Although filmed in black and white, this film has a lot of sparkle: the songs by Shankar Jaikishan, the effervescent Madhubala, shiny-scrubbed baby-faced young Dharmendra, and of course my very own favorite sparkly person Shammi Kapoor. It also has astonishing coincidences and large plot holes, and despite a strong beginning the plot becomes incoherent at times by the end; but with long-lost children, a stolen necklace and sweet, sweet romance it’s heartwarming *and sparkly* enough to watch anyway, especially if you are a Shammi fan.
Eight-year-old Madan is separated from his wealthy parents, Thakur Harcharan Singh (Shivraj) and his wife Rajni (the great singer-actress Ameerbai Karnataki whom I last saw in 1943’s Prithvi Vallabh), who spend the next twenty-two years grieving and praying at temples for his return.
They have another son, Sunil (Dharmendra) who has grown up to become a police inspector—and who (at the urging of his Ma!) also spends a lot of time searching for his lost brother Madan.
Madan—who now also goes by the name Shyam (Shammi Kapoor)—has supported himself through life by stealing, and is getting sprung from the big house in Simla when we meet him. He hops on a train to Bombay, and meets a man he had known earlier in jail. Shantilal is old and ill, and he asks Shyam to find his two daughters, Sangita and Sushma, whom he had abandoned to poverty and debt years ago.
Shyam’s new quest will also lead him to his long-lost father! Sweet. This makes me clap my hands and bounce in my chair. When Shyam arrives in Bombay, he begins searching for the sisters immediately in the most straightforward way possible.
It being the movies and all, this approach actually works, and he soon after bumps into (literally) a young woman named Sushma (Nishi Kohli). When she drives off in a huff, he follows her in a taxi to a theater owned by Harcharan Singh—who arrives with Mrs. Singh hot on Shyam’s heels. We are treated to that lingering moment of not-quite-recognition that we squishy-dil™ lovers thrive on. All this and not even fifteen minutes have passed! Oh, the happiness.
Sushma’s sister Sangita (Madhubala) is practicing dance for her stage debut in a play called “Boy Friend.” All that’s lacking for the play to be a huge success (or staged at all, to be truthful) is a hero, who needs to be young, handsome, and six feet tall. Who could possibly fit that bill? It’s fortuitous, especially since the director is already advertising the play and scheduling performances despite his lack of a leading man. And the sisters are already following their absent father’s wishes.
While they are at the theater, Mrs. Singh’s necklace is stolen by someone in the crowd. Sunil has just arrived with some of his men, and they give chase. Shyam watches as the thief hides the necklace in a case in the sisters’ car. Sunil is already familiar with Shyam, whose reputation precedes him.
He searches Shyam but finds nothing and goes on his way. That evening Shyam sneaks into the sisters’ house and retrieves the stolen necklace from the case. He is torn between selling it—it’s expensive and his “life would be made”—and doing the right thing by returning it to Sunil. Circumstances dictate that he meets Sangita that same night, and he’s invited by her to stay with the sisters when he relays their father’s message to them. As she sleeps, he sings the very beautiful “Salaam Aapki Meethi” to her. I melt into a puddle.
Shammi himself has said that when he shared scenes with Madhubala, he would be so distracted by her beauty that he would forget his lines.
Shyam leaves early the next morning to return the stolen necklace to Sunil (yay! he made the right choice!). But alas—the Singhs’ servant Sampat (Dhumal) steals the necklace from him before he is able to give it to Sunil. This puts the necklace squarely in the middle of the Comic Side Plot, an unfortunate place for it (for anything, really) to be. Sampat sells the necklace to a dealer, and also has his eyes on the Singh family safe, which he wants to loot. There is another side plot involving a romance between Sushma and Sunil, but it’s not really that germane to the main story so I won’t dwell on it here.
Shyam needs a job, having decided to take the straight and narrow path. He sees the ads for a hero opposite Sangita in “Boy Friend” and goes to see Thakur Harcharan Singh.
He is hired on the spot (after singing another great song) and this gives him ample opportunity to romance the beautiful Sangita, which he does with his usual aplomb (and another song). Their first performance is in Simla, and they are a smash hit. The show entertains me because it’s presented as a movie with stage curtains around it, which is just nuts—although the theater audience seems to accept it just fine.
Afterwards Shyam takes Sangita skiing (he calls it “skating,” in English) and she breaks her leg. It seems to be a career-ending injury, and the surgery which might cure her is expensive. And now that he’s not making money from Sangita’s performances, the Thakur sends his manager to demand that the sisters pay off their debt to him or lose their house. Shyam is furious at this, and quits his job as hero for the theater company.
Without it, can he find the money that Sangita needs desperately without resorting to his old ways? Will society—and Sunil—give him a chance? What has become of the stolen necklace? Will the Thakur, his wife and Sunil find out that Shyam is their long-lost son and brother? Watch Boy Friend to find out! It has its problems, but is a fun watch for the beautiful cast and the catchy songs—and for the moral of the story, which is displayed hilariously in this screen shot (I guess in case we all missed it).
It is also one of Madhubala’s last screen appearances.