Zinda Dil (1975)

About the only thing this dreadful movie has going for it is the Bizarro World subtitles—subtitles so strange but enthusiastic that I pictured a crowd of manic little elves shouting and arguing about the best word or phrase to use, none of which probably made any sense, let alone the one they finally settled upon. But I thank Bhagwan above for the weird subs, because there was not much else to like.

I confess that I have never shared the fervent Rishi love that so many of my fellow Hindi film lovers do, although I do pretty much adore Noughties Rishi who has stolen the show in films like Hum Tum, Luck By Chance and Chintuji. He stars here with his real-life lady love Neetu Singh (whom I DO totally share the appreciation for usually) and my recent acquaintance Zahira, with Pran as his military father figure Major Sharma. The story is an exercise in dysfunctional parenting with lots of overacting (Roopesh Kumar I am looking at YOU) and that sacrificial-lamb theme that I so despise, although at least this time it’s mostly the men who wallow in stupid pointless suffering: equal opportunity martyrdom is the order of the day.

It’s not enough that everything about the movie is bad to begin with either: the dvd is chock full of gaps where important scenes are just plain missing, leaving the viewer to piece things together. And imdb seems to think that Rishi played a double role here, but I beg to differ. If this guy is Rishi:

then I will eat every single one of my many hats. The songs are dull at best, so much so that if some turned out to be missing I simply wouldn’t care (and might even be grateful). The cinematography is nausea-inducing; the zoom lens was clearly a new innovation dear to the heart of the cameraman, who also thought nothing of blurring the picture and swinging the camera around in circles to illustrate all the emotional upheaval. Whether you are a Rishi-Neetu-Pran fan or not, I think it’s fair to say that you should skip this one.

Major Sharma (Pran) is an ex-military man wounded during combat, necessitating the use of a cane which he hits one of his twin sons with when the kid can’t keep up with his brother. Kewal is everything that Sharma dislikes: fragile, emotionally unstable, clumsy, uncoordinated and so wussy that he pees his pants when Sharma scolds him. Sharma dotes on his other son Arun, who is strong and fearless although in my opinion not very bright: he obeys his father so mindlessly that he is about to run right off a cliff before the Major notices and shouts “Halt!”

Major Sharma’s pattern of praising Arun to the skies and criticizing Kewal sharply has clearly been going on since the boys were small, but everything is about to change. Kewal comes down with a severe fever and the local doctor (Raj Mehra) is called in.

It seems to me that the doctor is the one here who is mentally deficient, but although Sharma looks as bewildered as I feel at this misbegotten advice he nonetheless takes it to heart. From that day forward the twins’ roles are reversed: Kewal can do no wrong, and poor Arun can do no right. He focuses all his attention and aspirations of military glory on Kewal, training him in the fighting arts etc., and showering him with love. Now Arun is criticized at every turn, no matter how successful his endeavours prove.

As they grow up, Arun (Rishi Kapoor) remains a good-hearted and loving fellow although he turns to mischief, drink, and the doctor’s daughter Rekha (Zahira) for consolation—thereby earning the disapprobation of everyone else in the community.

Kewal (not Rishi, see above) unfortunately doesn’t benefit much from being spoiled: he becomes a whiny entitled tattletale who still sucks at everything but at least has the good sense to remain jealous of his much more worthy twin.

Major Sharma works hard and enriches his family by buying out the local Thakur’s house and lands when the Thakur gambles and drinks away his inheritance. The Thakur’s nasty son Shyam (Roopesh Kumar) blames the Major and Arun for his misfortune and becomes the Sharmas’ implacable if not very competent enemy. I’ve mostly seen Roopesh Kumar in minor side roles as the hero’s friend and always kind of liked him, but he is irritatingly over-the-top here, spitting out his lines through clenched teeth as veins pop out of his face and neck, Prem Chopra-like.

The Thakur is contesting a local election (for “Municipal Head” whatever that may be) against Major Sharma, and Shyam is so determined that he win that he kidnaps a small child for ransom to pay for his father’s campaign. I am thrilled to see that the little boy’s father is played by a young almost unrecognizable (but that voice! there is no mistaking it) Amrish Puri (update: Bollyviewer, whom I trust with such things, says it is Goga Kapoor. Oops.).

