Hackneyed fairy-tale featuring a lost prince returning home? Check. Shrill Saira Banu opposite preternaturally youthful Dev Anand? Check. Portly Premnath as an evil Senapati? Check again. Did I like the film? Oh hell yes! What’s not to love about a movie that advertises a cast of “about 500 Indian & International junior Artistes” and delivers on that promise? Who cares if the plot is silly? Not I, given a frothy sixties travelogue with ports of call in a Middle East populated by blonde belly dancers and stoned hippie extras. I love to see my people in Hindi movies. Plus, Shankar Jaikishan provide some seriously catchy tunes to accompany all the onscreen antics.
The Maharaja of Devalgarg (Murad) is quite literally drowning his sorrows in whiskey plied by courtesan Mohini (Shashikala), who is in cahoots with Senapati Uday Singh (Premnath). The king’s sorrows are that his younger brother and heir Naresh left home after an argument 14 years earlier, and his mother the Rajmata moved out too as a result. Uday Singh is certain that Naresh is dead—not a word has been heard from him—and he makes his move towards the throne by murdering the drunken king on a hunting trip and claiming that he was eaten by a tiger.
Little does he know that Naresh (Dev Anand), now calling himself Dilip Singh for some unknown reason, has decided to return home and reconcile with his elder brother. Luckily he is returning via cruise ship: after all, we need a good hour or so for him to woo imperious spoiled rich girl Rita (Saira Banu) in exotic locales before we can get down to the business of punishing the treacherous Uday. Regular readers know that I am not the biggest Saira fan in the world, but at least in this story she has good reason to be screeching her head off.
Her Thakur father (Harindranath Chattopadhyay) has sent Rita (whom he and his secretary Asit Sen call Baby) to be educated in London, but is now bringing her back to India against her will to get married and settle down. She is threatening to disembark at the next port and run away back to England. She has also caught Naresh’s appreciative eye (he and actor David sing the charming “Dekho Dekho Madam” to her); and after Naresh proves that he can handle haughty Baby by tossing her in a swimming pool the Thakur begs his co-passenger to keep an eye on his rebellious daughter.
This is all good since it is an excuse for lots of idiotic disguises and footage of Egypt’s pyramids, and several fun songs including a belly dance in a nefarious brothel touted as the “Institute of Dance & Drama” as Naresh chases Rita from port to port.
I am pleased to see my favorite gori dancer Lino (actually Leonara, according to my pal Ted Lyons) in a song aboard ship.
When Rita tries to leave the dance floor in a temper, she is stopped in her tracks by an enthusiastic man and compelled to do the twist. Lord, I love the Indian Twist! It’s like a drug.
I should also point out that Saira looks beautifully stylish in this film (her mother Naseem Banu designed her outfits) even if she is annoying. Somehow Dev is a better foil for her too than, say, Dharmendra; possibly because he himself has a penchant for being center stage and sort of overpowers her instead of the other way around.
Naresh is forced to rescue Rita from the aforementioned brothel owner (Sulochana in the best madam outfit ever—I love the sequinned eye mask on her veil) who schemes to sell her to the highest bidder.
Enter some of the Indian & International junior Artistes in the fabulous “Tujhko Dekh Kar Noorullha.”
Would YOU be creeped out by dolls hanging on a wall as decoration? I am.
Rita finally realizes she loves Naresh after she escapes from the ship on a life raft and he jumps in and swims after her. The cruise ship and all aboard inexplicably leave them to it—no “man overboard!” for this bunch, no no. Perhaps they are tired of the irritating Rita too. Eventually after days of drifting at sea and much hardship (Rita fashions a dress for herself out of the sail, apparently deeming it superfluous to their survival) plus another song, they are rescued from near death and Naresh takes her home to her father in India.
The Thakur has bad news for Naresh, though. He asks Naresh to forget his daughter: Rita is already engaged—to the new King of Devalgarg!
Worried, Naresh leaves in a hurry (without telling Rita) to find out what’s going on at home. In Devalgarg, the grief-stricken and blind Rajmata (Durga Khote) has decided to hand over the kingdom to the trusty Uday Singh.
In India, apparently, you really can cry your eyes out!
Evidently everyone in Devalgarg except the Rajmata knows that Uday Singh has murdered the king in order to take the throne for himself. Duly warned, Naresh decides to keep his real identity secret for a while longer. He befriends Uday Singh (and Mohini) as Dilip and is made welcome at the palace. And pretty soon the Thakur shows up with Rita in tow for the engagement ceremony (Devalgarg law conveniently decrees that a new Maharaja must be married before he can be crowned).
Can Naresh save his kingdom (and Rita) from Uday Singh? Or will the wily Senapati prevail AND marry poor Baby?
If you don’t expect much in the way of originality or common sense, this is a fun watch. The music is really nice and the cast competent if not overflowing with charisma (Dev is quite charming actually). Besides the aforementioned dances there are two Sharda numbers. I know that she’s not everybody’s cup of tea but I love her, especially in the melodious “Sun Sun Sun Re Balam.” I somehow always expect to see Doris Day and Rock Hudson on the horizon when I hear her voice. It’s a nice change from the Mangeshkars, lovely though they are; if nothing else do find all the songs online and watch them.