Kishore Kumar is one of those actors (Mehmood being another) who either makes me laugh out loud or completely irritates me. The script, direction and supporting characters make the difference usually, and I think that’s the case (and by “case” I mean problem) here too. Even though Shakti Samanta directed, after about the first hour I was fast-forwarding through more than I watched—not only is the frantic slapstick not funny, but the Curse of the Second Half derails what little entertainment there is. The story manages an interesting turn in the middle but then resolves itself in the stupidest manner possible. Plus the supporting cast are grating—even Madan Puri as a buffoonish bad guy just isn’t funny. In fact Edwina, who watched some of it with me and appears in two songs, asked me how on earth I can sit through such stuff.
She seems quite amazed at my tolerance for total crap, but I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of you who come here regularly.
There are a few redeeming factors: SD Burman’s songs are charming and beautifully choreographed by Surya Kumar, and Kishore’s love of singing shows in his sparkling renditions (although Manna Dey sings for him once!). I think his son’s stamp is all over the music as well although he isn’t credited. Heroine Kalpana looks very pretty, although she doesn’t have much to do besides put up with Kishore and his buddies and their juvenile antics. I also loved the animated credits (courtesy someone named Albert Zacharias), although when the credits are one of the best things about a film that’s not a good sign.
Kishore plays Pritam, an office worker having trouble finding a place to live in the big city of Bombay. He runs into an old friend one evening by the name of Jagdish (Sunder), who invites Pritam to come and live with him. Jagdish lives in a colony owned by Munnidevi (Praveen Paul), a woman disappointed in love, who thus forbids all the denizens of her chawl to engage in any romantic shenanigans (including marriage).
Jagdish has two other roommates, Bhimsen (Kundan), who is a boxer; and lovelorn poet Viyogi (Krishnakant), who has the most annoying falsetto voice ever ever ever. I don’t know what anyone was thinking letting that go by. Dr. Jadibuti (Om Prakash) is the eyes and ears of the colony and he has a soft spot for Munnidevi although it goes nowhere. I am sad to say that I will never see Om Prakash in quite the same way due to Edwina telling me what a lecherous grabby guy he was—not exactly the benign tipsy grandfather of his usual onscreen persona *sigh*.
In any case, Pritam soon meets a pretty girl by the name of Neena (Kalpana) (everybody says “Neena” although it’s subtitled “Meena” throughout) on a rainy day when their umbrellas blow away and collide.
He is instantly smitten, but of course she…not so much (the obligatory sharp “Shut up!” which always makes me laugh). Neither of them notice that they’ve inadvertently exchanged umbrellas by the time they manage to disentangle them. Pritam had borrowed Viyogi’s, which was given to him by his long-lost sweetheart, so he has the perfect excuse to seek Neena out again to retrieve Viyogi’s precious chhatri. He tracks her down with help from the local street vendors and for some reason disguises himself as an umbrella repair man instead of simply going to her house and asking for the umbrella back.
It’s apparently just to amuse us, because she soon figures out who he is (his false mouche falls off) and it doesn’t further the story any, but never mind. There are many little diversions like this, which rather than entertaining just drag the film’s pace down. She tells him that she has left Viyogi’s umbrella at a friend’s house, but that she’ll have it by the evening. She is also clearly amused by him although he doesn’t seem to realize that she likes him.
Neena lives with her Mamaji (Kanu Roy) who has a friend named Mr. Mathur (Madan Puri in a Hitler mustache), just arrived home from travels abroad. Mathur is obviously interested in Neena as well, and invites them to visit him at his newly purchased hotel.
Pritam now fakes a heart attack in his office in order to meet Neena that evening as planned. He also sings a lovely little ditty “Nazaren Milaake Jo Duniya Ki Nazaron” which takes him along the street past the vendors and into a little club where Edwina is dancing! The two of us shriek in unison: “That’s you!” “That’s me!” and I say smugly, “I told you so.” Since she was a favorite of choreographer Surya Kumar and it’s a 1962 film, I figured she would show up at some point.
But poor Pritam: when he shows up at Neena’s house to get the umbrella, the maid gives it to him and informs him that Neena has gone to Poona. Her sister Beena (Laxmi Chhaya in a blink-and-you-miss-her appearance) is getting married. Neena’s uncle is a teacher of classical music, and Pritam decides to ingratiate himself with Mamaji by becoming his student. There is a lot of raucous Carnatic-style noise for comic effect which quickly gets on my last good nerve, but Neena is pleased to see Pritam there when she returns home.
This leads to a lovely duet “Sa Sa Sa Sa Re”—oh the songs are such GOOD FUN.
It’s now obvious that Neena likes Pritam as much as he likes her, but he stumbles along cluelessly for a while making excuses to see her (which she generally doesn’t understand). We get more fun songs to help things along, like this one when he hopes to meet her at the movies and gives her a single ticket but she sends her uncle instead, not wanting to go alone. Communication is not Pritam’s strong suit!
Possibly it isn’t Neena’s either.
After a LOT of hemming and hawing and tiresome completely unnecessary machinations on Pritam’s part, they finally admit their love for one another. Then Neena receives a telegram from her father (Shivraj) asking her to come back to Poona, and on the way there her train derails and crashes into a gorge. Neena’s name appears on the list of those killed and we are treated to Kishore Nahiin Face.
Pritam grieves for all of about ten minutes and Edwina and I both remark on how quickly he bounces back from despair. His colleagues from the office arrive to take him out for a picnic and he goes after some token protests. At this point Edwina tells me that the girls in his office are played by Saroj Khan (2nd from right front in both screen caps) who we all know found fame later as a choreographer (her mentor was choreographer Sohanlal); her close friend Teresa (far right in both screen caps) who later married Memsaab favorite Oscar (they are still married); and a dancer named Tina Misquitta (far left in first screen cap, second girl from left in the second) whose daughter Kimi Katkar later became a model and actress in the 1980s.
Of course a picnic would not be a picnic without a rollicking song, and what a treat this one is too (Teresa is featured front and center in the striped skirt). I love the Brazilian flavor of it!
While Pritam is thus frolicking with his office pals, Dr. Jadubati gets a surprise when Neena shows up looking for Pritam. She asks him whether Pritam is doing all right after the news of her “death” and doesn’t *quite* get the answer she’s hoping for.
Furious and heartbroken, she decides to teach him a lesson and instructs Dr. Jadibuti not to tell Pritam that she is alive. She poses incredibly unconvincingly as an entertainer from Finland named Edna (!) hired to work at Mathur’s Hotel Vienna, and Mathur is encouraged to believe that she might marry him. At this point my flagging interest is revived somewhat in the hopes that there might be an interesting twist behind Pritam’s lightning-fast rebound.
Will this tangle be sorted out? Will Pritam fall for Edna (well, yes, in about five minutes flat)? Did he really love Neena, and if so why didn’t his sorrow last more than four days? Will Neena forgive him and tell him the truth or will she marry Mathur?
In all, there are some intermittent funny scenes and dialogues, but essentially you have to sit through a lot of idiocy for what turns out to be no real good reason (I think the film’s message can be summed up in the phrase “time heals all wounds and quickly too when your film is going over budget”). Kishore is hit-and-miss, sometimes endearingly goofy and sometimes a little too much—he does shine especially in the musical moments, of which there are plenty. I didn’t hate this movie by any means but I’ll probably not sit through it again, although I will definitely keep the songs on my playlist. If you do want to check it out, it’s available with subtitles on Youtube—but only on an unsubtitled VCD otherwise. Eyeroll.
This one is my favorite: Kalpana is just stunning, and naturally Edwina is there too with sister Marie and friends.