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01 September 2011

Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973)

Directed by: Manmohan Desai
Music: RD Burman
Starring: Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, 
Shatrughan Sinha, Om Prakash, 
Master Tito, Sulochana, Ruhee Berde
I was going to review 'The Four Hundred Blows' by Truffaut. I swear I was. And then, half asleep, I made the mistake of watching Aa Gale Lag Jaa. Urk! I once read a review by Madhulika over at dustedoff where she went 'What the..' 'Why the...' 'How the..'  ever so often. I know exactly how she felt. I am less polite, I must admit. I went 'What the...' (feel free to fill in your choice of expletive here) frequently the first 45 minutes of this film. 

After that, it was the usual masala, so I could (and did) forgive coincidences popping up left, right and centre, melodrama, bad father / good hero, even Sharmila's bouffant. The rest of the movie did make for better viewing, so if you can sit through the first 45 minutes, you will be rewarded with masala Manmohan Desai style.

Prem (Shashi Kapoor) is a salesman when the film opens. Within the first five minutes, he has fallen hard for Preeti (Sharmila), lost his job, and dropped everything (literally) to go chasing after her. And because he has been struck by lightning (twue luvvv - awww), it follows that Preeti must fall down and worship at the feet of Cupid too. Only, she not only does not do that, she actually makes her displeasure known. When has that stopped a Hindi film hero, huh? So, off Prem goes to make himself obnoxious - he follows her everywhere, insists she must be in love with him (and the slaps he gets from countless other women in the process do not swerve him from his focus), and does not go away even when he is asked. His behaviour borders on stalking, but of course, he is a hindi fillum hero and so that is called 'persistence'. And we all know persistence works wonders.
Anyway. Prem finally runs her down at the local skating rink, which is hosting a fancy dress competition. She is dressed as Laila, he is dressed as a Pathan, and while she refuses to dance with him because they are not sympatico, he does not take 'No' for an answer. (There is a lot of that where he is concerned.)
So he sings a lovely song, insists on pawing her around ('Why the...' doesn't she slap him?), gets a photographer to snap a compromising picture of the two of them together, even tears his shirt to show off a hairy chest and his absolute affinity for the role of Majnu and all-in-all makes a pest of himself. And the pair win the competition. 'What the...' moment drives my sleep away. Preeti is nonchalant. She walks away with the trophy (she does offer him the base, though), and when he is still following (stalking!) her, she decides to make use of him - she and her friends have come to Shimla to intern at a hospital; they need people to be guinea pigs at one of their classes; she cons him into coming to the hospital the next day (all for love of her). 

Prem shows up, is promptly disrobed and put on slabs of ice - the students are learning about hypothermia and how to deal with it. Second 'What the...' moment - heck, which college / hospital is going to do live experiments with hypothermia? What's next? They get a guinea pig to drink poison so they can learn how to treat a case of poisoning?! (And I'm looking for logic??) Once I pushed my eyeballs back in, I learnt that Preeti at least knew what to do in case of hypothermia (she mentions the names of two injections - I hope they were the right ones; I have my doubts); one of the other students ask the professor what they should do if the injections were not at hand - the doctor says try brandy and hot water bags. Preeti chimes in: what happens if nothing is available? The doctor says, in that case, you need to take the patient into your arms (That, by the way, was my third 'Whaa..?' moment.) and use your body heat to warm them! By this time, my eyebrows are in danger of vanishing into my hairline. 

(I must be a masochist. I still continued to watch.)
After this sage bit of advice, the doctor dismisses the class; and Prem leaves to get dressed and collect his money. He informs the cashier that he has to come back the next day, and the day after and the day after that. The cashier asks him whether he has become a permanent employee; Prem replies that Dr Preeti is so in love with him that she thinks up excuses to get him over to the hospital every day. Unbeknownst to him, Preeti's father Seth Heerachand overhears Prem's bragging, and is not too pleased. Preeti is the least bothered; she asks her father to ignore Prem. Her father has come to take Preeti back to Bombay with him; she begs leave to do some shopping before they return. Her father agrees and tells her that he will wait for her at the hotel. 

