Sigh. I so wanted to like this film. It’s based on To Sir With Love, which is one of my all-time favorite movies (Lulu! Sidney Poitier! sixties fashions!), and Vinod Khanna stars as an earnest college professor with Tanuja as his love interest. But alas, it threw away all its potential on a bad script: the characters were nothing but caricatures, and all plot opportunities for dramatic buildup and emotional involvement were squandered.
The greatness of To Sir With Love lies in the investment that the teacher made in his badly-behaved adolescent students, and the three-dimensional portrayals of the students and teacher which allowed the viewer to invest as well. The students in that film were from broken and poor homes, and had difficult lives; in this movie the students are in college, behave like third-graders, and the really bad ones are well-off. Plus, they are never developed beyond stereotypes. Instead of being a “new” kind of teacher who inspires his students, Vinod’s professor makes poor decisions and comes off as aloof. I will say that Vinod did his best with the material he was given—but he wasn’t given anything.
He plays Pramod Sharma, the son of a wealthy businessman (Murad) who disapproves of Pramod’s chosen career as a college history professor. The film opens as he travels to his new job accompanied by a nice song (which recurs throughout) called “Ruk Jaana Nahin.” He arrives to find an environment where things are run by a bully named Rakesh (Prithviraj) and a snobby beauty queen named Rita (Bindu), who is the daughter of the Chairman of the college.
The teachers are inept cowards who turn a blind eye to the goings-on and tolerate things like being pelted with tomatoes while they are trying to teach. Pramod is not so easily subverted, and on his first day in front of the class he humiliates Rakesh. This is pretty much the last time he does anything impressive in the film. He also attracts the admiration of Rita, who soon advances on him flirtatiously.
His tepid response does little to discourage her. And he lets her take his books to the hostel for him! This illustrates in large part of what made the movie fail for me: throughout the film, Pramod has numerous opportunities to engage with the students, to discipline them when necessary, and to teach them some life lessons—but fails miserably to do so. I mean, that was the whole point of To Sir With Love (not to go on and on about that film, but it is a useful contrast). Sidney Poitier’s character connects with his students as a figure of authority to be respected, but as one who cares for them as well. Pramod is just so passive at worst, and enabling at best.
At the hostel, he meets the college principal, Shastri (Abhi Bhattacharya) and his beautiful lame daughter Madhu (Tanuja). She is a strange, withdrawn girl, and Shastri tells Pramod that she fell down some stairs, breaking her hip, a while ago. This accident caused her to leave the college and stop the painting she had loved so much. When the principal shows Pramod the only painting he has that she didn’t destroy, she freaks out.
There is clearly more going on than meets the eye, which could be a great subplot—except that only a few scenes later, Pramod easily gets her to tell him that she fell upon discovering that the man she loved (an Indian Air Force officer) had just been killed in a plane crash. A little attention from Pramod, who gives her a new bunch of art materials, and she’s happily living her life and painting again. There’s nothing to involve yourself in, nothing (and no real chemistry between Vinod and Tanuja either).
Meanwhile, Rakesh (whose best point is that he favors extremely loudly patterned outfits) and his sidekicks (a hilariously be-wigged and facial-haired “hippie” with a bugle, and a geek who appears to be somewhat retarded) are wreaking their usual havoc. One of their bullied victims (whom they have forced to get drunk) finally tells Pramod what Rakesh really gets up to outside of class.
He searches Rakesh’s room and finds plenty of evidence of these activities; at this point you’d expect that Pramod—a professor at the college after all—would do something with this information. He doesn’t. He just lets it go. He does tell Rakesh eventually that he knows what’s going on, but that he’s not going to do anything for Rakesh’s parents’ sake. What? How is their son peddling LSD, liquor and nudie magazines going to benefit them?
By the way, the photographer who works with Rakesh on the nude girlie photos is Ranjeet! I love him, and I perk up whenever he’s onscreen (which sadly, isn’t often). This is as nude as the girls get:
Meanwhile, as Pramod and Madhu fall in love, Rita is becoming obsessed with him and jealous of Madhu. There is one hilarious sequence where Rita is serenaded by a group of boys at the hostel, who sing a medley of hit songs from other films. It’s very cute (and includes two of my favorite Rajesh Khanna songs).
But back to Rita’s obsession with Pramod. He doesn’t seem to get how dangerous this could be for him, and allows himself to get lured into a trap that she and Rakesh set for him. On a school trip to a temple which houses erotic statues, Rita makes her intentions pretty obvious.
I mean, if that’s not a red flag, then what is? Clueless Pramod allows her to draw him out of his room in the middle of the night. She takes him to the nearby woods, where she gets him in a compromising position and then screams for help. Rakesh and his hangers-on arrive and “save” her, and everyone accuses Pramod of rape.
What will happen next? Will Pramod be fired? Put in jail? What will this do to Madhu?
Who cares? I don’t. Besides the obvious flaws I’ve already gone through, Vinod’s gorgeousness is hidden behind his huge thick ugly glasses almost the whole time, and Tanuja is superfluous. The students all need to be smacked, hard, and the professors—including Pramod—should all be fired for incompetence. Now that might have been an entertaining film!