Meanwhile, Kewal sets off for officer training in the Army, making his father proud. But even in his absence the Major continues to berate Arun for all his activities, and Shyam incites the townspeople into telling Sharma that Arun is a good-for-nothing who may cost his father the election. Only Rekha stands staunchly by her misunderstood and unhappy beloved.

Despite Shyam’s maneuverings and nefarious fund-raising efforts, Major Sharma handily wins the election at the same time as Kewal returns home having actually managed to pass his Lieutenant’s exam. This situation typifies much of the film’s plot: every time Shyam ratchets up the tension a notch by indulging in bad deeds, it fizzles out and he loses pathetically without the good guys even doing anything to help themselves out. It’s no wonder he is such a cranky fellow.

Arun (who is unselfishly as usual thrilled by his twin’s success) is sent off to buy liquor for a big celebration. On the way he encounters a feisty girl named Jyoti (Neetu Singh in a totally FABULOUS DRESS) who has decided to kill herself but instead contents herself with shooting at Arun and his jeep tires. She is unhappy because her father loves money more than he loves her.

He stops her from killing herself (and him) by literally smacking some sense into her (booooo!) and takes her home with him. I am pleasantly surprised finally by a song that I actually enjoy (“Shyam Suhani Aayi Khushiyaan Banke Pehli Baar”) and which showcases all the reasons why Rishi does have so many fans—the man can dance, and he tosses his curls around and throws himself heart and soul into the party.

Affection has awakened in Jyoti’s heart too, and she is sad when—after she throws herself at him, literally—Arun introduces her to Rekha: “she is my girlfriend and I love her since my childhood.” This makes things much easier for her father, Diwan Pratap Chand (Pinchoo Kapoor) when he shows up to collect her, and she goes off happily with him in another facile resolution to a non-issue (I am leaving out all sorts of situations whereby Shyam’s plans for revenge are frustrated by the script writer’s inability or unwillingness to maintain any kind of plot tension.)

Major Sharma is not finished in his goal of ruining his only worthwhile son’s life though. When Kewal fails the next tier of army exams and is rejected by Rekha when he proposes to her:

(she wisely points out that she can’t trust a man’s loyalty when that man isn’t even loyal to his own twin), he tries to kill himself. When Sharma reads the suicide note expressing Kewal’s thwarted love for Rekha, he asks Arun to give Rekha up so that she can marry Kewal instead. Arun does so, although to his credit he does go and discuss it with her first, which unfortunately leads to the maudlin title song. It plays on and on as the anguished faces of Zahira and Rishi float across the screen in tormented chiaroscuro.

Arghhh. Thank goodness Arun finally gets the same message now that I’ve been getting all along, which is that he should run as fast as he can away from his totally dysfunctional and abusive family situation.

He takes a train out of town and lands up in Bombay, where he soon bumps into Diwan Pratap Chand and is reunited with a thrilled Jyoti, who resumes her rambunctious puppy-like attempts to woo him (seriously, she nearly knocks him over at times with her boisterous attentions). She finally wins him over—or wears him down, I am not sure which—with the cute “Nahin Nahin Jaana Nahin” and they are engaged with the blessings of her father.

But Shyam is also on the scene: thwarted in his attempts to make the Sharma family’s lives a living hell since they have done it quite well on their own, he had shifted to the city too, and has become a partner in Diwan Sahab’s illegal businesses—and he wants to marry Jyoti himself. Plus now one of Diwan Sahab’s other employees (IS Johar) recognizes the Major’s name and has news for Arun: his and Kewal’s mother (Sarla Yeolekar) is not dead as the Major had told them, but alive—and she’s not doing that well either:

Why has the Major lied to his sons about his wife, their mother (this made me want to stick needles in my eyes)? Will Shyam finally succeed in one of his evil plots (no)? Will Arun be finally find the happiness so long denied him?

The ending is as horrible a flog as I’ve ever experienced. Truly,  from start to finish this story is ill-conceived, badly plotted and poorly executed. Whoever wrote it needed therapy and I pity his wife and kids. There is so very little to like about it that I can’t believe I watched the whole thing (to be fair, I was quite tipsy by the end, thank God, or I probably would have thrown something at my television).

