In which Shashi is a zombie and everybody is stupider than stupid.
Given the caliber of the main players (Sanjeev Kumar, Raakhee, Shashi Kapoor), I might have had hopes that this would be a decent film at least, but having read the Post-Punk Cinema Club’s review some time ago I knew better. Still, I expected some bright spots. But there weren’t any, unless you like pork. Everytime I thought the film could not possibly get any dumber or the acting worse, it got dumber and the acting got worse. I guess when a plot is this moronic with characters this poorly drawn, there is nothing much else to do except ham it up—and ham it up they all did. My God.
It begins reasonably enough, with poor lonely Aarti (Raakhee) pining for her once-attentive but now neglectful husband Sunil (Sanjeev Kumar). Sunil is a wildly successful surgeon, and completely obsessed with his work. He is also a jackass who thinks nothing of making fun of his wife to her face at a party, and when he does speak to her he’s condescending and dismissive.
I want to slap him silly from the get-go. Since her only reaction to all of this is passive-aggressive self-pity, I pretty much want to smack some sense into her too; so within five minutes I find myself detesting the hero-heroine, never a good sign.
I stick with it though, thanks to this little declaration at the beginning. You know how I love to identify locations, although it does pain me that such a very bad film was dedicated to the so-very-talented Dwarka Divecha (who also makes a cameo appearance as another doctor).
Happily we are soon in Khandala, where Aarti’s sister Radha (Bindu) lives with her ex-military husband the Major (Sujit Kumar) and their son Raju (Master Raju). They have invited Aarti and Sunil down to celebrate Raju’s birthday and so that Aarti and Sunil can check the progress of a house they’ve bought there, which is being decorated. Sunil promises faithfully that he’ll make it (it’s clear from conversation that he’s blown them off before too) but of course he doesn’t.
Aarti leaves without him and on the road indulges in teary memories of happier times with her husband. I’m unimpressed, and very happy when she arrives at her house. The interior decorator hired by the Major to do up Aarti’s house is none other than an old college classmate, Vinod (Shashi Kapoor). Vinod carries a photograph of Aarti in his wallet and a torch for her in his dil. He flashes back to their roles as Salim and Anarkali in a school play, where they are almost as hammy as they are in this movie.
Vinod is also everything that Sunil is not (besides handsome): funny, happy-go-lucky, attentive, and he soon has Aarti laughing. Sunil calls to find out if Aarti has his pistol (she does) and why she hadn’t contacted him before she left. He’s a little miffed, and puzzled at her cheerful demeanor and promises to come down for Raju’s birthday party that evening, which is being held in their house since Vinod has finished his work there.
Of course, he doesn’t show up which surprises nobody except Aarti. Vinod sees her unhappiness and cheers her up with a song with Raju’s young friends; then the next day he overhears her confiding in Radha that she has decided not to return home unless her husband comes and gets her (minor “yay?”). He begins spending time with her (behaving with massively irritating and forced good cheer, oh Shashi) and Aarti blossoms under his hyperactive friendship.
Radha notices and gets her petticoat in a twist with her fervid imaginings. Arggghhh.
I notice that whenever Aarti and Vinod are together strains of “Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas” play softly in the background. Aarti treats Vinod with a sisterly affection and begins confiding her sorrows in him too (at one point telling him that she wishes she had everything to do over again), while Radha lectures her on morality and appearances.
Then Sunil forgets their wedding anniversary, prompting another flashback where we learn that on a past anniversary Aarti had gifted Sunil with baby news, but then miscarried (with Dwarka Divecha as the OBGYN). Oh the misery!
Sunil’s assistant Chaturvedi reminds him that it’s his wedding anniversary, so he calls Aarti back and tells her he was planning to “surprise” her with a visit. He asks her to make dinner for the two of them. This cheers her up immensely (unsurprisingly since she has already demonstrated an inability to learn); but since I do have that ability I am sure he won’t show up. And he does not, prevented once again by work issues. Aarti mopes for a while, and then decides to kill herself. Vinod, who has been watching her from his cottage on the grounds, follows her and stops her.
This is a rare sensitive moment in the film, where both Raakhee and Shashi actually showed up for work, and it’s very poignant.
The next day, unable to express his feelings to Aarti in person, Vinod writes her a very sweet and thoughtful letter.
At this point the movie takes a hard 180° turn from poorly done Mills & Boon territory into OTT psycho-stalking ridiculousness, and Aarti and Radha turn into the stupidest women on the planet. Aarti seems startled that Vinod would think she’s lonely and sad (massive *eyeroll*); and despite the fact that he has never been anything but kind and respectful towards her, now decides that he is a threat to her. The background music changes from “Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas” into screeching “danger danger!” sounds and rolls of thunder while rain and lightning lash outside the windows.
Aarti imagines a scene where Sunil arrives and Vinod confronts him. This so distresses her that she calls Radha and asks her to come over. Then she notices the lights going on at Vinod’s cottage and goes down to talk to him. Well, really, it’s more that she insults him and tells him to go away. He not unnaturally wants to discuss things with her since she has been encouraging him, and follows her to the house where the whole film goes completely off the rails.
He points out that she herself had said that she wishes she’d had a life with him instead, and that it’s what he is offering here (society be damned! yay for him!). She admits saying it but insists that he’s misunderstood her; then she grabs Sunil’s gun and threatens to shoot herself. When he struggles to stop her the gun goes off and he ends up at the bottom of the stairs with blood pouring out of his head. Radha arrives and goes completely berserk, which is pretty much the last thing Aarti needs at this point. They put Vinod’s body in the car and dump him into a ravine some distance from the house.
I bang my head on the arm of my chair.
When Sunil FINALLY arrives in Khandala the next morning, he finds a different Aarti from the one he is used to. She’s jumpy and unresponsive to his advances, and when his assistant Chaturvedi calls from Bombay she tells Sunil he should go back. Then the Major brings none other than Vinod to be treated by Sunil after he is found wandering in the woods. Oh boy.
By now I am completely fed up with what an incompetent mess this movie is, and I begin to think of plot developments I would like to see, like Shashi as a Zombie Interior Decorator. We’ve already gone from love triangle to suspense thriller, why not toss horror into the mix? I’ll bet the Shash would have enjoyed that more too, especially since he plays the rest of this out as listlessly as anyone possibly could (he’s lost his memory, which apparently makes you robotic too).
If you even care anymore whether Sunil ever wakes up and smells the coffee, or whether Aarti realizes that she’s holding onto a jackass in a bad wig for the sake of a marriage that makes her miserable, or whether Vinod ever regains his memory and realizes that there’s probably someone prettier and less whiny over here in the United States, then watch this movie. If you want to see Radha (whose name changes mysteriously in the subtitles to Vidya right about now) give her sister wrong stupid hysterical advice, and to see Sunil’s reaction when he finds “evidence” of Aarti’s non-existent affair with Vinod, watch this movie.
If you do, however, I suggest you have some sort of drinking game planned to get you through it (Aarti weeps: drink! Radha says something dumb: drink! Aarti says something dumb: drink! Sunil is insufferable: drink! Shashi obscures his dazzle with hideous sunglasses: drink!).
Oh, and the Khandala house looks a lot like the Cat Wall-Hanging House but isn’t, although it’s an eyeful on its own thanks to the Zombie Interior Decorator.