In the wake of my post espousing the awesomeness that is Asha P, several people recommended that I watch this. And indeed, I’m glad they did: Asha is at her feisty, gun-totin’ best. And the songs—my God, the songs! They are made of beautiful, all of them, and the film is worth watching just for them alone.
My quibble with the movie is that things slow to a crawl in the middle as the combative courtship between Asha and Joy Mukherjee drags on—and it turns them into cruel and thoughtless people, too. The last half hour picks up again, luckily, but the middle hour or so really could have used some editing (and an animal activist or two). The Comic Side Plot is also far too intrusive: Mehmood again, given lots of screen time to compensate for his hefty compensation, I guess. A little of him goes a long way (and a lot of him can bring the main plot to a halt) especially when it’s the same exact CSP every time.
Anyway. Our story begins with a Judge (Ulhas) who is the patriarch of a large family. His youngest son Ashok (Joy Mukherjee) is not winning any points with his dad, who deplores his absence at the breakfast table.
Ashok is a scribbler of poetry and plays, whose publisher (DK Sapru) doesn’t display much enthusiasm for his artistic endeavors either.
It’s no wonder, then, that he decides to flee his home and see the world. He leaves a note for his family:
and sets off by train to seek adventure. Adventure finds him in the form of Mohan Choti, who steals his suitcase and hops off the train. Ashok jumps off after him, and ends up at the wrong end of a double-barrelled shotgun in the hands of beautiful girl—with whom he is instantly head over heels in love.
Asha (Asha Parekh) is not as overcome, except with annoyance; she is the spoiled daughter of the local tea estate’s owner Thakur Mahender Singh (Raj Mehra). The Thakur is upset because his chauffeur (Mehmood) has not left for the station yet to meet the new estate manager’s incoming train. And so begins the endless CSP.
Mehmood and Dhumal spend a great deal of time in this film facing off like this, and they always look like they are about to start laughing—which is more than I can say. Mehmood is romancing Sheila (Shubha Khote) who is of course Dhumal’s daughter (Dhumal is some sort of flunky on the estate), and Dhumal is standing in their way. As always, this involves Mehmood donning various disguises—and drag—and the usual fake sadhus, and on and on and on. Although lovely Shubha always seems like she’s enjoying herself, I wish she hadn’t wasted so much of her career on this same old, same old.
I guess we all have to pay our bills! Enough said.
Mehmood (when he finally gets underway) mistakes Ashok for the newly arrived manager, and Ashok plays along in order to see more of Asha (they get rid of the real manager when he shows up later, as part of the CSP). He settles in, welcomed by Asha’s mother (Sulochana) and father—not so much by Asha herself, though.
Undeterred, Ashok begins to woo his rebellious and sulky beloved, even as she continues to take potshots at him (not just with her double-barreled shotgun, but also a fishing rod, a slingshot, and various other weapons she has lying around, including her elephant Majnu).
Their battles are interrupted continuously by the CSP, and much more nicely by the lovely songs (written by SD Burman with the able assistance of his son RD). Asha naturally gets to dance, too—always a yay! moment. My favorite is “Raat Ka Saman”—it’s picturized beautifully too.
Another favorite song (although really I love all of them!) is pictured on Shubha Khote and Mehmood, “Main Tere Pyar Mein.” Look them up on YouTube, you won’t regret it!
Hey—it seems that way to me too, Shubha!
Life (and the film) go on in this vein for some time. As I said, it’s entertaining for a while and then becomes tedious. One afternoon as Ashok sits mooning by the window with his bad poetry, he gets a visitor.
It’s Seema (Nazima), Asha’s little sister, who has been away at Girl Guides Camp.
Now the story takes what seems to me an unnecessarily cruel turn. Seema is obviously very taken with the new estate manager, but Ashok only cares that Asha is jealous when she sees them talking. He begins to romance Seema—and she thinks he is serious, because he acts serious, and doesn’t tell her what he’s really up to! I want to slap him, hard.
Then, I want to slap Asha into next week, when in a fit of pique she sends Seema’s little dog sailing skyward tied to a bunch of balloons! He barks and howls in distress, and I shudder to think how they got the audio. I’m hopeful that it’s not a real dog up there, but still: what kind of message is that to send?
Of course Asha is also the woman who tries to sell her elephant when he transfers his loyalties to Ashok in exchange for some sugar cane. Sigh. If I did that with Gemma every time she switches her affection to the latest cookie giver, I’d have sold her off a gazillion times already.
Now Asha begins to wear saris instead of her boots and cowboy hat, and to care about girly things like face cream. She’s finally a goner! and about time too.
Ashok sends a letter to his parents, asking them to come and meet the girl he wants to marry. I’ve been waiting for the romancing to reach its conclusion so that we can get the final plot twist—and here it comes. I’m not going to tell you what it is, you’ll have to see it for yourself (it’s a pretty good one though). Okay, one hint: Madan Puri.
I will tell you that Ashok never really endears himself to me again. When Seema confronts him (and yay! screenwriter for at least letting her do that!) about his cruel treatment of her, he gives this most unsatisfying explanation, and never apologizes to her.
What a jerk! But despite these irritations, Ziddi is enjoyable. It just needs a whole lot less of Mehmood and company, and a bit more sensitivity to little sisters and their dogs! Watch it for Asha P and for the songs—they are truly fabulous (another fave: “Yeh Meri Zindagi” with Asha pretending to be drunk—so cute!).