It’s time to return to beloved Shammi: my eyes have been roving of late (Chandramohan, Shyam, the Shash)—but they will always come back to my favorite! One of my goals for this blog is to write about all his movies that I can find and comprehend (i.e. with subtitles). This is one I haven’t watched in a very long time despite remembering it as a wonderfully romantic story which I enjoyed very much. And I love Shammi in this film; he shows a subdued maturity that is really appealing without losing the Melt Factor that I so adore in him. And although Hema is obviously much younger (she is so gorgeous in this), her character has a gravity that makes it work. The kids are not as annoying as they might be either, especially Master Alankar as Hema’s really cute son Deepu. Baby Gauri—Shammi’s daughter Munni—is a hilarious little monkey, if a little *too* spoiled rotten at times.
I had completely forgotten the other threads in the plot, so was thrilled to see Roopesh Kumar as a creepy and irresponsible stoner (complete with John Lennon dark glasses) and Randhawa as Shammi’s mute servant Gangu whose love for tribal girl Mahua (Aruna Irani) is unrequited because she has a thing for Shammi too. The last time I saw this I didn’t even know who any of these people were! I am glad I do now. The film also displays Ramesh Sippy’s deft touch with direction—it’s nicely paced and scripted (by Salim and Javed, among others). The songs too are fantastic, as you’d expect from a Shammi and Shankar-Jaikishan collaboration.
Ravi (Shammi) lives on a timber plantation which he manages for his mother (Achala Sachdev). He is a widower with a small daughter named Munni, upon whom everyone dotes—even the ginormous Gangu lets her pound on him and whine in his ear like a droning little bee.
She always gets her way.
And also: child safety be damned! Life is meant to be a roller-coaster ride in the Himalayas!
Ravi has a younger half-brother in Bombay who is supposed to be studying but actually spends most of his time partying and gambling away his money at the races with his best friend Satish (Raj Kishore).
Badal (Roopesh Kumar) resents Ravi, who was adopted by Badal’s father and treated as his own when he married Ravi’s mother. His demands for money are a constant drain on the family resources, and Ravi is determined to put a stop to Badal’s wastrel ways.
Little Munni has a new teacher at school by the name of Sheetal (Hema Malini). Ravi meets her during a game of hide-and-seek with Munni, when Sheetal mistakes him for a blind man and tries to help him. That night there is a New Year’s school charity party scheduled and Sheetal is encouraged to attend by the kindly priest Father John (Abhi Bhattacharya) who urges her to forget her sad past.
The fabulous masquerade New Year’s party is compered by David and the people present are encouraged to play of a game of keeping a ball from hitting the floor—this involves passing the ball from person to person using only body contact (no hands!) and is quite risque! Ravi, being Shammi, is naturally *extremely* adept at it.
He flirts with Sheetal gently, and she responds shyly; they sing the beautiful duet “Dil Use Do” with scantily-clad goras (one hairy guy in a blue Speedo makes me shut my eyes in horror) and crazily costumed musicians and dancers for company. Oh how I regret missing this party!
Intrigued and attracted by this quiet beauty, Ravi volunteers to take little Munni to her teacher’s the next morning. They find Sheetal singing to a little boy—her little boy, Ravi soon realizes, much to his discomfiture and initial disappointment.
But he finds out the reason for her underlying sadness after the two kids run off and get lost in the forest (a delightful little Hansel-and-Gretel type of interlude complete with scary squirrels, monkeys and other fauna!). It’s typical of the wonderful little touches throughout this story.
Sheetal and Ravi find them eventually in a forest hut, sound asleep, and Sheetal confides her history to him.
Probably this is one of the most famous guest appearances ever in films: Rajesh Khanna was riding high on his wave of super-duper-stardom at the time and he’s gotten credit (too much so, in my opinion—there are many additional reasons to love this film) for it being a hit. There is no denying that his entrance is breathtaking, helped along by “Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana” and Hema on a motorcycle ride through Bombay. It’s the epitome of Seventies Cool, and a real treat to see the city as it was then.
So many reasons to envy Hema Malini in this film! As my watchalong partner Suhan (most of you know that Rajesh is to her as Shammi is to me—that is to say, catnip!) said: I didn’t even remember that there was more to the Rajesh flashback than this song, but there is.
They get caught in the rain one evening and check into a hotel to dry out. Everyone knows what happens then! (thankfully NOT Hypothermia Rape) and the next morning Raj takes Sheetal to a temple and marries her in front of God, although unfortunately for Sheetal not in front of anybody else.
Raj’s wealthy and proud father (Ajit) refuses to acknowledge Raj’s marriage to an orphan when his son informs him about it.
But Raj remains defiant and his father kicks him out. As he leaves angrily, his departure is watched by someone we have already met—Badal’s friend Satish.
Raj, whom we know by now is a fairly reckless motorcycle rider, buzzes along at top speed towards Sheetal’s birthday party with his father’s words ringing in his ears. He never makes it, and I sob. I am positive Indian movie audiences did too.
Sheetal tells Ravi that she went to Raj’s parents and they turned her away; finding herself pregnant, she tried to kill herself (arghh! NO!) but was saved by a priest who took her in. That same priest sent her to Father John, who has given her the job she now has.
The next time they meet—the two kids are doing their best to facilitate the romance—it’s Ravi’s turn to confide in Sheetal the story of his late wife Mona (Simi Garewal). Knowing how much Ravi loves children, Mona had been thrilled to discover that she was pregnant.
Told by the doctor that she should not have the baby because it might kill her (very nebulous medical diagnosis here, not to mention that Karan Johar later lifted it practically scene by scene), she doesn’t have the heart to tell a thrilled Ravi about it and has the baby anyway—and dies.
I’m not nearly as affected by this back story because that scenario is So Many Kinds of Wrong (plus Simi is no Rajesh Khanna) but Ravi’s grief at her loss is evident.
These revelations naturally bring Sheetal and Ravi closer but, feeling awkward, Sheetal begins to avoid him. An excellent example of how nuanced this film is, in contrast to so many, is that she isn’t only avoiding him because she’s a widow and not supposed to remarry—although there is part of that in it—but she is genuinely torn between moving on with her life and not wanting to let go of Raj and his memories as well. Ravi for his part tries to respect her wishes, but finally breaks down and in a wonderful, wonderful scene tells her that he loves her.
I melt into a Shammi-Induced Puddle.
But will Sheetal? Can she put Raj’s memories behind her and find love with Ravi? And even if she can—will it last? Badal and pal Satish—who is Raj’s cousin—are coming home because Ravi has put a stop to Badal’s endless supply of money, and Badal wants to rid himself of Ravi once and for all. Will he find ammunition to do so in Sheetal? What will become of her and poor cute little Deepu?
My dvd of this film (Spark) is awful—the video quality sucks, the subtitles lag behind, and it stops working altogether at some important moments in the plot. But I will search for another, because I love this movie. It’s sweet and thoughtful, and nicely written, directed and acted. There is a pretty compelling side plot as well, which for the sake of space I haven’t even gotten into (Aruna Irani’s track, and she is great in it). In short; there is plenty to entertain even if you aren’t particularly a fan of the cast (you poor people, if you exist). See it, do!