now because I love her in these bright happy roles so much!


    • Aw. your comment is making me want to rewatch this myself.

      I agree with everything you said! Great heroines who actually do things that are helpful, great romance where they DON’T fall in love at first sight, great mixture of light and dark scenes. And that’s not even getting into how great the songs are, how cool it is to see all the Kumar brothers together, and how the plot actually holds up!

      On Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 7:59 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

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