Professor Pyarelal (1981)

Image and song courtesy of Third Floor Music.

So. For days now I’ve been prancing around singing “Prooooooo-feeeeeeeee-ssor PYARE-lal!” I can’t stop, and it’s seriously beginning to make me want to kill myself. Perhaps I can purge myself of it if I write the film up and share a shortened version of the title song here to move the voodoo along. Sorry—but it’s a last-ditch effort for some peace! Hoo Haa!

On this film’s plus side are that it is an homage to (some might say stolen from) Masalameister Manmohan Desai, and it contains my Beloved Shammi with the Always Utterly Fabulous Nadira by his side, villains Amjad Khan and Jeevan, flanked by an assortment of sideys like Sudhir, Yusuf Khan and Narendranath, Dharmendra (he may be older, but he is in FINE shape), Simi, whom I inexplicably love, and the catchy (sometimes too catchy, see above) tunes by Kalyanji Anandji.

On the minus side: it’s bad. A bad, bad film. Disjointed and random events rush at you, punctuated by flashy stunts; but no amount of sound and fury can disguise how incoherent the story and the characters are. You’d think that wholesale plagiarizing of other people’s (better done) stories might make the screenplay writer’s job easier, but apparently not. In its badness though, are inspired flashes of pure lunacy, which is never a complete waste of time.

Kishanchand (Shreeram Lagoo) lives with his blind wife Shanti (Nirupa Roy) and small son Pyarelal. He has a past which involves faking passports and creating false identities, which happens to be just what smuggler Shyamlal (Jeevan) needs with the police hot on his trail.

He gives Kishanchand a suitcase full of gold bars and vanishes, just as a Police Inspector Shinde (who also has a young son) arrives on the scene to arrest Kishanchand. In the struggle that follows, the Inspector falls on a pair of scissors and collapses. Kishanchand flees the scene (stupidly leaving the case of gold behind).

A passing cab driver named Bhagwan Singh (Sajjan, whom I last saw as the very handsome friend of Shammi’s in Rail Ka Dibba):

stops to help and the dying Shinde gives him a photograph of Kishanchand, identifying him as the killer (which is sort of unfair, since Shinde actually fell on the scissors accidentally). The police compound the unfairness of it all by arresting poor Singh, since he’s there and it’s easier than actually looking for the real culprit, I guess; and despite his story which you would think they’d follow up on at least.

Their incompetence, it boggles the mind!

Meanwhile, Kishanchand has returned home to find his house on fire and neighbors fretting over their inability to save Shanti and Pyarelal. Shattered by his wife and son’s deaths, Kishanchand flees, thinking that the police are still after him. An idiot judge sentences poor Bhagwan Singh to life in prison on their spectacularly flimsy evidence, and he gives the photograph of Kishanchand to his little girl as he is taken away. My dil squishes in sympathy, as intended.

Aaaaaaand…Shanti and Pyarelal are of course not dead. Shanti is working in a quarry with young Pyarelal leading her around, also somewhat incompetently. One of my favorite things is how Shanti bangs into everything: she can’t even navigate her own small hut without tripping over something. I think this is supposed to engender sympathy in me, but I laugh and laugh.

The perfect segue into a remarkably cheerful song about smiling and being happy (“Gayeja Aur Muskurayeja”)! Pyare is pictured studying hard (and being hand-fed by his Ma), and at the end of the song they receive the good news that he will be sent abroad for further studies.

Ten years pass in London, and Pyarelal grows up to be Vinod Mehra. He looks to me like he should have been one of the Hardy Boys! I haven’t seen him in much except my 70s Stardust magazines, but he’s kind of cute and not a bad actor either.

Pyarelal lives with Ram (Dharmendra), who dabbles in illegal activities, to the dismay of his friend. Pyare is at the end of his studies, and is planning to return home to his Ma. Alas! He is killed in a car crash as he rushes to his hospitalized gori girlfriend’s side in Ram’s car, chased by the police. Before dying he tells them that he IS Ram, and begs Ram (following in yet another car—the vehicle budget in this film must have been sky-high) to return home to India in his stead, using this opportunity to escape his life of crime.

So I still haven’t seen much of cute Vinod Mehra.

Ram returns to India, and is gobsmacked to discover that Ma is blind. When she mistakes him for her son, his stunned silence confirms it for her.

I’m surprised that Pyare didn’t mention this little detail to his beloved friend, but never mind. Ram—who has no parents of his own—allows her misconception (pun sort of intended) to stand, and embarks on his life as “Professor Pyarelal.”

