Take the plot of It Happened One Night, sprinkle in some ingredients from An Affair To Remember, then stir in a third plot which is completely nuts, and voila! it’s Basant. Two of my favorite Hollywood films and some masala craziness for the price of one Hindi film! Sure, there are huge plot holes and it’s nonsensical at times, but what do I care—especially when the hero and heroine are my beloved Shammi Kapoor and beautiful Nutan. They are great together: his nonchalant silliness complements her feisty character perfectly.
Plus, there’s Pran! and lovely music from OP Nayyar.
Meenakshi Rai (Nutan) is the spoiled daughter of millionaire Rai Bahadur (Murad). We know that she’s a modern girl because she wears trousers and says “My foot!” a lot. She wants to marry Rajesh (Pran), a man of whom her father disapproves strongly.
Her father is escorting her to Calcutta by train to get her away from Rajesh, but she disembarks at another stop in the middle of the night as he is sleeping. Her bag is stolen on the platform by a scoundrel named Billoo (Johnny Walker) and she chases him to a nearby fairground, where she recovers her bag but discovers that her father already has the police after her.
To escape them, she takes to the stage and sings a lovely song (“Raaste Mein”) with a guy named Ashim (Shammi Kapoor). But when she returns to the train station to catch the Bombay train, it’s crawling with police and her father is there! So is Ashim, who has figured out who she is; he’s traveling to Bombay as well.
She decides to take the bus instead and sits next to Billoo—who steals all the money from her purse when she isn’t looking. For some reason never explained, Ashim is on the bus too, and sees a police roadblock ahead. He pushes Billoo aside and saves her from detection.
They enact a hilarious drama of a possessive husband and his shrewish wife, and the policeman flees to avoid getting involved. Shammi and Nutan are really fun to watch as he continues to needle her (and imitates her “My foot!” at every opportunity), and she gives it back to him as good as she gets.
To escape further notice, Meenakshi and Ashim take to the side roads. When Billoo the con man sees a poster with her photo and a Rs 50,000 reward, he starts trailing them. There is a lot of other comic side plot action with Johnny, but I won’t go into it here. He is pretty funny, though.
As Meenakshi and Ashim head towards Bombay by whatever transport they can find, they argue a lot but are getting acquainted too. She tells him that she is headstrong because her father has always been so controlling, and she is longing for a little freedom. They are so CUTE together.
Back in Bombay, Rai Bahadur just wants his daughter back, and is even willing to compromise with Rajesh.
But Ashim and Meenakshi are falling in love.
So true! When the two reach her home in Bombay, she confesses her feelings to Ashim. He tells her to meet him after one month apart, as a test to make sure their love is true. This seemed like a bad idea in An Affair To Remember, and it seems like a bad idea now, but she happily agrees.
Unfortunately, Rajesh is waiting in the wings, and he needs her money. On Meenakshi’s birthday—which Ashim attends in disguise—Rai Bahadur announces her engagement to Rajesh, as promised. Ashim is furious and confronts her, but she reassures him that she loves him. Rajesh overhears them, and sends his thugs to kill Ashim when he goes on a trip to deliver a valuable necklace in this place (our lunatic third plot development):
On the night when they are to meet, Meenakshi has a car accident and is paralyzed from her waist down. Rai Bahadur dies of a heart attack when he hears the news. When she recovers enough to leave the hospital in a wheelchair, Rajesh tells her that Ashim is dead too.
Poor Meenakshi is bereft. Is Ashim really dead? If not, where is he? Did he show up for their rendezvous and think her absence meant she had decided to marry Rajesh? Will she marry Rajesh? Will she ever walk again?
Oh, the drama! The tears! The beauty of Shammi!
The Indian Elvis, indeed.