Kati Patang (1970)

I do so love to drag out Hindi films that I watched early on in my obsession with them. Just this week over at The Post-Punk Cinema Club, I learned from Bollyviewer that:

“[Sharmilee] was actually based on a novel by Gulshan Nanda who was a sort of Hindi equivalent of Danielle Steele and Harlequin romances in 60’s and 70’s.”

When I looked up Gulshan Nanda on imdb, I discovered that he was responsible for the stories and screenplays of some of my favorite films, including Jugnu, Jheel Ke Us Paar, Ajanabee, Joshila and Kati Patang. I always was a sucker for Harlequins (how embarrassing). Anyway, it seemed like a good reason to revisit this, so here we go!

Madhavi (Asha Parekh) is being married off by her rich uncle against her will. She is in love with Kailash (Prem Chopra) who, alas, is not worthy.

He’s in love with Shabnam (Bindu) and was only pursuing Madhu for her uncle’s money. Madhu discovers this too late after she runs away from her wedding and finds him with Shabnam. Heartsick, she returns home to find her uncle dead from a heart attack or something, presumably brought on by his disgrace at her hands. Asha Parekh gives Excellent Nahiiiiiiiiin Face:

For some reason she wanders off to the train station, where an old school friend—now widowed with a little boy, Munna—is leaving for Nainital to meet her late husband’s family. Because they disapproved of the marriage, Poonam has never met them. Now that their son is dead, they have asked her to forgive them and bring their grandson to them.

She asks Madhu to come with her, and Madhu willingly agrees (I guess the dead body back at home doesn’t seem very welcoming). But the train crashes and Poonam dies after extracting a promise from her that she will take care of Munna.

When she reaches Nainital finally with Munna in tow, she gets an avaricious driver to take her to her “in-laws.” We know he’s avaricious because he licks his lips when he sees how much money she has. When she realizes that he’s not taking her in the right direction, she manages to get the attention of a driver passing the other way.

Hooray! Her hero (Rajesh Khanna) manages to save the day (and her handbag). He is a forest officer named Kamal, and since the road to Nainital is impassable because of heavy rain, he offers to take her to his home for the night. It turns out that he is a childhood friend of Shekhar’s (Poonam’s husband) and is close to his family too. He goes out later, and his manservant tells her that Kamal has taken up drinking ever since his would-be bride ditched him at their wedding.

Yup—Kamal is the groom she left at the mandap.

RD Burman wrote the music for this film, and we get one of my favorite songs now “Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai” from Kamal as he drinks the night away. He is a bitter man. I will take this opportunity to also say that Munna never seems very happy either:

In any case, Madhu/Poonam decides to escape early and hitches a ride to Diwanji’s before Kamal returns home the next morning. She is welcomed with open arms by Diwanji (Nazir Hussain) and his wife (Sulochana), who are overjoyed to have Munna with them—and filled with remorse over their treatment of Poonam.

As the days pass, her “in-laws” encourage her to get out and have some fun, and ask Kamal to escort her. He scoffs at social conventions that dictate “proper” behavior for a widow, takes her out, and makes sure she comes to his birthday party (where he sings another lovely song “Pyaar Deewane Hota Hai”).

At Madhu’s urging he stops drinking, too. And—of course—they fall in love.

But oh no. Kailash and Shabnam are about to re-enter Madhu’s life (via an exotic Bindu dance number called “Mera Naam Hai Shabnam”).

When Kailash fails to convince Madhu anew of his undying affection, he resorts to blackmail—and worse.

What will she do? Can she steal from her new family, whom she has grown to love? What will happen if they find out about her deception? How will Kamal react if he learns that she is the girl who broke his heart? What lengths will Kailash go to in order to get rich?

The film does take an enlightened (for the time) view of widow remarriage, although of course Madhu is not really a widow and she is held up as an example to other women:

For the most part, it’s a light, frothy entertainer with a satisfyingly tangled ending.

RD Burman’s songs are wonderful; besides the ones I’ve mentioned, there is a great Holi song and dance (I must spend Holi in India one of these years):

and the ever-popular “Yeh Shaam Mastani.” The story clips along at a good pace, and if you like romances especially you’ll enjoy it. The performances are solid too—and I really like the Asha-Rajesh pairing. I’m going to have to dig up their other films together!

