Kahani Kismet Ki (1973)

I am a pretty big fan of director-producer-writer-actor Arjun Hingorani’s work. His listing on imdb is probably incomplete, but the films he made that I’ve seen (four of them now), I have really enjoyed despite some issues. Those issues are very small in the face of his laboriously tangled—but coherent—storylines, stylish camera work, fabulous music, and the people he loves to cast: Dharmendra, Ashoo, Hiralal, Shetty, Jankidas, Keshav Rana and more. I also appreciate his penchant for casting himself in his films, not always in a heroic light but always in a terrible wig. In essence, his movies are solidly entertaining and a real delight to sit through if you are willing to overlook a certain glossing-over of logic and moderate level of preachy melodrama (which I am).

This one begins with a man named Premchand (Ajit) taking his small daughter to meet his late wife’s father (Murad). His father-in-law had not approved of his daughter’s choice and had disowned her; but nearing death he has repented and wants to make his granddaughter the heir to his fortune.

Premchand, though, has a secret: his real daughter has died and the granddaughter inheriting Murad’s wealth is a substitute. Somehow a man named Karamchand Singh (Arjun Hingorani) has discovered this subterfuge, and has documents proving it. He blackmails Premchand for 10,000 rupees a month to keep quiet. I love these camera angles!

We watch Premchand handing over wads of rupees as little Rekha grows up to be big Rekha (Rekha!), inheriting all of her “grandfather’s” wealth when he passes away. Her best friend is Chanda (Jayshree T), who is being wooed by a waaay-too-old-for-her Gopuram (Rajendranath). This is the CSP, and his main schtick besides romancing young Chanda is his hearing aid, always falling out of and dangling below his ear, rendering him deaf. That is all I am going to say about the CSP.

Gopuram has been “adopted” by the Sharma family, consisting of Ma Lakshmi (Sulochana Latkar), father (Abhi Bhattacharya), sister Meena (Rajni Gupta?), little brother Ramesh (?) and oldest son Ajit (Dharmendra), who is Gopuram’s best friend.

Ajit and his father have a little secret too: they are cat burglars and very successful ones at that, able to crack open the most difficult (imported) types of safes. But one fateful night the (rather more wily than is usual in Hindi films) police finally catch up with them. There is a loooooooonnnnnng chase sequence with lots of DNCI and a dazzling staircase that looks like a trippy blue eye, and it ends in disaster. To escape the net, Ajit drives his neon-yellow jeep through a department store window, injuring his father (who has health issues to begin with). He gets them both home, but as his father lies bleeding, the police burst in (I’m thinking that a neon-yellow jeep is not the best choice for a getaway vehicle).

Papaji dies after gasping out a request for forgiveness from Lakshmi; Ajit’s silence as the police point their guns at him confirms that what they are saying is true and much wailing of shehnais and gnashing of teeth ensues. Lakshmi breaks her bangles over her husband’s bloody hand and Ajit is led away in handcuffs. He is sentenced to two years imprisonment, while at home Lakshmi forces Meena and Ramesh to pack up the bare essentials and move out. Faithful old servant Gopal (Hiralal) wants to come with them, but Lakshmi refuses.

Destiny or personal choice? is always my question in such situations. Anyway, I am glad to see that at least she lets the family Alsatian come along and doesn’t just abandon him like so many people do all too often. Gopuram comes with them too, and they walk along miserably accompanied by the title tune (and more wailing shehnais, such a gloomy instrument!) as Ajit breaks rocks in a quarry. Oh the humanity! The massive self-pity!

Lakshmi retains her anger at Ajit as the months go by, although Meena still ties a rakhi on him through the cell bars. Meena is the most annoying character in this film, a weepy little goody-two-shoes, and I want to slap her sometimes, but I am glad she visits poor Ajit. And when Ajit gets out early for good behavior and goes home with his sad repentant puppy-dog eyes, Ma melts like an ice cube on the footpaths of Bombay. She’s a goner even before he vows to Bhagwan that he’ll go straight.

Peace and harmony restored, Ajit goes out in search of a job. He has a college degree, but due to his honesty about his former dishonesty he fails to find employment. Dejected, he passes a wrestling competition and for a 200 rupee prize gets in the ring with Hercules. I love him but I have to say that Dharam looks like a skinny little girl next to Hercules, although I can never be sad when he strips down to his chaddies. He somewhat improbably wins the match and the 200 rupees, which is a good thing because it is raksha bandhan again. He buys a school case for Ramesh and a sari for Meena and returns home.

