The really burning question which this film poses (besides the standard corruption and wealth versus honor and poverty blah blah blah) is this: Which is worse, Rakesh Roshan’s wig, or Rajesh Khanna’s actual hair? Really, at times it’s a toss-up. It does contain goodies such as a soothing all-white wedding-cake villain’s lair with Ajit at the helm of said lair; Ranjeet, Manmohan and Kuljeet as Ajit’s go-to guys; Parveen Babi at the height of her gorgeousness; several dismembered dolls and some genuinely funny moments. On the downside (besides the distracting wig/hair equation) is a seriously annoying child and a patchy nonsensical plot that wanders off on tangents, accompanied by a lot of overacting and very shallow characters.
The opening scene is hilarious. We are introduced to Amar (Rajesh Khanna) as he drives a Roman chariot pursued by Indians (the feather kind) on horseback for a soft drink commercial.
LIMCA! Amar has been struggling to find work (it’s not clear to me why someone as unsuccessful as he appears to be is doing a commercial). At the dismal hovel he shares with his Ma, the electricity has been cut off and the landlord is nagging them for the rent. There is a prolonged maa-beta interchange with plaintive violins sawing away in the background. Bhagwan is called upon and scenery is chewed. Even though Ma looks like she’s about 35, she can’t see very well without her spectacles, and they can’t afford to get them fixed either. We understand that the situation is desperate.
Amar’s good friend Shankar (Asrani) convinces Amar to try gambling as a means to earn some money despite Amar’s morally upright values.
How I love his t-shirt and loud tie combo! The gambling den is lots of fun, with an appropriately decorated dancer and scowling large men, plus it is managed by Ranjit (Ranjeet).
Ranjit’s brother Captain (Ajit) owns the gambling club, and he watches in fascination as Amar fights his way through a bunch of bad guys after winning lots of money (to the tune of a very fun song and dance, “Yeh Raat Ne Rang”). I am also fascinated because Rajesh’s double is very obviously NOT Rajesh, but Captain is impressed enough to offer Amar a job, which he says he’ll think about.
On his way home, Amar sees an old friend—Police Inspector Sunil (Rakesh Roshan)—chasing a suspect named Jaggi (Dev Kumar). He saves Sunil from being killed by Jaggi and we have a “bhai-bhai-dost-dost” moment with them.
See what I mean about the wig-hair thing? Anyway, in one of those godawful filmi coincidences, Amar’s Ma sees Captain and his men loading a dead body into the trunk of a car. They run her down as she tries to flee and she dies. Amar makes a leap of logic and decides that it’s his poverty which has killed her, and so he decides to join Captain’s gang. Oh, the irony.
I just love Captain’s color-wheel door:
and his gang member intros:
not to mention Ranjeet’s flared plaid pants! But I digress. Needless to say, Amar proves himself quite capable at crime, and latches on pretty quickly to the debauched lifestyle that goes along with it. From Mama’s boy to ladies’ man in one easy step!
His womanizing almost gets him killed by an angry cuckolded husband (Shyam Kumar), but a girl named Sheetal (Parveen Babi) overhears the husband threatening to kill his wife and her lover when he meets a private detective he’s hired in a movie theater (where they are screening Tum Haseen Main Jawan, hee). She takes him seriously because he also takes out a pistol and brandishes it about, although nobody else in the audience seems to notice.
The detective gives him the address—but Sheetal gets there first and rescues them by taking the wife’s place in Amar’s bed while the wife hides in the bathroom. The angry husband is horrified and sorry when he barges in on them.
Captain assigns Amar the task of stealing diamonds worth eighty lakhs from an elderly Maharaja and promises to split the proceeds with him. But he doublecrosses Amar afterwards and pretends the diamonds have in turn been stolen from him. In reality, he puts the diamonds inside a doll and gives the doll to Ranjit, instructing him to smuggle them into Singapore to sell them, and to put the money in his bank account there.
In my opinion, this only clinches my already strong case for Ranjeet’s hotness. Look how cute he is holding that doll!
At the airport, the police are searching children’s toys, having received a tipoff. Panicked (he does look rather obviously suspicious clutching the doll at the airport), Ranjit shoves it into the arms of a little girl exiting the airport with her father, and then loses track of her before he can get it back.
Meanwhile, the little girl’s father (Murad) loses big money while gambling with Amar and kills himself, leaving little Pinky in Amar’s care. I don’t know who the child actor is, but she is really irritating and delivers all her dialogues in a monotone. She also puts the doll—still filled with diamonds—into her father’s grave with him.
In addition to all this, Inspector Sunil’s wedding is fixed to none other than the girl named Sheetal who had rescued Amar from the angry husband—who in turn happens to be a relative of Sunil’s. He remembers Sheetal and stops the wedding. Amar has left after a lively song with Bindu (Captain calls him away), and so he’s not there to stick up for her.
The wedding is called off and poor Sheetal is humiliated. Luckily she finds annoying little Pinky on the beach the next day where Shankar has “lost” her on purpose. She takes Pinky back to Amar’s house, and is glad to have found Amar so that he can vouch for her character. He promises to straighten things out with Sunil, but Sunil has gone away for ten days.
In the meantime, she moves in with Amar and Pinky. It’s not long before she and Amar have fallen in love, and along with Pinky are a cozy little “family.” But what about Sunil? And Amar’s criminal activities? Will Captain let him leave the gang? Will Sunil, who is hot on Captain’s trail, figure out Amar’s place in the gang? And what about the diamonds, still hidden in the doll now buried with Pinky’s father?
I realized while watching this that I generally prefer Rajesh Khanna in more intense dramatic roles than in silly ones (he really hams it up in places here). Apart from the minor annoyances (Pinky!) I’ve mentioned, the film does roll along at a good pace with lots of twists and turns (most of them really unbelievable, but still) and several nice RD Burman songs (although I am sorry to say that Lata really screeches her way through a couple of them). If that plus some good eye candy is enough to make you happy, then you can probably tolerate—and might even enjoy—Chalta Purza.