It’s my understanding that this film was a big hit, and responsible for bringing both Rekha and Navin Nischol to the public’s attention. I am not really sure why, since it is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff; but Sonik-Omi’s songs are lots of fun and the second half did take an unexpected twist just as I was about to nod off. What got me through it were the large assortment of wigs (almost everyone wore them—including the hero—although Shyama’s were particularly fascinating), Jayshree T’s mad dancing skills, a lot of Woman Power, and young whippersnapper Ranjeet as Rekha’s slimy brother (Ranjeeeeeeeet!).
Wealthy Vikram (Navin Nischol), heir to his late father’s fortune, is returning home after five years in England to his stepmother Sulochana (Shyama) and stepsister Dolly aka “Baby” (Jayshree T). Sulochana and her brother Darbari (Krishan Dhawan)—who is a lush—have been steadily looting the estate in his absence with the complicity of estate manager Gaurishankar (Iftekhar). The only person in Vikram’s sprawling mansion who looks forward to his return is faithful chauffeur Kasim (Agha), who is unable to convince anyone else to go with him to meet Vikram at the airport.
To be fair, Dolly is very busy planning a big party to welcome her stepbrother home:
And so I settle in for one of those schizophrenic “purab-paschim” type films. Vikram, despite his western polish and natty suits, proves immediately that he is still very much a son of Indian soil. He and Kasim are set upon by goons wielding machetes and knives (hired by uncle Darbari) and Vikram is fighting them off three at a time with amazing acrobatics when a bunch of local village girls led by the feisty Chanda (Rekha) happen upon the scene.
They pitch in with enthusiasm, breaking their clay water pots over goonda heads, until the bad guys run away in defeat. Vikram promises to replace their broken clay pots with metal ones, and continues home with Kasim.
Chanda finds a necklace which was lost in the fray and recognizes it as belonging to her brother Damu (Ranjeet).
She is furious, as is their mother, but Damu is defiant: Vikram and his family have stolen all the land belonging to the farmers in their hereditary jagir, despite laws against it. His Ma points out that Damu doesn’t do anything to work the land anyway—he drinks and gambles the day away, so what does he care?
Meanwhile, Vikram has reached home. I am unable to focus on anything except the bright shiny synthetic hair on every head.
Navin was pretty young at this point to be bald already, much like his contemporary Rakesh Roshan. Someone should have probably advised both of them to just go with who they were; wouldn’t it be fun to know how they might have fared without bad wigs to hold them back?
I digress. We are now treated to a fantabulous party song and dance, with choreographers Vijay-Oscar and Chinoo front and center gyrating with Jayshree T. And DO NOT miss Shyama’s fabulous wriggle at the end—and check out her gold-fringed bellbottoms too! (I had linked to a video but it’s already gone; do look the song up if you can find it!)
Vikram inexplicably fails to enjoy this crazy entertainment. I guess he has the same stick up his butt as Manoj Kumar (or maybe his wig was too tight). In any case he makes his disapproval clear by leaving the party and then scolding Dolly for throwing it when she follows him.
She calls him, appropriately enough, “old-fashioned”—and asks if he learned nothing about having fun while he was in Europe.
HA HA HA!
I love Dolly’s disdainful response (I pretty much love Dolly, despite her tendency to be bratty):
You said it, Dolly. It’s one reason this gori memsaab loves sarees anyway.
The next day, clad in a bikini, she catches a pair of unsavory eyes belonging to slimeball extraordinaire Madan (Narendranath).
Discovering that Dolly belongs to a wealthy family, Madan sets out in pursuit and soon hooks her with promises of a foreign tour with a dance troupe of her very own (he tells her that he manages a “World Culture Center” which makes me giggle).
Vikram continues to bump into Chanda and is charmed by her insouciant beauty. But so is his uncle Darbari, who takes a proposal of marriage of his own to Chanda’s brother Damu and their mother.
One thing that keeps this film from slipping into pure boredom is the occasionally sharp dialogue given the ladies, and Chanda’s Ma is no exception (can anyone tell me who this actress is? Is she Chandrima Bhaduri? She is just lovely! Update: thanks Shilpi—she is Chandrima Bhaduri).
She will not be manipulated by her son and sends Darbari away in disgust. All the women in this film are strong, which I love: Shyama wields the power in her home, Rekha and her mother in theirs. The men on the other hand are all basically ciphers (except Ranjeet in his limited time onscreen), even the bad ones. I think this is a result of the casting rather than any intent on the filmmaker’s part, but it’s interesting.
Darbari soon finds out that it’s Vikram whom Chanda loves, and vice versa. Vikram is pissing off his other family members too by raining on their various parades, especially Dolly’s with Madan, of whom he (rightfully) disapproves. He catches her dancing a (beautiful) mujra for Madan and his friends and drags her home forcibly.
It’s business as usual for me as I find myself in sympathy with the bad girls and annoyed by the holier-than-thou hero.
Vikram’s growing closeness to Chanda means that he’s also now hearing about how his family have cheated the local farmers out of their land and rightful share of the crops. When he confronts Gaurishankar and Sulochana about this, his stepmother is defiant (and doesn’t she look like Ricki Lake in Hairspray?!).
She is worried though, especially about Chanda’s influence. She tries to get Chanda in trouble with the police by framing her for stealing a necklace (which Darbari had actually stolen from her, and given to Damu as a bribe). But Vikram covers for her and then stuns the villagers when he is discovered hiding in her room (after a lovely faux-lullaby as Chanda tries to fool her mother and Damu into thinking she is babysitting).
I am pretty bored at this point (possibly you are too), but with Vikram’s engagement to the lowly Chanda Sulochana and her cohorts—who now include greedy but thwarted Madan—plant a time bomb in Vikram’s car, which explodes in an eye-opening fireball.
There’s not much left of Vikram at the end but bits and pieces of his belongings.
Chanda is devastated and Dolly—who had no part in it—is sad, but everyone else is gleeful. Sulochana signs over all the property to Madan, who is now engaged to Dolly.
But another plot is afoot in the form of a fake Vikram. A lookalike is groomed to take his place by a mysterious gang of smoke-wreathed men:
and he crashes his family’s gathering, stunning them (well, except Darbari who just looks sozzled as usual).
Who is this guy, and who are the men who have put him in Vikram’s place? Will his family discover that he’s an impersonator? Is the real Vikram really dead? How will the new Vikram treat poor grieving Chanda? How will he run his estate? Is he a good guy or a bad one? Will the evildoers get their just desserts?
I don’t really know what else to say about this film. I enjoyed it (for the things I’ve elaborated on above) but it dragged a lot and Vikram was not a hero I could really care about. Possibly Navin Nischol’s bland personality helped to make Vikram’s conservatism more bearable than it might otherwise have been, though. Shyama was oodles of OTT campy fun and it was really her film, although Rekha brought plenty of spunky charm to her role too.
All I really know for sure is that someone had a lot of fun with Spare Hair.
That last errant curl really kind of sums the whole thing up.