Raja Saab (1969)

Awwwwww. Just…awwwwwww. What a sweet little fairytale of a movie this is, in spite of Shashi’s somewhat unbelievable simpleton act. It’s made by the same team who made Jab Jab Phool Khile: the same (almost) exact cast, director and music director. It shares some plot elements too: rich educated girl meets simple illiterate boy; they fall in love, then separate and finally are reunited against all odds.

But I liked Raja Saab better, mostly because it’s relatively free of the obnoxious misogynism of JJPK, and has some very hilarious sight gags. The Shashi-Rajendranath combo is quite funny too. Or maybe I was in a better mood when I watched it. Who knows?

Anyway, Raju (Shashi Kapoor) is an (adult) orphan and a bit of a simpleton, who gets booted from the orphanage when he unwittingly insults a visiting Princess (Nanda) by forgetting that he’s NOT her prince in shining armor.

Raju is a Walter Mitty character, who gets lost in his daydreams of being rich and royal, which leads him into trouble and out of work (not to mention the orphanage, now). But can someone enlighten me about Raju’s little hair curlicue cowlick thing? Is it symbolic of something, or was the hairstylist just having some fun?

I also fail to understand Nanda’s bright blue contact lenses, even though a lame attempt to explain them is made later on. But I digress. Raju finds a new job as a masseur, and is called to a real Prince’s palatial home.

Fab! This Prince, Pratap Singh (Rajendranath) is not a very happy fellow, and Raju’s inept massage techniques don’t endear him at first (although the actors look like they are having trouble not breaking into laughter).

But Raju’s antics soon have Pratap Singh laughing for the first time in his life. He tells Raju that he will fulfill any desire that Raju has, and Raju asks him to make him a King.

And me! Just then the uncle (Kamal Kapoor) of Pratap Singh’s intended fiancee, Princess Poonam, calls to ask Pratap Singh to meet her in Kashmir (where she is on vacation) so that they can finalize their engagement and marriage. They have never met, but have traded insults through the mail.

I want that telephone. When Poonam’s uncle insists upon them meeting, Pratap Singh hits upon the brilliant idea to have Raju pose as him while he assumes the guise of “Raja Saab’s” secretary.

He gives Raju a makeover (thank goodness!) and refines some of his habits, and off they go to beautiful, beautiful Kashmir.

Pratap Singh’s plan is for Raja Saab to insult Poonam, partly in revenge for a snippy letter she has sent him, and also so that their engagement is broken. To that end, he provides a dialogue for him, in anticipation of Poonam’s apology for her insulting letter, and makes him practice it over and over.

Poonam, naturally, is none other than the same Princess Raju had annoyed at the orphanage. She is accompanied by her secretary Malti, played by a favorite actress of mine, Shammi (and no, not because of the name!).

Also present is Prince Kunwar (Pratap Singh calls him “that cartoon Prince”), who is after Poonam for her money, and who had been with her on the orphanage visit. They both think that Raju looks vaguely familiar, but Pratap Singh explains it away.

For his part, Raju is smitten with the lovely Princess. This makes his task of insulting her very difficult. He does try, by breaking into the letter dialogue randomly and at every opportunity, but it doesn’t really have any effect except to make Raju look a little crazy. Luckily for Pratap Singh, the rival Prince arranges for Raju to get drunk at dinner that evening, and poor inebriated Raju mistakes Poonam’s room (and her night clothes) for his own.

The commotion brings Kunwar and others to her rescue, and then Raju’s clothes are discovered in her bedroom, leading to much embarrassment for Poonam. Pratap Singh is jubilant.

Pratap Singh also spots the woman of his dreams at this point and we veer off into the comic side plot. His love is played by Kumari Naaz, and she’s gorgeous.

Having discovered love himself, Pratap Singh is sympathetic when he finds out that Raju is in love with Poonam, and heartbroken at her continuing wrath (even in the face of a song he sings to her out on the lake, “Kal Raat Waali”). He helps Raju by getting rid of Kunwar (an elaborate costume drama which is pretty funny), and love blossoms after a few more mishaps.

But Poonam’s uncle is about to arrive, and he has met the real Pratap Singh. Raju realizes this, and asks Poonam what she would do if he were poor. She replies that love by itself is not enough.

Of course, to her his question seems rhetorical, but Raju is heartbroken. He leaves that night, and Pratap Singh explains everything to her when her uncle arrives the next day.

