As much as the weepy Meena Kumari of the 1960s exasperates me, the sparkling Meena Kumari of the 1950s enchants me. In addition to sparkly Meena, this movie stars Kishore Kumar, Om Prakash and Gemini Ganeshan (Rekha’s father) so I figured it might be fun. And it is: mostly it’s a fluffy love story, with a lost child thread, but the songs by Hemant Kumar are wonderful (and subtitled!) and the performances solid.
Miss Mary (Meena Kumari) and Arun (Gemini Ganeshan) are unemployed teachers competing with each other for work; hence they are a little hostile to each other. Then Arun finds an advertisement for a married couple to teach at a school and convinces Mary to pose as his wife for a couple of months.
She needs the money to help her parents pay off a debt, so she reluctantly agrees. Arun has also befriended a beggar/con artist whom he calls Cash (Om Prakash), and convinces him to go along too as their servant.
The Laxmi School is named after the founder’s older daughter, who went missing sixteen years ago. Rai Sahab and his wife have never stopped searching for her and have enlisted the help of Raju (Kishore Kumar). Raju bills himself as “India’s number one detective.” All he has to work with is that Laxmi disappeared while wearing a leaf-shaped locket, and has a mole on her right foot.
Raju grew up in the Rai household after being orphaned as a child; is supposed to marry Sita (Jamuna), the younger daughter; and his best friend and assistant is Chandragupta (Maruti). Maruti and Kishore make a good comic pair.
Anyway, Mary and Arun are welcomed warmly by the Rais. Raju notices that Mary looks very like the photo of Laxmi the family has, but she responds indignantly when he asks her if she was adopted. Mrs. Rai notices the resemblance too, calls Mary her daughter, and gives her gifts, like this sari.
The family’s insistence on her resemblance to Laxmi creeps Mary out a bit. She is irritated too when Sita flirts with Arun. Arun in turn is irritated when Mary sings a song (“Yeh Mard Bade”) ripping apart men. It’s hilarious and I send up a *thank you* to T Series for subtitling it.
Don’t worry, guys. Arun takes her place at the piano.
This bickering continues over time. They argue about Mary’s resistance to visiting the family—she doesn’t want to because she is tired of being harassed over Laxmi, while he thinks it’s their duty as employees. Mary is also uncomfortable at having to pretend they are married and she blames him for that too.
Arun sees that the Rai family are very sweet and mean well, and he thinks Mary is too hard on them. Plus, as he points out reasonably enough, she agreed to the faux marriage too. The root of all this dissension is that Mary is falling in love with Arun but doesn’t trust him or her feelings. Arun is falling for Mary too, but is put off by her prickly manner.
There’s also a lot of discussion about their respective religions (Hindu and Christian) but it doesn’t really make much of a point beyond the usual “Can’t we all just get along?”
Kishore has a great song (“Gaana Na Aaya”) in here, where he pretends to be alternately a bad musician and a good one. It’s a tour de force of dancing and singing, and showcases Kishore’s musical and comedic talent like I’ve not seen anywhere else—it’s honestly worth the price of the DVD by itself.
In any case, Mr. and Mrs. Rai sense the tension between Mary and Arun, and set out to do something about it. Sita continues to flirt with him, making Mary miserable.
No no no no Meena! Don’t cry! You’re sparkly Meena, remember?
Can the Rais bring Mary and Arun together? Will Mary and Arun wake up and smell the coffee? Will Raju find Laxmi? Is Laxmi really Mary?
It’s not really much of a plot—very fluffy, as I said. It would have been stronger if we’d understood the reason behind Mary’s mistrust of men. But it’s sweet and I like seeing Meena do something besides sob. She is very pretty and feisty in this. And more than any other thing, you should watch this film for the music. It is really spectacular.