This film started off gangbusters and then kind of fell apart story-wise—but remained good fun throughout thanks to Rehana and Dev Anand’s sparkling chemistry, spectacular dances courtesy of Rehana and Cuckoo (and some loony tribal backup dancers) and Yakub’s turn as a villainous “Professor.” There is also a completely insane zamindar ventriloquist character whose dummy bullies him and who has lost his little girl (by “lost” of course I mean misplaced). And as you know, it is the film which allowed me to lay to rest my frantic search for Nazir Kashmiri! I will forever love it for that alone.
Rupa (Rehana) is a dancer in a troupe trained and led by the Professor (Yakub) which travels from town to town.
On a train journey, Rupa discovers a pearl necklace in the Professor’s possession. He snatches it back from her angrily when she says she’ll pay him in rupees for it—but rejects his hints at another form of “payment.” Then he glowers at her when she evinces interest in a handsome young man who enters their compartment. When the train stops unexpectedly to pick up some policemen she needles him slyly.
Visibly nervous, the Professor surreptitiously slips the necklace into the pocket of the young man’s coat hanging nearby. The young man (Dev Anand) is an engineer who is planning to build a utopian place for poor people to live (we call them housing projects) in the same small town that the dance troupe is visiting. The police board the train but don’t make any effort to find the necklace, although they discuss it and the inspector complains about the sad state of affairs these days.
When the train pulls into the station, the Professor watches as Dev puts on his jacket and takes his leave. Having noted Rupa’s interest in him, he orders her to track the engineer down at his hotel and retrieve the necklace. He, Rupa and their musicians are invited to stay with the local zamindar Diwan Sahab, who lives with his mute servant Bhola and has a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy named Chandu. Chandu chastises him for smoking and announces the reason for the household’s obvious sadness: Diwan’s little girl has gone astray.
There are two other dancers there, whom the Professor hires to perform with Rupa: Lachhi (Cuckoo) and Chhaila (Balam). Chhaila is a fey sort of creature who spends most of his time running around saying “Wah-wah! Wah-wah!” and searching for his Lachho, who spends most of her time hiding from him.
Rupa in the meantime has gone to Dev’s hotel and found him…not expecting guests.
1950s Man Candy! Rupa manages after some shenanigans to retrieve the necklace, but when the Professor asks her for it later (after a couple of dances with Cuckoo) she discovers that she’s lost it. Frustrated, the Professor goes himself to see Dev, who tells him that he has locked the necklace up in a bank vault but will bring it to him the next day. When Rupa hears about this, she is upset and goes to see Dev herself. He tries to give her the necklace (it had fallen off in his car and he found it under the seat), but she refuses to take it and asks him to hang on to it; he agrees and no more is heard about the necklace for some time as we veer off into other directions.
Rupa also befriends the poor sad Diwan and we discover via Chandu the dummy that because of his drinking (the Diwan’s not Chandu’s), his wife left with their daughter Nanhi and they haven’t been seen since. Rupa and Dev’s romance revs up too, especially after they are caught in a rainstorm and shelter with a poor old man (Nazir Kashmiri) (! so happy) and she cooks up a big stack of roti for them.
She can dance AND cook! She is comely AND homely! (Hinglish joke.) I haven’t seen Rehana in much else, and she is really adorable. Her chemistry with Dev is superb too and they look sooo pretty together. I love their romance! Rupa sees a baby’s cradle in the old man’s house and picks up a little shoe lying inside it. The old man tells her that he had a little girl once, but is cryptic when Rupa asks what happened to her.
When Rupa shows the shoe to the Diwan later, he is ecstatic—it’s his Nanhi’s shoe (surprise!). Rupa sends him to the old man, who tells the Diwan that a woman brought the little girl to his house and gave her into his care before dying of grief over the way her husband had treated her. And due to his own poverty, the old man gave the child away to another man.
A man like…the Professor, maybe?
Meanwhile, Dev receives an urgent telegram calling him immediately to Bombay and he dashes to catch the next train. Rupa is devastated to a bizarre degree by this, and the Professor—disgruntled at not getting his necklace back—starts to make trouble. As the days pass and Rupa falls into a depression, refusing to sing and dance, he concocts telegrams to Lachhi from Dev in Bombay, asking her to come and see him, and makes sure that Rupa knows about it.
Then the police show up, nosing around for information about the stolen necklace—which is still in Dev’s possession.
Where is Dev, and what is keeping him in Bombay? Will he return for Rupa? Will Diwan Sahab’s daughter Nanhi be found? Will his dummy ever stop criticizing and yelling at him? And what about the necklace? Who does it belong to, and why did the Professor steal it?
Dilruba is a good watch, but would have been better had it stuck to the necklace-romance storyline. With all the other elements infused into it, the plot got a bit tangled and the end became very rushed in an effort to wrap up all the loose ends. Sometimes less is more! It’s really a treat to watch Rehana and Cuckoo dancing up a storm though:
and this guy singing “Ohhh limbo limbo!”:
And as I’ve said, I really enjoyed the chemistry between young and handsome Dev and pretty Rehana. I’d love to see more of them together! With Nazir Kashmiri too, of course.