Finally (thanks to Beth!) I got around to watching this Mehmood production, and I’m so glad I did. I seem to be on a roll of “not much plot but plenty of other stuff to entertain” types of films! I am sure I missed a lot of the regional humor, although some of it was so broad I couldn’t miss it—the south Indian family, for instance. Parts of it did drag on a little too long (the whole film was one big long Comic Side Plot, after all), but it was so much fun picking out guest actors and marvelling at Amitabh’s shirts that altogether I was highly entertained. Some of the subtitles were hilarious too—sometimes even because the actual dialogue was hilarious. Although Aruna Irani and Amitabh Bachchan were nominally the hero-heroine, it was a Mehmood & Friends vehicle all the way (no pun intended)!
Mala (Aruna Irani) witnesses a murder committed by Sharma (Shatrughan Sinha). She escapes on a bus bound from Bombay to Goa with Sharma and his men in hot pursuit. There’s a lesson to be gained from this: if you witness a murder, do not scream loudly. Just tiptoe away. The bus is operated by a driver named Rajesh (Anwar Ali—Mehmood’s brother in real life) and a conductor named Khanna (Mehmood), meaning we are treated on an ongoing basis to jokes about the Superstar of that time.
The passengers are a host of character actors in various regional and cultural guises, and conductor Khanna keeps them on the straight and narrow with great difficulty. Mala asks for a ticket to the last stop—Goa.
She has a handbag stuffed with money and jewelry, which does not escape the notice of her fellows.
I see Manorama, Sunder, Yusuf Khan, and—to my great joy—a man and his sideburns (and occasional pompadour) I have been longing to identify.
One down, two or three more to go! It’s Oscar, of Vijay-Oscar choreography (and backup dancing) fame. I have seen him listed in the acting credits of other films too, but have never been able to find him. (I already know that I don’t have enough to keep me busy! You don’t have to tell me.)
Anyway, the bus stops to aid the passenger of a broken-down car—it’s Kishore Kumar! He needs a ride to his shoot just down the road and climbs aboard. He is seated next to Mala, and we discover who it is she’s running away from and why (besides the whole murder thing).
A flashback takes us to Mala’s hometown, where she catches the eyes of two con men, Varma (Manmohan) and Sharma as she prances around a swimming pool singing a racy song in a leopard print swimsuit and cute bobbed wig.
So cute! Aruna looks very pretty in this movie, by the way. She and Mehmood were having a love affair and he did her looks full justice here! Varma and Sharma approach her with an offer to make her a movie star, which she falls for hook, line and sinker, despite the best efforts of a tall, lanky guy named Ravi who tries to intervene.
It’s a very young and skinny Amitabh; I tell Beth he looks like a praying mantis. Also, I love his shirt. Mala ignores his warning and is completely suckered by Sharma and Varma, who tell her that in order to get the film underway (in which she will star, of course), she will have to help out financially. Mala’s father Atmaram (Nasir Hussain) is a wealthy man with no patience for her dreams of stardom, and her parents have arranged her marriage.
She steals money and jewelry from her parents one night and sneaks away from the house to join Sharma and Varma. Before that though there is a hilarious scene in a nightclub with Usha Iyer (later Uthup) singing a medley of western hits as Mala and Ravi try to one-up each other.
I love Usha’s voice, and it’s lovely to see her actually singing in person. Anyway, in an argument over who gets Mala’s money, Sharma kills Varma—the murder witnessed by Mala at the beginning of the film.
Soon after the flashback ends Ravi himself boards the bus, to Mala’s dismay. The rest of the film covers the trip to Goa as more eccentric passengers board the bus and Khanna gradually loses control of his kingdom on wheels; Sharma and his gang catch up with it and try to eliminate poor Mala; and we finally discover who Ravi really is and why he’s following her. There are fun songs and many guest appearances, and lots of laughs.
Some of my Favorite Things:
Lalita Pawar channeling the goddess Kali (although someone could explain to me the “huh-huh-huh-huh-huh” she kept uttering, I didn’t get that):
She was tailor made to play Kali! and looks like she is thoroughly enjoying herself.
The song “Dekha Na Hai Re Socha” pictured on Amitabh and his pink shirt and cravat. As Beth noted several times, he was quite Abhishek-like throughout—a total goofball. Fun! I liked all the songs except the title song. Beth was disappointed that RD Burman had stolen a song from the Beach Boys; I was disappointed that RD Burman had stolen a song from the Beach Boys.
Keshto Mukherjee, who spends most of the trip passed out in his seat opposite Mala (see above). He is occasionally jolted out of his trademark drunken stupor, but never for very long, and it makes me giggle.
The fat south Indian beta who keeps crying for pakoras (hilariously subtitled “potato chips”) until Mehmood puts a gag over his mouth. His paan-chewing, tooth-challenged Brahmin father is played by the diminutive Mukri, one of my favorite comedians.
And even though they are mostly a sideline, Amitabh and Aruna are really sweet and funny together.
Their romance blossoms under the watchful eyes of our motley assortment of passengers (even Keshto wakes up momentarily for it):
And in the end, they all forget their differences when the chips are down.
A great time is had by all, especially me.