If ever a film really really really (really) wanted to be a Shammi film, it’s this one. It has:
- Feisty Asha Parekh as the reluctant heroine (eventually won over after being stalked relentlessly by the hero)
- A gaggle of girlfriends around her (chief amongst them Laxmi Chhaya!)
- Sidekick Rajendranath (complete with loony antics)
- Pran in an orange wig
- Lovely lovely songs by OP Nayyar (sung beautifully by Rafi and Asha B.)
- Kashmir, gorgeous Kashmir (and quite a few plot elements lifted directly from Kashmir Ki Kali)
All it really lacks is Shammi himself. Instead, we are given…Biswajeet. Poor Biswajeet. However, he does his best to imitate Shammi and mostly it’s a fun-packed and stylish delectation; it does go a bit off the rails at the end into kidnapping and murder territory (oh, Pran. Pran, Pran, Pran). The DVD picture quality is pretty bad too: someone should restore this one for sure! A very young Mumtaz graces the screen with her presence briefly, and there is the usual assortment of character actors and rotund funnymen adding to the entertainment. And I simply LOVE the songs.
Kumar (Biswajeet) is the wealthy heir to businessman Mr. Mehra (Nasir Hussain). Mehra and Kumar’s father were best friends, and Mehra has treated Kumar as his own son since his father died. Mehra himself lost his own wife and daughter in the Partition riots, which took place while he was in Africa earning his fortune; when he returned he was told that they had died.
Kumar sets off for Kashmir, where he has business to conduct. On the way (he drives as recklessly as a Kapoor would too!) he literally runs into Neena (Asha Parekh) and her girlfriends who have ventured out on their bikes for a picnic (what else?).
It isn’t an auspicious beginning to a love story, and it’s further complicated when Kumar discovers that the girls are staying in his house. Mehra’s business manager in Kashmir, Shyam (Pran), has rented the usually empty house out as a hotel and hired Pyare (Rajendranath) and his father (Dhumal) to run things. Neena’s mother Savitri Devi (Achala Sachdev) is chaperoning the girls, and we quickly discover that she and Neena are Mehra’s long-lost wife and daughter—they think he abandoned them long ago.
When we meet him, Rajendranath is costumed in a candy-striped shorts and jacket outfit with a matching cap and red knee-high socks and I wonder briefly if he laughed at himself too, looking in the mirror sometimes. What a goofball! Here he is, with Ram Avtar and his formidable stomach:
Anyway, the first half of the film follows the Kumar-Neena romance as it slowly (very slowly) blossoms. I especially miss Shammi’s presence during the songs, which are just beautiful; Biswajeet tries hard to emulate him, but it just isn’t the same.
Neena, being Asha P., is a very feisty girl! There is a hilarious scene where Rajendranath describes her personality to a curious Kumar:
The subtitles don’t do his little tirade justice though: I hear words like “bomb” and “goli” (bullet), and he finishes by saying (in English): “She should be sent to the front!” I fall over laughing.
While Kumar pursues the stubborn—and fiery—Neena, we also discover that Shyam has a little side business in opium going. His office door has a fabulous warning light that tells him when someone is coming, and numerous hidden doors behind which are hanging chains and other ominous items. Shyam is not a nice man, not nice at all.
Kumar wins Neena’s affections finally when he rescues her from the lecherous attentions of Pompadour Man, who tries to grope her on the dance floor in front of Ted Lyons & His Cubs. Not that Neena really needs “rescuing”—but it’s the thought that counts, I guess.
Meanwhile, Lalchand—who works for Shyam—recognizes Savitri Devi and tells Shyam that she is wealthy Mr. Mehra’s wife. Rupee signs flashing in his eyes, Shyam sets out to charm Savitri (who was earlier hospitalized after a fall):
Although he’s paid her no attention at all before this, she instantly falls for his ploy and offers up Neena to be his wife (he doesn’t even have to ask!). Poor Neena! She is dismayed by Shyam’s advances, and like any girl calls in her peeps to help out. They are ever-obliging.
Shyam, realizing that he needs to get Kumar out of his way, enlists the help of a club dancer named Kamini (Mumtaz).
Will she succeed in luring Kumar away from Neena? Will Neena give in to her Ma’s wishes and marry Shyam? Will the Mehras ever be reunited? Our story takes a gruesome turn—and Biswajeet acts his heart out:
Sadly, he can’t really come close to “being” Shammi, even with the proper styling (nobody can, of course):
And our pal Laxmi Chhaya’s dancing skills are sadly wasted, although Asha’s are not! She gets quite a few lovely numbers, and really the songs (choreographed by the ever-FAB Herman) are my favorite thing about this film.
If you’re in the mood for a frothy and light 1960s entertainer and a real Shammi film isn’t available, this is not a bad alternative!