Even though I have already watched an Eighties film this year, I decided to risk another since this looked basically harmless and kind of fluffy. And indeed it mostly does resemble a stuffed animal: cute on the outside (Vinod Khanna in mechanics’ overalls, Reena Roy in bright sarees, Ashok Kumar as a kindly benefactor) and comfortably squishy on the inside (story elements we’ve seen a gazillion times before). Even villain Amjad Khan is too well-fed and portly to seem threatening. It’s Bhappi Sonie at the helm, after all: he’s generally benign.
Until the end, when a woman’s honor is deemed more important than her happiness or her safety. Sigh. And Nirupa Roy turns on all the waterworks because she has ruined her own life, although naturally she blames fate and not herself. Sigh again. But I don’t expect much else from the era, and up to that point there is fun—and plenty of eye candy—to be had.
Raju (Vinod Khanna) lives with his mother Radha (Nirupa Roy) in Pune. He has a good heart but not much sense, which results in him getting into trouble time and again.
This seemed largely like a role tailor-made for Randhir Kapoor rather than Vinod Khanna, but I am not complaining!
Inspector Dayal (Anwar Hussain) is exasperated by his stupidity (and probably by Radha’s constant weeping presence, begging him to forgive her son and let him go) and finally he tells Raju that if he doesn’t leave Pune and go away then the Inspector himself will. Raju takes this to heart, and decides to move to Bombay and find work there. Radha is not happy at the prospect.
She tells Raju that years before, when he was a baby, his father had betrayed them with another woman. We flash back to Radha and a busybody neighbor who has told her that her husband is meeting a woman at her mansion in the evenings. As they watch, Radha’s husband Mr. Verma (Ashok Kumar) pulls up in a car and goes inside, greeted by the lady—and then the lights are turned off.
I roll my eyes and think to myself: “Radha. Talk to your husband. Ask him what’s going on.” But of course, being Nirupa Roy, she doesn’t. Instead she packs up their little son and flees with him on the next train out. On the train she is befriended by a sympathetic woman named Shanta (?), who offers to take her in after Radha pours out her story.
But Shanta has an ulterior motive.
Radha manages to escape with little Raju—and we return to the present, where a furious Raju vows to never forgive his father, wherever he might be. He sets off for Bombay despite his mother’s worries.
Almost the minute he gets there, the same lady whose home his father had visited, driving Radha away (although Raju doesn’t know her, of course), beckons him into her garden and offers to sell him a lovely Mercedes which is standing in her driveway—for the sum of 20 rupees. Even Raju isn’t that dumb, but after the woman’s daughter Rupa (Heena Kausar) comes out and assures him that her mother isn’t crazy and that the car does belong to him now, he drives it away. Not long after, an indignant woman (Katy Mirza) at a petrol station claims that it is her car.
She has him arrested, and he is taken to the local police station—to which Inspector Dayal has just been transferred. Dayal is not at all happy to see Raju again. But as the woman angrily insists that the car belongs to her, the woman who had sold it to Raju shows up with her lawyer. Her name is Sitara Devi, the late and very wealthy Nagardas Ahuja’s widow. The woman claiming the car is her husband’s mistress, Rosy D’Silva, and he had left the car to Rosy in his will—with one stipulation.
Mrs. Ahuja for the win! I think this must be based on a true incident and I salute the wronged wife who came up with it. In any case, Rosy is none too pleased with her 20 rupees—but there’s also nothing she can do about it.
Raju goes off in his legitimately-owned car and finds work at a local garage run by China Reddy Eveready (Jagdeep). This is of course the Comic Side Plot and it involves Eveready and his lovely wife (Jyoti Bakshi, who I am happy to see—I loved her in Bullet), and a sage’s prediction that should they have a child Eveready will die. That is all I am going to say on the subject, except that it’s a relatively unobtrusive CSP for which I am grateful.
Eveready hires Raju as a mechanic. Tinkering underneath a car one day, Raju overhears a plot to throw acid into the face of someone approaching by car. He intervenes and saves the intended victim: it’s Sarita Devi again, with her daughter Rupa, and the plot to throw acid has been conjured up by a vengeful Rosy D’Silva. They are grateful for his help and all pronounce each other ma-beta-bahen-bhai. I look forward to the fireworks when Raju and his real Ma and new fake Ma come face to face!
