Shehzada (1972)

Oh oh oh I love this movie! Beautiful Rakhee, yummy Rajesh, imperious Veena, nuanced characters, an interesting story, plot twists, humor, lovely RD Burman songs, and plenty of squishy dil™ (ppcc)! The melodrama was saved for the very end, when it was welcome, because by then I cared so much about everybody and everything turning out okay. The film is also beautifully shot—a visual feast, with sumptuous sets and lovely hilly scenery, and interesting camera angles. And beautiful Rakhee and yummy Rajesh!

Wealthy Rajlaxmi (Veena) rules her palatial home and her company with a steely perfectionism. Her son Ratan (Karan Dewan) is an invalid who is pining for his wife and son.

He’s a spineless sad-sack; Rajlaxmi long ago had forced him to choose between her and his wife Janki, and to his everlasting regret he chose to stay with his mother. For her part, Rajlaxmi loves him and supplies him with the best doctors, nurses and medicine, but he longs for his wife and son who now live in poverty—although he is too much of a coward to leave home.

His son Rajesh—called Raji—(Rajesh Khanna) has grown up to become a truck driver, and he has an ongoing flirtation with a lovely shopkeeper named Chanda (Rakhee).

Chanda has an abusive uncle (Madan Puri) who takes all her earnings and spends it on booze. Raji can’t stand him and hates to see Chanda cry. He cheers her up with a song (“Ho Tere Athroo Chun”) and his bare chest.

It’s so sweet that it makes my heart hurt. Raji is away from home sometimes for days at a time, and his mother sends him a letter asking him to come see her. He finds Janki (Pandri Bai) chopping wood and chastises her for not buying it; after all, he says, he gave her 60 bucks last month. She teases him.

They also have a sweet relationship: she clearly dotes on him and he on her. It bothers her though to see him working so hard to earn money when he could live like a “prince.” She points out that his grandmother hates her, not him, and would welcome her grandson home with open arms.

Janki in true good Indian biwi style still loves and worries about her husband too, but Raji is immovable on the subject and refuses to discuss it further. It strikes me that he strongly resembles his grandmother in his implacable obstinacy!

Meanwhile, Chanda’s uncle is selling her off in marriage to an older man for a bottle of liquor.

Raji’s friend Nandu (Mohan Choti) is in the bar and overhears the transaction, and hurries to tell Raji about it. The next day, Chanda’s pleas are falling on deaf ears but Raji and Nandu arrive in the nick of time to stop the wedding. After a great deal of very athletic fighting with long sticks (what kind of fighting is this stick fighting? I just saw it in another film as well), he carts her off.

When he asks where she wants to go, she says pitifully that she has nobody, only her tears and poverty. His response is funny: “Wah, wah.” He doesn’t tolerate her teary self-pity for even a minute–but is affectionate about it. They sing a sweet duet, “Na Jaiyo Na Jaiyo Chhod Ke Na Jaiyo Meri Rani” which I wish I understood—but Eros doesn’t believe in subtitling songs (what’s wrong with them?)…

He takes her home to Janki, who welcomes her with open arms.

Meanwhile, Ratan thinks that he hasn’t long to live, and he wants to see Janki and Raji. To that end, he tries to enlist the help of his mother’s right-hand man Nekiram (Sunder), who points out that Rajlaxmi has eyes “behind her head” and that even the walls have ears.

Sure enough, Rajlaxmi calls Nekiram into her office—and has a recording of the entire conversation.

Poor Ratan has no chance of getting help from anyone in the household. Back at home, Raji continues to tease Chanda.

Their romance continues apace with my favorite song in the film, “Rim Jhim Rim Jhim Dekho”:

Janki has a bad dream about Ratan and tells Chanda the reason for her mother-in-law’s enmity. Janki’s father was a freedom fighter, but Rajlaxmi’s husband was a DIG working for the British who supported them and helped wage war on the men fighting for India’s independence. This ideological clash ended in Janki’s father shooting and killing Ratan’s father.

Rajlaxmi (naturally enough) could not bear to have her husband’s killer’s daughter living in her house (Janki’s father was hanged for the murder), and booted her out with her infant son, giving Ratan the option to stay or go; as we know by now, he stayed with his mother. I wonder briefly why Rajlaxmi with her wealth and resources didn’t force Janki to give up her son too, but if she had there would be no Shehzada for me to enjoy and I let it go.

Janki’s dream has worried her, and she’s determined to visit Ratan. Raji refuses to let her go, and goes instead to fetch his father. Ratan is overjoyed to see him, but afraid to go with him until his mother goes out of town on business later that evening. Alas, her trip is canceled and she catches them as they are about to drive away. She invites Raji to come in.

