I watched this with Carla (Filmigeek), who liked it more than I did possibly thanks to the dazzling spectacle that is Sharmila in a swimsuit. For me it was ruined on the mystery front by obvious red herrings thrown at me like bricks and then left unexplained; and elsewhere by the insistence of the men who supposedly “loved” Sharmila (including the hero, argggghh Shashi) threatening repeatedly to kill her if she didn’t do what they wanted. There was fun to be had in some foot-tapping Kalyanji-Anandji musical numbers (and background score) and the general gorgeous sixties ishtyle of Shashi and Sharmila (what splendid alliteration!), but it didn’t quite make up for the annoyances above and a sad lack of gadgetry, lairs or any other kind of embellishment which might have made it less predictable.
Khair. You cannot always win everything.
The film opens on a dark (but not stormy) night as a mysterious male figure approaches a dimly lit mansion. A woman’s scream rings out and the servants spring into action, catching a man on the grounds. As the credits roll, he is put on trial. His name is Deepak Verma (Shashi Kapoor), and the unhappy murder victim is Vimla, his wife. The judge acquits him for lack of evidence but as is so often the case in real life too, the public—and Vimla’s brother Jeevan (Karan Dewan)—judge him guilty, believing that Deepak killed his wife for her fortune.
Now, we all know that because he is The Shash, he cannot possibly be guilty, right? The filmmakers know this too, and so bend over backwards to try and make us think this might be different. He gets off a plane, dressed in a natty white suit with drainpipe pants and sunglasses, watched by a suspicious-looking character smoking a cigar (Shinde—dear Edwina’s brother-in-law, husband of sister Marie and a dancer/musician in his own right). Deepak exits the airport looking nervously over his shoulder and on the way to his hotel switches from one taxi to another in an obvious effort to obscure his trail.
At the hotel (whose Taj-like majestic exterior is not at all matched by its modest interior) Deepak opens his suitcase so that we can see he’s packing a gun and makes a phone call to “Suraj Prakash” (cute nod to the film’s producer/director)—introducing himself as Gopal Mittal.
(Birbal has made him an id bracelet with his new name: I guess that’s all he needs to take on a new identity.)
Deepak Gopal has purchased a house complete with creepy gardener and car for his new life as a bachelor, although he does assure the gardener that he will have a new wife soon.
He wanders through his dark bungalow, turning lights on one by one to a snappy Bond-like score, until he opens the drapes in his bedroom and comes to a Hitchcock-like stop at the
rear window overlooking his neighbor’s house. His new wife appears to already be on the horizon! He watches as she is hailed from below, runs downstairs and climbs into a taxi; then he looks at a photograph he is holding in his hand.
The neighbor is pretty Sapna Mathur (Sharmila Tagore), a girl of some means with a beau by the name of Prem Malhotra (Prem Chopra) and they head for a nightclub (yay!) where the music is as much of a treat as you could ever want. It is reason enough to put up with the painfully obvious red herrings!
I know that one or two (Mike Barnum I am looking at you) of you will be as thrilled as I am to recognize yet another filmi prop that I also happen to have lying around in my house! Of course I’m way more excited about my lamp than is Sharmila, probably because mine is much more beautiful.
But I digress.
Sapna’s older brother Pran (Madan Puri) appears on the scene (in one of those “of course this is going to be someone benign because we’re so obviously supposed to be afraid” approaches), and when Sapna complains about her pesky new neighbor he assures her that he’ll take care of her. More Hitchcockian lurking and spying from the
rear window ensues. I am distracted by those bunchy things behind Shashi’s head. What ARE they? Grapes for someone to peel?
Pran is eager for Sapna to marry his friend Prem, but she has the good sense to be reluctant. At this point the CSP couple is introduced as well in the form of Rajendranath as “Subodh Mukherjee” (jokes about the famed producer-director and Bengali stereotypes are made) and his wife Eetabai (Shammi) whose face is hidden behind her ginormous Maharashtrian pearl “guchhedar nath” (I love it). Gopal hires them as cook and handyman and I am delighted to see them both.
Gopal now seemingly coincidentally begins bumping into Sapna everywhere she goes, and he uses every opportunity to flirt outrageously with her. She is suspicious and flouncy at first of course, but his Shammi-like persistence (and lip-synching, and dancing) pays off and she really starts balking at her brother’s insistent questions about her marriage to Prem. When Gopal is injured while saving her from a runaway carousel (that she isn’t even riding; this movie is full of false alarms) at a fair, her fate is sealed and love, well, blossoms.
For a while all the shark-in-the-water music and overdone scare tactics disappear in favor of love songs in tree-filled parks, but not for long.
Sapna’s new romance does not go down at all well with Prem or Pran, who want her to marry Prem. Prem pressures Pran, who pressures Sapna, who is obstinate. If I had to choose between a guy who looks like Shashi and only wanted my money and a guy who talks through a clenched jaw and specializes in destroying things he can’t have, I’d choose Gopal too.
Yup, definitely Gopal, and truthfully I’d not only never speak to my brother again if he pulled a gun on me, but I’d put out a restraining order on him. I’d do the same for a would-be fiance if he brandished an aluminum foil knife at me, too.
Instead Sapna marries Gopal at the registrar’s office with Subodh and Eeta as witnesses, and they head off for a happy honeymoon in Kashmir where Sapna water-skis on Dal Lake (she spent a lot of time in swimsuits that year) as Gopal serenades her. Prem and Pran are pretty unhappy when they discover what has happened!
On their way home from their honeymoon Sapna is pushed from a hilltop where she was waiting for Gopal to get water for their conveniently stalled automobile and ends up in the hospital.
Did Gopal—who is really Deepak of course—murder his first wife Vimla for the inheritance? Is he behind the attempt on wealthy Sapna’s life? Or is it Prem or Pran having a fit of manly rage? What will Sapna do when she finds out about her husband’s past? If not Deepak, who did kill Vimla, and why? Who is the mysterious guy lurking about watching Gopal/Deepak? And how is he connected to servant/CSP Subodh?
This is most definitely one of those movies that I feel like I should love—but just can’t quite. This was my second viewing of it, and I didn’t much care for it the first time around either, for all of the same reasons. It simply lacks some indefinable thing for me—humor, craziness, a sense of fun. It takes itself too seriously and there are stretches of boredom interspersed with all those ridiculously obvious attempts to scare which didn’t (and I am easy to scare). I’ve liked Shashi and Sharmila’s chemistry in other films together, but here it doesn’t quite gell; and as I said before, I find the repeated casual threats to kill poor Sapna beyond irritating.
But on the upside, we are treated to a crazy Laxmi Chhaya dance:
and Shashi and Sharmila are gorgeous:
so there’s always that.