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46 Comments to “Kati Patang (1970)”

  1. A Rajesh Khanna movie! tolerable only because of the amazingly fabulous songs- “Mera naam hai shabnam” isnt perhaps the best of them by any estimation, but I think its the most fun. and yep- “yeh shaam mastani”- i can almost ignore the hero, cos the song’s so so good :)
    Was Munna a “Munni” perhaps? looks like a made up lil girl, and maybe thats y the kid was so upset :)
    I totally concur- I havent spent a Holi in India for 8 yrs, and i have the fondest memories possible of it- tho it can get really crazy :D

  2. Munna very well could have been a girl, I know that Daisy and Honey Irani played boys a lot as children. He/she certainly looked miserable throughout though! (Honey Irani played a teenage girl in this film too, called “Munni” by her mom)…

    I’m not a huge Rajesh Khanna fan, but he was good in this. And I love Asha Parekh :-)

  3. I’m sure u’ve seen “Love in Tokyo”- she was so cute there- i need to see taht one again.

  4. Yes, it’s a good film. I love the music from it as well…I love her mostly because she starred with Shammi in some of his best ones, and she was always the best foil for him as a heroine I think.

  5. I love Honey Irani’s teenaged avatar! She plays just the kind of teen girl one can imagine growing up and writing films that involve Hrithik Roshan taking his top off a lot and glistening….

    Shweta: I agree that “Mera Naam Hai Shabnaam” is the most fun! I might even say it’s one of the most fun songs of the era. :D Bindu can’t dance but she can sure vamp.

  6. Bindu wasn’t required to dance so much as to writhe on the floor :-) She was great in this movie too (although, not Helen)…

  7. I think Munna was traumatized by all the kohl on his eyes, not to mention the fact that obviously his foster mother thought it’d be fun to try out her lip gloss on him. That Holi song does look fun–I can’t believe that in the two dozen Hindi movies I’ve seen I haven’t run across a Holi celebration yet!

  8. Poor Munna…in some scenes, he/she was chewing and had obviously been given a cookie or something as bribery to keep going. Perhaps that constant expression of nausea he/she wore was because of all the cookies.

    No Holi celebrations!? That’s awful. See Sholay—it has a good one, and it’s a great movie too.

  9. that screen shot of the dying mother– Poonam– is it toothpaste on her cheeks, or shavegel, or what?? lollll

    i LOVE these movies!! 8-D

  10. its probably horrible, but im finding munna more and more hilarious- poor child- made up and stuffed w/ cookies :D and i so totally agreee- sholay is the ultimate in holi fun.

  11. Ranya: she was bandaged beyond belief and bleeding horribly (plus, her legs were amputated, which I couldn’t bring myself to screen cap). And yes—-what’s not to love????

    Shweta: I myself was fascinated by how miserable that poor child actor was. I don’t think there was any kind of governing body watching out for his/her best interests.

  12. Hey memsaab, thanks for the mention!

    Kati Patang was one movie that I saw as an 8 year old and the only thing I remember about it is that in the interval (on Indian TV it used to be 30-40min, in the pre-advertisement era) my Mom made the most delicious bread-potato rolls! Have always meant to watch it for the songs, for Gulshan Nanda’s twisted plots and Asha Parekh who looked lovely here. Though intellectually I hate Gulshan Nanda’s traditionalist stories, they usually are quite engrossing and you never know what the next twist might be. Thankfully for me, Kati Patang is available for free viewing on rajshri.com.

    Asha Parekh looks like she is in a horror film (3rd cap) and not a romantic drama!

  13. @Memsaab: ohh.. so that was bandage?? I knew that was it on her forehead, but the ones on her cheeks looked like such a convulated mess, I had to take a closer look to see it!!

    @bollyviewer: totally agree tha Asha Parekh looks like she’s in a horror movie in that screenshot; I don’t think I’d have recognized her if Greta hadn’t mentioned it was her (Tsk Tsk Memsaab, you missed a great Trivia question!!). Thanks for the tip about rajshri.com, I’ll check it out sometime. I have seen the Indian Bengali version of it though; I don’t remember the name or who was in it, but it was in black-&-white.

  14. bollyviewer: thanks for educating me about Gulshan Nanda. Sadly (for me) I am sure if I read Hindi I would devour his novels. I am so lowbrow!!!! :-P

    Ranya: I probably wasn’t fair to her in my screen caps, because she actually did look quite beautiful in this. But how could I possibly have resisted that Nahiiiiin!!! face?

  15. I suspect that writer Gulshan Nanda was watching a rerun of the Barbara Stanwyck film NO MAN OF HER OWN when he came up with the screenplay for KATI PATANG as it is an almost identical remake of that 1950 film (and one of my all time favorite US films).

  16. Ooh! I will need to look for it. Does Barbara make a “Nahiiiiiin!” face and play holi??? :-)

    But seriously, I must see “No Man of Her Own” now. I do so love to compare Holly and Bolly versions.

  17. Baut badhiya, I am a huge rajesh Khanna fan and Asha was better than what she was in earlier movies.

  18. Those two songs “….ye jo mohabbat hai” and “yeshaam mastaai” define immortality..R.D and Kishore…dere wont be a combo like dat again…

  19. To this day, I have only read the Gulshan Nanda novel “Kati patang” and I have not watched the movie. And yes, Gulshan Nanda novels used to be very engrossing.