She shows him the room she’s kept as his, stocked with the clothes and toys she bought in trips abroad when he was a child. When she asks him to come live with her and Ratan, he says he’ll be glad to—when she apologizes to his mother. Her response is predictable!

He returns home to his mother, and tells her that his father is fine. She’s overjoyed that Rajlaxmi welcomed him, but he repeats that until his grandmother welcomes his mother too, he’s not interested. She’s not pleased with that, though she has bigger things to worry about soon.

Raji manages to fight off Chanda’s uncle and his array of colorfully-turbaned goons, but not before her uncle threatens revenge. Janki points out that the only way to really protect Chanda from her uncle is for Raji to marry her, and he does so the very next day. All I can say is—it’s about time!

Post-marriage, Raji discovers that his grandmother has bought out his employer Bandhu Transport and promoted him to manager, but he tells Rajlaxmi to eff off with another song (I think, although of course I have no real clue what he’s saying) called “Thokar Mein Hai Meri.”

Then Chanda’s uncle strikes again. He hires a girl to entrap Raji by falling in the road in front of his truck and then screaming “Rape!” when he jumps out to help her. Raji refuses the expensive lawyer sent by Rajlaxmi, and is sentenced to two years in jail. At the same time Chanda discovers that she is pregnant; she and Janki go to see Raji in his cell where Chanda shyly has trouble telling him why she’s not feeling well.

He is overjoyed to hear about his impending fatherhood, although obviously it’s tempered by sorrow that he’s behind bars. Still, he makes Chanda promise that she won’t let his mother go to Rajlaxmi and Ratan to ask them for help getting him freed. She does, reluctantly and also very literally.

When Raji is finally let out of jail, though, he discovers that Chanda and their son are living in luxury with Rajlaxmi and the ailing Ratan, while his mother still lives in her hut. What has happened in the interim? Was Chanda lured by Rajlaxmi’s wealth? Can he ever forgive her? Will the family ever be united?

This film is just so good. The characters are three-dimensional and believable: as proud and unbending as Rajlaxmi is, she also really loves her son and grandson. Raji is a lot like her, which makes their conflict all the more poignant, and his relationships with his mother and Chanda are so sweet. Chanda and Janki could easily have devolved into groan-inducing weepy sacrificing female stereotypes, but don’t thanks to good performances from Pandri Bai and Rakhee. Raji too is complex: stubborn, teasing and a bit aloof, but warm-hearted and loving too. Rajesh Khanna is at his most charming and endearing here. (Veena does overact a bit, but I think it’s a generational thing: she always did in her early films too. But I love her!)

I also kept waiting with some trepidation for the plot to come unraveled as so often happens in the second half of Hindi movies, but it never did! I was engaged and entertained from beginning to end. This one is going on the shelf of films that I never get tired of. I can (and will) watch it over and over again!

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29 Comments to “Shehzada (1972)”

  1. Ah, I don’t know how to feel about this one. On the one hand, yay @ Rakhi in her prime (RK I can take or leave) but BOO! @ once again the Evil Matriarch. I just don’t enjoy those movies – not because there’s an evil woman character (which I’m ok with) but because there’s usually her opposite number, a woman victim who positively revels in her victimhood. I cannot stand it. I just want to yell “Grow a spine, ya sissy!” at the screen all the time. Esp when said victim is given chance after chance to improve her lot but refuses because that’s the “good” thing to do. No it’s not! it’s the DUMB thing to do!

    k, rant over. Oh, and er…nice movie. :P

  2. See Amrita, this is the thing: Veena isn’t evil, or one-dimensional so you actually like her and feel sympathy for her. Also, Janki doesn’t snivel and whine and wring her hands—she’s actually just fine where she is. She’s not interested in having Veena forgive her, she just wants the best for her son—but he doesn’t allow her to browbeat him. Honestly I hate the things above that you do too but this film’s not like that. It doesn’t sink to that level at all.

  3. Memsaab, I so, so concur! This is such a keeper. Everyone who rails at RK because of this notion that all he does is tearful, mushy romances should see this—does he nail the role and how! Another thing that is so great about this film is its dialogues—they’re genuinely funny, great use of everyday language, lots of Punjabized Hindi, the subs, of course, can’t and don’t do justice which is a huge pity. A couple of instances—one with Madan Puri where he talks of how his kick would land him into the Bhakra-Nangal, brilliant! And the other with his friend Ram Singh (who’s the actor by the way, he was very good) who keeps asking him if he wants lassi while trying to avoid the inevitable problematic questions. The relationship with Pandari Bai, his mother, is one of the most appealing that I’ve seen anywhere, so teasingly affectionate.