Appalled at her blunder, Poonam takes Malti and goes to the city to search for Raju. Raju, meanwhile, is a changed man. He no longer daydreams, and has a job. He has grown up, and gained some self-respect. Poonam quickly realizes that he won’t take her back unless he thinks she is poor herself, so she convinces him that she, too, was masquerading as royalty. They reunite happily to a snappy tune, “Tu Jungle Ki Morni.”

But as my mom always said, two wrongs don’t make a right, and her lie is going to catch up with them too. What will happen when it does? What will her uncle do? Can she really give up all her wealth?

Watch Raja Saab to find out, and for some good laughs and catchy songs by Kalyanji Anandji too.

Also see Bollyviewer’s review of this film—which convinced me I had to see it, too!

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20 Comments to “Raja Saab (1969)”

  1. I hadn’t actually heard of this movie till a couple of months back, when I saw it – mainly because of Shashi Kapoor and Nanda! And yes, I do agree with you: it’s much more enjoyable than Jab Jab Phool Khile. In my opinion, JJPK probably has slightly better music, but hey, this one’s not bad either.

  2. Thanks for linking my review, memsaab. Glad you enjoyed the film. I liked some parts of it (the romance in the latter half was so cute and Nanda’s assumption of a double role with her uncle was super funny) but it was too much like a bland version of Jab Jab Phool Khile to appeal too much. I actually (looking around furtively and whispering) liked JJPK a lot better inspite of its misogynism. Shashi Kapoor’s acting was way better there and he was believable (and lovable) for most of the movie whereas here his “poor orphan” act comes over as extremely artificial. And the way he adds ji at the end of every sentence (like big bro RK used to) drives me up the wall!

    I think Nanda’s blue contacts show her “blue” blood! lol.

  3. I can only reply with exclamations:

    1. Shashi is in brownface when he’s the simpleton?!!! (It sure looks like it, especially in that ‘hero-like hair’ cap.)
    2. A meta “You look just like Shashi Kapoor!” moment!!! I love those. They did that in Pyar ka Mausam.

    This looks like a shocker. Adding to the “To See” list.

  4. Somehow I have a lot less trouble buying into Shashi’s innocent act—he has a sweetness that lends itself to it which RK just doesn’t. I think JJPK’s music was probably better too, although a few of the songs in this were lots of fun too.

    Blue eyes=blue blood. Hmmm. I have blue eyes :-)

    ppcc: I didn’t notice any brownface…but I couldn’t take my eyes off the stupid curlicue thing on his head. I was so glad when it was gone! And the “You look like Shashi Kapoor” thing went on for a bit and was v.v. funny (“I saw him in Shakespearewali!” “You mean Hunterwali?” “Shakespearewali-Hunterwali, a wali is a wali!”).

  5. Hahaha! I love his hair! I think I might have to see this movie on the sole basis of the hair. Well, that and the nightdress, which is the AWESOME.

  6. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions, and most of the time I was supposed to, too. It’s very funny. Shashi is cute as a button throughout. And my love for Rajendranath grows ever more expansive.

  7. I do love this movie. Not LOVE mind you, but it’s a cute one. And if it was made by the cretins who made JJPK then they definitely upped their game. The little curlicue I think is just supposed to make him look like a halfwit. If the rest of his head were shaved and they’d left it there, then that would have meant he was a Brahmin of the rural variety but with his hair intact I don’t think it means anything in particular.
    Also, Rajendranath is RK’s bro-in-law so SK and he are family.

  8. I have a number of bollywood songs DVDs esp of lata, kishore, rafi, mukesh, duets etc.

    I have seen a song by lata mangeshkar from this film – Nanda in a black saree singing “sajna o tere bin sajna” Jiya jal jal jai, chali aarey chali aarey angna”. That song is quite melodious.

    BTW, memsaab your photo with Dave is really good – a stunning smile like Rani Mukherjees! Your friend Raju Hirani shd perhaps give you a nice role in a bollywood film soon!

    Your blog is very interesting. keep it up!

  9. That telephone is truly wonderful. I want one too.

  10. Amrita: Laughing v.v. hard at your halfwit comment. It certainly worked!

    Anonymous: Yes, that is a lovely song. I liked all the songs here, esp. the ones I mentioned. And you are very complimentary :-) but I am not happy in front of cameras! Please keep visiting and I’ll keep blogging.

    Marta: It truly is. I would give anything to troll through a warehouse of old Bollywood movie props.

