WC Fields once famously said: “Never act with children or animals.” Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand should have listened to him: they are completely overshadowed here by the charisma of a chimpanzee named Zippy. That’s not necessarily bad (or surprising) (I mean, it’s a chimp!), but I had hoped for a much better movie from these two screen legends in their only real outing together.
Some of my disappointment was no doubt set up by these magazine covers which held out such promise of spectacular color:
for a black and white film. Damn you and your beautiful but misleading posters, Filmindia! But even in color, this film would have been dull (just a little less so). Besides for Zippy and some occasional hilarity, the characters were boring and preachy—or cartoonishly villainous—and the story boring and predictable. Dilip was Tragic as always, but Dev somehow managed to not be his usual debonair self. Maybe Bina Rai didn’t inspire him, although I think she’s lovely.
Dev plays Bhanu, a commander in bad King Zhingoora’s army, who pillages and loots with glee until a village girl named Durga (Bina Rai) slaps him one day. I crack up at the sight of him: I guess an ill-fitting cardboard helmet and a silly mouche will kill the debonair in anybody.
Durga gives Bhanu a furious lecture about his bad deeds, and he sheepishly takes his army back to King Zhingoora. Zhingoora himself (Jayant) is pretty funny—he dresses in a Roman soldier outfit and what look like cowboy boots, and refers to himself loudly in the third person.
Zhingoora is always with a pretty girl named Chanda (Vijaylaxmi). She disapproves mightily of everything he does, and I’m not sure why he keeps her around, except maybe because she’s pretty (although she might be his sister, in which case I hope that’s not it). Anyway, he orders a rustic prisoner named Bhola (Agha) to be thrown in jail for daring to pursue a one of the maids working at the palace. Bhola finds himself sharing his cell with a soul-mate:
I am sure that nobody familiar with Agha’s oeuvre will have trouble understanding that he and Zippy share wonderful chemistry. They give every appearance throughout the entire film of having a great time together, and it is fun to watch. Unfortunately it’s just about the only fun, but still.
At this point Bhanu arrives and renouces violence and oppression (very boring dialogue), much to Zhingoora’s displeasure. He is given a week to change his mind, after which Zhingoora will teach Bhanu and all the villagers a lesson if they haven’t come around.
Bhanu returns to the village to help the villagers defend themselves against the eventual onslaught of Zhingoora’s soldiers. He first meets a very suspicious Durga and her childhood friend Mangal (Dilip Kumar), who looks just like William Devane!
Mangal is madly in love with Durga, but he’s too shy to tell her so. Bhanu wins them over when he saves Durga from a charging bull and is injured in the process. They manage to convince the other villagers that Bhanu is genuinely there to help, and he’s welcomed as a brother by Mangal—who is unaware of Durga’s growing feelings for Bhanu.
Back at the palace, Bhola and Zippy are freed by Bhola’s beloved, Chameli (Mohana).
They make their way to the village, where Bhanu and Mangal are readying the villagers for warfare with a thrilling and patriotic anthem.
I know this is just a film of its time—only eight years post-Partition—but it’s really annoyingly earnest at times.
When the villagers aren’t training (i.e. doing jumping-jacks—and yay! the women get to join in too!), Bhanu and Durga romance each other happily, unbeknownst to Mangal.
Mangal’s mother (Shobhana Samarth—who in real life is seven years older than Dilip) goes to Durga’s father with a marriage proposal for their offspring, which he accepts with the caveat that Durga must approve it too.
Certain that Durga will approve, Ma goes home to give the good news to Mangal. He gets one song’s worth of happy time before discovering that Durga loves Bhanu. Poor Dilip! It’s nice to see him all joy-joy, even just for four minutes.
When Durga’s father tells her about her impending nuptials, she breaks down and tells him the truth. He promises her that she can marry Bhanu if she wishes, and she runs off to give Bhanu the good news. Another villager sees them together, and tells Mangal. After initial anger on Mangal’s part, tears from Durga, and noble self-sacrifice from Bhanu, Mangal gives Bhanu and Durga his blessings. So sweet, except I can’t help but feel a *teeny* twinge of annoyance that Durga’s happiness is completely in the power of the men in her life. Ah well.
Dilip now gets some good screen time to himself and uses it fully: he emotes mournfully, sings a sad song, and nobly tells his mother than Durga was right to choose Bhanu. All’s well that ends well, except that the film isn’t even close to over yet. The wedding is interrupted by a little boy bearing some news.
Zhingoora has decided to attack. Can the villagers—led by Bhanu—keep Zhingoora and his army out? If they do, will Zhingoora give up gracefully? Will Bhanu and Durga manage to get married? Will Mangal be required to sacrifice, sacrifice, and sacrifice some more? Well, yes, but it takes forever and gets quite boring and repetitive. Even Zippy can’t save the second long drawn-out half of this one.
Dev and Dilip sleepwalk through most of this. Dilip looks great all unshaven and brooding, although he also looks a little the worse for wear. I think this was the year that he also did Devdas, and then went to get psychiatric help for the depression all his depressing roles had visited upon him. Bina Rai is pretty and sweet, but not much else. Even the songs (C Ramchandra) are just okay—pretty but not anything special.
As I said earlier, Agha and Zippy really have the best time, and are the most entertaining (although I could happily have lived without the Bhola-Chameli CSP). Zippy has a very intelligent quality about him (which makes it often seem like he is humoring the less-evolved Agha), and you can’t help but sit up and watch when he’s on screen.
I’ll leave you with this photo and caption from Baburao Patel and Filmindia:
Zippy is a loyal lover. On arrival at the Santa Cruz airport he kissed Mohana and stuck to her till he departed. That proves that Zippy believes in cushioned comforts. So do many but they are not as fortunate as Zippy. Meet Zippy and Mohana in “Insaniyat”, the greatest box-office hit of the year produced and directed by S.S. Vasan for Gemini.