Raj Khosla’s first venture into directing is a solid entertainer, although apparently it failed at the box office. The quality of the DVD was lacking, probably due to the source material—it was by turns really dark, overexposed or blurry, and there were definitely some scenes missing, but nonetheless it kept me in my seat! I love that Khosla populates his films with strong and believable female characters, and this is no exception. Lovely and talented Geeta Bali is the heart and soul of this movie, but she’s very ably supported by Dev Anand minus most of his mannerisms, and Memsaab favorite KN Singh as an unscrupulous (but suave and sophisticated, natch!) lawyer.
Khosla assisted Guru Dutt (another Memsaab favorite) and his influence is seen here too—beautifully shot songs, atmospheric use of light and dark (although hampered a bit by time’s wear and tear). And Khosla’s habit of “framing” his shots is here too, although not as sophisticated as in his later films.
Wealthy Rai Bahadur has just died, leaving his entire estate to a stranger. His relatives are outraged at being informed of this by Rai Bahadur’s lawyer, Karamchand (KN Singh), especially since anything they will get out of the estate will be at the stranger’s discretion.
They are relieved when the stranger arrives in the form of naive country bumpkin Rajender Sayal (Dev Anand), accompanied by his best friend Kulu (Johnny Walker). They—and Karamchand, who has his own agenda—quickly decide that he will be easy to take advantage of.
Raja is overwhelmed, and unimpressed, by the trappings of his newfound wealth. He now has servants to meet his every whim, including one whose sole purpose is to put on wrestling displays—and he’s been trained by the best!
His first day in his new mansion is spent fighting off hordes of salesmen and various chamchas who all want one thing from him: money. When his pushy next door neighbor Mrs. Akhrodwala (Tun Tun) shows up with her daughter, both he and Kulu have had enough.
Raja tells Karamchand that he wants to return to his village, but Karamchand is lakhs of rupees in debt and has his own plans for bilking Raja out of his inheritance. He decides to enlist the help of a penniless girl named Asha (Geeta Bali) whose brother Mohan (Krishan Dhawan) is a wastrel and constantly harasses her for money as he dodges law enforcement.
Karamchand throws a party to introduce Raja to “society” and asks Asha to suck up to him. At the party, Raja shows that he is not as naive as people think he is—he’s well aware that he is being laughed at, and patronized, and tolerated only for his wealth. He is not in the least interested in Asha, either (despite her song “Hamse Bhi Karlo” which I love—the music for Milap is by N Dutta, with subtitled lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi).
When he tells Karamchand that he can’t stand all the people pestering him all day (and still wants to go home), Karamchand hires Asha as Raja’s secretary—to Raja’s astonishment.
She quickly proves herself indispensable to him though, by efficiently getting rid of the hangers-on he so dislikes.
She sets out to educate him in the ways of his new world, but it’s not long before his simplicity charms her completely. He is also smitten by her beauty and how she helps him, and they fall in love.
But of course, she is in an unfortunate position, caught between her brother:
and an increasingly desperate Karamchand, who is using her brother’s problems to blackmail her into stealing Raja’s money.
Raja declares his love for her and asks her to marry him—she wants to accept, but her distress is visible to him. When he asks her what’s wrong, she tells him that she needs money for her family, and he gives her the blank check that Karamchand has been pestering her for.
When she tears the blank check up in front of the lawyer, unable to go through with the deception, he is enraged. He takes the torn pieces to Raja and convinces him that Asha was going to rob him of everything and flee until Karamchand stopped her. Heartbroken, Raja decides to get rid of all his money by gambling it away and giving it to the poor people around him in the city. Asha goes to him to tell him the truth, but he won’t listen to her and kicks her out of the house.
Rai Bahadur’s relatives—who have been pretty quiet thus far, I think because some scenes are missing—are naturally not happy that “their” money is flowing out of the house into the hands of strangers. Karamchand is not pleased, either, and he comes up with a plot to stop Raja: he gets a doctor to declare Raja insane, and petitions the court to overturn Rai Bahadur’s will and return the estate to the relatives (with whom he has made a deal to share everything).
Will Karamchand succeed in convincing everyone that Raja is mad? Will Raja care if people think he’s insane? Will the relatives and Karamchand get their greedy hands on all of the wealth and lock up Raja in an asylum? Will Raja discover that Asha really loves him?
I read that Milap is a remake of Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, but I haven’t seen that so can’t verify (I’m sure one or more of you will be able to though!—bollyviewer? dustedoff?). The script has its holes (which again, could be because pieces are missing) but in general it hangs together very well, and the story moves along at a good pace punctuated by pretty songs.
Geeta Bali is just fantastic as the conflicted Asha who wants to help her brother, but can’t do it at the expense of her love for Raja. Dev Anand as Raju gives one of his best performances as a country bumpkin evolving into an increasingly cynical sophisticate who longs to hold onto his core values. Tun Tun fans get a fair amount of her too in the comic side plot featuring Kalu romancing her daughter, and Johnny Walker is, well, Johnny Walker. All in all, it’s a great watch which would be much improved if something could be done to restore the original print.