This film’s stern message is pretty much summed up in my “Effects of Alcohol” poster, although the poster is more efficient in delivering it. But the poster does not have Raaj Kumar and his gravelly voice, Padmini emoting as a put-upon wife and mother, a Comic Side Plot (Laxmi Chhaya being romanced by Rajendranath), lovely songs by Chitragupta with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi, Memsaab’s favorite victim Biswajeet, or—most importantly—a Helen dance.
In short: if you have a few hours to spend being bashed over the head with examples of the ruination alcohol will bring to you and your melodramatic loved ones, the film offers some worthy extras. If you are pressed for time, just read the poster.
We begin with young Deepak on his 21st birthday, being forced to drink alcohol at a club by a sozzled goofy friend. Appropriately, this debauchery is accompanied by Helen with a host of strangely dressed background dancers, and a bored blonde smoking a cigarette.
When he staggers home, Deepak’s mother Laxmi (Padmini) is shocked and furious. She drags Deepak to a garlanded photograph of his father and tells him their story (via flashback). Her husband Kailash (Raaj Kumar) was a wealthy aristocrat with great dreams of building up India—and a little drinking problem. We know that he is rich and busy because he is always surrounded by ringing telephones.
That would be enough to drive me to drink too. Laxmi herself directs a dance academy which puts on shows to benefit orphans, but Kailash does not like her to dance in public.
They clash over these two issues, but life goes along fairly smoothly until Kailash is suddenly bankrupted and loses everything on little Deepak’s birthday. He finds refuge in the bottle and disappears, leaving Laxmi to deal with the auctioning of the house and all their belongings. Their faithful manservant Shyamu (David) offers her and Deepak and Kailash’s sister Geeta (Kumud Chhugani) a home at his very modest house in Hyderabad.
Laxmi is stressed out by these events and starts passing out now and then. Geeta fetches a doctor, Shekhar (Biswajeet), who has just opened his dispensary and is assisted by med school failure Rajaram (Rajendranath). Geeta and Shekhar are quickly smitten with each other.
Meanwhile, Kailash has also landed up in Hyderabad, where he has fallen into bad company. A local smuggler by the name of Sagar (Tiwari) uses his addiction to keep Kailash dependent on him, and uses Kailash’s respectability as a shield for his illegal activities.
He also takes Kailash to visit a local kotha, where the dancer Chamelibai (beautiful Sayeeda Khan) is coerced by her loving Ma (Manorama) into plying her profession.
She does not want to dance—until she sees Kailash come in. It seems that she has been previously acquainted with him, as Sagar’s men find out after Kailash leaves.
We don’t ever find out how Kailash and Chamelibai became acquainted earlier. There are plenty of loose threads lying around in this movie.
At this point the Comic Side Plot gets underway and it is welcome since it involves Memsaab favorites Rajendranath, Laxmi Chhaya and Mukri; plus, drunken self-pity can only entertain to a point.
Mini (Laxmi Chhaya) runs a dancing school for girls and is the daughter of Johny (Mukri)—a Christian who owns (what else) an “English” bar, where Kailash often boozes it up. The English bar features some fabulous wallpaper:
And Mini’s school for girls gives Rajendranath a chance to dress up as a woman:
Why do I never get tired of that? Laxmi Chhaya’s own superb dancing skills are not utilized at all, although she does get to dance a short little jig with Rajendranath. But not giving her a full song and dance is basically criminal, in my book.
Geeta and Dr. Shekhar are officially in love (sealed with a lovely song “Yeh Parbaton Ke Raat”). Kumud Chhugani reminds me a lot of Babita:
And finally little Deepak sees his father on the streets of Hyderabad one day, and follows him to Chamelibai’s house. When Kailash sends a gift to Deepak on his birthday, Laxmi goes to Chamelibai to see if she can talk to him. There is a long exchange between the women about the difference between being a wife and a whore, which I think is supposed to be meaningful but I don’t get much out of it.
When Laxmi gets sick again, though, Deepak goes back to Chamelibai’s and when Kailash shows up, drags him home.
Their happiness is of course short-lived. Sagar is furious that Kailash has left him, and convinced that he is the reason the police are now tailing him and confiscating his ill-gotten goods. Kailash is also not very healthy, as Dr. Shekhar had ascertained earlier in a passing diagnosis on the street (how I love filmi medicine).
Also, he cannot stop drinking. How will all of this pan out? Will Sagar get Kailash before the booze does? Will anyone else ever be happy?
As I said earlier: the main message (alcohol is evil) is not subtle. Unfortunately, it’s not really dealt with in any kind of depth either—we never get to find out why and how Kailash became an alcoholic, and nor does he ever have to deal with ramifications of his behavior when drunk. Mostly, he’s let off the hook and just stays drunk throughout, while everyone around him suffers on his behalf. I mean, there is the liver damage, but even it is brushed aside.
Other preachy moments abound but they don’t have any real depth or effect either—mostly they are just throwaway lines or scenes.
Despite all this, I did enjoy large parts of it and didn’t even really get bored. It moves along at a good pace, never getting stuck any place too long. It also may be unique in that the CSP was one of my favorite parts!