Sometimes after sitting through a spate of truly abysmal films (not worth writing about even) I feel a tinge of despair, thinking that *maybe* there are no more good ones to be seen out there. Then Shalini sends one like this and Raja subtitles it for me, and I am made to realize how much I love Hindi cinema (and my friends!) all over again.
In a nutshell, it’s a fabulously sweet film full of romance and humor. There are no thought-provoking messages, but they aren’t always necessary or even welcome, especially when the movie stars Rehman (oh! the floppy hair falling on that face!), Nigar Sultana (so feisty and funny!), Jairaj (so charming and handsome!) and Meena Kumari (angelically beautiful!). They are supported by two grande old dames of cinema history, Durga Khote and Jilloo, the able and funny Mirza Musharraf, and a poor little put-upon cat (it sadly seems a little tortured at times, but it’s also fun to see a feline anipal, especially one that isn’t stuffed and doesn’t have stripes and big sharp teeth at that).
We meet Chandni (Nigar Sultana), an independent and carefree girl (she’s rich too) who does things like take her cat Mini for drives in the country. On one such drive the cat jumps out while Chandni berates a cart driver blocking the road, and although the scene is missing (damaged?) we come to understand that in chasing her cat down Chandni meets—and quarrels with—a young farmer by the name of Manohar (Rehman). Once home again, it is apparent that Chandni has been equal parts irritated by and attracted to Manohar.
Chandni lives with her intimidating Chachi (Durga Khote), who wants her to settle down with her childhood friend Moti (P. Jairaj). Moti is happy to go along with Chachi’s wishes, but Chandni wants more out of marriage—she wants love, and not just the friendship kind. Moti agrees to make some excuse to Chachi (he’s far from heartbroken at Chandni’s refusal); but confronted by the old lady, he comes out with a stress-induced lie—and it is a whopper.
As you’d expect, this escalates out of control. Shocked and hurt, Chachi demands that he take her to meet his new wife; this forces Moti to tell her that his new bride has already left him because they couldn’t get along. A now even more upset Chachi wants to know who this upstart girl is: Moti casts around desperately for a name and comes up with “Meenu.”
Poor cornered Moti, desperate to escape, agrees that yes, it is Meenu Rai. He assures Chachi that he’s fine with it all, and not to worry—he’s forgotten all about it himself. Oh clueless man! Chandni knows better, and warns him that there will be trouble since he’s dragged actual real Meenu Rai into it.
But Moti brushes her off and hurries away.
In Pune, the real Meenu (Meena Kumari)—whose father has recently passed away—is working as a typist at “Modern India Agricultural Implements, Ltd.” Her manager Bholeram (Mirza Musharraf) is smitten by her although he is married with three children; Meenu brooks no nonsense from him though. (And please to note the porthole in the door with deco waves all around it. Love.)
When she receives a cryptic letter from Chachi admonishing her for not sharing her “news” with her, she is puzzled and decides to visit—playing right into Chachi’s hands. Chachi sends for Moti at the same time and when Meenu arrives she locks them in an upstairs room together so that they can sort out their problems. Moti apologizes for the “misunderstanding” profusely, but Meenu is understandably pretty angry (after all, it’s her reputation which gets ruined!). She finally escapes from the balcony after bashing him on the head when he tries to stop her.
A scornful Chachi bandages him up when she returns and frets about poor “unloved” and orphaned Meenu.
Chandni is hugely amused and no help at all, but Moti confides in her that he has fallen in love at first sight with the feisty Meenu.
Chandni understands his feelings all too well—she has begun meeting Manohar the farmer on her afternoons out, and sends messages to him via Mini the Manhandled Cat.
I do have to say that of all the cast members, the cat seems happiest with Rehman: he almost unconsciously plays with her, batting his hands against her paws, and he makes sure that she is fully supported when he holds her (instead of leaving her dangling unceremoniously over one arm, hind legs kicking uncomfortably). Yes, I know it’s the kind of detail nobody cares about but me—but it makes me love Rehman even more than I already did. I worry about animals in movies. They were probably even worse off than kids.
