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11 August 2011

Professor (1962)

Directed by: Lekh Tandon
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen
Starring: Shammi Kapoor, Kalpana, Lalita Pawar
If you have never seen a Shammi Kapoor movie, and would like to begin by watching one, then this is the one to start with; because, there is never any danger that one will get fed up with the comic side plot, or that the villain is too ham-handed, and is bested so very easily. This is one of the few (lamentably few) movies that did not have a comic side plot, or a villain. At least, not one in the regular sense of the word. This is also one of Shammi's most restrained roles (the only other one I can think of, offhand, is Brahmachari). More than half the movie revolves around the elderly professor, and the young Shammi is almost (but not quite) conspicuous by his absence. It says much for Shammi's acting chops that you still do not mind! 

Pritam (Shammi Kapoor) is a new graduate with an Honours degree (in what, is never mentioned), but like many young men of the time, is unable to find employment. His professor, who has a soft corner for him, is also scouting around for a suitable position; unfortunately, the only position that is available is not suitable for Pritam because the conditions are very strict - no one under 50 need apply. Pritam is disheartened, and matters go from bad to worse when he finds out that his mother (Protima Devi) is suffering from tuberculosis and needs to be shifted to a sanatorium if she is to survive.

He tries to borrow money from the local moneylender, but the latter, while sympathetic to his plight, is rather matter-of-fact- he cannot lend money to someone who doesn't seem to have any prospect of a job.
Faced with imminent disaster, Pritam decides to fake his way into the job that his professor had mentioned; as a tutor to two small children. All is fair in love, war, and the search for employment.

With his mother safely ensconced in a sanatorium in town, Pritam makes his way through picturesque locales, to the mansion of Sita Devi Verma. There he runs into two boys who slide down the banisters to the accompaniment of Ya-hoo; even as they bump into him, Professor Khanna a.k.a Pritam sees the strange sight of two girls in fashionable western clothes come charging in, warning everyone that their aunt is on the way. At the same time, in comes Sita Devi; even Professor Khanna is scared of her for a moment.
She is the children's guardian; and is rather suspicious of Prof. Khanna - compared to his salt-and-pepper hair, his face is too youthful. Thinking on his feet, Prof. Khanna claims that he stays young because he regularly practices Yoga from the ancient texts - that must mean he knows Sanskrit! Yes, he does - Sita Devi is impressed; alas, her nieces, now sari-clad and demure, are not. But Sita Devi brooks no interference in her plans - he must also teach her nieces Sanskrit. Prof. Khanna is appalled - he know no Sanskrit at all. 

The girls, Nina (Kalpana) and Rita (Parveen Choudhary) are determined to get the professor fired.
Luck is on his side, however, and he survives their tricks. He is determined to get even with the girls, promising Nina that he will make her cry; but first, Pritam sets off to town in search of a Sanskrit primer so he can teach himself before teaching others, and then goes to the local darzi so he can make himself a reversible coat that will do for both Pritam and Prof. Khanna. He runs into Nina who does not recognise him in his youthful avatar. They have a spat, he blackmails her into writing a love-note in return for her dupatta which he had taken by mistake, and she leaves in a huff.

Nina and Rita hate Sita Devi since she is quite the domestic tyrant. And she hates their mother for having 'ensnared' her brother. Prof. Khanna tries to make the girls understand that she is strict because she cares for them, but the girls pooh-pooh the suggestion. 
But that gives Nina another idea to get the old fogey fired - she tells her aunt that the professor had been complimenting Sita Devi's looks - in fact, he had said that she must have been very pretty when she was young. But the hoped-for consequence does not take place. Sita Devi is horrified, embarrassed and flattered by turns, but emotions that had lain dormant for so long, begin to awaken. 

Pritam, though, has had enough. He *needs* this job! So he decides to pay Nina back in her own coin - he will make her fall in love with him, and then drop her cold. He meets her again at the tailor's, and this time, he manages to snag her clothing, leaving her to go home in her western clothes. Nina is smart enough, and sassy enough to get her clothes back.
Pritam is not one to give up; he follows her and when her friends ask her who he is and why he has come there, he proceeds to pull out her letter - just the threat of showing it is enough to make her back off, but it does not stop her seething inside. For some reason that no one knows, Nina's friends insist on addressing her as 'Gul Badan' - enough to inspire our creative hero, who is soon singing the most romantic of love songs...
...which causes Nina a few rough moments; she is uncertain of her own nascent feelings, and her eyes well up. Pritam should have been pleased, but is surprised to find that he has some strange feelings himself. 

Meanwhile, Rita, who was reading in the garden is disturbed by a cricket ball. Sita Devi spies her in conversation with the boy who comes to retrieve it and the fat is wholly in the fire. Sita Devi sentences Rita to room imprisonment and starvation. When her little brother steals some food to give his sister, Sita Devi, incensed by what she sees as deceit, beats him so badly that the professor is livid.
The little boys have always liked their tutor (though he seems to do precious little tutoring throughout the movie - or perhaps, *because* of that!); now, the girls too begin to warm to him. No one has ever spoken to Sita Devi like that before. Upset and angry, she fires him on the spot, only to relent and bring him back herself. 