But Ramesh finds a huge amount of money in his case, which is identical to one someone sets down on the same counter at the sari shop.

There is a card in the case along with all the money, and Ajit promises to return the money to its rightful owner—who is Premchand. Remember Premchand? (There has been a lot of drama since we last saw him.)

Meanwhile, at the beach Rekha and Chanda are being girly girls and talking about boys and marriage, and we are treated to a very catchy little song. I love that thing on Jayshree’s head, although it seems inappropriate for beach wear. Unless that beach is in Siberia. On their return to Rekha’s house, Rekha bumps into Dharmendra and knocks him down outside the gate. She is smitten on sight, and really who can blame her?

I cannot. Premchand is impressed by Ajit’s honesty, and gives him a job (to Rekha’s great delight) with a nice salary. Ajit returns home to Ma with the good news, and alarmingly suffers what he calls “a dizzy spell”.

These are the moments I live for, people.

Fortunately he recovers quickly, and life resumes. Rekha takes advice from Chanda (Jayshree T is hilarious in this role, and she and Rekha are great together as BFFs) and quickly endears herself to Ajit’s family and finally to Ajit himself, culminating in a truly awesome song (“Arre Rafta Rafta Dekho Aankh Meri Ladki Hai“—a Kishore classic if ever there was one). Premchand treats him kindly and approves Rekha and Ajit’s engagement, so you know something terribly wrong is about to happen–and it does. Ajit has another “dizzy spell” at work (pretty much exactly the same as above) and Premchand makes him go to the doctor (Bharat Bhushan).

This being an Indian movie, Ajit instructs the doctor to keep chup about his condition and sets about destroying Rekha’s love for him and confidence in her own judgement. He shows up “drunk and disorderly” at her birthday party (also their engagement party), and pays a local woman (Ashoo) to crash the party with her son pretending to be his wife.

Dharam should know!

Naturally, Premchand is enraged and fires him on the spot while poor Rekha’s heart is broken into chhote chhote pieces. While I don’t ascribe AT ALL to this whole “I won’t tell you the truth for your own good” kind of thing (I’m looking at you Aah), it thankfully doesn’t remain the focus of our story for long.

Ajit goes to see Premchand the next day and confides the truth to him. They are interrupted by Karamchand, Premchand’s blackmailer—Premchand has been paying him all these years, but is running short of money because his company is not doing so well.

Premchand now confides in Ajit, and tells him about his long-ago scheme to ingratiate himself with his rich father-in-law. He asks Ajit to help him by breaking into Karamchand’s safe and retrieving the documents incriminating him, and the money that he has paid out in blackmail. He will share it with Ajit, making him a wealthy man. Ajit is reluctant at first: he doesn’t want to break his promise and his mother’s heart (not that his oft-mentioned blood cancer isn’t going to do that anyway). But his sister Meena’s marriage is arranged, and her fiance’s family want 20,000 rupees as dowry. Ajit, knowing that he has limited time left, agrees to help Premchand.

He has a look through binoculars at Karamchand’s expensive English Jackson & Jackson safe and recognizes his old servant Gopal Uncle working now for Karamchand.

Premchand gives him some chloroform to render Karamchand unconscious, and things go according to plan—except for a brief gratuitous interlude whereby a “friend” wearing Star Trek makeup and little else visits Karamchand while Ajit hides behind a couch. It manages to be both painfully sleazy and hilarious, thanks to Dharmendra’s horrified expressions and Arjun Hingorani’s complete (albeit inadvertent) lack of anything resembling seduction skills. Seriously, it’s awkward.

It’s a relief when she goes away and Ajit renders Karamchand senseless. He cracks open the safe and steals everything inside, and leaves—running into a neighbor on the way out. But oh no! after he’s gone, someone else enters Karamchand’s room and smothers him with a pillow!

It doesn’t take long for the (rather more wily than is usual in Hindi films) police to finger Ajit for Karamchand’s murder, and he is arrested and sentenced to hang.

Will he be able to prove his innocence in a country whose (filmi) justice system discards things like evidence, witnesses and lack of motive? Will the blood cancer get him before the rope? Will poor Rekha and Ajit’s now-disillusioned family ever find out the truth?

There are many twists and turns to come, but I’ll tell you what to look for: Shetty in white lace, and the Sharma family dog.

He looks a little old and scrawny, isn’t credited, and at one point is surrounded by cat pictures—but he’s awesome.