    I can’t say enough about Rakhee who was lovely. Their chemistry was awesome—when the two of them were on screen, I couldn’t but chuckle delightedly. It was a revelation. Everyone talks about RK and Mumu and RK and Sharmila. If this film had done better (it did ok but wasn’t the big hit that was always expected of him at that time, this was in 1972 at the height of his superstardom), I venture that we’d have had a whole new successful jodi in Hindi films. He had planned a magnum opus home production with Rakhee as his leading lady to be directed by Kamal Amrohi called “Majnoon” on the legend of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati which had the most lavish mahurat of its times. Came to nought because of Amrohi’s overtly grandiose ambitions. And then Rakhee got too matronly. The next time they came together was in another of my favorites, Aanchal where she was his bhabhi.

    About the songs—“Rim jhim rim jhim dekho” has got to feature as one of the notable rain songs in Hindi cinema but it isn’t heard of much. With the others, I must admit, it happened the other way around. I liked them because of the film, the more I saw it, the more I liked them especially the Rafi number with him and Rakhee “hurting your heart” as you say :-)

  4. Oh and here is something about stick fighting in India!

  5. He is just hilarious when Chanda turns a little weepy. He rolls his eyes (somewhat like my little spaniel does at me) and starts making jokes. Even not speaking Hindi I found lots of the film’s dialogues genuinely funny. Wish they had made Majnoon! Wish Rakhee had not gotten married so young (although I don’t really blame her either, it was GULZAR)…and thanks for the lathi martial arts info. Just what I was looking for :-)

  6. seems like i’d like Raji’s interactions with Janki & Chanda in the movie — how they’re affectionate & playful, but at the same time Raji doesn’t let Janki bow down to the grandmother’s injustice & doesn’t let Chanda wallow in self-pity. But from your screencaps, memsaab, RK looks too young to be Janki’s son; and the grandmother looks younger than even Janki!!

    And that screencap #4 is quite something! ;-)

  7. Hmmm…they all seemed pretty age-appropriate for their roles to me. Yes, screencap #4…he was drumming along with the song on her back actually and it was really cute. There were some kind of racy moments though—I’ve noticed that RK’s films didn’t shy away as much from that as some movies of the time. :-)

  8. This looks so lovely, I love the screencaps.

  9. I think you’d really like it DG :)

  10. This movie was a flop.

    For some reason, if this movie had paired RK and Mumu instead of Rakhee, it would have been a hit.

    ….yet finally we’ll all agree that Rakhee and Rajesh was great together, a good chemistry.

    That the way it goes with Bollywood.

  11. I guess it’s the same with any film, radzi :-) Nobody can predict what will be a hit and what will flop. Several of my favorite films didn’t do well, but I love them anyway…

  12. Well… if you say so :) I guess this will make an acceptable substitute for the AB as Jesus movie.

  13. Oh infinitely better, IMO, but you don’t have to take my word for it :-) I would actually enjoy seeing what you have to say about either one!

  14. Very good review. This movie one of the classic movie ever produced and it was one of the super hit movie in 1972 of Super Star Rajesh Khanna.

  15. V Manohar: I really loved it :-) Glad you enjoyed the review!

  16. One comment says that the movie flopped, another says it was a hit movie. So do we have a hung jury on this movie ?

  17. I guess it didn’t do that well although Rajesh was expected to deliver super-hits at this point in time. However: I loved it! In my world, it is a super-hit :-)

  18. This film was originally produced in tamil,based on a serial story in a popular tamil
    weekly called “kumudam” by ra ki rangarajan and film was named as the novel itself
    “Idu sattiam”.despite excellent music, the Tamil version flopped due to wrong selection of actors not so popular.The hindi version was excellent thanks to the mighty presence of superstar rajeshkhanna and lovely rakhee.both acted very well
    and the film was exactly like what you had said in your review in your own characterestic style.your ideas surprisingly reflect my own taste and I enjoy reading your columns.the exception is I adore both shammi and devanand as against shammi
    all the way in your case.Anyway I never get tired of reading your columns. Pl keep it up
    j natarajan

  19. I like Dev Anand too! I prefer his 50s films over later ones, although I loved some he made in the 70s for his brother (Bullet, Johny Mera Naam, Chhupa Rustam–especially CR!, Tere Mere Sapne).