  20. Excellent memsaab,
    Your review is very succinct and funny too. Yes, Munna did look a bit unhappy throughout the film. I kept noticing how the tot kept pursing his lips and licking them too. I think they’d give that little butter ball, I mean ghee ball, peanut butter or probably prashad before every shot he was in. Even though he had that just up from a nap crabby looking expression, I found him irresistible. :)

  21. yum.. That was a good read. I used to devour Gulshan Nanda when I was a kid. Nasir Hussain gets to play a radical Sasur in this movie. Bindu’s screechy caberet was good, n very scary to me, I was a kid when this movie came out, I was soooo afraid for Asha.

    I loved Sharmilee too, Rakhi has never looked so pretty, nor shashi as handsome.

  22. Glad you enjoyed it :) Thanks!

  23. This is on of my all time favourite movies.the acting by everybody from ashaji to
    nazir hussain,all songs being outstanding excepting bindu’s dance no ,outdoor location being ninetal-pleasing photography etc made the film classically attractive.
    it is really amazing to note that ashaji at the fag end of her career had come out with such a performance.your heart bleads for poonam
    j natarajan

  24. You didn’t like Bindu’s dance? :) It’s a very fun film indeed.

    • Memsaab I’m with you on Bindu’s dance. So many of these songs one sees outside the context of the movie and then one sees the movie and it all makes sense.
      Bindu at her most attractive and sexy. I’d die to fit into a dress like that now. And of couse RK looking charming and handsome in that song.

  25. In addition 2 d other songs, there is also a sad song ‘ Na koi umang hai’ which has very good lyrics… mera naam hai shabnam was kinda experimental song wit a mix of poetry n prose.. xtremely entertaini… esp d pecular sound ‘ ahaha’ kind in it!! tee hee

  26. ” I will take this opportunity to also say that Munna never seems very happy either”……. I just started to watch this movie, and you are right.. Munna looks terrified in most of the scenes!! :( i feel so sorry for him =(

  27. Munna is a she I think. Sadhna Patel.

    Kati Patang is a wonderful cautionary tale about falling in love with Prem Chopra. Your uncle will kill himself and your friend will die in a train crash as a result. :(

  28. On the re-watch I realized the evil taxi driver is played by Kundan!

  29. Just Saw the movie! Loved Asha Parekh! Hope These kind of movies come back! Rajesh Khanna was so CHARMING!! :D

    – 14 year old old movie lover :P

  30. I am not sure if someone has written about it, but Nainital was good old Aarey Milk Colony in the movie. How Shakti Samanta cheated us…
    Mumtaz had once spewed venom that Asha Parekh won the Best actress award for this movie (Filmfare_) while she was expecting it for “Khilona”.

    The only good thing about the movie is the good chemistry between Asha and Rajesh. The climax where it is revealed that Rajesh Khanna was the bridegroom.

  31. Thank You Memsaab! Its a great feeling right Now! Hope it never dies! :D

  32. does any1 noe d name of d child actor who played munna in dis movie?

  33. Ive read somewhere its Pankaj Sharma! Hope its not that present actor.

  34. Unlike the 70s and 80s masala mstly with AB that most love, Kati patang is my kind of masala. At times I wrestle with the urge to introduce my guilty pleasures to my Canadian friends but have resisted that urge. Even my desi pals don’t seem to be so obsessively in love with these movies including Kati Patang, as I am..Sigh! to have been POonam and ended up a rich widow in a loving, palatial home and finally end up with Rajesh…If only dreams could come true…:)

  35. What a pleasure it is to revisit Kati Patang on YouTube, as an homage, now that RK is hospitalized yet again. Given the whiz-bang plot twists, I was surprised just how considerate and tender the movie is – moments between RK and Asha Parekh just resonate, shot after shot. What close-ups, man (as they say). It’s almost perfect Bollywood melodrama: everything syncs. I’ve been sleepless and saddened by news of RK’s health, transported to a different time by childhood memories, but exhilarated, too, by this movie. We didn’t dream them: the early 1970s were special. By the time RK and Shakti Samanta get to Ajnabee (1974; I know you’re a fan), the magic is gone – and Mehbooba (1976) kills it.

  36. Just watched the movie . Last time I watched it was as a teenager. Wonderful review. That comment on Munna was hilarious since the poor kid must be traumatized with all these handovers from one mom to another! You did not comment on Rajesh’ s awful dress sense though. One of the worst I would think and I adore the guy so much! The tellow pants outfit almost ruined ‘sham mastani’ if it had not been Rajesh! THe blue jacket in last scene is equally horrible. Otherwisr nice watch. Asha looks beautiful and Rajesh, what can I say, delicious as usual.

  37. Kati Patang song ‘ Na koi umang hai….’ is one of my top favorite. Both actors did full justice to the song and the chemistry between them was great.

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