Directed by: Samir Ganguly
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Joy Mukherjee, Saira Banu,
IS Johar, Nasir Hussain,
AK Hangal, Achala Sachdev,
Asit Sen, Madan Puri,
I have shelves of DVDs waiting to be seen; with the paucity of time, juggling work and home, finding time to watch a movie or to read a book is a luxury. So, why, I ask myself, am I re-watching movies that were only ‘okay’ the first time around? I either have a deep vein of masochism running through, or (since I have to blame it on someone or something other than me) dustedoff’s latest post brought this song back to mind, and I actually looked the movie up online again!
Well, what can I say? Unlike good wine, the movie hasn’t improved with the keeping, but I got a whole lot of ironing done, and a post. Hmm, I suppose I came out ahead at that… Onwards to the movie then (you will have to put up with a lot of idle comments)...
We are introduced to Ramesh (Joy Mukherjee), a recent ‘BA-pass’, who spends his time partying, much to his father’s (Nasir Hussain) irritation.
(Idle comment no:1 - Wasn’t Joy Mukherjee a bit long in the tooth by then to play a graduate student? Which brings us to: Idle comment no:2 - Why was Nasir Hussain always playing the irritable father?)
His mother (Achala Sachdev) and long-time servitor Narayan (Asit Sen) however, dote on him, and cover up for him as much as they can, thereby serving to irritate the father some more.
Ramesh’s professor, Brijmohan Agnihotri (IS Johar) is a confirmed bachelor, and a misogynist who claims that marriage is the ruin of every man. Influenced by him, Ramesh too vows to remain unmarried, even going so far as to sing an anti-marriage song at his friend’s wedding reception. (Idle comment no:3 - And he thought that was a good idea? Why?)
The song isn’t anything out of the ordinary (this is not one of Laxmikant-Pyarelal's best scores), though pleasant enough to hear, but is definitely worth watching for a) A very young and mouche-less MacMohan and b) a very familiar face to some of you who have been reading Memsaab’s and dustedoff’s blogs.
We are also introduced to Madan Chicagowala (Madan Puri), a photographer, and Shefali (debutante Urvashi Dutta) - the latter seems to want to kill anyone who even looks at Ramesh. Ha! Keep an eye on these two, will you, for they play a very important part in future proceedings.
Ramesh’s life is soon to change. His father, fed up of his dilettante ways, decides to send him off to Madhupur – to work. He gets there alright, but doesn’t seem to be working much; he is sauntering around, enjoying the view, when he sees a beautiful village belle frolicking in the distance.
After a short altercation, the girl Poonam (Saira Banu), and he make up pretty fast, and Ramesh falls in love faster than you can say ‘Professor Brijmohan Agnihotri’. Turns out, Poonam is the innocent, naive but very capable daughter of Kedarnath Badri Narayan (AK Hangal). She can cook (every girl should know how to cook when she gets to her sasural), she can dance (well, she can’t, but that is another story altogether), she is pretty (that she is!) – not in that particular order, I suppose, for Ramesh, but hey, who is interested in cooking when the girl looks like Saira?
(Idle comment no:4 - Why on earth do film-makers think that ‘innocent’ and ‘naive’ are synonymous with ‘stupidity’? They just make the heroine seem like they have 'paanch paise kam' as we used to say in college... see accompanying photos – I rest my case.)
Anyhow. Ramesh and Poonam are in ‘luvvv’ and Ramesh leaves for the city promising to come back for her as soon as he can manao-fy his mom. In the meanwhile, Kedarnath has decided he is going off on a vanvas and never coming back (ever!); he leaves his precious daughter in the care of his ex-student – guess who? Professor Brijmohan Agnihotri. Yes, indeed, he of the ‘women are all out to cause a man’s downfall’ fame. Well, he takes one look at Poonam and falls hook, line and sinker for her. Only, she persists in referring to him as 'Chachaji’.
There being no fool quite like an old fool, the professor sets out to become ‘young’ – which involves drinking lots of fruit juices, gulping down tonics, dyeing his hair, and quoting poetry.
Alas, nothing works. And Ramesh is watching all this in bemusement. His initial reaction of stunned laughter soon gives way to helpful advice, and he helps his mentor undertake a makeover.
Soon, the professor is togged out in a natty suit and hat, has shaved off his mouche, and is spouting some more poetry at the drop of the proverbial hat.
(Idle comment no:5 - Since they show the Professor in coat and vest and hat at the beginning, I wonder why they put him into a dhoti-kurta only to change him back again!) It’s making no inroads into Poonam’s heart however, since she persists in seeing him as an uncle of sorts.
Since she has also run into Ramesh again (and run his car aground), she is definitely not interested in her older suitor; in fact, she doesn’t even realise he is a suitor. The professor, who has noticed her growing attraction to Ramesh, now sets off to undermine him; he is helped by Ramesh himself, who, not knowing that his professor is not only courting the same damsel, but also pretending to be her uncle, confides all in his mentor.
Chafed by 'chachaji's' growing possessiveness, Poonam takes matters into her own hands, and lands up uninvited at Ramesh’s house. She soon endears herself to his mother and Narayan, and even manages to melt the ice around the disapproving father.
(Idle comment no:6 - When seeking approval from boyfriend’s parents, please sing a bhajan. It would help if you were a dashed good singer, or best option? Just lip-sync to Lata Mangeshkar.)
Soon, talk of marriage is in the air.
