I was pretty happy to finally find this film on DVD since I’ve long loved OP Nayyar’s songs from it. Also it features three of my favorite people: Prithviraj Kapoor, Mumtaz and Helen. It’s beautifully shot in black and white and is very atmospheric (except for the omnipresent bright orange Time N Tune logo). The story takes some unexpected turns, the music is stunning, and overall the pace and the acting is good. But I ended up feeling that I should have liked this movie better than I actually did.
Rita (Mumtaz) is the daughter of an archaeologist (Prithviraj Kapoor) who is excavating an ancient site. She is engaged to marry Suraj (Biswajeet), an artist, and the son of her father’s best friend. Rita’s father has been managing Suraj’s large inheritance since Suraj’s father died, and will hand it all over when they get married.
At the excavation site, the workers unearth an ornately decorated room with a life-size statue of a dancer as its centerpiece. There is also a skeleton wearing bangles that exactly match the statue’s. Prithviraj (I don’t think he had an actual name in the film) takes the bangles for safekeeping.
Rita is obviously pleased to be marrying Suraj, but he seems a little more ambivalent. So when he hears the haunting strains of a song (the beautiful “Har Tukda Mere Dil Ka”) and follows the sound to its source, there is clearly trouble for Rita ahead.
The mysterious beauty (Sharmila Tagore) tells Suraj that she’s been waiting for him, and seems to expect that he knows her too. She says her name is Kiran. Over the next few days, she continues to appear in front of him, only to vanish suddenly, and he becomes obsessed. Her allusions to their past together still make no sense to him, but he can’t stop thinking about her.
The story is interrupted at random for a Helen flamenco song—“Huzoor-e-Wala”— not that I’m complaining.
Suraj hosts a party to which he invites Kiran. Rita is upset, and her father even more so. Kiran shows up dressed exactly like the antique statue, even wearing the same jewels right down to the bangles! Prithviraj discovers that the bangles he had locked up are missing, and the next day the statue at the site is gone as well. He and his assistant Rakesh investigate the history of the site further, and Rakesh finds a reference to a dancer who was murdered there 2000 years before because of her love affair with a sculptor.
On the pretext of painting her portrait, Suraj continues to meet Kiran and finally acknowledges to her that he loves her. Prithviraj and Rakesh are gradually convinced that she is the reincarnation of Kiranmai. Rakesh takes some photos of Kiran with Suraj but when the photos are developed, only Suraj is there.
After Suraj spends the night in a cave with her, Prithviraj confronts him. If he doesn’t marry Rita, he will lose his inheritance per his father’s wishes. Suraj stubbornly declares that he has no interest in his inheritance. Rita’s patent anguish at his betrayal fails to move him either.
At the temple site under a full moon, Kiran finally tells Suraj that she is not a human being, but the ghost of Kiranmai. They were lovers in a former life and if he wants to be united with her forever, he will have to kill himself on this very night.
Can he do it? Will he do it?
I think the main reason that I felt neutral about this film rather than really liking it is Biswajeet. He is handsome, but very aloof and restrained. For me, the role really required someone with some passion and fire to make the love story work. Also Sharmila as Kiran was not very likable and I’m always partial to Mumtaz anyway, so I had trouble rooting for her as the heroine. The biggest plus (besides the music) was Prithviraj Kapoor—it is the most substantial role I’ve seen him in (including Mughal-e-Azam) and it was a joy to see him on screen so much.