Can a film about a spineless man bullied by his suspicious wife be fun? I admit, I had my doubts. Men complaining about their nagging wives get on my last good nerve. Maybe she’s nagging you because you deserve it! Maybe she was always a nagger and you married her anyway! I don’t have any patience for people (male or female) who claim other people are responsible for their own bad behavior. Khair. I saw this movie long ago in the initial throes of my Helen pyaar and didn’t remember much about it outside of her spectacular song. But my developing fondness for Kiran Kumar, who hit my radar with Jangal Mein Mangal—made by the same team with many of the same actors and a movie I thoroughly enjoyed—decided me on a rewatch.
And like JMM this one is good fun, although I did have to roll my eyes at the end. But the cast is interesting and does justice to the zany Hollywood-style bedroom farce, and the songs are cute and well-picturized (apart from Helen’s number, “Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao” stands out). And there is Just The Right Amount Of Mehmood in a guest appearance.
Plus, the garish seventies fashions, furnishings and decor are just so much of extra eye candy. And happily male double standards are held up briefly for occasional scrutiny (mostly via “Yeh Mard Bade Bedardi Hain”), although predictably in the end it’s the women who are held solely responsible for the myriad misunderstandings and deceptions that make up the comedic tangle of the plot.
I had not seen Radha Saluja before (well, except in this same movie) and she is perfect as middle-class housewife Geeta Mehta: just a touch of snobbery and a not-unfounded insecurity about her husband’s activities while she’s not around (she reminds me a lot of Leena Chandravarkar too). And I really like Kiran Kumar, who is cute in an “every man” kind of way and brings the hen-pecked Sunil Mehta to life. I also love that he looks a lot like his father Jeevan and yet still manages somehow to be cute!
(I adore Jeevan, but he is not cute.)
On his way home from work one evening, Sunil gives way to temptation in the form of a fair complete with all the kinds of amusements (and food) one finds at such things (luckily he has no kid to lose track of). He takes a ride on the ferris wheel, seated beside a pretty woman, and is trapped at the very top when the wheel breaks down. They are stuck up there together for the whole night, while at home a wakeful Geeta frets about the whereabouts of her husband.
The other inhabitants of the household include Ramji (IS Johar), a discontented manservant who is not above picking the pockets of the Mehtas’ friends who visit:
and Geeta’s younger sister Pinky (Arpana Chowdhary). Ramji—who also provides us with a steady stream of caustic observations on the foibles of Indian government and society at large—is fed up with Geeta’s nagging ways and looking for a new memsaab, while Pinky wants to marry her boyfriend Captain Ranjit (Narendranath), although Sunil disapproves of him.
Neither Ramji nor Pinky try terribly hard to console the agitated Geeta. When Sunil finally does get home, he immediately digs an already deep grave a little deeper.
Sulking, Geeta is not ready to believe any story about a ferris wheel breaking down and taking a whole night to repair. So Sunil spins an elaborate tale about running into a childhood friend named Champak Bhumia and spending the night catching up with him. Geeta insists on an address for Champak and Sunil makes one up on the spot. Geeta sends off a telegram—“Come immediately. Husband should not know. Happiness depends on you.”— while Sunil takes a shower.
I find this song really very funny despite my feminist reservations, and I giggle at the heartfelt feeling with which Kishore (himself married four times) sings it!
Pretty soon the woman from the fair (Manju Asrani, hilariously referred to throughout by Sunil as “giant wheel girl”) shows up to reclaim a pair of glasses which somehow Sunil had taken with him. Desperate to get rid of her before Geeta comes down and sees her, Sunil tells her that he’s left them with a friend.
He promises to meet her the next morning at Sona Department Store with her glasses and shoves her out the back door as someone else rings the front door bell. The new arrival is Sunil’s good friend Amit Desai (Asrani), who has been living in Paris but is relocating back to Bombay with his new wife. Amit’s bride has already arrived in Bombay a few days earlier, and Amit has come straight from the airport to spend two days with his jigri dost before settling in to his new life here with her.
See what I mean? Maybe your wife has good reason to be suspicious! Sunil confides his previous night’s adventures to Amit, and further proves my point.
Geeta is finally convinced of Sunil’s innocence, and Amit further endears himself to the family by convincing Sunil to let Captain Ranjit get engaged to Pinky, whose birthday it is—giving us the excuse for another goofy song (“Happy Birthday to Pinky”) with Jayshree T leading a gaggle of frolicking girls in gaudy outfits and piles of hair.
Alas, the now-happy day is about to take a turn for the worse. There just happens to be a real Champak Bhumia (Paintal) living at the address that Sunil had invented, and he shows up in response to Geeta’s telegram with his own deeply suspicious wife Motiya (Padma Khanna) in close pursuit.
She too has good reason to be skeptical about his activities.
The confusion this causes is further complicated when “giant wheel girl” appears again at the Mehta house still looking for her glasses (which by now have made their way into Ranjit’s hands). Can all this chaos—there are some fun twists and turns still to come—right itself eventually?
I guess it does, especially if you are not me. Throughout the whole movie the ones doing all the lying and deceiving are the men—but it is somehow all still the womens’ fault! I have really never understood this ongoing “boys will be boys and girls will be nags” topic so dear to married people everywhere (it’s one more reason I didn’t bother). Still, it is meant all in good fun and I did really enjoy enough that I can say it’s worth a watch. The screenplay is well constructed if you don’t mind mind-boggling coincidences, and I love the cast—none of them ever seemed to really make it big in films, but they are more than equal to the witty screenplay and characterizations in this. The comedy only descends into tiresome slapstick briefly (I’m looking at you Paintal) and if nothing else, watch the songs: they are loony and occasionally fabulous.