Whenever a “new” old Shammi film finally appears (with subtitles) on DVD there is much joy and celebration in the Memsaab household, tail-wagging (Gemma) and jumping up and down (me) and so on. If Asha Parekh is his co-star along with Pran, the celebration is even more prolonged. Sadly, there is no Helen; and despite her looming presence on the DVD cover (and in the cast list) no Mumtaz either, but these are minor issues in the face of heretofore unseen Shammi. Shammi, Shammi, Shammi!
And happily, the first half of this film is quintessential early sixties Shammi-style frothy fun, as he bombards a reluctant and feisty Asha with his mischievous charm and romantic songs. But then everything turns suddenly dark, with death and blackmail looming large, and levels of gloom, self-pity and self-sacrifice rarely seen even by the most devoted Hindi cinema fan (me again). If you don’t mind a little movie multiple personality disorder, then you can probably tolerate it. If you prefer a logical narrative without completely over-the-top dramatics…then you probably aren’t reading this anyway.
Respected doctor Naresh Sareen (Balraj Sahni) lives in beautiful Kashmir with his lovely wife Sunita (Nirupa Roy), young daughter Rekha (Baby Sarika) and chhota bhai Rajesh (Shammi Kapoor).
Rajesh’s close friend Tommy (Rajendranath) comes to ask for Rajesh’s help. Tommy’s mother has fixed his marriage with a local girl, but Tommy is in love with another girl (who happens to be a doctor working at the same hospital as Naresh). Tommy wants Rajesh to get his affianced Komal (Asha Parekh) to fall in love with him, so that she’ll refuse to marry Tommy. Rajesh is somewhat appalled at the thought of playing with a girl’s emotions this way, but Tommy assures him that Komal is so lovely that he’ll fall in love with her too, and they can get married. (It’s just that his beloved is better even than Komal.)
The screen cap above is notable for the fact that Rajendranath actually does say “Juliet” and not “Laila”! Anyway, Tommy’s romance with the doctor (whose father is Dhumal, also a doctor) is of course the Comic Side Plot, and is pretty standard stuff—occasionally funny, with long stretches that are dragged on too long. Enough said!
Rajesh agrees to take a look at Komal, and sure enough he is smitten at first sight: she’s picnicking with a gaggle of friends, and singing a lovely song.
I am not sure how long it took to make this film, but Asha looks beautiful, and Shammi looks younger (and thinner) than he does in his other 1971 films. I suspect it was in the making for a couple of years, anyway. But I digress.
Rajesh begins to woo Komal with disguises, pranks, and the usual mischief. She is unimpressed initially.
A man named Vinod (Pran) has also just arrived in Kashmir, fresh out of Central Jail where he served a couple of years for a crime in which a woman named Mala (Shashikala) was an accomplice. She has made off with his share of the booty, and he wants it. Knowing the nefarious Mala as he does, he has assumed that she has come here to Kashmir to renew her old acquaintance with Dr. Naresh—and take vengeance on him for dumping her. He is momentarily sidetracked at the sight of Komal, though.
He arranges to have one of his men attack her, and then he pretends to jump in and save her. Although she is deeply suspicious of Rajesh and his motives, she has no such qualms about Vinod and takes him home to meet her father (Raj Mehra), who is the DIG of the Kashmir police. He is suitably grateful to Vinod for rescuing his daughter, and they embrace him in the way that Indians do, as one of their own. Komal takes particular notice of Vinod’s lighter, which plays music when flicked open.
Meanwhile, Mala has arrived in Kashmir as Vinod knew she would, and she sends Dr. Naresh a note asking him to meet her.
He is surprised to see her, but flattered when she tells him that she’s been unable to forget him.
He tells her that he’s happily married, and that she should forget him—but like Rajesh, she’s not going to give up so easily. She has a very creepy “maid” who looks remarkably like a man wearing a saree and not trying very hard to fool anybody (although everyone appears to be fooled anyway).
Rajesh has made good progress with Komal. How could he not? He is so heart-stoppingly, meltingly handsome and romantic.
You’ve convinced MEEEEE! After he “rescues” her from Tommy wearing a moth-eaten bear suit (I wonder if there is just the one bear suit, used over and over again for decades) Komal admits that she loves him too. He and Tommy go to see Komal’s father; Tommy is let off the marital hook and Rajesh is put on it instead. All’s well that ends…
But wait. At the Sareen home, Naresh has suddenly stopped coming home in the evenings. He even misses his own birthday party (Baby Sarika, who grew up to be 80s actress Just Plain Sarika, is really a cute kid).
Vinod has tracked Mala down and is blackmailing her with some letters.
Desperate now for money (as well as vengeance), Mala has doubled her efforts to ensnare Dr. Naresh and she has succeeded. When Sunita confronts him, he tells her he wants a divorce and storms out of the house. Little Rekha, upset by the tension, gets up late at night and goes to find her father. She is hit by a drunk driver; passing pedestrians try to flag the next car down to take her to the hospital. It’s Dr. Naresh and Mala, of course, on their way to a party at Mala’s house, and Mala convinces him to keep going.
Rekha’s injuries are so serious that when she does make it to the hospital, her distraught mother and uncle are told that the only surgeon who can save her is—Dr. Naresh!
The humanity! Will anyone be able to find him before it’s too late? Will he abandon loyal and faithful Sunita for the characterless Mala? Is Vinod going to let go of Komal without a fight, or will Rajesh find himself in deep trouble?
As I said earlier, the first half of this film is a typical Shammi joyride and lots of fun if you are a Shammi fan. The comedy bits get somewhat tiresome, but everything moves along and Shankar-Jaikishan’s songs are lovely. When Naresh gets caught in Mala’s web, though, the movie goes off the rails. It becomes melodramatic (really, really melodramatic) and hysterical, and a lot of what happens doesn’t really make any sense in the context of the characters we’ve gotten to know (especially that of Naresh). Much weeping and various offerings of self to God ensue, and although it’s supposed to be tragic it really just descends into farce. So: a mixed bag, but if you love Shammi don’t miss it.