55 Comments to “Kahani Kismet Ki (1973)”

  1. I happened to watch this movie recently and the climax seemed to drag a bit. But when it comes to Dharmendra, I guess I can let go of any lapse :-)

    “A wife and a lover is a fashion these days” followed by Dharam should know>/i> is way too funny :-)

    • Yes, in several places I used the FF button judiciously :) I think it was you who brought up the recent lack of Dharam here? Fixed!

      • And many thanks for the fix !! :-)

        Have you got a chance to see any of Dharam’s earlier movies like “Soorat Aur Seerat” (1962) and “Begaana” (1963)? These are not so famous and my search for videos of these movies have resulted in zilch.

  2. Because Dharmendra has so much going for him on the appearance front (great legs, face, neck, shoulders and awesome hands), I’ve always found his skinny arms to be distressingly out of place ;-)

    Thanks for a great review!

  3. Is this the movie with the song “arrey rafta rafta dekho aankh mere ladi hai”? If i remember the DD chitrahaar segments right – the snapshot of Rekha in a green saree in the fork lift with Dharam is that song. Apparently the song became famous. BTW, I think the producer is Anita Raj’s father in law

    • Ha! You didn’t read the review did you :) Yes, as I mention—that is the song, and it’s awesome.

      • I read the review after I posted my comment! Yep you have mentioned the song being awesome. Some times I prefer to read your reviews later ie after i have seen the movie. I saw Prince and Andaz – both were good esp Prince – could only get a VCD from India though. Hema and Shammi made a great jodi in Andaz.

  4. Thanks for another good review, memsaab.

    Though I last saw this movie in the mid-70s, a lot of scenes came back to me as I was reading this review. The movie did quite well (in 1973, Dharam was on a roll!). Arjun Hingoran’s KKK formula had worked again (after Kab Kyun Kahan) and he would keep repeating it (Khel Khilari Ka, Kaatil Ke Kaatil, Kaun Kare Kurbani), every single time with Dharam in it.

    I was in high school when I saw this film – and in those days these were the type of masala films that we schoolboys used to enjoy. Dharam, Ajit, Shetty – good fun!

    The song “rafta rafta” was a HUGE hit – I remember it was the most popular song in my class at that time. :-) Very catchy. Here’s a Kishore live performance – good fun to watch.

  5. Hehe. This sounds like so much crazy fun. :-D Haven’t seen it, but I remember Rafta rafta dekho aankh meri ladi hai – I used to love that song when I was a kid. Must keep an eye out for this!

  6. Amazing review!!! I remember to hv seen this one many years ago when I was a kid. Now I think I should check this out again!!

    By the way, the Kishore Kumar live song is so funny! Thanks Raja for sharing! I think this was shown on 31st Dec on DD. Brought back old memories!!!!

  7. The lady who seduces Hingorani(she does have a asha bhosle song I think)is LEENA DASS(Gossip mongers of that time used to write that Leena daas married Famous playback singer Mohammed Rafi`s Son. I don`t know how much truth behind this gossip. Whether Any one know about the fact???)

    Further this Hingorani, the producer had a strange habbit of getting titles to his film having three k`s:
    Kab kyon aur kahaan, Kahani Kismet ki,Khel Khilari ka,Karnaame kamaal ke aka Sultanat,
    Karishma Kudrat ka,Kaun kare kurbaani,Kaathilon ke kaathil. Dharmendra is there in all the above movies .

    Arjun Hingorani is the man who is a staunch supporter of Dharmji. In fact, One of Dharmji`s earlier movie Dil bhi tera hum bhi tere(with Kumkum,Balraj sahni,usha kiron) was produced by arjun hingorani.

  8. Dharmendra owed bit time to Arjun Hingorani for giving him the first big solo hit, Dil Bhi tera hum bhi tere and had said, in a spirit of Punjabi generosity and large-heartedness, that he would act in any film that Hingorani made. And he lived up to his promise

  9. Completely hilarious, your review!
    Had fun reading it!
    i could have sworn that you had already reviewed it, but Hingoorani’s film tend to always have same initials, which can be very confusing!

    • I’ve only reviewed Khel Khilari Ka, but I really love Kab, Kyon Aur Kahaan and remember liking Katilon Ke Kaatil too. Haven’t seen Dil Bhi Tera…yet although of course I must since it’s Dharam’s first “hero” role.

      • DBTHBT is considered to be Dharmendra’s debut movie, but I have read in many sites that he debuted earlier with “Railway Platform” (1955). Of course, he wasn’t the hero and I think someone mentioned that it was a blink-and-you-will-miss-him role.

        I also read somewhere that he made a similar appearance in “Ujala”(1957) and “Kaagaz Ke Phool”(1959).