I’d also really like to know who the actress playing Sarita Devi is—can anybody help me?
Elsewhere in the city, Raju’s father Mr. Verma is living with his “sister” and son Kuldeep (Amjad Khan)! His “sister” is none other than the evil Shanta who tried to rob poor vulnerable Radha. Several years after meeting her, wily Shanta showed up at Verma’s house with little boy Kuldeep (I am a bit confused as to the name change, but never mind) claiming that Radha had committed suicide in the wake of her husband’s betrayal and that she was bringing their son back to him. Verma had explained that Radha misunderstood the situation: Sitara Devi had hired him in his capacity as a lawyer to defend her brother Sunil on a murder charge. Since Sunil was hiding from the police in her house, she turned the lights out so that he would not be seen through the window.
Oh Radha-Nirupa, if only you would use some common sense sometimes.
As Shanta had planned, Verma then asked her to stay on and help bring up his “son.” She has been happily living off of him for 25 years now, and Kuldeep has grown up to be a Very Bad Person, to Verma’s deep despair.
So unhappy is he that he decides to kill himself and writes a suicide note.
On the street he throws himself into an oncoming car’s path, but the driver—Raju of course—slams on the brakes and stops short of hitting him. Verma tells him that he wants to die because his son is a badmash and he has nothing left to live for; Raju scolds him and assures the “poor” old man that he will help him find a job. He asks if Verma knows anything about cars:
A pseudo-grieving Kuldeep is assured by Inspector Dayal that the police are looking day and night for his father’s body as Verma gets a job at Eveready garage.
Raju is about to meet the love of his life when he delivers her repaired car. Shanno (Reena Roy) is a wealthy and beautiful girl, and after a little incident (during which it is implied that Raju sees her nekkid! rrracy!), he is smitten with her.
When Verma figures it all out, he vows to help Raju although he knows that his own son Kuldeep is also interested in Shanno.
He devises an elaborate and painfully silly plan to draw psychiatrist Shanno and mechanic Raju together. I am sure you can imagine how silly it is given that Shanno is a shrink.
Anyway, there’s only been one song (a nice tongawala number pictured on Raju near the beginning of the film) thus far, and the romancing gives us a few more, including a qawwali called “Yeh Mohibi Humko Apna Jaaniye” which is good fun.
But Kuldeep wants Shanno for himself; and he has also seduced poor Rupa into believing he wants to marry her—and now she is pregnant. Can Raju and Shanno find happiness or will Kuldeep’s nefarious plotting put a stop to their romance? Will Kuldeep find out that Verma is alive? Will Verma discover that Raju and not Kuldeep is his real son? Will he be reunited with Radha?
Jail Yatra has all the answers and more. It has the best bar I have ever seen in a home, ever (not to mention the loudest carpet). If someone can find that horse and the accompanying stools and send it to me, I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it will be good.
Vinod and Reena sing a little song and dance badly (at least Vinod does) in matchy-matchy outfits, but look very cute together nonetheless.
Vinod is forced to dance a lot in this, which he doesn’t really seem to enjoy. I’m always happy to get the Bee Gees and “Stayin’ Alive” in a Hindi movie, especially when it’s the original not channeled through Bappida.
In a film with lots of bad wigs, two of them really stand out as ill-fitting and simply terrible.
And there are many, many gaudily patterned, brightly-colored chiffon sarees, some of which can be seen above—but all of which I don’t have time to capture.
In short, Jail Yatra is occasionally eye-rolling fun if you can stomach a woman (Rupa) wanting (encouraged by Raju) to marry the man (Kuldeep) who has lied to her, seduced her, knocked her up, then poisoned her and put her in the trunk of someone else’s car. If he succeeds in his second attempt on her life and frames Raju for it, can I be blamed if I mutter “thinning the herd…” over and over to comfort myself? Even if the herd includes Vinod Khanna, now in jail on a charge of murder?
I think not. Oh, and…um…spoiler.