This was a pretty good movie until the last half hour, when a different bad film was tacked onto it. Such is life. At least the bad one was only half an hour long. Until then, I was enjoying an interesting story with eye-searing ’70s style and the yummy goodness of young Amitabh, Shatrughan Sinha and our homegirl, Laxmi Chhaya. She got third billing after those two, and although strictly speaking she wasn’t the heroine, she had a central role and she was fantastic. Why was she not a star, why? Sigh.
The makers of Life…In A Metro apparently saw this film at some point, because one of the story threads in that was lifted from this (either that, or lending your boss the key to your apartment so he can cheat on his wife is a common practice in India—please say it isn’t so!).
Jai Shankar Rai (Amitabh Bachchan) and his friend Arun Thakur have different viewpoints on how to get on in life. Jai has a low-level job at an advertising agency owned by Ranjeet Choudhary (Prem Chopra) and he’s willing to put up with a lot for a promotion. Arun is an unemployed writer who refuses to compromise on his principles or his art, even when Jai tries to get him a job with the head of the copywriting department, Mr. Kapoor (Satyendra Kapoor).
Jai is more practical, and in his bid to get ahead at work he allows his superiors in the office to use his flat as an assignation place in the evenings. This results in him getting very little sleep since whoever is there usually doesn’t depart until late—and it also grosses him out.
One morning Jai sees a girl being thrown out onto the streets by her aunt and uncle, and takes pity on her. Her name is Neeta (Neeta Khayani) and she’s alone in the city with no job. He takes her to his friend Shobha and asks her to give Neeta a place to stay, and at work asks Choudhary if he would audition Neeta for an upcoming “Dream Girl” campaign. Choudhary agrees, but it’s the only good thing that happens at work for Jai all day.
Two of his superiors, Dinesh (Kishan Mehta) and Govardhan (Asit Sen), and an important client by the name of Ramesh (Sudhir) all want to borrow his flat that same evening.
Looks like another long evening spent trying to catch forty winks on the pavement outside for poor Jai. He goes to see his friend Arun. Arun is married to Tannu (Laxmi Chhaya). Since he doesn’t bring in any income, she goes out in the evenings to “dance” for a living. He doesn’t like it, but they need the money she earns. She seems somewhat bitter and hardened, and it’s not difficult to guess why.
For all his proclamations of love, Arun lets her walk out the door every evening to spend long hours under the leering glances of other men.
On this particular evening, she is meeting Ramesh at Jai’s flat, where they perform one of the weirdest songs I’ve ever seen, “Main Sharaab Bechti Hoon.” At one point Laxmi looks like she’s barely stopping herself from raking her fingernails down Sudhir’s cheek, then she beats him with a bouquet of flowers. Their dance movements are aggressive and incredibly spastic (think “Jaan Pehchaan Ho” on acid), but it’s a very cheerless song at heart.
I must mention here that the entire film is a Festival of Bad Fashion, but Satyendra Kapoor’s outfits take the cake. They are truly hideous.
Jai brings Neeta in for her audition with Choudhary. Neeta is a little overwhelmed by the sleazebags in the agency because she is a good innocent girl. But Choudhary has taken a liking to her, and he sets out to win her trust and her love by masking his true self. When Ramesh makes advances on her, Choudhary takes him aside and tells him to back off.
Assuming that Choudhary is only trying to protect her, Neeta is grateful to him. Meanwhile Jai is so tired that he’s resorted to taking naps at work, and he’s also come down with a bad cold (from being outside at night so much).
Time for another Laxmi Chhaya number, and it is completely crackers too.
It involves whips and a hapless tribal guy chained to a stake and then stabbed to death. Very strange indeed.
Poor unwell Jai is stunned by it too.
Anyway, as Jai and Neeta spend more time together at the office, Jai falls in love with her. But Neeta has succumbed to Choudhary’s charms, not knowing that he’s married, and Choudhary begins to borrow the key to Jai’s flat after giving him a promotion at work. He also gives Neeta an engagement ring, although he makes her promise to keep it a secret.
What will happen when Jai finds out why Choudhary is using his apartment? What will happen to Neeta when she discovers the truth about Choudhary? Will Jai take a stand for the sake of his love, or is his job more important? And what about Arun and Tannu? Can Arun continue to tolerate Tannu’s way of earning money? More importantly, can Tannu stand it (her songs have a very dark subtext!)?
As I said, most of this film was quite interesting and nicely done. Jai’s dilemma was handled with humor and sensitivity, and that of Arun and Tannu with a sense of tragic inevitability. And I love Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music in this. The end fell apart for me in the last half hour when it became grimly over-the-top and lost any semblance of nuance or charm, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.