        But I don’t have anything to substantiate these claims.

  10. I specifically remember the catchy coca cola commercial that appears just before the climax.

  11. Waah, a dog keeping posters of cats in his room. The dog looks like Bholey too.

    Present day TV serial czarina Ms Kapoor has her TV serial titles beginning with letter K, but our dear old Hingorani had beaten her in this game by using no less than three K’s as titles of his movies., and that too some four decades ago.

    The songs are fun. “Rafta Rafta” song was the most popular song of the movie, especially among kids my age at that time.

    Shetty looks quite like a bulldozer in the screen cap.

  12. As usual the review is so good and thank you Memsaab. It is also interesting to me since leukemia has the same name in my country when translated into English “blood cancer”.

  13. I hope the blood cancer turns out to be a mix-up in reports as it was in Ik Mehel ho Sapno Ka. At the cost of sounding repetitive, I will say I lovvvved Rafta rafta, esp Rekha’s injections.

  14. Here is the link to the famous song.

  15. Kishore lipsynched for Dharam in Marathi in the Rafta Rafta song and the audiences in Bombay went berserk…I know people who went to the hall just to hear Dharam say — arre Panduba , porgi phaslee – they dont make anyone like Dharam anymore

  16. “…and at one point is surrounded by cat pictures…”

    LOL, priceless! See this is one of the many reasons why I love reading your blog. You’ve got such an eye for detail.

  17. The film and song Rafta Rafta were huge hits but I missed seeing this film – and the one time I started seeing the film on Cable TV – I threw up my hands in exasperation… was the director making a thriller or a tear jerker?! Tangled it is. I kept wondering where is he taking the story?!…. I would have preferred development on the lines of a thriller …. but with those dizzy spells the ruse of medical report mix up appeared out … and I have grown out of my hero worship of Dharam, with my tolerance level of his contorted ‘TRAAGEDY’ faces down to zero. I gave up soon (around the first dizzy spell I think) and switched channels….. but I guess I missed a lot :D ‘The heart is touching the heart’ :D Dharam priggishly squeezing shut his eyes is priceless (especially considering his reputation!).

    • It is a thrilling tear-jerker! I thought the story was interesting and mostly held together pretty well, it held my interest anyway. Dharam really gave it his all, and I got some more fodder for the Nahiiin! Face Gallery :)

  18. And Dharam was the hero… how could he die (the days of tragic endings were over – and all the more unlikely in a film where Dharam was the sole hero)! So there lay the prospect of waiting for the ‘twist’ – which was sure to be illogical – Hindi films of those days were seldom anything else. Couldn’t he have made a good thriller without this emotional atyachaar (emotional blackmail)?

    But I loved ‘Aah’ – how could you compare it to KKK!

    • Oh KKK is a much better film than Aah :) Aah took what was a minor irritant for me here and stretched it into hours of narcissistic angst (you can read my review of it here if you want to know why I hated it so much, I think I am fairly detailed about it) :)))

  19. @Memsaab – Great review. By the time I got to reading this, I saw that all the talking points for this movie had already been taken! AH’s KKK fixation, why AH kept repeating Dharam, the Arre Rafta song etc. etc.
    I might have seen this movie long ago – those dizzy spells seem awfully familiar, but I should make a note to catch it again.

  20. I was among those who lamented the lack of 70’s films like these in the posts lately.

    Hilarious review.

    My favourites:
    ““A wife and a lover is a fashion these days” followed by your usual snarky “Dharam should know” LOL

    “He looks a little old and scrawny, isn’t credited, and at one point is surrounded by cat pictures” Haha!

    And that godawful dizzy ham acting clip!. Have you added it to your “Nahiiiin” faces collection?

  21. Superb review as always! :) I haven’t watched the movie but it looks like fun…I’ll try to catch it when it comes on tv next.

  22. Saw the film today. Oh, it reminds me of another cancer- patient- hero caper – Amitabh’s` Majboor’, where after learning about his disease, he arranges some sort of ‘ retirement funds’ for his family by a crime.
    Those days cancer was almost a role/character in the movies

  23. One of the highlights of this film was the fight between Dharam and Shetty. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful fight sequence of Bollywood with lilting background music. You cannot forget the sequence where Dharam is going to Shetty’s adda to fight him. He looked superb and really handsome. No wonder this was a big hit of the seventies.

  24. one of the most beautiful fight sequence of Bollywood with lilting background music.

  25. Had watched the film in 79 as a tenth student with sparing hindi-didn’t know the full story then. Thanks for the write up but what happened at the end-that is missing in the write-up.

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