Aaja Sanam (1971?)

aajasanam

Everything I find on the internet says that this film was released in 1975, which may be true but it was definitely not made in 1975. For one thing our hero Feroz Khan is too young, as is heroine Tanuja (who was also occupied with giving birth to Kajol in 1975). So are all the other actors in it with whom I am familiar (Deven Verma, SN Banerjee, Sulochana Chatterjee, Shabnam); it’s filmed in black and white; and everything about it (home decor, fashions, hairstyles) screams 1960s. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was made in 1967 with the opinion of some readers who are guessing early 70s  although I suppose it could also be up to a few years later than that. But most definitely not 1975!

Why does it even matter? Well, this film works pretty well as a movie from the mid-60s, but would be too regressive (at least for me) if it dated from the mid-70s. One of the major plot elements annoyed me considerably even so. But it was an interesting film with an engrossing story and engaging characters. I’m a big fan of Tanuja—wish she had had more roles she could really get her teeth into. She’s one of the best things about the fantastic Jewel Thief, in my opinion. Feroz of course is as handsome as can be, and the other supporting actors are very good too, especially Shabnam. There are also some very pretty songs by Usha Khanna, who is always underrated.

Satish (Feroz Khan) has to stay overnight in a guest house when he is caught in a severe rainstorm on his way to visit his parents from medical school. The caretaker’s daughter Shanti (Tanuja) runs headlong into him in the dark, and when a lightning flash illuminates their faces he is spellbound. Very romantic!

as_lightning

In the following days he woos Shanti, and they fall in love. He promises her that he will marry her, but his father has a heart attack and he has no time to tell Shanti that he is going away.

as_city

His father recovers, but by the time Satish can leave his side he has to return to medical college for his final exams. I’m not really clear on why he can’t write Shanti a letter (maybe she lives in too remote an area?) but in any case, she is fretting over his long absence. She sings the haunting “Aaja Aaja Khadi Hoon” and looks very sad indeed.

as_shanti

Satish is no happier about the long separation, but his roommate Kaushal (Deven Verma) convinces him to stay and finish his exams, and to visit Shanti afterwards. The problem is that in the interim Shanti’s father (Shivraj) dies and Shanti is left all alone in the world. When Satish finally comes looking for her, she has disappeared and it’s his turn to sing a melacholy song, the aptly named “Jaane Kahan Gaya Tum”.

as_search

Shanti is searching for her last known relative besides her father, an uncle. She runs into a truck driver who tries to molest her under the guise of giving her a lift, and escapes from him by jumping into a river. The current carries her past a couple picnicking on shore, and the man jumps in to rescue her. His girlfriend Kamini (Shabnam) takes Shanti home to stay with her, and she is welcomed by Kamini’s parents (Sulochana Chatterjee and SN Banerjee). Simple village girl Shanti has a lot to learn in her new home, and some pretty lurid wallpaper to get used to as well.

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In the meantime Satish returns to medical college and his friend Kaushal, extremely despondent and worried about Shanti. Shanti is doing well, though, settling in with the family (and serving up a lot of chai). Kamini and her much-respected father lead busy lives. Kamini spends a great deal of time with her fiance Arun, who is in training to become a pilot (oh oh, not a good filmi profession), while her mother is a bit of a drama queen with lots of ailments.

as_rotsalone

Kamini is a friendly and outgoing “modern” girl, and she’s enchanted by her innocent and pretty new friend. Isn’t this a sweet compliment?

as_god

I have to say that I think God worked pretty hard on Shabnam too—she is lovely, and does full justice to her role as the pleasure-seeking but empathetic and warm Kamini, which is really important later on. And seriously, that is sixties-era wallpaper.

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They bond quickly as sisters, and Shanti finally confides in Kamini about her lost love—whose name she doesn’t even know. Had she known that her fate would betray her, she says:

as_details

Oops!

By now, Satish and Kaushal have become full-fledged doctors and they open up a nursing home (which appears to be another name for a hospital or clinic, unlike here where nursing homes are only for old people). As Kamini and Arun’s wedding day approaches, tragedy strikes: Arun’s plane has (predictably) crashed.

as_accident

It’s hard to focus on the drama when there’s a swiss-cheese wall divider to distract me, but poor Kamini is devastated by the news—and with extra good reason.

as_mother

Shanti vows to help her, and promises not to tell anyone her secret. Her first tactic is to approach a medical facility, where she sees Kaushal (but not Satish) and offers him a big wad of cash, asking for his help.

as_honour

He is grossly self-righteous and throws her out of the clinic. When Satish comes in, having heard voices and thinking one belonged to Shanti (there’s a lot of hammering home the point that they are soulmates), Kaushal tells him that she was a rich girl looking for an abortion.

as_filthy

This enrages me on so many levels that I just sit and sputter for a while. While I *almost* find it admirable that a film of this era and culture would even bring the subject up, I find it egregiously awful that it doesn’t even make any attempt to treat it in any kind of thoughtful manner, especially in a place where there’s a real population problem. UGH. My sister reminds me that Kaushal was the one who talked Satish out of going to see Shanti in the first place, and we agree that he is a jackass.