Only Neetu’s baby fat and exuberance, the crazy subtitles, Amrish Puri’s cameo, and occasional flashes of Rishi Charm got me through. And there was a hilarious gora tourist scene too, which one of them describes over at imdb (the comedian he refers to is IS Johar hamming it up as a tour guide: “Ladies-like gentlemen and gentlemen-like ladies”).

He wants a dvd copy of the film: he can have mine.

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52 Comments to “Zinda Dil (1975)”

  1. a young almost unrecognizable Amrish Puri.

    I think he is unrecognisable because he is not Amrish *bulging eyes* Puri! That looks like a very young Goga Kapoor (or someone very much like that, who used to show up in 70s films a lot).

    I watched this for Rishi and Neetu too – and had to re-watch Khel Khel Mein to bring myself to forgive them for this one! Thankfully I watched the film on Rajshri. If I’d paid good money for it, I’d NEVER have forgiven Rishi-Neetu for leading me where no filmi-fan should be taken to!

    • Oh *sad* He sounds JUST LIKE Amrish, and looked a lot like him too (despite the non-eyeballs of hate).

      Well strike one more off the list of not many reasons to watch this. I didn’t pay money for this either, THANK GOD. Although I did go through more wine than usual in order to make it all the way through.

  2. oh my goodness!! what on earth does “parental love de rigueur” mean??

    • “De rigueur” is French and means something along the lines of absolutely necessary. Which is quite ironic given how perfectly BAD the parents are in this film! Of course, it may also have been a complete mistranslation of what was actually said…if the film hadn’t been so dreadful I would have tried to get more of the absurd subtitles than I did. But I just couldn’t sit through it again, even for the sake of my blog!

  3. Unlike some religions, we at the Church of Rishi Kapoor (tax deductible status pending) are sympathetic to the non-believers. Especially when some of the religious texts are of such a dubious nature.

    Speaking of which, those screenshots look more like a waxwork statue of a young, foofy-haired Steve Seagal than they do Rishi. If that’s him, what did they do to the poor boy? And why — since he’s identical twins?? Better not to contemplate.

    • To be fair, nowhere did it say that they were IDENTICAL. Actually, I kind of have to give these dubious filmmakers a few props for casting a sort-of lookalike instead of trying to make us believe (with bad doubling sfx) that they were identical.

      Thank you for your mercy, I am most grateful. And please, don’t see this—EVEN YOU my dear would regret it :) I did get a screenshot of him in a wonky tam o’shanter type hat which I will attempt to email to you. But there is no reason at all to punish yourself with this.

      • How can you not fall in love with Rishi Kapoor, especially after watching him at his most fabulous in the song “bachna ae haseeno”!? And I am assuming you saw him since you have a post on “Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.”

        Oh well, I still love you tho, Memsaab. =)

        • I’m glad :) I don’t dislike him, but he just doesn’t really appeal to me on the same level as he seems to for so many other people…I do love him in films nowadays!

  4. Well, we ALL have our limits!

    • One of my favorite things about Hindi cinema is that I have discovered people who don’t! (not you—I’m thinking B. Subhash and Brij for instance)…


  5. That GUY is Pinchoo Kapoor

    and now then
    did I see this movie, if I did ,I do not remember a single thing about it, mayb Inder Sen Johar….. only and Pran Saheb.

    I want my money back pluzzzzzz

    Zzzz…..zzzzz.. pls wake me up when the movie is finished or I will be finished .) .)

  6. I seriously pity you for having to sit through it.
    Btw, how does the film end? Might as well tell us, so nobody is even remotely tempted to try and waste 2+ hrs on it! Just curious to know how this ill-conceived, badly plotted and poorly executed venture comes to an end.

    • on a lighter note .)

      we shud call it Murda Dil, helpppppp

      and oh if I may add-
      I do not even remember the starting so sry I can not help with the ending, Memsaab, hopefully yu were awake and can help out S.Y…….. .).)

      How can one make such a horrendous movie is beyond me.

      Cheers .)