  11. “Reclusive yesteryears heroine Nanda made a rare public appearance” or “The reclusive actress Nanda is now unrecognizable” – I am so obsessed with fabulous Nanda that it is really very offending for me to read all this about her and pains me greatly. She has a Himalyan stature and as the Himalya is there majestically for thousands of years unfaded so is the Nanda to similarly ever live as fairy never to eclipse on the horizon. She is so glamorous, gorgeous full of serene beauty accompanied by fragrance of spring meadows which cannot be held back from spreading. Her creator too has been very generous to grace her with all finest biological chemistry and spiritual virtues.

    She is the most outstanding actress I have ever watched. Recently after watching some of her films, I have developed very strong and intense liking for Actress Nanda. When watching Mehndi Lagi Meray Haath movie, I came to watch madhur song – Kankariya Maarey Kar key Isharey. This madhur song lost me in golden years of my life of 1961 when I was 14 years school going boy and used to very fondly listen this then famous song as at that time there were only radios and no TVs. Nanda while has travelled 73 stages of her life, I have reached 65 in this way made me young. She is thus an actress of all ages and times, eternal, never to become old or of yesteryears and never to recede in delusion of grandeur in the splendor of which she has all through lived and remembered. Nanda is an actress who is seldom born and once born become eternal. Nanda in fact had already become a legend in a very young age by her outstanding performance in famous movie Choti Behan (song – Baghoan main baharoan main Gungunata aiya koi). Even earlier she had got herself acclaimed of her exceptional stupendous talents in movie Bhabhi (songs – Chali Rey Patang Meri Chali Rey & Tie Laga Key Mana Ban Gaiey Janab Hero…) She has given so much that stars of the stature of Jetendra, Shashi Kapoor and Anjahani Rajesh Khana owed her a lot for their ascendancy to become great. She is therefore, non imitable, unparallel, legend of the legends and a goddess.

    She is so great that in fact I fail to find words to describe her truly. I highly adore Great Nanda and strongly wish I could write a book on her as some service to this great star. I however, feel deeply saddened to know that Nanda who ever sprinkled all around smiles and joys herself had a tragic life.
    S. Israr Ali, Houston, TX. USA

    • I somehow doubt that she views her life as tragic…I think that media hype around “reclusive” is just plain silly (they apply the word to all actresses over a certain age who are probably very happy to stay out of the limelight). She is one of my favorites too although my admiration does not begin to match the heights of your poetry :)

  12. Great Adorable Nanda! There was a famous song filmed on you – “Tum hamain piyar karo yaa naa karo, ham tumhain piyar kiyay jain gey, chahey qismat main khushi ho keh na ho, yeh gham bhi ham uthaiey jain gey.” Wah Nandaji you have proved it true. You are such a great lady who selflessly gave to the world with all exceptional glamour and glitter every love, smiles and pleasures to happily live and rejoice in your splendor and grandeur, but for your ownself what only sacrifices and tragedies in life and a cruel world to still call you yesteryears or reclusive heroine. For you my heart goes out. Really you are legend and Devi and will ever remain alive to rule for thousands of years. God bless you always. S. Israr Ali, Houston, TX

  13. Nicely written. Btw what is the reason given behind Nanda’s strange blue eyes in this movie.

  14. Hi Greta,it’s nice to see your presence even if rarely.There are bloggers who fill up the place by responding to every banal comment,and there are bloggers whose space is jealously monopolised by hopeless unromantics with the sole motto of striving for upmanship and upwomanship,shamelessly dropping all sense of humour and flippancy,mortally afraid of some upstart who may outclass them.You have created a memorable dossier of golden bollywood era,and not an assorted smattering of hurriedly googled mish mash of hollywood bollywood kollywood tollywood by deluded commenters.

    • That is very kind of you to say, and I will admit that I always feel that the best thing about this space is the people who have contributed so much of their own knowledge in the comments (and occasional guest post!).

  15. Very Happy to see this post Memsaab. Was wondering where you are. Keep going thru’ your blog every few months… just a one re-watches movies one likes… i re-read ur reviews in a cycle… was really perturbed that u had become too busy to blog as there was no comment in 2018 in any of the reviews so far (chronological list). Happy to see u posting …. Have a fab 2019

    • Ah life has just gotten in the way :) And I have run out of things to say about Indian cinema that I haven’t or other people haven’t already said. Still love it though!

  16. I want that phone too! It looks just like a bottle of bubble bath that Avon used to sell called Pretty Purrfect!

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