Meanwhile in Hong Kong or Bangkok, Shyamlal is now living large as “Sammy.” He has just hired this man:

whom I will call by his Indian name of “Ronnie” (Amjad Khan) to retrieve some diamonds he had left in his Bombay house when he fled all these years ago. Apparently the police still have the house surrounded (tenaciously incompetent!), and Ronnie is just the guy to break in under their noses and get them. As insurance that Ronnie will return with the diamonds, Shyamlal has kidnapped his pregnant wife (Simi).

Mention is made of some mysterious hoodlum, whom they all fear, named “King.”

Ronnie goes to India but is stymied by the security around the house—so much for his famed prowess at burglary. Luckily, he sees an ad running on television:

Professor Pyarelal’s problem-solving is shown in a montage of physical activity: karate, horseback riding, boxing, jogging, swimming. Always there is a (mostly) female fan club in tow. It’s really dumb, but I notice that Garam Dharam is still looking pretty fit, which I suppose is the primary purpose. Ronnie comes to see him, pretending to be a movie director stuck on a plot point (now there’s some realism for you!). His “hero” has to break into a house surrounded by the police, and he’s not sure how to script such a thing.

Pyarelal’s solution is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard, and I listen to a steady stream of stupid things every day at work.

Presumably the police will be easy to distract with the striptease, and won’t ever even notice the “huge platform” being built between Shyamlal’s house and the building next door.

The building next door, I am pleased to discover, is owned by Shammi!

He and Nadira are Mr. and Mrs. Rai, and they are scoundrels and scam artists of the first order. They *so* should have been paired up when they were young and gorgeous (not that they aren’t still gorgeous)!

Ronnie finds the perfect dancer for his distraction ploy in Sonia (Zeenat Aman)—who happens to be that Bhagwan Singh wrongfully convicted for Inspector Shinde’s murder years earlier. She needs money for her ill father’s medical treatment.

This stupidest-plan-ever works: Ronnie gets the diamonds, and we embark on a convoluted plot of crosses and double-crosses, requiring great leaps of logic and suspension of disbelief. I feel like I’m barely hanging on to the thread of the story by my fingernails, and I could not even begin to try and sum it up. It’s Feroz Khan-meets-Manmohan Desai—Qurbani crossed with Naseeb—but not quite as good as that enterprise would probably be.

Director Brij seems to specialize in films that are full of potential and cracktastic goodness which is undermined when the story goes out of control. Ah well.

I will leave you here with these goodies:


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50 Comments to “Professor Pyarelal (1981)”

  1. See Vinod Mehra’s movie “Ghar” with Rekha – good story, direction and fab songs by RD Burman. Vinod Mehra acted as a sidey in many AB movies esp Hrishikesh Mukherjee ones – Bemisal and Jurmaana.

    • What ever happened to him? Is he still around? I’ve seen him only in a couple of things that I can recall…

      • Sadly, Vinod Mehra passed away about 20 years ago, I believe from a heart attack… he was wayyy too young to go so early. At the time he was in the middle of directing “GuruDev”, starring Anil & Rishi Kapoor and Sridevi in a double role, which eventually ended up releasing around 1993.

        I always thought he was a good actor, especially in the three films Filmbuff mentioned, but I always found him in roles of a second or third hero, or a friend who dies without enough screen time (like in this film, or Jaal, or Nagin, or Chor Police, or… you get the point) :-)

  2. Professor Pyarelal… Professor Pyarelal…

  3. I haven’t even finished your review, but wanted you to know I cracked up when I started listening to the song! I can see how it can get stuck in your head. However, I stopped it midway to make sure it doesn’t happen to me! Funny as the tune has a sixties vibe, but I see it’s an early ’80s film.

    Hope your posting was the antidote you needed and that the song has now left the building.

    Have a great holiday!

  4. OMGG isn’t Padmini Kohlapure in this? Or maybe she’s in another movie with the name Pyarelal! I love this film, i watched and bought it, in my Dharmendra glory days of my teens, even though he was getting on in age he looks HAWT! Shammi and Nadira sooo should have been paired together when they were young! Vinod Mehra’s a cutie, he’s especially funny in the terribly good Nagin!

  5. Oh, lord. I completely identify with Nadira’s expression in that third-but-last screen cap. And that, when I’ve not even seen the movie.

  6. This is from Brij of Victoria 203 fame…. He met a sad end..

  7. I think I have this movie; safely (?) lodged in the bottom half of the ever growing unwatched pile though. And that top pic still weirds me out…

  8. I can’t believe a film with a scene like screen cap last but third can be bad!
    Am still laughing!

    Nadira looks fabulous!
    And so does Zeenat!