    • OK here’s the ending (SPOILER ALERT):

      Arun takes Parvati (his ma) to confront his father. It turns out that Major Sharma had rescued her when she was thrown from a passing car into his path. He fell in love with her, married her, she got pregnant with twins—and then he discovered that she had already been pregnant when he married her! So he left her in the middle of the night, taking the two boys with him (WTF! They weren’t even HIS—although his logic was to save them from a mother who clearly had no character so that they could benefit from HIS good parenting…not). She dies clutching at his feet begging for forgiveness (arghhh) and the boys are reconciled to him in gratitude for his devotion to them. There is also a lot of nonsense involving Shyam and his goondas but it all fizzles as is usual in this dumb movie (example: at one point, Shyam tampers with the brakes on Arun and Jyoti’s car—we see them careening down a hill and then the car plunges over a cliff at top speed and explodes into flames. Cut to the engagement celebration party that Jyoti’s dad is throwing for them, concern about their continued absence—a phone call comes informing Diwan Pratap Chand that his daughter and her fiance have been killed. He slumps down and there is much exclaiming etc.—and then Arun and Jyoti arrive cheerfully with just a few scratches and all is well. WTF!!!!).

      End spoilers, such as they are.

      • OMG!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m sorry I asked for this and I’m glad also at the same time!
        What a sick plot that is!!!!
        But I’m glad that I asked, I’ll never ever watch this movie, not even by mistake. But still I will always remember it as one of the most ill-conceived, badly plotted, poorly executed and nausea-inducing movie (without even watching it…what I heard of it is more than enough to form that opinion). And all thanks to you for that.
        No matter how bad the movie was, your review is superb! Like Harvey says, it’s a HIT! It was a fun read (both the review and the comments).

        • It was like watching a train wreck: my eyes getting bigger and bigger and my brain saying “NO NO NO NO NO they are NOT going to go there NOOOO!”

          Stupendously horrible. I’m glad my review has saved some people the trauma of sitting through it :)

  7. I’ve liked Rishi so little that my appreciation for him can only go up not down.He’s actually very cute in Bobby. And like you I’ve liked him in Luck By Chance. He has a good screen presence and his acting is good too. I want to see more of Rishi and even Dimple in the new movies.

    Now Neetu I’ve never liked. May have to do with the fact that she is exhibit #1 for what I would have called a “behenji” or worse still a “behenji turned mod”. Others will most likely disagree.

    • He’s okay in Bobby, although teeny-bopper romance isn’t really my thing :) (Sorry, sacrilege I know, and I liked Bobby but didn’t adore it as I’m supposed to). I like him best early on in Amar Akbar Anthony, but for me he makes much better character actor material than hero material. I love seeing him in contemporary films now, he is always great.

      Neetu is a bit manic, she is especially OTT in this one—literally flinging herself on him at every opportunity so that he has to fight her off, also literally. But I blame the director for that (and for many other crimes here). I generally really love her though, I prefer a good feisty heroine to a wet dishrag any day!

  8. salaam memsab,
    u have so many people to advise u which movie not to see, so why to waste ur precious writing skills.
    Look out for ‘Dharti kahe Pukar ke’, a 70s movie!

    • Ha ha! Sometimes it’s good to sharpen one’s writing claws :) Gotta take the bad with the good! Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke I’ve looked for, but it’s not available on dvd with subtitles :(

  9. Subtitles! Have you had enough of it? :)

  10. The subtitiling is what to say, fantastically nice. Many times wondering how feels like to read them especially in the songs.

    No use trying. I am no good at this. Lol. Takes a special talent to come up with the phraseology in subtitles, but it looks like this one takes the cake.

  11. Yup, that’s Goga Kapoor all right. I used to think he was another one of Amrish Puri’s brothers when I was younger… their voices were very similar and they looked equally menacing. Every time I saw Goga in a film though he was always a henchman or side villain but never the main guy, which was too bad because I thought he was a decent actor who had good screen presence. I remember him most as Kader Khan’s sidekick in Coolie who got his eye plucked out by the bird. Ouch! Yeah, that kind of scared me as a little kid!

    As far as Zinda Dil goes, however, this film sounds dreadful! Which in my book makes it a must-watch, I suppose. LOL! That Kewal fellow looks like a cross between Navin Nischol and Rishi Kapoor, with the awful hairdo that Rajesh Khanna wore for a little while.

