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Remembering the hilarious Tun Tun — birth anniversary special

We take a look at some of Tun Tun's memorable comedy scenes on her 94th birth anniversary today (11 June).

Mayur Lookhar

Often described as the first female comedienne of Hindi cinema, Uma Devi Khatri, better known as Tun Tun, started her career as a singer in the 1940s . She competed with the likes of Noor Jehan, Zohrabai Ambalewali and Khursheed. However, her playback career slipped into oblivion as Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle emerged as sought-after singing talents.

On the suggestion of her mentor Naushad, Uma Devi took up acting and soon came to be known as Tun Tun, a screen name given to her by Dilip Kumar.  She was first cast in director SU Sunny’s Babul (1950) and became an instant hit with her over-sized physique and comic timing. 

A heavyweight performer in the true sense, Tun Tun had no qualms about playing the bubbly, fat girl. She was either in search of love which often ended up in a comedy of errors, or she played the mother of several noisy children. This brand of humour has perhaps lost its appeal today, but back then Tun Tun was widely cheered.

On her 94th birth anniversary today (11 June), we look back at some of her memorable comic roles in Hindi cinema.

Ek Raaz  (1963)

Tun Tun displayed not only her wit, but also her strength as the spinster Champakali wielding the gada, a weapon most identified with the epic character, Hanuman. Champakali is overjoyed at meeting her potential groom Champak (Agha). However, poor Champak had only come looking for a room and now finds himself trapped between the stylish Masterji and his overweight niece. It is no surprise that the once curious Champak now faints at the mention of the proposal.

Awara Badal (1964)

Director Kedar Kapoor's Awara Badal saw Tun Tun play Uttaradevi, a mother who does not approve her daughter Mala’s (Snehmala) marriage to Babloo (Dhumal). His barber friend disguises himself as a soothsayer warning Uttaradevi that her daughter is destined to marry Babloo and her reluctance to bless the couple will lead to Uttaradevi's death. Just as a fearful Uttaradevi agrees, the barber's fake moustache starts coming off. What follows is the typical Tun Tun-style thrashing of the barber.

Suhaag Raat  (1968)

Mehmood and Tun Tun made a great comic pair. Titli Banu (Tun Tun) falls head over heels for Juman Bijnori (Mehmood), but a prophecy suggests that Banu’s first husband will die on their first wedding night. Banu finds a scapegoat in Parwana (Dhumal) and marries him instead. Much to the despair of the couple in love, the prophecy fails and Parwana survives the night. Karma hits him hard and Bijnori is left helpless as Parwana leaves with his bride the next morning. 

Dhoti, Lota Aur Chowpatty (1975)

In a similar role in the 1975 comedy Dhoti, Lota Aur Chowpatty, Tun Tun played a mother who does not approve of her son Tiger’s (Jagdeep) affair with her arch enemy's daughter Bansari. The young lovers trick their respective mothers into believing that they will be meeting in a park in the evening. Their original plan is to get the two mothers out of their houses so that Bansari can come to Tiger’s place for the couple to tie the knot. The plan is successful, but Tun Tun has her way of avenging the insult by not letting the newly-weds consummate their marriage.

Heeron Ka Chor (1982)

Often left lovelorn, Tun Tun finally finds her reel match in Mithun Chakraborty’s Heeron Ka Chor (1982). However, it turns out to be a Laurel and Hardy plot — her husband is a short man, long past his youth and yet a novice at lovemaking. A newly wed Tun Tun tutors her husband in the art of celebrating the 'suhaag raat' (wedding night) in the clichéd south Indian accent. Unfortunately, the couple are just not able to bring the theory into practice.