    A pity you didn’t review Bombay 405 Miles fully!

  9. Shammi seems to be having fun, which counts for a lot in my books. :)
    My abiding memory of Shammi in the 80s is Amrita Singh forcing a fat, tired Shammi to shimmy to “yahoo”, in some horrid movie and him acting as Sardar in a horrid Desai movie. Needless to say, I still haven’t forgiven Amrita. :)

  10. Enjoyed reading
    Good prose. : – )


  11. I have one thing to say that I think will cure you of having the Prof. Pyarelal song stuck in your head:

    “Crook, crook, crook, crook, crook…”

  12. Another DVD I got but I didn’t see… Maybe it’s bad… But having the gorgeus Zeenat I know sooner or later I would watch it. That girl was soooo beautiful :D

  13. Oh no, now I’ve been singing Prooooooo-feeeeeeeee-ssor PYARE-lal since last night!!!! I only hope I dont have to watch the movie to get rid of it :P No matter how silly the movie is, must say the theme music is pretty catchy.

    I love Nadira’s expression in that third-but-last screen cap. And Shammi looks truly amused. I really wish they both were paired together when they were young.

    • Wouldn’t that have been great? Shammi and Nadira. They were the best thing about this one, for sure.

      Watch this to get rid of the song:

      It gets stuck in your head too, but is much more fun :)

      • Had almost forgotten about this song. Am listening to it after such a long time! Had seen this movie long ago…may be 10-12 years back. But thanks for the song.!!! Now I’m off to sleep singing :

        Zindagi mein pyaar karna seekh le
        Jisko jeena ho marna seekh le
        {o kisi gala pisi dala niki daga yola }


        • Is that what the words are (last line)? What does it mean? It’s so addictive.


          • I guess so…I googled for lyrics because I couldn’t make much sense out of it. And then edited it a little (it was dala in the lyrics I found but I heard it daga). I dont think the last line has any meaning. As far as I know, it’s definitely not hindi. But whatever it is, it’s really addictive.

          • I’m guessing those words are just gibberish; the lyricist must have been trying to capture the essence of the original song, Brazilian Love Song (Andorinha Preta), by imitating the Portuguese chorus in it. Maybe someone knows the language and can confirm if it’s legit vocabulary or not? *hoping*

            Both versions are awesome… but I’ll give the nod to Phool Aur Patthar version… because of Shashikala! :)

          • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            Thank you for that link! LOVE IT, both versions!!!!!

            *expires from joy*

  14. Oh, lord. I completely identify with Nadira’s expression in that third-but-last screen cap. And that, when I’ve not even seen the movie.

  15. You didn’t talk about the venerable prof gettin’ jiggy with it – i.e. doing a wrist-flip and shuffling his feet with a super-focused look on his face – in the disco with all the flashing lights and the foreign lady crooning a “sexy jazz” version of the title song while Dharmendra pulls unwitting foreign women into the pool. So surreal . . . my senses are still recovering from it.

  16. I remember this movie at the time it was released – and making it a point to avoid it.
    That was the time that I began getting disillusioned with Hindi movies.
    They were getting increasingly ridiculous, plots were going downhill – and except for the odd movie like Silsila, Baseraa or Bemisaal – they were just full of violence.

    I remember one song of this movie – “Ga ga ga gaayeja, aur muskuraayeja”. It was quite popular in its time.

    Btw, there was a Dharam movie at that time which had some spectacular helicopter scenes, going on for ages. Am not sure which one it was – could be Kartavya or Ram Balram or this one.
    I haven’t seen the movie but I read about this at that time. Was this the movie ?

    • There were small biplanes and some helicopters too…but I think that was beginning to be a normal thing. Didn’t Qurbaan have them too (although it didn’t have Dharamji)?

  17. The title track ogf the movie- by Kalyanji Anandji was a rage at that time – 1980-1981.
    I have the LP of this.

  18. international crook,crook,crook crook…haaaaaaaa,cant believe somebody else had that earworm ,thought i was the only person on earth,was just singing prooooofessor pyarelal in the loo a few days ago,incidentally must see madan puri in a shatrughan classic kallicharan,with prem nath ajit….loin,,,,,,,,loin is the king

  19. @Memsaab Don’t you think that the late Vinod Mehra bears a resemblance to Mark Hamill (before the accident) and Shaun Cassidy? Btw, I’m a fan of both 70s and early 80s Indian movies and H’wood.

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