By the way, you haven’t forgotten Madan and Shefali, have you? (Idle comment no:7 - Well, the director did, until someone remembered to ask why Madan Puri and an unknown face were present on the sets every day. A hurried consultation with the scriptwriters ensued.)
Ab aayega kahaani mein twist! “Let’s turn this into a murder / thriller / precursor of Ekta Kapoor’s soaps,” said the scriptwriter. “Excellent!” said the director rubbing his hands together in glee.
Shefali is head-over-heels in love with Ramesh, and seeing him with Poonam, cannot contain her chagrin. Madan, who happens to be around, offers to help her. Of course, he sets up a meeting in his flat, where everything including the front door is operated by remote control, spikes her drink, and rapes her.
Soon, she is at his doorstep – she is pregnant! What will she do?? Madan has to marry her! Madan agrees; of course she should be married. To Ramesh, not him. And if she is going to make any noise about it, well, he has also videotaped their night together, and recorded all their conversation too… Shefali leaves in anguish.
Ramesh is busy romancing Poonam, but her ‘uncle’ is beginning to be a fly in the ointment. So off goes Ramesh to his professor to seek advice. Oops! He finds out that his professor is the hidden rival, and the swords are now in the open.
Meanwhile, Shefali is abducted in plain daylight, and Ramesh is a witness. Like all good heroes, he sets off in chase, and rescues her. The villains leave when they see another car coming along. An old man steps out, and is all concern. He insists that they take some refreshment since the lady is weak and the gentleman is tired out from fighting.
As Ramesh and Shefali sit outside, the old man goes in to order the soft drinks. We see him giving the waiter money, and some pills. A-ha. Keen-eyed viewers of countless Hindi masala movies will know at once – daal mein kuch kaala hain.
Sure enough, Shefali feels faint, and the old man solicitously offers Ramesh his own room so the lady can rest for some time before they leave. Just as they enter the room, and place Shefali on the bed, Ramesh is overcome with dizziness. When he comes to, he is undressed (shhh, don’t tell the censor board) and so is Shefali. Aghast, he quickly clambers into his clothes but not before Shefali also comes to, and bursts into sobs. Ramesh is quick to disclaim all knowledge – do you think I could do something so heinous, he asks. Shefali is resigned (more like martyred, if you ask me); ‘Men will be men; it’s always the woman who has to bear the brunt,’ she says. Ramesh is flustered, but he offers no consolation.
Soon, they are back in the city, and Ramesh finds that his professor is still a thorn in his side. When Poonam decides to stay with her ‘uncle’ because he is ailing, Ramesh is furious. However, Poonam manao-fies him. (And this is the song that caused my downfall!) The professor, watching, realises that Poonam is as much in love with Ramesh, as he with her, and though heartbroken, retreats from the fray.
Back at Ramesh’s, his parents and Narayan are busy addressing wedding invitations. However, troubles are just amassing on the horizon for Ramesh and Poonam. Shefali has come to Ramesh claiming she is pregnant; if anyone were to find out, she would have no other recourse but to kill herself. Ramesh first brushes her off, but his own sense of decency begins to gnaw at him – he finally gives in, takes her to the gynaecologist, and then promises to marry her to save her honour.
Now, all he has to do, is to tell his parents that the name of the girl on the wedding invitation has to be changed; tell Poonam that he loved her but really didn’t mean to marry her; tell his professor that Poonam is so beautiful, anyone would be proud to marry her; and of course, not tell anyone why he is marrying Shefali.
Let’s take a look at the tangled web for a second. Who was the old man who set Ramesh and Shefali up? Is Shefali a victim who is just making use of an opportunity that came her way? Or is this all a complicated trap? Will the path of true love lead to a happy ending for Ramesh and Poonam? Or will Poonam marry the professor? Will Madan get his come-uppance? And oh, will Ramesh’s father ever stop being irritated?
This was a movie that began well, with some lovely cartoon credits, and a reasonably decent premise. Now, if only they hadn’t decided that ‘entertainer’ meant that the film should have ‘ackshun, drrraamma, emoshun’ all mixed together with the comedy. And, if they had realised that ‘innocent village maiden’ need not mean a hyper, over-the-top, chulbuli-ness...
Saira Banu is at her prettiest, and shrillest, screechiest best here. Made me want to clap my hands over my ears, or mute the sound or something. She seemed to only talk at high pitch and her giggles were beyond irritating. Until the last few scenes, when the drama went up a couple of notches – then, she was sober, and gave it her all. She was good!
Joy Mukherjee did his Shammi routine quite well, but, as I said, was at least a decade older than his purported age. And it showed.
IS Johar was his inimitable self, mouthing the dialogues (by Gulzar) as dryly as only he could. As the professor who finds love mid-life, only to be told that he is ‘too old’; his resignation when he realises that youth calls to youth... he was perfect.
Debutante Urvashi Dutta had quite a bit of screen time, but I’m afraid she didn’t leave much of an impact. For one, her role in the movie just twisted what might have been a brilliant straight-forward comedy of oneupmanship into an average masala - but hey, who am I to criticise? The film was a hit when it released, and is still a favourite re-run. Watchable once, I guess; or re-watchable once more after a l-o-n-g period – at least for me.
I did like the ending though – while Madan, who was thoroughly bad, ended up dead as the proverbial door nail, the girl, pregnant-out-of-wedlock, is not dead or dying. And Shefali actually gets to have a happy ending, without too much moralising. Hurrah!