Preeti takes the jeep and goes off; on the way, she is joined by Prem, who clutches onto her jeep on his roller skates; Preeti is irritated, but treats him like she always does - very matter-of-factly. They have an accident on the way, and Preeti is forced to walk back to the hotel. Prem offers to carry her and roller-skate all the way; though she initially refuses, she finally agrees. He picks her up, and sings a song. And she falls in love with him. (Whaaa...?) When the song ends, Prem trips and drops Preeti, who goes rolling over the snowbank into the freezing waters of the lake. Prem pulls off his roller skates and pulls her out. (Preeti looks like she is standing in waist deep water - near the banks. Why she cannot climb out is beyond me!) Prem carries her to his friend's cottage and sends his friend off to fetch the doctor. Preeti is falling into a doze and Prem remembers his medical lessons - she must not be allowed to fall asleep. Must. Not. Be. Allowed... 

He discovers that his matches are damp, he manages to break the one lantern, there is no fire (Why is he is not suffering from hypothermia too? My comprehension must be beyond feeble!), and Preeti continues to shiver. So Prem is forced to undress her and wrap her in a blanket. He rubs her feet and hands but nothing seems to work. And of course, they have neither the injections nor brandy nor hot-water bags. So what can a guy do under such conditions? Why, undress and get into bed with the woman of course. (Whaaa...? Why...?) And he makes love to her (I think if I were unconscious and incapable of consent, I would call it rape, but hey, that is me!) so she will be warm. (Huh?)

The next morning, he is all dressed and repentant. Preeti is rather confused (and who can blame her) but not maudlin. As is her wont, she accepts rather matter-of-factly that there was nothing else he could do (Whaat?) and is neither crying over her lost izzat nor blaming him. What next, she asks. Prem is having a 'Whaaa...?' moment of his own. 'You mean you don't mind?' he asks. She grins, he is happy, they pledge their troth, and then Preeti says, 'Well, Daddy dearest (DD) will have to agree too.'  Prem doesn't think that will be a problem.

Huh, no? 

DD is furious! All this is Prem's ploy to get his grubby hands on Preeti's wealth, he fumes. Prem is holier-than-thou - 'We can live as well on my love,' he exclaims. DD is not impressed. Neither am I. Prem is sure Preeti will stand by him, and leaves DD to deal with daughter; he will wait for her in the hotel lobby, he states proudly. 

While there, he is called away to his ailing mother's bedside; he leaves a note for Preeti, which DD palms, replacing it with a note of his own concoction. Preeti is livid when she reads it; she doesn't even bother to question why Prem would write such a letter. And no, she doesn't want to see him again, and would DD please write a reply to him? Yes, dear, DD would be glad to. And so he does, and loving hearts are torn asunder. Back in Bombay (or is it Delhi?), DD announces Preeti's engagement to Dr Aman (Shatrughan Sinha), before he leaves for further studies abroad. Preeti is trying to move on from her heartbreak and acquiesces without much of a fight. As they see him off at the airport, she faints (and we all know why a heroine would faint, right?).
I like Preeti as a character; there is no rona-dhona even when she learns she is pregnant. Her father is bothered about his izzat? Well, then, he can decide what she is to do, but she is keeping her baby! DD is busy playing games again - he takes her to his friend's hospital at Khandala, where she will stay until she gives birth. And then what? asks Preeti. Well, we will see then, says DD. So off they go. 

And who is already there? Prem has just brought his mother to the hospital for treatment; she has a heart ailment. He is leaving for Bombay where he might get a job. Preeti and Prem miss each other by a whisker - he is leaving when she arrives.
Who is going to be Preeti's companion while she is there? Well, Prem's mother, of course. (Whaa? Whhh? How?) Prem comes there just as Preeti is being taken into the labour room (of course!) and stakes a claim on his child. DD has no qualms about handing the kid over - on condition that Prem never meet Preeti again, nor tell anyone the truth about the kid's conception. After all, he says, Preeti never wanted her rapist's kid. Can't argue with that logic. And Preeti gives birth eventually, but she is told the child is still-born.

And so, Prem leaves with the child. One song and six years later, father and son (Master Tito) are in Bombay where father is teaching roller skating at a rink. The owner even provides accommodation. The son, Rahul is now six years old, and is handicapped. One assumes he is polio stricken but one never knows. One of Prem's students is a young girl, Tikki (Roohi Berde), who obviously has a crush on him. Hindustani ladki ek baar kisi ka haath pakadta hai, to chhodti nahin she tells him. To which Prem retorts: Aur hindustani mard ek baar shaadi karke phir doosri ladkiyon ke baare mein sochta bhi nahin. (Cringe!) Tikki is friends with Rahul, hoping that the friendship will help her become his stepmother.

