Despite the DVD cover showing Deb Mukherjee and Alka looking young and beautiful, their romance is only half of the plot. The other half revolves around Ashok Kumar’s character, the principal of a college named Vidyanand. This is not a bad thing! it’s a nice drama about keeping one’s integrity and lofty ideals intact even in the face of injustice. There’s also a rich-vs-poor subtext which starts out strong but doesn’t really go anywhere. The very very best things about the film are the marvelous songs by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, including two Helen numbers, and—Deb Mukherjee! I did not see that coming, I confess.
Our story opens with Principal Vidyanand refusing a bribe from a contractor who wants to build a new hostel.
Next he is visited by some of the college’s professors, who have come to complain about Chandrashekhar (Deb Mukherjee). They say that he is a loafer and an irritant, but Vidyanand’s protege-assistant Shyam (Anoop Kumar) points out that he’s very good at his studies. The professors are also worried that Vidyanand has made the contractor angry, as he is the brother-in-law of the managing director of the college, Seth Dharamdas (Raj Mehra).
We meet Chandrashekhar as he accidentally bumps into Krishna (Alka) in a hallway and she yells at him: “Are you blind?” She is a rich girl and somewhat spoiled, and Dharamdas’s son Navin (who is in love with her) has convinced her that Chandu is good for nothing. Chandu teases her by pretending to really be blind in their next class, which doesn’t endear him either to her, or the professor. We see that Chandu is really a nice guy though, who works hard at his studies despite his poverty. He’s tall and handsome too!
Vidyanand, meanwhile, is being visited at home by an old friend, Shambhu (Pran). I am overjoyed to see Pran and Helen playing his wife, Neelam.
Shambhu is a bit of a rogue. He says that his business is “fooling people.” But he and Vidyanand are very fond of each other. We also meet Sumitra (Nirupa Roy), Vidyanand’s wife, a kind, gentle woman who is also a nurse.
The next day at school someone throws a balled up piece of paper at Krishna and she accuses Chandrashekhar, who is thrown out of the class. Turns out though, that it was Navin who threw it. He confesses to Krishna, thinking she will find it funny—but she feels bad that she got Chandu thrown out and goes to apologize. She apologizes for everything, and when he asks if she has something against him, she replies that she misunderstood who he was, but doesn’t any more. It’s a surprisingly sweet, tender scene, and I realize that I am really having fun watching Deb Mukherjee.
At this point we get a fantastic song. Navin is a candidate in the school election, and Chandu sings a song of “support” for him which essentially plays on his status as the son of a rich father—with not much else going for him. “Who else deserves the vote besides him?” he sings in mock-earnest. It is a wonderful song (“Inko Vote Do”): playful and sarcastic, and it makes Navin even more angry. I like Deb Mukherjee even more—he oozes charisma (he’s a good dancer too).
When Navin loses the election and also sees Krishna and Chandu talking, he has some of his father’s goondas come to the college to beat up Chandu the next day. Chandu gives it a good effort but is thrashed before the thugs are chased off by Vidyanand and the professors. Vidyanand takes Chandu home so that his wife can patch him up. Then Dharamdas shows up and accuses Chandu of starting everything. The sycophantic professors chorus agreement: yes, he should be fined, expelled; but Vidyanand wants to get at the real truth.
Dharamdas threatens him and Vidyanand throws him out of his house. Intrigued by this student with the bad reputation, he asks Chandu what he wants to do after he finishes school. Chandu tells him he wants to become a police inspector so that he can have power and influence to use and get rich by. Vidyanand doesn’t care to hear this:
It’s a great scene—a long dialogue between the two characters where they grow to understand one another. Ashok Kumar is at his best, delivering a powerful lecture which chastens Chandu. He promises that he will never forget what Vidyanand has said. Pleased, Vidyanand sends him off to bed. When a few days (and a beautiful romantic song, “Jaane Kaise Hain”) later, Chandu is accepted into police training, he asks for Vidyanand’s blessings before he leaves for the train station, where the villagers see him off, and Krishna promises to wait for him.
Dharamdas has not been idle, though. Ever since Vidyanand turned down his brother-in-law’s bribe, he has been scheming to bring him down. In support of this, he has befriended Vidyanand’s assistant Shyam and found a flat where Shyam can live with his wife (it’s not clear how this all happens without Vidyanand’s knowledge, but it does). Shyam now finds himself indebted to Dharamdas, alas. Dharamdas forces him to have Vidyanand, who trusts Shyam completely, sign a blank check, which he then uses to embezzle funds from the college. Vidyanand is arrested and at his trial realizes that Shyam has betrayed him. Broken by this, he pleads guilty and goes to jail. He refuses all attempts by Shambhu and Sumitra to appeal his case—he says that his name will be blotted no matter what. Shambhu extracts his own revenge from Shyam (who is the new college principal).
While Vidyanand is in prison, Chandu finishes his training and marries Krishna. He is unaware of Vidyanand’s fate, and when he is assigned to the special branch he gives all credit to his “guru”—Vidyanand.
Then Sumitra goes to meet Vidyanand in jail, and discovers that he has been released and told the jailer not to inform her. He has gone to Shambhu to ask him to help him take his revenge on Dharamdas. Shambhu is not happy that he’s not telling Sumitra where he is, but he agrees to help, along with Neelam. Dharamdas’ life (and businesses) begin to go downhill fast.
How does Vidyanand avenge himself? What has happened to his lofty principles? Will Chandu find out what he’s up to? Will Sumitra ever see her husband again? Will Helen dance? (okay, yes, twice!)
and most importantly—will I ever see Deb Mukherjee again?
I liked this movie; it could have been cheesy and overdone, but the screenplay is sensitive and the cast really appealing. And yes, I’ll say it again, the music is sublime (so is Deb Mukherjee*).
*Turns out he is (according to Wikipedia) not only Joy’s brother (which I knew) but also Shomu Mukherjee’s brother, making him Kajol’s uncle. Sadly he didn’t make that many films.