    But I have to admit that nobody compares to Shammi. Shammi Shammi Shammi! :-)

  20. the title song was the most famous as khanna being given the title shehzada in this film and the song sung by kishore begiining with thokar me hain sara zamana — just matched up with khanna’s image. undoubtedly this was the biggest hit from the album.

    why there are no more photos of that song.

    i like rim jhim rim jhim dekho a lot too.

    rajesh khanna has done diverse romatic films too.
    already he has done lots of versatile roles from 1975-1987.
    but he hold another record of having done diverse romantic roles not just typical 2 heroes and 1 girl or rahul raj of srk films or ngry young man repeatedly

  21. – this link has anil kapoor accepting that shehzada was a superhit and was successful at the box office. His father surinder kapoor was the producer of the movie.

  22. – Surinder Kapoor praises Rajesh Khanna saying Rajesh Khanna who played the title-role in Shehzada was truly of a princely disposition,”He started shooting for me without ever discussing the price, saying that we could settle that once the film is made, he said.” and made banner S. K. International Films became an acknowledged company.

  23. Generally producers never accept that their movie is a flop. Shehazada if I remember correctly was definitely not a hit in the league of “Sholay” or “aradhana”. It must have been an average grosser – a kind of break even.
    Interestingly the Tamil version was made in the late 50’s or early 60’s and wonder what prompted Surinder Kapoor to make it in 1972.
    I watched this movie on Doordarshan and I agree it was a feel good movie – the characterisation of Veena was well etched – she wasn’t a vamp. her love for her grandson shone through. Also the climax of the movie where the medicines for Raji’s father are tossed around (remember vaguely) was lively. Raakhee’s other movie with RK was “Daag”. Sadly these were the only 2 movies where they were paired.

  24. Don’t know if this is true but the media kept writing that Rakhee became matronly because she became a heavy drinker and put on weight post her divorce. She was dejected that both her marriages were unsuccessful.
    Any idea if Veena is still around.

  25. I shall appreciate of another Raakhee starrer Yaar Mera where she was paired with Jeetendra – perhaps her only movie with the jumping jack.

  26. In the early 70s even if a movie was among the top 40 grossers, it would earn a decent amount of money for its producers. I remember reading somewhere that for most movies the production costs were low with a major chunk going towards the remuneration of the star actors. In many cases, stars decided their movies based on how comfortable they were with the producers and were willing to be flexible by not insisting on market rates. With RK willing to be accommodating for this movie, the overall costs must have been kept low and it is possible that the movie was a moderate hit.
    That being said, in those days professionalism often took a backseat. Filmmakers were quite indulgent with their lead stars and were willing to put up with their tantrums. The joke went that star value was decided based on how late one arrived at the sets.

    Speaking of Rakhee, there was talk that she and Sharmila Tagore did not see eye to eye during the making of Daag. The media had dubbed it the fight of the Bengal tigresses.

  27. Completely agree. Have all of you noticed how the equation between the makers and stars decides the star cast even today ? The only difference now is that stars are not flexible about reducing their price and today most of a film’s budget revolves around star salaries and shooting in outdoors.
    But yes stars during those days were famous for their tantrums. There was an article in Showtime (in their very first issue , June 1984) on this. To sample a few –
    * Raj Kumar would ask producers to jump the wall of his bungalow and come in.
    * Kishore Kumar would let dogs on unsuspecting producers.
    * Shatrugan Sinha was a perpetual late master which explains why he didn’t achieve stardom like Amitabh.
    * Moushmi Chatterjee would not shoot unless she had her fill of chicken samosas from a particular shop.
    * Mala Sinha also was known to delay film shoots for flimsy reasons.
    Sharmila Tagore and Mala Sinha had a fisticuff during the shooting of a movie (Humsaya) about sharing amakr up room.
    Saira Banu and Kamiji Kuashal were not on talking terms.

  28. How true. The stars of today are not known to be too flexible about prices, though in many cases they get a share of the profits instead of a flat fee. Many top stars themselves are into producing movies and are quite market savvy as a result. Stars and their tantrums have been part and parcel of the film industry. Thanks for sharing some of those.
    Rajesh Khanna’s late coming ways are well known to many. In an interview he mentions how he was almost cured of this habit. During the shooting of Haathi Mere Saathi, he used to observe the director Devar beating up one of the unit boys. On asking others about this, he was told that the director was furious about the delay in shooting and was venting his anger at the boy. From then on, fearing for the boy he always made it to the sets of that film on time.
    Elsewhere on this site, Memsaab has a clip of a film shoot showing RK apologizing to the director for turning up late.

  29. A lovely film that did moderately well but still labelled a flop. Raakhee had a fondness for kaka & bthis showed. Even in aaanchal, both of them are fabulous.

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