Preeti and her father are also in Bombay; they go with Tikki to receive Aman at the airport. Rahul tags along and meets his grandfather for the first time. It is not a pleasant meeting.

Aman has obviously made the most of his studies abroad. At the very first meeting, he is sure that he can cure Rahul. Wah, doctor ho to aisa.  Tikki has organised a coming-home party for her brother, just so she can invite 'Masterji' and Rahul. 

Prem and Preeti meet again. Aman is challenged by Rahul - many doctors had examined him but have failed in curing him; what makes Aman think he can succeed? Aman is quick to pick up the gauntlet - he pledges to not marry until Rahul is cured. Rahul gets everybody to play musical chairs, which leads to some amusing tête à tête between Tikki and her masterji, between Rahul and his dadaji, between Prem and Preeti, between Prem and Sethji, between Aman and Prem. Rahul wins the musical chairs competition and Tikki asks him to sing. And Preeti is shocked when Rahul sings their song. 
Sethji is worried at the growing fondness between Rahul and Preeti. Prem is bitter that Preeti wants to spend time with his son. Tikki is worried about the growing closeness between her bhabhi-to-be and her beloved Masterji. Rahul and Aman are the only people who are not worried.

Will Prem and Preeti ever learn how they were manipulated? Will Preeti learn that her son is alive? What will happen when Aman learns of Preeti's past? Will Sethji ever be able to accept Rahul as his grandson? And Tikki? What will she do when she learns her sister-in-law-to-be is her Masterji's former lover?

It is not a bad film on the whole; or maybe I was so shocked the first 45 minutes that anything seemed better after that. But I did like Preeti's character - I liked that she was not given to wringing her hands in despair over her luti huyi izzat nor in apportioning blame; I liked that she accepted the consequences of her action even if she assumed that the man she loved had only loved her for her money. I also liked that once her relationship with Prem ended, she moved on with her life, and seemed if not ecstatically happy, at least moderately content with her engagement to Aman. My only quibble was 'Why couldn't she just ask Prem instead of believing the note?' Especially if she believed the note. 

I hated everything about Prem - the bordering-on-creepy stalking, the insistence on her loving him, the rape (for that was what it was, never mind the pretty words) - after all, the doctor only said to use your body warmth to warm the person suffering from hypothermia. He didn't say you had to make love! Projecting much, maybe? I also hated that he takes a unilateral decision to walk away with the child, and later, to deliberately lie because 'he couldn't destroy Aman's life'. Balderdash! So it was okay to destroy Preeti's, I suppose! 

So, yes, I have mixed feelings on this one. As you can see. I won't say 'Don't watch it', but on your own head be it! At the very least, go in prepared to mutter your own version of 'What the...', 'Why the...' and 'How the...'.


  1. How could you not have liked Prem? :( It was Shashi Kapoor, for heavens' sake! He looked so cute! And after all, your precious Shammi also went around stalking his heroines - they all did during that time.

    I agree with you about Sharmila's character - I thought she was very 'forward' for a 70s heroine - especially since they had all started to regress by then!

  2. I actually do like Shashi Kapoor; I just didn't like his character in this. And as for the 'stalking', I know Shammi did it too, only this one seemed particularly egregious. And c'mon, rape as treatment for hypothermia is a *bit* over-the-top, don't you think?

    And yes, Preeti was a strong character, surprisingly so, in my opinion.

  3. Well, I like Shashi Kapoor too (I like *all* the Kapoor brothers) and this is a movie I have not seen. But Tera mujhse ka pehle ka naata koi is the song which my husband wooed me with :) so I'd like to see the picture it is from. I will keep your advice in mind though, and fill in 'What the..' 'Why the...' and 'How the...' with my own imprecations. Will let you know what my reaction is after I see it. :) I notice it is there on Veoh, so maybe it can be a Friday night guilty pleasure?

  4. It is not so bad, Tina; it's just that the initial reels put me off completely, so I may be biased. Watch it, do, and tell me what you think.

