Preetam (1971)

The title screens are pretty cheerful, with hearts and rainbows and whatnot. The opening scene is not. But before I get started on that, this is another Bhappi Sonie produced-and-directed film, and one of the last of the Shammi-starrers (as hero). He is *sigh* aging and bloated—but I still adore him!

There’s plenty else to love, too. The songs by Shankar Jaikishan are marvellous, including what I think is one of Helen’s finest numbers EVER. And that’s saying something! There’s a very young Vinod Khanna, Mehmood in a Cleopatra wig, sparkling and gorgeous Leena Chandavarkar, and some good subtitle mischief to boot.

Anyway, on to our sad, sad opening. Thakur (Raj Mehra) and his wife (Sulochana Latkar) are visiting Thakur’s sister in the hospital, who has just given birth to a son and is dying.

Before she expires, she extracts a promise from Thakur and his wife that they will bring up her son and never tell her husband Rana (who is in jail for murder) that it’s his son. They promise, and with a “he Ram” she dies.

They name the boy Preetam, and soon after have a son of their own, Anil. Rana escapes from jail seven or eight years after Preetam’s birth and comes looking for his wife and child. Thakur tells him that they both are dead.

While he tries to extort some money from Thakur, Thakur’s wife calls the police from another room. When they arrive and arrest Rana, he vows revenge as he is dragged off.

Years later, Preetam (Shammi Kapoor) and Anil (Vinod Khanna) have grown up and remain close. I love the way the transition from childhood to adulthood is shown in Hindi films.

Probably because of my itinerant childhood, I so appreciate the stability and “sameness” in idealized Indian family life! Anyway, Vinod is going off to finish school in Bombay, and Preetam is being harassed by his parents about getting married to Barrister Sinha’s daughter Sharan (Leena Chandavarkar).

Sharan is not about to marry someone she’s never even seen, let alone met. With her father’s permission she is off to have a look at Preetam. A quirk of the subtitles in this film is that capital “C” is written as “O”:

It’s a little distracting, but fun! So she’s off to stay with family friend Dr. Chhaya (Malika) in Cochin.

Now we meet Safachat (Mehmood), a somewhat incompetent barber who is in love with pretty Gauri (Kumari Naaz). I write down: Baby Naaz???? (check imdb) and it turns out that yes, she is the former Baby Naaz! It’s nice to see a child star grown up and still working instead of hooked on crack or something.

Gauri’s father is naturally played by Dhumal, and this comic side plot doesn’t vary much from all the other ones pitting Mehmood against Dhumal. Enough said about it; I am sure you can imagine how many bad haircuts and lunatic disguises it brings to the table.

I’m never clear on what Preetam actually does for a living although everyone seems to respect him a lot and fear him a little. Accompanied by his four…um…associates, he visits an old woman who is ill, and dispatches them to get the doctor. Sharan is now staying with Dr. Chhaya. When they arrive, Preetam’s goons mistake her for the doctor and kidnap her.

It’s not an auspicious start to the Preetam-Sharan love story.

When Sharan arrives at the old woman’s house she gets into an altercation with Preetam and slaps him. He tells her that if she doesn’t leave by the next morning he will kill her. When he is informed the next day that she’s still, he goes after her.

By now she knows (from Dr. Chhaya) that Preetam is her would-be husband and she’s not pleased. When she sees him coming, she flees out the back and disguises herself as a village girl. He accosts her anyway, and she explains that her name is Bindiya and that Sharan is her twin.

She spins a tale straight out of many movie plots—it’s a very funny scene. She tells him that Sharan won’t have anything to do with her since she, Bindiya, is still poor. After he leaves, the owner of the clothes that she’s “borrowed” arrives and has her arrested for theft.

At the police station, she gives Preetam’s name as a reference. He bails her out, and buys her a new outfit with lots of mirrors. She puts it on, and he is smitten (she does look so cute). He tells her that he had no intention of getting married—until he saw her.

I’ll bet! He sets out to win Bindiya’s heart. She falls in love with him too, but is now in a real pickle. He hates Sharan almost as much as he loves Bindiya. She decides that she will have to “kill” Bindiya, and throws the village girl outfits into the river.

A passing policeman misunderstands the scene and arrests her for murder. After a big tamasha (and a song), Preetam is finally convinced that she—Sharan—really does love him, and they are engaged.

But it’s way too soon for a happy ending!

In Bombay at school, Anil has fallen in love with Sarita (Helen), a cabaret dancer (yay!). What Anil doesn’t know, however, is that she is in cahoots with Rana—who is now released from jail and bent on ruining Thakur’s family.

We are treated to a crazy Helen number (“Hum Bhi Shikari Tum Bhi Shikari”). Its magnificence requires several screen shots, although the dancing is so lively that it’s hard to get good ones. I really think it’s one of Helen’s best ever. Blackfaced men in diapers! Track suits with orchid accessories! Giant pineapple thingies!

Sarita is really in love with Pyare (Manmohan), Rana’s main henchman. Pyare and Rana follow when Anil takes her to meet his parents and they get engaged alongside Preetam and Sharan.

But Anil is killed soon after in a car accident.

Hmmm. Anyway, not willing to give up his plan, Rana tells Sarita to pretend she’s pregnant. As expected, Anil’s parents ask Preetam to marry her instead of Sharan, to save the family honor. Heartbroken, he does so, in the saddest wedding ever. Even the shehnai sounds broken.

What will happen next? Is Anil really dead? Will Rana ever get to know that Preetam is really his son? Will he care? Will Sharan ever find happiness? Or Preetam? Will the missing “C” ever be found?

And finally: after all the subtitles went AWOL for about five minutes, they suddenly reappeared at this crucial moment:

Enjoy!

Edited to add: My sister pointed out a most egregious error on my part—no good screen shot of Vinod! In all fairness, he was either away at school or charred beyond recognition for most of the movie, but here you go:

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8 Comments to “Preetam (1971)”

  1. LOL! “Are you man or egg”, “Oochin”… Hahahahaha!

  2. “Ooming, my love” was another of my favorites.

  3. Helen actually gets to marry the hero! Bet she dies trying to save him at the end – after having fallen for him. :-) And Vinod’s face “charred beyond recognition” – such a waste…

  4. Oheating is WRONG, ocolding is fine.

    Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

    Also my intent has hardened. Into resolve. To watch a Shammi movie sooner or later… I KNOW. I haven’t seen a SINGLE SHAMMI MOVIE YET. When you’re done baking cookies with him, you’ll have to suggest a good intro title. Actually, mere paas Bluffmaster hai – maybe I’ll give that a shot immediately. Kalyanji-Anandji soundtrack, woot woot.

  5. Also have to agree with your sis – gratuitous Vinod pics are important (or eggs).

  6. Helen does marry the hero—but in this film she is a BAD, bad girl. No redeeming qualities (except her dancing skills), certainly no hidden heart of gold. She’s evil through and through.

    And ppcc peep: my eyes are wide, my mouth hanging open in dismay. You poor, poor thing! Bluffmaster is pretty good, and you might as well start (immediately!!!!) with that, but I would highly recommend you watch Junglee or Kashmir Ki Kali—STAT.

  7. Kashmir Ki Kali would be my choice.
    Thanks for the Vinod picture. It explained quite well why there were none to begin with. Definately prefer him a few years older. Who does that smile remind me of?

  8. Probably someone related to us :-) We all have those wide smiles. No cleft chins though.

    Yes, he did look better with a few more years on him. Not as…pretty…or something.

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