As many of you know already, I am bewildered by the fact that this charming and beautiful woman never made it big as a heroine. The closest she came was in Mere Gaon Mere Desh, where she absolutely shines as dacoit Vinod Khanna’s spy who falls in love with the object of her assignment—Dharmendra. I’ve loved her since I saw Gumnaam years ago and she tore up the dance floor with Herman and company. Like her contemporary Helen, she is able to dance to any kind of song: tawaif, night club, village entertainment. Her most captivating feature in my opinion is her smile—it lights up the screen with joy, and there’s no mistaking it for anyone else’s. Plus, nobody dances like she does—it gives me whiplash just watching her sometimes, but she comes through unscathed!
After months during which this Chetan Anand film was “next” in my to-watch list, I finally got around to it. And I’m glad I did; it is compelling viewing. Having said that, I’m not sure what exactly what else to say about it. Unusual story? Check. Good cast and performances? Check. Nice music? Check. Good movie? Uhhhhhh…I think so? Maybe? In the end it felt a bit schizophrenic: it is a reincarnation story—and leads you firmly down that path—but then also drags in some token debate about reincarnation being a silly belief held by uneducated riff-raff. It also wanted to be a “serious” suspense film (and succeeded to a large degree), but was very lazy about some details (medical and legal practices, for one, and some pretty stringent suspension of disbelief requirements too).
So I spent a lot of time feeling pulled in one direction, and then nudged in another, and the whole never quite came together for me. The fact that the subtitles disappeared entirely during the climactic courtroom speech didn’t help at all either (and thank you to Suhan for sending me a synopsis!).
But: I couldn’t stop watching it, as the suspense was built very nicely, and the performances were really good, especially Vinod Khanna as a doctor who loses his love to the man she loved in a past life; and Rajesh Khanna as the man who is pulled unwillingly into a story involving him but of which he has no memory. The sets and the Simla scenery were beautiful, and the cinematography stunning, and RD Burman’s music very nice too.
Sigh. I so wanted to like this film. It’s based on To Sir With Love, which is one of my all-time favorite movies (Lulu! Sidney Poitier! sixties fashions!), and Vinod Khanna stars as an earnest college professor with Tanuja as his love interest. But alas, it threw away all its potential on a bad script: the characters were nothing but caricatures, and all plot opportunities for dramatic buildup and emotional involvement were squandered.
With a title screen (and title) like this, you’d expect a happy movie, right? Wrong! It’s incredibly sad. I sobbed for a good hour. But it’s also really good. The story takes place against the backdrop of India’s fight for freedom from British rule (although no attempt to recreate the period through costumes or anything has been made), and is a love triangle between two best friends and the girl they both love. What saves it from descending into jingoism and melodrama are the marvelous performances by Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz and Vinod Khanna; Raj Khosla’s deft direction; and the lovely songs by Laxmikant Pyarelal with beautiful, meaningful lyrics by Anand Bakshi.
This is a pretty long post, because there’s a lot to say about this film. It isn’t perfect, but does so much just right that the imperfections don’t matter.
My social calendar for the past few days has been too busy for film watching, sadly. Although probably it’s good for me to get out and about occasionally so I don’t lose all my social skills.
Feeling thwarted by my truncated Phaansi experience, I embarked on another dacoit saga. These films have the added bonus (for me) of engaging Gemma’s attention too (the horses); she goes absolutely nuts which is entertaining by itself. It also makes her very pleased with herself, and how can that be bad? She’s defending me against those big bad animals!
Plus, this movie is directed by Raj Khosla—one of my favorite directors—and it stars Vinod Khanna and Kabir Bedi as deadly adversaries who find redemption through their love for the same girl (the absolutely stunning Moushumi Chatterjee). One more thing about the horses: Vinod’s is a white one named Dara, and Kabir’s is a black one named Toofan. Heh.
Carla left a comment here on MemsaabStory early on saying: “Helen is completely sui generis.” (I love learning new phrases, especially clever ones.) Paint It Pink puts Helen in proper perspective also in her blog’s mission statement. I have myself weighed in on the joys of Helen many times before, but I recently decided that I needed to devote some time to her again. I know there are one or two people out there who don’t care for her, but there are also one or two people out there who think Sarah Palin would make a fine VP (or P!). You know who you are, and you can go away from here (well, if it’s just a Helen thing you can stay :-) (sorry but the election is beginning to get on my last good nerve).
Manmohan Desai directing, Rajesh Khanna in a double role (for which he won the Filmfare Best Actor award) with beautiful Mumtaz opposite, plus Kumari Naaz (one of my favorite actresses), a co-starring dog, and Vinod Khanna! Believe me when I say I jumped through hoops to get my hands on a working DVD of this movie. Shame on you, Shemaroo! *shakes fist in their general direction* [Begin rant: Why do they not check master DVDs before duping them a million times, why? How hard can it be? End rant.] Thank goodness for BEI.
In any case, I DID jump through hoops because…well, read the first sentence again. Was it worth it? Read on!