I will start off here by saying that I loved this film. As tired as I was last evening (red-eye flight the night before), I could not turn it off. I had to see what would happen next. Vijay Anand’s particular brand of brisk direction combined with a great plot and a myriad of wonderfully etched characters large and small is evident throughout. I have recently seen two of his gems from the same time period: Johny Mera Naam and Chhupa Rustam. This film is more serious than those two; a different genre more in keeping with Guide than with Jewel Thief. I found its messages about medicine and priorities just as relevant as it was 36 years ago. And the many songs by SD Burman are sublime.
Dev Anand stars as Dr. Anand Kumar. He has recently received his medical degree, and against the advice of his classmates he moves to a small rural village to practice there with Dr. Prasad. Dr. Prasad is very ill and has another assistant by the name of Dr. Jagan Kothari (Vijay Anand) who has taken to drinking in an effort to blot out the inequities and corruption that he has seen. This is what he thinks now of village life:
Jagan’s friend Dr. Bhutani is a dentist, an easy-going likeable fellow who keeps him company drinking and gambling, but isn’t quite as cynical. Anand befriends them, although he doesn’t drink. He is soon quite popular in the village, since he is honest, compassionate, hard-working and a talented doctor. He has a run-in with the local schoolteacher, Nisha (Mumtaz) when she takes a kid with smallpox to school against his orders; but they are soon falling in love. On one of their first dates they see a movie starring the famous film star Malti Mala (Hema Malini) (also really love the ruffled shirt on this man):
When Anand returns home from their date, he has to deliver a baby because Jagan (the village obstetrician) is too drunk to do it. The baby is not breathing when it is born, but Anand saves its life. The father, Phoolchand, is so grateful that he gives Anand a Rs 100 note. When Anand waves it away he says that it isn’t money, it is his wife and child’s blessing; Anand accepts it as such. He shows it to Nisha, who asks him to sign it for her and give it to her instead of buying something for her with it.
When he is again called upon to save a woman who is in difficult labor, he goes to Jagan and gives him a good dressing-down, shaming Jagan and reminding him of why he became a doctor in the first place. Meanwhile, Dr. Prasad’s wife discovers that Anand has received extra money from Phoolchand and she fires him for taking a bribe (mostly for not sharing it with her). Jagan tells him of a position in a nearby hospital; he applies and is accepted on the condition that he get married. He proposes to Nisha, although not very adeptly (he makes it sound like the job the only reason he’s proposing):
They are married and move to the town where the hospital and a large coal mine are located. Anand refuses to sign false health certificates for the mine workers, causing them to abandon him for other more easily corruptible doctors there, but Nisha supports him and encourages him to study further for an advanced degree. The chemistry between Dev Anand and Mumtaz is lovely. They are the very picture of happy, optimistic newlywedded bliss. Nisha discovers that she is pregnant on the same day that Anand passes his advanced degree exams; there is also a cave-in at the mine and when Anand risks his life to save that of the mine foreman, he gets all the workers back as patients.
All this happiness would make for a very dull movie, though, so Premnath in the form of the mine owner appears to add some drama. He drives recklessly through the town one afternoon and hits Nisha, causing her to miscarry the baby. Jagan saves her life, but tells Anand that she should not have more children as it might kill her. Anand cannot bring himself to tell Nisha this, but he rejects Premnath’s attempts to bribe him and takes him to court, only to lose his case because Premnath has bribed all the witnesses instead.
Grief-stricken by his loss, and worried about Nisha, a furious Anand decides to leave the town and move to Bombay where he too can become rich. It is now apparent to him that poor and honorable is not going to cut it. Once there, they struggle at first; but a fortuitous meeting with his old classmate, now a rich, successful doctor, brings Anand some wealthier patients, including Malti Mala’s hairdresser. Treated successfully, she then introduces him to the movie star, who suffers from bad headaches and general fatigue and anxiety. She’s overworked and stressed, but finds his company soothing and soon comes to depend on him—and fall in love with him.
Nisha watches in dismay as Anand becomes consumed with money and material success. He is more and more removed from his patients, begins drinking in the company of his new friends whom she does not much like, and finds less and less time for her. Jagan and Bhutani come to visit and are also startled by the change in Anand. Nisha notices that Jagan doesn’t drink any more, to which he says:
She also discovers that she is pregnant again but gets no chance to tell Anand the news. When Phoolchand and his wife arrive with their sick child and Anand sends them to a hospital for treatment instead of keeping them at his home and treating the child himself, it is the final straw. She packs her bags and goes back to the village after confronting Anand about how he has changed, leaving behind the Rs 100 “blessing” from Phoolchand which Anand now only sees as money.
Will Anand wake up and smell the coffee? Or will he choose the glamorous Malti Mala and his new life? Will Nisha survive her pregnancy?
I know this is a long post, but believe me, I left a lot out. For one thing, there are many beautiful songs and several great dances featuring Hema Malini. But as I said above, Vijay Anand’s direction keeps things moving along at a good pace. There are so many wonderful characters in this film too. A stuttering chemist, whiny rich hypochondriacs….it is just chock-full of goodness. And if you enjoy sobbing through movies as much as I do—this one is a must-see.