Anyway, Shanti convinces Kamini’s parents that a change of scenery will help her get through her grief, and suggests that she accompany Kamini to Dehra Dun. While they are away, Satish gets a call at the clinic one day.

as_chunnilal

Kaushal is thrilled to have a wealthy respectable patient like Chunnilal on the clinic’s list—and Chunnilal of course is Kamini’s father. Kamini’s parents are charmed by Satish and thrilled that his medicine helps Mrs. Chunnilal’s various aches and pains. They further discover that Satish’s father is an old friend of Chunnilal’s.

Idea!

as_match

Shanti and Kamini return from Dehra Dun with a baby, which Shanti is now claiming as hers. This causes Mrs. Chunnilal some angst, but Kamini insists that she stay on with them. It’s not long before Satish comes to make a house call. Shanti is part way down the stairs when she sees him and in her rush to get to him she falls down the stairs and knocks herself out.

Satish is shocked to see Shanti and quickly takes her to the hospital. There’s a lovely tender scene where he just looks at her, and touches her in wonder—very sweet.

as_reunion

But—*big sigh*—their happiness at being reunited is short-lived. When he discovers that Shanti is an unwed mother, he is not as understanding as he might be.

as_tart

Plus, the Chunnilals are determined that he marry Kamini. And Shanti herself owes the Chunnilals—and Kamini especially—so much that she will never go against them or betray Kamini’s secret. Can the universe contain all this unhappiness? I will tell you this: the manner in which resolution is achieved is horrible. This movie is a mixed bag: the characters are very human and mostly quite likable. The story is interesting, and if it’s got some cliches, well—who cares? I don’t. Even the sacrifice that Shanti makes doesn’t annoy me, because Kamini is so believably the kind of person that someone like Shanti would do that for.

But the film also “goes there” in a couple of ways that I personally found abhorrent and hypocritical (the abortion issue, and the end). So while there are things to enjoy, it’s not altogether an enjoyable film.

Two more things: among the credited cast is someone named Genius. Does anyone know who this Genius person might be? I’m thinking maybe the other half (besides Mukri) of the CSP (which is thankfully very minimal). If I ever had a kid I might name him Genius (it’s really such a good thing that I don’t have kids):

as_genius

Plus it has the cutest little chubby baby ever, and a really lovely (although melancholy) lullaby: “O Mere Chanchal Chanda.” Why wasn’t Shabnam (and Usha Khanna!!) more successful, why? The song is not on the net anywhere that I can find, so I’m sharing it here—do listen:


as_lullaby

The success thing, it baffles me.

Edited to add: Comments now contain spoilers so if you don’t want to know the ending, don’t read them!

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44 Comments to “Aaja Sanam (1971?)”

  1. Yes, this is definitely not 1975, but I’m inclined to think it might have been filmed during the early 1970′s (maybe ’71 or so?) Tanuja’s clothes look very 70ish, somehow… especially the print of that sari when she’s in the clinic. You’re right, by the way, about nursing homes: in India, even now, a nursing home is a small hospital or clinic (well, some are pretty large too).

    Abortion is a bit of a sore topic even now because a lot of people use it to get rid of unwanted female foetuses – which is why pre-natal gender determination has been declared a criminal offence.

    But, despite the obvious FK-Tanuja incentive, I’m not sure I’m keen on this. Melodrama and self-sacrifice isn’t my cup of tea (and this seems to have it in bucketfuls!) :-(

    • It could be as late as 1971, but I wouldn’t put it beyond that, and Feroz looks pre-Apradh by a few years to me too. In any case, of course abortion is a hot topic—it always will be, but it was only brought up in this film so that a stern judgment against it could be pronounced, and a judgment that I disagree strongly with at that, so it really really annoyed me to the point of making the film a lot less likeable. And when it ended the way it did (which I’m happy to tell anyone who wants to know) I really couldn’t get on board.

      The one thing in its favor is that it isn’t terribly melodramatic or overwrought—the characters and situations are more believable than that :-) and the sacrificing, as I said, is also more reasonable and believable than normal.

      • I for one would definitely want to know how this ended… I don’t think I have the courage to see the film for myself!

      • Okay:

        SPOILER!!!!! Kamini and Satish are engaged (Kamini doesn’t know that he is the man Shanti has been pining for, and Shanti doesn’t tell her) but on the day of the engagement the baby takes ill and dies…it’s treated oh-so-casually, though: baby is sick, Satish takes it from Shanti, comes back into the room after a few minutes and says matter-of-factly: “sorry couldn’t save him.” Kamini freaks out and spills the truth, and all’s well. I HATED it. After all that talk against abortion, the baby is just done away with to conveniently resolve all the issues in the story. Facile, hypocritical and plain old horrible, in addition to condoning all the prejudice against an unwed mother. END SPOILER

  2. Thank you first of all for unearthing this movie. Have never heard of it.

    I agree with you and dustedoff that his film is surely not 1975 and agree ahead with dustedoff that it could be placed around 1971-72. Tanuja’s blouse with the short sleeves is typical of that era (see Anand and similar movies). The sunflower wallpaper can also be place in this time zone!
    Tanuja looks so beautiful and so different than her sis Nutan. She had the same freshness about her like Kajol. I also wish she had more success and got more fleshy roles. I just love her!

    Feroz Khan looks very dashing!

    Who is the actor playing Kamini’s father? I like his acting.
    Sometimes I think, more people jump in the river and survive in the Hindi films than in real life. In my teenage years I often considered this option to run away from my family. The only thing that held me off, was the fact that I wa snot confident, that I would land in a friendly family. ;-)

    Somehow, the movie sounds to be really sympathetic, although the treatment of abortion is so biased. Thank God, abortion is legal in India, although it is misused a lot (female foeticide).

    I wish they would put more role models (female and male) in indian movies.

    Thank you for the beautiful lullaby. Is it Usha Khanna, who is singing?

    “I’m happy to tell anyone who wants to know”
    I would be glad to hear the ending or what leads to it. :-)
    Thanks for the review!

    • Ending is above now :-) It really ruined the film for me. SN Banerjee plays Kamini’s father…he’s hilarious. He and Sulochana have a very snarky relationship which cracks me up sometimes.

      And the lullaby is credited to Asha where I can find anything about the music…Usha did sing too, a duet with Rafi. I hope I can find the songs somewhere or I’ll have to rip them all from the DVD, a chore I really loathe :-)

  3. Me too on the Tanuja love :-) I think she has one of the most beautiful voices in Hindi cinema and ahem, I have thing for voices given all I’ve been told about mine :-) My mother says, of course, that her daughter is not a patch on her in terms of looks–I think they’re both lovely. I recently saw Feroz in Aurat which released in 1967 and he looked much younger than he looks in your screencaps here.

    Great read as usual, I love how droll you are :-) I think I’ll venture into this one. Thanks!

    • Okay, I bow to my Indian contingent and their superior knowledge of styles etc. and will change the date to 1971 :-D

      Glad you enjoyed the review…hope you enjoy the film if you do see it (but Rajesh isn’t in it!) :-)

  4. @”….hope you enjoy the film if you do see it (but Rajesh isn’t in it!) :-)”

    Et tu, Brute?

  5. instead of killing the baby.. they could have actually brought Arun.. saying he survived and happy endings for everyone…:)

    • I know!!! I would have liked it a lot more if they’d done that. I don’t even like babies, but I felt so disgusted by the way the end treated this one—except for Kamini nobody seemed really upset that he had died. Shanti was happy to have Satish back, Kamini’s parents were just shocked to find out that it was their daughter who was the shameless hussy. Poor little chubby thing :(

  6. Have never heard of this movie.
    I know some here have gone with 1971 but I think it is even earlier.
    Looks very much like a 1967-type movie to me.
    Bits of this movie bring back memories of Phoolon Ki Sej (Manoj K, Vyjanthi).
    Also has its share of fall-in-love, get-separated, cannot-contact-each-other, doctor-scenes, child-related-misunderstandings.

    • Oh! if only you’d been here sooner :-) I felt outvoted on the dates thing. I should have better faith in my own judgment. In any case, unless someone comes forward who was involved in making it we will never really know…

  7. I have nothing to add to the dates, but goodness, I love the screencap of Satish caressing Shanti’s face. Too bad the movie itself sucks. (Yeah, I read the spoilers.) I need to search your archives for something that’s romantic like that moment, only all the way through. ;-)

    • Search “romantic” and you’ll no doubt find something! Blackmail, Solva Saal, Junglee…spring to mind immediately. They are all MUCH better films!

  8. Definately pre-67 if you want more votes. Or maybe the shooting spanned too many years, that is quite possible too.

    India has no rules against abortion, infact, even the consent of the husband is not required :) so this was probably just a plot ploy to get the heroine to have the child. And of course, the death of the child was again a ploy to get the real mother to stand up !

    If you remember the hero’s sister in Junglee gets knocked up and everyone (Saira, her father, Shammi -her brother) thinks its quite ok.. which I found really odd. Sometimes the writers manipulate the social mores just to suit their plot.

    • The problem I had with it was that there was no need to introduce it into the story at all…just whisk the heroine away to have her baby and be done with it. It seemed to be brought up just as an opportunity to vent spleen of the anti-choice variety—which is the filmmaker’s prerogative, but I don’t have to like it :-) I think the difference in Junglee was that the sister was actually married (albeit secretly) to the baby’s father.

  9. Never heard of this movie! Trust Memsaab to unearth unheard of movies for desis. thanks a bunch. I only wish it was a truly good movie. I saw your screen caps and the comments – some how not inclined to read the story or review – hope u appreciate my honesty and forgive me!

  10. This movie indeed seems from 1960s. The shooting could well have taken place in early 1960s. The screen caps appear to be from the same era as “Oonche Log”.

  11. Reminds me of another anchronism (right word?) you pointed out– International Crook… was that the one filmed in 60s and released in early 70s.

    • Yes, I think that happened a fair amount (still does, actually—last year Mehbooba was released about ten years after it was made, and it really showed!) :-)

  12. Memsaab, weren’t there any of the usual flipping calendars in this to show the passage of time? Or any Happy New Year parties that just may be an indication of when it was being filmed? ;-)

  13. What made me date it in the early 70s are for e.g., the pattern of Tanuja’s sari in screen caps 12, 13, 14; short blouse sleeves, which is typical for early 70s and not late 60s and also the flower power wall paper, surely post 68, till it arrives india it would need a year or two.

    it is surely not 1975, till then the bell bottoms were totally en vogue.
    Memsaab could you spot some calenders or newspaper in the film? ;-)

    On the other hand Tanua’s looks in Aaja Sanam match with that of her in the bangla movie Teen Bhubaner Parey from 1969 (watch the song: Hoyto Tomari Jonyo) and also Rajkumari from 1970 (watch the song: Aaj Gun Gun).

    • I thought of the time delay thing—things that look very 60s to me may not have arrived in India until early 70s…like Disco arriving in India in the early 80s when it was already dead here…

  14. Tanuja needs smacking for taking up this role, especially when the crux of the issue (in indian english… literally the issue) was so badly handled.

    She was the beacon for enlightened and independant womanhood in hindi films. I am deeply dissapointed.

  15. Poor Tanuja!
    You can’t blame her, after all she has to earn her daily roti (and the diamonds) as well.
    Or maybe she was just imitating her sister Nutan!
    ;-)

  16. memsaab, I think your original feeling of it being from 1967 is correct. His look is similar to Cid 909. Also, less black and white movies were made as the years passed. So, 1971 is a stretch and 1975 is out of the question!

  17. hahaha.. amazing MS, the movies you unearth out of nowhere. Hadn’t heard of it.. though the lullaby sounds sweet.. was that Asha? the voice sounds so young..

    Tanuja looks soo lovely. I always thought she had very non-classical Bollywood looks.. maybe thats why she was not the most popular in the bollywood 60s-70s.. siiighh!

    • I think it’s Asha, although Usha often sang herself…I’m not very good at differentiating female voices for some reason. The men are easier for me. But I thought the lullaby was just lovely…

      Tanuja is beautiful, no doubt about it :)

  18. Hadnt heard of this movie before. Not all that great a story but I could still see it for the star-cast. Loved the discussion on year. Felt like I was sitting in history class ;-) Hats off to all you guys for your observations on saree prints, blouse sleeves, wall-paper, calendar etc!!!

  19. this film was released in 1975 and it flopped at boxoffice.
    it was a nice film but was released lately.it was made in 1971 in black and white when rajesh khanna swept of the box office from 1970-76. manoj kumar,devanand and dharmendra were alone giving solo hits with khanna in that period.

  20. Thanks for review memsaab.I remember when this movie first came on eros dvd I went to dvd store pick this dvd then keep it back I did this for like six month.then this dvd went on sale 4 for $10.there is one more fk and kum kum starrer movie `main wohi hoon´came at same time on eros dvd. When I watched this movie than I knew what I was missing from my collection.movie is superb and music is so beautiful no matter when it was made.fk was so handsome but always play 2nd hero in most of his hits movie and his solo movies are mostly flop.tanu looks beautiful in saari.after watching this movie now I knew this movie is like hidden gem of 60s bollywood.

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