    • I’ve only seen him in MD films, Mard and Coolie…and maybe a few others. But he is usually covered in some sort of disguise (or has an eye plucked out LOL!) so I didn’t recognize him. Glad I’m not the only one who sees/hears the resemblance. One more for the gallery, in any case!

      If you do take the step of watching this, please do come back and report your findings. It is simply dreadful though, you have been warned! I have no idea who played Kewal (maybe Rajesh Lahr—it was the topmost name in the credits that I didn’t recognize)…he is such a pudding face, and yes his hair is awful. He is a creditable pass at a fraternal twin for Rishi though!

      • Goga Kapoor is remembered most for playing the part of Kans mama in the serial Mahabarat which used to be telecast on Sundays.

        • Goga’s best performance came much later, in Kundan Shah’s Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, where he played a Goan Don. He’s just fantastic there.

  12. I think if I down some wine and with some good friends or my brother I would love to watch this movie just for the subtitles!
    Thanks for sacrificing your time for this nonsense. But as usual your review is a hit and it was fun to read about rglantz’s memoirs about his acting stint!

    • DON’T DO IT.

      That is all (yes, loved rglantz’s little blurb on being a gora extra :)…

      • No, I won’t!
        Not after I’ve learnt about the mystery of the missing mom.
        From the sound of the song “Shaam suhani aayi” it is quite possilbe that I saw this movie on DD, but becuase of the gory story line have most probably buried it very, very deep in my memory.
        It makes me puke!

  13. **Groan**
    I’m so sorry that you had to watch this after a dry period.

    I saw this in 3 sessions. The second and third were after long gaps because I had nothing to watch and thought – ‘Why not?’ Only to have my question answered both the times. *Groan* *Groan*

    • Possibly the only reason I made it all the way through was because I was going through Hindi film withdrawal! :) I’m glad I’m not the only one who has suffered through this.

  14. I am surprised you didnt like the songs. Watched this like 15 years back and the songs are still fresh in my mind Speciallly “Nahin Nahin Jaana Nahin” which is considered one of Lata’s best and “Shaam Suhani aayi” is still played in wedding processions in India.

    • Ha! Caught you not reading the entire post! (not that I blame you!!!)…those are the two songs I DID like, and I pointed them out specifically.

      But all the others were dull, dull, dull. And I’m sorry, I know this is a sacrilege and may get me banned in India, but Lata’s voice by the mid-70s generally sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me and “Nahin Nahin” is no exception, cute as it is despite that. *ducks*

      • Sorry for not having read the entire post…the problem is eventhou i watched this movies years back I remember it. Everyone seemed to be wanting to die. Kewal trying to commit suicide and then Neetu singh trying to do the same thing and Zahira….all she did in that movie was cry cry and cry and then cry some more.

        • *falls off chair laughing*

          I did say I didn’t blame you! You have summed it up nicely :) I’m so glad that I’m not alone in the pain of having watching this.

  15. Pls give me Jack Daniels bottle so that I got sozzled while watching this movie, safest bet to stay sane .)

    Btw give me Zinda Dil, oldie goldie from 1947 instead, can not find it, let me ask Trini bro…

  16. I saw this movie decades ago and don’t remember a single thing about it. Occasionally my brain has pity on me. :-D

    Ooh, I do remember one thing – Neetu wearing an itty-bity dress in the “nahin nahin” song. I’m not willing to watch the song, so you’ll just have to tell me if I’m wrong. :-D

    • One of the many reasons I started this blog was so that I’d have a reference point when I knew I’d seen something but couldn’t remember anything much about it :) I will never now watch Zinda Dil again by mistake!

      Yes, Neetu’s dress in Nahin Nahin is quite short by any standards, although by today’s standards she is otherwise covered up pretty well :) She looks very cute in it!

  17. Lady, when the subtitlers are busy stealthily monitoring the actions of stealthily people, you take what you get. It de rigueur, okay? :-D

  18. Brave you are, working your way through such movies (first watching it, then again, capturing it, or is it in one go?)

