I really need to see more Tanuja. I like her in everything I see her in (Jewel Thief, Do Chor, Haathi Mere Saathi, for example) even if I haven’t particularly liked the movie much (Mere Jeevan Saathi, for example). It holds true for this film too: Tanuja is lovely and fun to watch. Despite a lively soundtrack from RD Burman and Amitabh’s lambi presence, the film really only lit up when she was onscreen. The story is ho-hum, and there’s all the usual overacting and melodrama, but she makes it watchable somehow.
We begin in Bangalore, where a young man named Ravi Chandra (Anil Dhawan) is stumbling around in the heat and dust of the city. He’s clearly hungry and thirsty, and it’s not long before he passes out. When he wakes up, a young man named Ram Chandra (Amitabh Bachchan) has rescued him, and offers him a place to stay. Ravi is full of self pity:
He refuses to say much more than that, but Ravi befriends him, gets him a job at his workplace (a better job than his own, which has actually been offered to him—but he gives it to Ram) and they are soon “brothers” in that slightly homoerotic way of Hindi films. One day Ram receives a letter from his father saying that he needs money desperately as Ram’s mother is ill, but he tells Ravi that his father is lying and actually needs money for a property dispute he’s embroiled in: he has to pay his lawyer.
In Agra, Ram’s father is trying to convince the lawyer Narayan (Agha) that he’ll soon have the money to pay him, when they are interrupted by a commotion outside. A local hoodlum named Bakke (Prem Chopra) and his gang (Mohan Choti, Mukri and Birbal among them) are singing and dancing (a very fun song, “Gori Ho Gori”) about Bakke’s love for a beautiful girl.
One of his gang (Paintal) is dressed up as said girl, but is not beautiful!
The girl that Bakke really is enamored with is Kusum (Tanuja), the daughter of Mahadev Sharma (Bipin Gupta), a wealthy denizen of the town and friend of Narayan. Sharma is waiting to see the lawyer, and he’s not happy as he looks down on the proceedings.
(Also, the lyrics aren’t as repetitive as my screen caps would seem to indicate.) The reason for his unhappiness is that Bakke has been spreading rumors about Kusum’s “morals” in a successful effort to turn away other potential suitors. Many people have chosen to believe Bakke’s lies and Kusum is now the victim of people’s whispers and opprobium, and her family’s honor is tarnished. Sharma wants Narayan to sue them, but the lawyer points out that a courtroom scene wouldn’t do much for Kusum’s reputation either, no matter what the outcome.
The main reason that it’s been so easy for Bakke to convince people of her “dubious” virtue is that Kusum herself is an open-hearted and naive girl, who doesn’t much care what people say, or understand the ramifications of all this tongue-wagging. She just doesn’t see how curbing her generous outgoing nature will make any difference. She has a different explanation for why all her marriage prospects have so far gone down the drain.
Her father and her younger sister Shakuntala (Madhu Chanda) adore her, but their efforts at making her see reason frustrate them. How on earth can they get her married until she listens to them?
Meanwhile back in Bangalore, Ravi has settled into his new job and is smitten with his lovely secretary Lata (Farida Jalal).
Ram notices this immediately and helps the romance along, with the result that they are soon engaged and then married, and living together with Ram, who has promised Lata’s father that he will take care of them like the brother he is. Much family value oohing and aahing ensues.
At the Sharmas, another potential groom is visiting. Neither Kusum nor Shakuntala are much impressed.
Ugh! Me neither! He looks like a monkey, only not cute! It gets worse when his mother and father ask Sharma for outrageous dowry concessions, which he agrees to instantly (they point out that you have to pay more to get rid of damaged goods). Luckily Shakuntala is listening in, and she finally calls her father out of the room and scolds him. She tells him that Kusum would never be happy in such a greedy household (no doubt true); her father protests that being married even in that family will be better than not being married at all (aaarghh!). Luckily Shakuntala’s saner judgment prevails and Monkey Man and his family are tossed out.
Ram has started coming home very late, which is worrying Lata. Ravi thinks that he does it to give the two of them some privacy, and he and Lata hit upon the perfect solution.
Ram’s goodness is illustrated for us at this point with a psychedelic joy-ride through special-effects heaven. He’s dressed in various turbaned outfits at the end of this, and then sings a song about peace, harmony and love.
I’m fairly sure that I’m missing some cultural references, but never mind.
Then Ram overhears ugly rumors being spread around at the office about his own relationship with Lata. Horrified and upset, he rushes home to pack his bags and leave. Ravi stops him with these words:
See how these two storylines are converging? After a lot of emotional flailing about, Ram agrees to stay. In Agra, Ram’s father has finally won his ongoing lawsuit, and his wealth has been restored to him. He tells the lawyer Narayan joyfully that now he can call his son home and get him married. Narayan suggests that he consider his friend Sharma’s daughter Kusum, and Ram’s parents send Ram a letter asking him to come meet her.
Ram and Ravi agree that Ram won’t get married without Ravi seeing the girl’s picture and approving of her too. Ram makes it clear to his parents just who will be choosing his bride for him.
The appointment for Ram to see Kusum is fixed, but circumstances propel him into meeting her (though he doesn’t know who she is) that very afternoon when his taxi breaks down. She gives him and the driver a ride, then her car breaks down and they send the driver to get help. When Ram worries aloud that their being alone together might cause gossip, she tells him all about Bakke and how he’s ruined her reputation.
The next day he goes to meet the girl his parents have chosen; when Kusum sees him she bubbles joyfully and introduces herself to his parents—not at all good shy Indian girl behavior. Her father despairs, but Ram is very happy to accept her. Sharma feels compelled to tell Ram about the gossip surrounding her, but of course Ram already knows all about it and he doesn’t care.
What joy! The only thing standing in the way is Ravi’s approval and Ram sends a photo of Kusum to him right away.
Preparations for the wedding get underway; Sharma is beyond relieved, and Ram and Kusum are pleased with each other. But alas (you knew it was coming!) Ram gets a reply from Ravi saying that he doesn’t think the girl is good enough for Ram—he doesn’t approve!
Ram is horrified, but he’s given his promise that he won’t marry without Ravi’s approval. What will happen next? Why doesn’t Ravi approve? How does he know Kusum, and what does he know of her past? Can the Sharmas survive this trauma? Will poor Kusum ever find happiness? Will Ram?
If you really want to know, watch Pyar Ki Kahani, although I will say that probably my review has covered all the high points (and way more). RD Burman’s songs are lovely. Tanuja sometimes plays Kusum as more retarded than naive, but she really does bring something extra to the scenes she is in. Farida Jalal is just cute as a button too—now why wasn’t she a successful heroine? Amitabh shows flashes of his charisma, but nothing like his better roles. Anil Dhawan is cute, but boring; Prem Chopra doesn’t have much to do but leer. There is a lot of overacting in general. In all, not really worth watching unless—like me—it’s in your stack of films to get through, you’ve got nothing better to do, and you want to see more Tanuja.