This was an unexpected treat, a breezy comedy starring Kishore Kumar, Kum Kum, IS Johar, Prem Chopra—in a not-villainous role!—and my would-be bahen Laxmi Chhaya. Greedy bad guys, plenty of disguises, goofball antics and a fine sense of the just plain silly are its hallmarks, along with one of my new favorite Laxmi songs. Actually, all the songs by Usha Khanna are fabulous and worth watching. Kum Kum is an excellent dancer too and plays one in this (as well as her long-lost mother) so she has plenty of scope for showing off her talents as well. The storyline is contrived and conveniently glib, but all in all it’s a very fun watch if you feel like shutting off your brain for some simple but satisfying entertainment.
A man named Banwarilal (Raj Mehra) escapes from jail, where he was sent (I think) by his employer Mohandas after embezzling money from him. He breaks into Mohandas’ house at night and discovers from Mohandas’ wife Kamla Devi (Kum Kum) that there is nothing for him to rob there as all of the family jewelry is kept in a bank safe-deposit vault.
Banwarilal now takes what seems to me an unnecessarily convoluted approach to getting his hands on Mohandas’ wealth, and kidnaps little Geeta after shooting Mohandas dead, leaving poor Kamla Devi devastated. She is told the next day by the police that both Banwarilal and Geeta seem to have died in a car accident: they have retrieved Banwarilal’s car from the sea, although they have found no bodies. She sensibly refuses to give up (unlike the police) and vows to find her daughter.
Sixteen years and the credits roll by, and Banwarilal has become the respectable and wheelchair-bound Biharilal. He lives with Geeta whom he has renamed Sangeeta; she is now a well-known dancer working in a theater owned by Pyarelal (Madan Puri) and has grown up to look exactly like her mother (since they are both Kum Kum). Bihari has confided his impractical and endlessly patient plan to relieve Sangeeta of her inheritance to Pyarelal: the details of this plan are glossed over but involve items which have somehow found their way into his hands.
I am reminded of the South Park Underpants Gnomes and their business plan:
- Step 1: “Collect underpants!”
- Step 2: *confused silence*
- Step 3: “Profit!”
only Bihari’s is:
- Step 1: “Collect personal items!”
- Step 2: *evil laughter*
- Step 3: “Get jewels!”
Bihari has further promised Pyarelal that he can marry Sangeeta, although of course nobody has asked her permission!
Elsewhere in town, she unwittingly has another devoted admirer in the form of Deepak (Kishore Kumar), a lazy sort of fellow with a vivid Walter Mitty type of imagination; this benefits us greatly with the song “Jaaneman Jaaneman”—now my favorite Kum Kum song of all time. She is gorgeous! (And interestingly this plus another song in this film picturized on Kishore are actually sung by Manna Dey.)
Deepak’s older brother Anand (Prem Chopra) wants him to get a job, already! although his mother (Praveen Paul) is much more indulgent. But Deepak is constantly sidetracked by his fantasies of Sangeeta.
Meanwhile, Kamla Devi—now old and gray—is still looking for her Geeta, and she hires a detective by the name of Sokhanlal (IS Johar) and his sidekick Makhanlal (Majnu?) to find her. IS Johar always makes me giggle, even when his antics are stupid. Kamla gives him the same photograph of herself and Geeta which Bihari has, and tells him further that Geeta has a birthmark on her back (Sokhanlal turns the picture over to look).
I also love how Hindi movie detectives look at everything with a magnifying glass, even large 8×10 close-ups!
That evening Deepak goes to see Sangeeta’s dance performance (another Kum Kum treat, “Machhal Gaya Haye Mera Dil”).
Detectives Sokhanlal and Makhanlal are there too, and they recognize Sangeeta as Geeta instantly! After the performance, Deepak hangs around outside the theater waiting for Sangeeta to come out in the hopes of meeting her.
Inside, she is complaining to her friend Bela (Laxmi Chhaya) that she is tired of working so hard and of all the attention, and she needs a break. Bela hits on a temporary solution to give her a moment of respite anyway, and we get the first of many disguises in this story.
Posing (may I say unusually convincingly as well—Kum Kum changes her tone of voice and her body language in a way most actors disguised as the opposite gender don’t bother with) as her own servant “Pinto,” she runs into Deepak outside, who cultivates a friendship with her in order to meet “Madam”. As he waxes rhetorically about his adoration of her, Sangeeta is touched by his obvious devotion:
even when he goes on a little too long, in my opinion if not hers.
She rewards him the next morning by telling him that she was Pinto and giving him her autograph, and he rightly understands that she likes him now too. He returns home in a blissful daze to his anxious mother (he’s been gone all night) and exasperated brother, neither of whom believe that he’s actually met her.
And now Sokhanlal also disguises himself as the Prince of Lakhanpur and visits Bihari to offer a huge sum of money if Sangeeta will embark on a world entertainment tour for him. Thrilled, Bihari invites him and “secretary” Makhanlal to stay at his home while they make all the arrangements.
IS Johar really just makes me laugh, and the film is peppered with this sort of witty dialogue.
So now Sangeeta is embarking on romance with Deepak, thrilled at the idea she can stop working at a job she dislikes to support a father she only feels pity for (the wheelchair)—although how a husband with no job is going to help her kind of escapes me. She has no intention of doing a tour for this Prince and no idea that he is really trying to get her reunited with her mother; and Bihari and Pyarelal are proceeding apace in their undefined plan to separate Sangeeta from the jewelry she doesn’t even know she has (and get her married to Pyarelal).
Will they succeed? Or will Sokhanlal and Makhanlal—and Deepak—manage to extract her from their clutches? Does it even matter when we’re having so much fun along the way? Especially if you are a fan of the main performers, this one is well worth watching. It’s a bit choppy here and there (Samrat dvd) but pretty good otherwise (although who knows how many songs might be missing, which would be a pity because they are each one a gem!).
Bela covers for an absent Sangeeta one evening, and she and I.S. Johar perform this wonderful song mocking Bihari. It is LAXMI FAB, and you really can’t praise with greater praise than that. And a big thanks to Tom for uploading my favorite songs so I could put them in here!