This may be the most aptly named film in the history of cinema. It’s an all-out early Yash Chopra romance: boy and girl fall in love, marry despite opposition, are separated tragically, then reunited—but with big obstacles to their happiness. Particularly satisfying are Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore as said boy and girl. Their performances are enhanced by setting (snowy Himachal Pradesh) and beautiful songs courtesy of Laxmikant Pyarelal with stunning lyrics from the great Sahir Ludhianvi. I—shameless romantic that I am—loved every heartwrenchingly glorious minute of it.
The film begins with one of these songs (“Hum Aur Tum”) as we are introduced to Sunil (Rajesh Khanna) and Sonia (Sharmila Tagore), who are young and madly, passionately in love.
Sonia is an orphan living with her kindly uncle (Madan Puri) and his shrewish wife (Achala Sachdev). When Sunil lands a good job, he asks her uncle for permission to marry her. Her aunt objects strenuously as she’s found a rich (but seriously ugly) husband for Sonia. The lovers declare their defiance with another song and dance, “Ab Chahe Maa Roothe.”
They get married with just a priest as witness, although Sonia’s uncle arrives to bless them at the end, and leave immediately for Sunil’s new job at a Kapoor Industries’ plantation. They are greeted on arrival by Dheeraj Kapoor (Prem Chopra), the debauched son of the owner, who immediately has eyes for Sonia.
Oblivious to this (it’s Prem Chopra! certain trouble ahead!), the newlyweds spend a blissful night together. After Sunil leaves for work the next morning, it doesn’t take Dheeraj long to make his move. Sunil, returning home for his forgotten wallet, is in time to save Sonia’s honor but Dheeraj is accidentally killed during the ensuing fight. Sunil is arrested.
Even though he arrests an innocent man, seeing Iftekhar just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
During the trial that follows, Sunil and Sonia’s story is ignored as Dheeraj’s wealthy father uses all his connections to ensure a conviction. They say a tearful goodbye; and on the way to the prison, the police van overturns and burns. All the occupants are declared dead and Sonia is grief-stricken. The doctor discovers that she is also pregnant. Her aunt goes ballistic.
Not wanting to cause more trouble, Sonia sneaks out, leaving no word of where she is going. She gets on a train and eventually winds up at a clinic where she gives birth some months later to a baby boy.
I must say at this point that I’ve mentioned my dislike for Sharmila Tagore elsewhere in this blog. My sister with her usual unerring insight pointed out that Sharmila playing a young girl can be somewhat unbearably simpering and coy, but in portraying a more mature woman she really shines. She does a great job in this film showing the transition from carefree, somewhat self-centered girl to a sober woman weighted with grief for her lost husband, but full of love for their little son. I loved her in the second half of the film.
Anyway, she takes him far away to Himachal Pradesh where she finds a job teaching at an elementary school. Years pass, and I am thrilled when her little boy Rinku grows into a kid even I would want to mother: Master Raju Shrestha.
So cute, with his chubby cheeks and old man eyes!
Alas, even this peaceful existence is ruined when the school committee discovers Sonia’s connections to a convicted killer. The only person on the board to stand up for her is Chandni (Rakhee), the mother of one of Rinku’s friends, Pinky.
She is overruled with this kind of reasoning: use a previous poor decision to justify a new one!
Sonia is fired from her job. Chandni offers her a place in her home: her husband is rarely there, and she is lonely with just her father and Pinky. She needs a companion, and could use some help with her daughter Pinky. With no other options and Rinku to think of, Sonia accepts her offer gratefully.
They’ve been at Chandni’s for a few days when her husband Sudhir returns home.
He and Sonia are stunned at the sight of each other. Reunited doesn’t feel so good!
Sonia manages to say hello and flees to her room with Rinku. “Sudhir” asks Chandni about her new house guest. Chandni tells him Sonia’s sad tale and voices her admiration for Sonia’s unswerving loyalty and devotion to her dead husband.
I do love a good knife-twist!
Sonia sings a truly amazing song about betrayal: “Jab Bhi Ji Chahe.” It’s full of sadness, longing, bewilderment, anger, bitterness; and Sharmila’s face mirrors these emotions perfectly.
Sunil is sleepless too.
What has happened in these five years? How is it that Sunil is married to Chandni and father to Pinky? What will happen now? Will Chandni discover who her husband really is? Does he no longer love Sonia? (Remember: I love this film, and I hate sad endings.)
Sharmila’s performance is wonderful, as I already said, and it’s really her film. Rakhee plays her role perfectly as well. As for Rajesh, well, what stumps me is this: how is it that it’s taken me so long to find him? I’m seriously smitten.