  5. I know I've seen this film, but years ago - all I remembered about it when I began reading was that Sharmila Tagore played the (*gasp!*) unwed mother, and that Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi was part of this film - I love that song. Otherwise, I remember it as being forgettable. And Shashi's character does sound terribly yucky...

    But where would we be without films like this? The films riddled with "What the -!", "How the -!" and "Why the -!" moments are at least the ones that make for the most hilarious reviews. ;-) (Plus, you can console yourself with the fact - especially if you're reviewing a little-known film - that you've been a martyr for the sake of the cinema-viewing public: now they know what to avoid!

  6. Madhu, it was eminently forgettable, even though I too love Tera mujhse ka pehle ka naata koi. I honestly remembered your review of Leader when I was watching this. And the second half, they began to portray Shashi Kapoor as this honest, upright man who is looking down on Sharmila for disowning their kid, and I wanted to get up and smack him!

    This wasn't as hilarious as your review of Rustom-e-Hind by the way, but I was so thoroughly disgruntled by the first 45 minutes. Talk about martyrdom! :)

  7. A search for Shammi Kapoor-Rafi led me to your blog; and I read this review first. The review is hilarious! It's so much better than watching the movie itself! I was ROTFL at your 'What the' and 'Why the'. And now I must watch this movie again. :) I like Sharmila - is that enough excuse?

  8. Welcome to my blog, Sridhar. I am glad I provided you with a day's worth of amusement. And it depends on just *how much* you like Sharmila! I like Shashi Kapoor and I wouldn't see this again for all the tea in China.

  9. Ah the famous Manmohan Desai Hypothermia Rape. Compared to Ganga Jamuna Saraswati's similar event, this is nothing. I like this film, sort of against my better judgment :)

  10. Uff! GJS was one film that made me want to smack Amitabh Bachchan! Why on earth would he, of all people, want to do a film as *bad* as that? And I love that hindi film heroines are so fecund (for lack of a better word)! They all get pregnant at the drop of a hat.

    I honestly didn't mind the second half - it was as good or as bad as the average entertainer of the time. But Prem was so-o-o-o self-righteous that it made me want to take a pin and let all the air out.

  11. There is no better word than "fecund" for this situation :D

  12. No, really! I have always been in awe of their fertility. Maybe that's where the myth of the Mother Goddess came from. :)

  13. I am sorry, I stopped reading after the rape-hypothermia-remedy!
    I think I need a bath!

  14. Ohh, Harvey, I felt the same way! What a ghastly film it was! But once you get past that first 45 minutes, and I can tell you it was torture, then the rest settles down into a decent-ish melodrama. Not that I am saying you should watch it - it's one of those films you can safely miss!

  15. A few weeks ago I was at the gym and this lovely Indian girl was watching what seemed to be an Indian movie on iPhone. I asked her what she was watching and she gave the stars names. My first words were oh the body heat movie. That was all I could remember from the movie. We have become good friends since. But I think you are being a little too hard on the movie. Rape is a very serious issue and the movie was very glib about the issue. I think the Dr.was referring to actual intercourse but couldn't say so much in an Indian movie. The whole idea was ludicrous but remember this was a m. Desai movie after all.

  16. I don't think I was as hard as I should have been. There is no medical professional who would advocate actual intercourse as a remedy for hypothermia. The use of body warmth to keep the hypothermia from increasing - yes; initially, when there is nothing else available, this was the next best alternative. I do not like the whole idea of stalking-as-love; or the coitus without consent (and since the woman is unconscious, there is no way she can give consent; and besides, what sort of a man wants to have sex with an unconscious woman?) or piffle masquerading as medical advice.

  17. Indian heroes and once in while heroines stalked each other in every old movie. The heroes practically harassed the girls to the point what would be considered illegal now. Can you imagine if I followed some girl I like and start singing and teasing her. Of course not but that's Bollywood for you. I knew my comments on the movie could be misconstrued . I was in no way defending the actions just giving the particular context of Indian cinema and its complete lack of logic.

  18. Whdaa karo nahin choregi mera saat Jahan Teri review hai whan mae be hoon....oops ...sorry but just saying I will read your reviews. They are fun!

  19. No, I didn't miscontrue what you said. I didn't think you were defending the action. I was defending my viewpoint, that lack of logic or not, I find that indefensible.

  20. [grin] Thank you. :) For reading. And commenting.


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