Khair. Manohar lives with his Ma (Jilloo) and farms their two pieces of land with pride. In fact, he and Chandni have a lot in common outside of their social backgrounds: both are proud, convinced of their own superiority, but loving and full of fun too. They spend a lot of time teasing each other.
Chandni finally takes him home to meet her imperious auntie:
who recognizes a kindred spirit when she sees one (see the cat going “Get me out of here!”).
Then it’s Manohar’s turn to take Chandni home, where his Ma lets her cook parathas when she offers, even though Chandni has no more idea how to make them than I do.
Ma is a little worried that Chandni won’t adapt well to country life and the rigors of regular housework, but she likes her (and her cat) and gives them her blessing too.
But alas! After a very cute song (“Tera Mujhko Sataana Mera Jiya Ko Jalaana”):
our loving pair gets embroiled in a quarrel over where and how they will live after marriage.
Chandni wants Manohar to go into business and live with her in the city; he refuses to leave his farm and wants her to live in his village. Their stubborn natures lead them to an impasse.
They part bitterly. Poor angsty Rehman!
Moti, now recovered from his head wound, decides to visit a company which he owns in Pune—Modern India Agricultural Implements, Ltd! He is surprised to see Meenu there; she is not very happy to see HIM.
She kicks him out, not realizing that he is the “big boss” and outside he bumps (literally) into an old friend: Manohar, who is there to buy more seeds. He seizes the opportunity to enact a charade (with Manohar’s help) in hopes of getting closer to Meenu.
Manohar agrees and for his part uses his new “position” to extract some benefits for the proletariat in the office, to Moti’s dismay. He gives everyone a pay raise, and contributes 10,000 Rs from the company to a charity show which Meenu is putting on. The charity show gives us another lovely song, “Tik Tik Tik Bole O Bole” (I really like the songs in this film: Sajjad Hussain wrote a couple of them, with the majority by Bulo C Rani).
Moti goes backstage after the show and confesses his love to Meenu, telling her that he wants to marry her (at some point—scene is either missing or supposed to be implied—he also confesses his masquerade). His sincerity wins her over.
Meanwhile, Chandni has told Chachi about her troubles with Manohar, and Chachi is indignant on her behalf. She decides to shanghai Moti into helping her niece get over the obviously ungrateful Manohar and tracks him down at the theater, where he’s having a smoke before he meets his beloved Meenu (when he sees Chachi coming he tries to dispel the smoke wreathed about his head with his hands, which is typical of the small humorous touches this movie is filled with). She is a regular tsunami of a human being and cannot be denied!
Manohar goes to meet Meenu and Moti backstage, where Meenu tells him that Moti hasn’t shown up; he offers to drive her to Moti’s house. But when they get there they see Moti trying to comfort his old friend Chandni and completely misinterpret the scene.
They commiserate with each other and soon discover that Manohar knew and respected Meenu’s father: the doctor had died while treating the people of Manohar’s village for the plague. Manohar convinces the heartbroken Meenu (who no longer wants to work for Moti of course) to come home with him and open a clinic (I am not clear on how being the daughter of a doctor qualifies her to be one herself, but never mind). She moves in with him and his mother.
Of course when Moti and Chandni discover that Meenu and Manohar are now living together, it’s their turn to misconstrue the situation!
Will love win out over stubbornness and pride? Can the feisty old ladies who love them all put some sense into them?
The path to happiness is strewn with rocks and misunderstandings (and more head wounds) and it is good fun to watch. Manohar sees his thwarted love story as a war between the rich and the poor, although the only person concerned with his “lowly” status is basically…him! But a descent into melodrama is prevented by the charisma of the actors involved and the humor infusing the proceedings, which thwarts any attempt to take it all too seriously.
Updated to add: I have uploaded it and links are in the comment thread below! I highly recommend it, and I thank Shalini and Raja again from the bottom of my heart.