She is now wholly in love with him. Besides, she needs someone who is as honest and fearless as he seems to be. Her brother had willed his estate in Bombay to Nina, but the property has been in dispute. She asks Prof. Khanna to go to Bombay to look after Nina's interests. Pritam gladly leaves for Bombay. En route, he stops to look in on his mom, and is happy to hear that she is recovering quite nicely. 

Sita Devi and Nina come to Bombay leaving Rita behind to engage in her own little romance. 
Pritam meets them in Bombay as his uncle's (Prof. Khanna) nephew. However, Sita Devi is now quite taken with Prof. Khanna, and Pritam is forced to juggle his twin roles like never before. Eventually he tells Nina the truth - he is who he is; she is aghast and heart-broken - was he playing with all of them - with her aunt, her sister, and her? However, his honesty and his love for her win the day, but how are they going to break it to her aunt?
They don't have to; she is all set to fix the match between Nina and Pritam. After all, it is so nice to have families bond. And in order to strengthen these bonds, Sita Devi goes to the sanatorium to meet Prof. Khanna's mother. She is surprised to see that the lady in question is younger than she thought. However, both of them are talking at cross-purposes and Sita Devi soon takes leave of her, leaving Pritam's mother under the impression that her guest was rather loopy! Prof. Khanna is beginning to feel uncomfortable, but he is going to marry Nina, his mother is recovering quite nicely  and everything seems right with the world. And so, when Sita Devi announces the engagement of her niece Nina to Prof. Khanna's nephew, both Prof. Khanna and Nina cannot hide their happiness. 

Only, they are in for a rude shock!
How long will the disguise continue? How will Prof. Khanna disentangle himself from the clutches of the aunt? Will Pritam be allowed to marry Nina? How is Sita Devi going to react to the knowledge that she was deceived? And what about Rita? Has Pritam been deceiving her as well? 

This was an entertaining film, with great locales, excellent music, plenty of eye candy in the form of Shammi (and Kalpana, if you like the kittenish look), no irritating comic side plot, but if ever a film begged for Asha Parekh or Tanuja, this was it. Kalpana was irritating to say the least, and had even less expression than a slab of marble. This was Shammi's film through and through, and he was excellent; Lalita Pawar made a damn good foil, and by gad, it would have only been just to let her have the guy! 

The movie was fun, fluff (in a very good way) and total time-pass; it would have been a complete blast if it weren't for the last ten minutes. Which is when I pulled my hair out, asking 'Why? Dear lord, WHY?'


  1. Oh, lord. I re-watched this last week and wrote up a review of it (yet to be posted - it'll be published around the same time I do the Shammi songs). And I had more or less the same feelings about this film as you did. Shammi Kapoor is total eye candy, and proves that he is more than merely awesome to look at. And those last ten minutes are awful. But still, it's my favourite Shammi Kapoor film! Love it. :-)

  2. Anuradha Warrier11 August 2011 at 08:06

    Madhu, come into my arms.... LOL We truly are twins-separated-at-birth at heart.

    I think this was one of the last movies of Shammi Kapoor that one could seriously watch. Sad as it is to say, they made him more and more of a buffoon and an insufferable eve-teaser in some of his later movies; and his ever-burgeoning girth didn't help either. But isn't he awesome even now??

  3. You are so right about Shammi being turned into an 'insufferable eve-teaser' and a 'buffoon' in his later films. I was re-watching Kashmir ki Kali the other day, and the scenes where he's pretending to be nuts for the benefit of Tuntun and her charges made me cringe, they were just so terribly OTT. I think his best films are the ones between 1957 and about 5 years after that - he's in his element, suave, attractive, full of joy but not a buffoon.

    But yes, he's awesome even now. :-) I adore him!

  4. I remember cringing through Pagla Kahin Ka. Yes, OTT is the right word, and I often wondered how he felt doing it - the same way I felt embarrassed for Amitabh Bachchan when he did movies like Mrityudaata, and Lal Badshah (the first, I stopped the movie midway, the latter I endured ten minutes!).

    But Shammi Kapoor, is suave attractive and full of joy in real life too :) The Kapoors have charm! The older ones, that is.

  5. Wowee, this is a Shammi-triple-treat! I have been going through your blog, one post at a time, and it makes me want to see all these movies again. Right now. I think I am going to indulge in a Shammi-fest of my own this week. It is the right time also, since I am off work for a week. I wish you could join me!

  6. I watched this soon after I read about the death of Shammi Kapoor. What a wonderful movie it was, and I really liked that there was no comic side plot. I couldn't stand Kalpana, though, and kept wishing for *anyone* even Asha Parekh in her place...

  7. Did you? And did you enjoy it? What a question... :)

  8. Join the club. I didn't like her either.


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