    Anyway, you dug out some most delightful pic-text-combos. It may be the only thing that westerners enjoy more in a Hindi movie than native Hindi speakers themselves – the joy of subtitles :) As with some other exhilarating aspects movies de Mumbai, all that fun is not always produced on purpose, i suspect.

    And i like another comment of yours, that the nowadays Rishi Kapoor is a nice guy. As you mention, in Luck by Chance for instance and also in Fanaa and in Delhi-6 – you’d just wanna share a couple of cognacs with this relaxed, upright melancholic. (I don’t really like him in Hum Tum, maybe i find the whole thing to glossed.)

    Rishi is just ridi. in his young years, the young lover in Bobby and Khabi Khabie… looking almost scared like “Momma, and now i *must* wrap my arm around that girl’s? Even *both* arms?” And i don’t see a lot of Rishi in Ranbir.

    • Brave or stupid :D I watch it first and then go through it again for the screen caps I want. Sheer torture at times, although at least when I’m getting loony subtitles it’s a bit more fun :)

      I don’t think the subtitle magic is really EVER produced on purpose, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I don’t know that Rishi is a nice guy nowadays, but his roles are certainly a lot of fun and he is great IN them :) See Chintuji if you haven’t—he plays himself as self-centered and entitled with a lot of authenticity, to his credit! :)

  19. Thanks, i just put Chintuji on the to-consider list!

    For subtitles, i had some entertaining ones in south Indian flicks too. Sometimes only visible for the odd millisecond, though.

  20. The young man playing the father of the kidnapped child is definitely Goga Kapoor and not Amrish Puri. I would be happy to know if someone can tell me the name of the actor who played the twin brother of Rishi Kapoor.

    You have reviewed and (criticized) the movie quite well. It’s bad on overall assessment. Still it can be seen for the songs – Shaam Suhaani Aayi and O Meri Jaan By God Main Teri Life Bana Doonga and above all the ever-charming Rishi Kapoor, the most handsome as well as the most talented guy from the Kapoor clan of bollywood.

    You have ignored one thing. Despite the bad treatment of the plot, the basic grains are quite good. The message to be Zinda Dil (facing all the odds and heartbreaks with a smile) is quite exemplary. Had the same plot been dealt with by a seasoned and proficient director like Yash Chopra or Vijay Anand or Mahesh Bhatt, he would have turned it into a memorable film.

    Compliments for the good review.

    Jitendra Mathur

  21. I am not very sure about this fact,but the rishi kapoor looklike`s name is
    “RAJESH LEHR”(please check this fact with other knowledgeable readers)I remember his interview in my childhood, in a old hindi fortnightly called “PICTUREPOST”

    Further, It is about Goga Kapoor, He started as a sidkick to the main villain “Ajit” in Amithabh bachchan`s “Zanjeer”.Before that he used to be a announcer at some radio station (either it is Vivdhbharthi or All india radio).This trivia about him , I heard in a Radio interview given by Goga kapoor by himself,many years ago.


  22. Yes, Prakash Chandra is right, the actor playing the fraternal twin Kewal is Rajesh Lahr. Picturpost was where I saw his face too.
    Memsaab, I enjoy reading your reviews, you seem to watch Hindi films with an old familiar warmth and affection that is infectious ( I actually felt like watching `Hare Kaanch ki Chudiyaan’ on reading what you wrote.) My husband and I have been avid Hindi-movie watchers for ages and need no further encouragement, and now, we’ve discovered your work, a very helpful aid.
    You haven’t reviewed `Bemisaal’ yet, I note. Also, do watch `Pinjra’ (starring Dr Shriram Lagoo and Sandhya – Hindi and Marathi) and the Marathi movie, `Ha Khel Saavalyancha,’ with Kashinath Ghanekar and Asha Kale.
    And keep up the good work. I’ll be reading them all.

    • Thanks Geeta, for your kind words and for confirming Rajesh Lahr’s identity! There are still so many films to see and I discover new ones every day it seems; I am glad I will probably never run out of them in my lifetime :D

  23. rajesh lehr was hero in a movie called shubh din some snake movie

  24. It wasn’t so bad. Loved as six year old. The basic story was based on Breaker Morant(?) which was made into a movie in 1979 with Robert Duvall.

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