I usually approach comedies with some trepidation: humor doesn’t always translate well (literally or figuratively), and slapstick wears me down after a while. However, my Sanjay Khan experience has been sadly lacking and this film also offers up Pran and Helen—and Kashmir!—which I can never resist. And lucky me! Dus Lakh turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s an ensemble film which mostly revolves around Om Prakash, Pran and Manorama; the Sanjay-Babita (in her debut) jodi is almost a side plot. The trio at the center are hilarious, though, and it’s also chock-full of excellent songs by one of my favorites, Ravi. Solid support from Helen, Ramesh Deo (who has way more charisma than Sanjay Khan), Seema Deo and Brahmchari add to the delight.
There is no fool like an old fool, as the saying goes, and widower Gokulchand (Om Prakash) is nothing if not an old fool. Not content with his lot in life, which includes a loving family and a comfortable, if modest, home, he harbors delusions of grandeur and longs for a wealthy lifestyle like his cousin-brother Nihalchand’s in Bombay.
He is greedy, self-centered, self-pitying and cranky, but his sons Kishore (Sanjay Khan) and Manohar (Ramesh Deo) understand him very well and love him anyway. Kishore is studying engineering, and woos Rita (Babita) in his spare time, while Manohar is happily married to Devaki (lovely Seema Deo) with two children Rupa (Baby Sonia—Neetu Singh, at about age eight, and cute as a button!) and Munna (Master Ripple—what a name!).
Across town live a family of a different sort: Dolly Little (Manorama) is a much-married and alcoholic woman with two children by two different husbands—pretty, sophisticated Kitty (Helen) and simple William (Brahmchari).
Dolly speaks in what I can only describe as a strangely-accented Hindi (she pronounces “hai” as “hi!!!” and rolls her “rrrs” in an exaggerated American fashion). She is supplied with the whiskey she loves by Jerry (Pran), who hopes that by sucking up to her he can win her approval to marry Kitty—who can’t stand him.
Jerry speaks a stunted pidgin-English (“It possible my hand your luck change”). Like Gokulchand, Jerry and Dolly aspire to great wealth, but unlike him they are willing to use less-than-legal means to get it. Jerry stops at Gokulchand’s small shop one day to buy matches, and sells him a “lottery ticket” for 10 Rs.
The old hypocrite starts praying and worshipping at the local temple in order to win the lottery. He is like a small child being bribed at Christmas time to be good.
His sons roll their eyes, but are happy that for once their grouchy father is happy. Meanwhile, Jerry has organized a dance to benefit blind children, which is only in reality going to finance a holiday to Kashmir for himself and the Littles. Kitty and Rita know each other from dance classes, and participate in the show. It’s fab, and Pran clearly relishes his role as the buffoon: “Fruit give you me! Dance country versus non-country!” (For some odd reason, the subtitler chooses to “fix” Jerry’s bad English.)
Babita and Helen each get a chance at traditional Indian and “rock n roll” but of course we all end in agreement that Indian is best.
Can you imagine having to dance “against” Helen in your debut film? Poor Babita! I should also say here that she looks very, very stylish in this film (those Shivdasani girls knew how to dress). Helen is somewhat hampered by a very bad blonde wig throughout, but she gets three dances and is gorgeous despite the hair.
I digress. Gokulchand does not win the lottery, but his cousin-brother Nihalchand kicks the bucket without any heirs, leaving Gokulchand his entire fortune (dus lakh) as the nearest living relative. His excitement knows no bounds, although mine is tempered somewhat by having to look at Om Prakash in nothing but a transparent dhoti and granny pants and a sacred thread.
He returns from Bombay as Seth Gokulchand, wearing a suit, and buys a huge mansion for the family to live in. He also insists that Manohar giving up his job teaching as it does not reflect well on their new status. A huge housewarming puja is held, with all the most affluent people of the community invited—plus old friends, to Gokulchand’s dismay.
His new-found wealth has not improved his character any! Gokulchand heads off to Kashmir for a vacation—where he runs into his old pal Jerry and the Little family. When he tells them about his good fortune, rupee signs flash in their eyes. I must say that the beauty of Kashmir is somewhat outdone by Jerry and Dolly’s outfits.
Over the next few weeks, they indulge vain, snobbish Gokulchand’s every whim: dye his hair and mustache black, introduce him to the finer things in life (like whiskey and beer), and flatter him endlessly. When it’s time for them to leave, Gokulchand pays for them all to stay.
One of my favorite things about films set in Kashmir are the winter clothes.
I want Pran’s coat! In any case, Gokulchand is soon head over heels in love with Dolly. They sing an absolutely hysterical song together (“Teri Patli Kamar”) although once again Om Prakash is responsible for: “My eyes!”
Meanwhile, at home Manohar and Seema have decided to arrange Kishore’s marriage with Rita. Seema borrows an expensive diamond necklace from her friend Savitri to give Rita as a token until they can give her one of her own upon Gokulchand’s return.
In Kashmir, Jerry has taken every opportunity to criticize Gokulchand’s absent family too, and has intercepted all their letters to (and the letters from) Gokulchand. Feeling ignored, betrayed and convinced by Jerry that his sons only care for his wealth now, he sets off for home with his new fiancee and pals in tow.
Once he’s there, things deteriorate quickly between his sons and his hangers-on, with the result that Gokulchand evicts his sons and family from the house.
They are only too glad to go, since they cannot stand Jerry and Dolly and are fed up with their foolish father; but the necklace which Seema had borrowed for Rita goes missing at the same time.
How will they be able to replace it without jobs and now no money either? Will Kishore be able to finish his degree? And marry Rita? Will Gokulchand ever come to his senses and realize what is really important in life? Will Jerry and Dolly be able to fleece him of everything he owns? Watch Dus Lakh to find out, and also because there are still two more Helen songs (one more with Babita):
I loved the chemistry between real-life married couple Ramesh and Seema Deo:
I think this was Neetu’s debut film too:
And no, I haven’t forgotten the “lead” pair: