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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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:
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!