Directed by: Nasir Hussain
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra
Starring: Dev Anand, Asha Parekh, Pran, Sulochana,
Rajendranath, Mubarak, Raj Mehra
This was not supposed to be my next post. I had a list of songs all written out and scheduled to publish, when one of my long-time readers and occasional-email-and-telephone-friend, Lalitha, called to say she was visiting a friend close to where I live, so, could we meet? But, of course. We shared a love for old Hindi movies and music in general, and Dev Anand in particular. So plans were finalised and we had a long discussion on which film to watch while they were here.
Saturday finally rolled around, and Lalitha dropped in close to noon, husband and sister, V, in tow. J, her husband, successfully masked his reservations about dropping in on someone whom neither he nor his wife knew; according to Lalitha, their conversation about us went somewhat like this:
J: How well do you know her?
L: I have spoken to her, and emailed her a few times.
(I can just see J roll his eyes - [figuratively; since he is such a gentleman that I cannot see him really do anything like that].)
J: Well, where does her husband work?
L: I don't know; something to do with IT, I think.
(My husband, if he weren't a gentleman too, would have rolled his eyes if he had heard that, since he claims he has nothing to do with IT at all.)
J: OK, what does she do?
L (exasperated): I don't know. I just like the way she writes.
I should think J gave up by this time.
Now I would definitely have loved to be a fly on the wall when this conversation took place, if only to know how it really transpired. But as I said before, J was an absolute sweetheart and successfully masked his trepidation, and my husband, S, equally politely, masked his reservations about the plans that their wives had made (without knowing each other at all)... it needed very little time for all of us to chat away like old friends, and trepidation and reservation all disappeared unmourned. (I think Lalitha and I were very nice indeed (looking piously upwards at a shining halo) not to say 'I told you so'.) I don't think either J or S would have heard us even if we had voiced that sentiment; they were both engrossed in their conversation about cricket and Physics, and football and History, and...
In any case, after lunch, where we chatted a lot more about Bombay (J was born in Bombay and loved it - and of course, I liked him even more when he said that.) and films and respective jobs in the middle of eating some more, we decided to watch a film. And because we are both mean like that, Lalitha and I thought about how best to upset two other friends on the blogosphere, Harvey and Bombaynoir - photographs and descriptions of food in the case of one, and watching a Dev Anand film in the case of the other. Mwahahahahaha...
Unfortunately for us, we had fallen on the food like a ravening horde, quite forgetting that we needed to take photographs so we could make Harvey jealous. :( That took care of going into rapturous descriptions of the feast because a picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry, Harvey, you will just have to take our word for it that we lunched not-very-wisely-but-very-well. And that you would have wished you were here.
But our other wish was well within our grasp. So we dithered between Kala Bazar and Hum Dono, then finally decided on Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai. S decided to make tea before we began our watchalong. Once various requests were fulfilled - no sugar, yes lemon grass; no lemon grass, yes ginger; yes ginger, yes sugar - we all settled down (quite literally - S and L were comfortably stretched out on the floor, J was beginning to nod off against the cushions, and V and yours truly were the only civilised people left) to watch Devsaab who was already nodding his head to Jiya ho, jiya o jiya kuch bol do on the DVD's title menu.
The movie began (I couldn't resist telling them that the instrumental version of Jiya ho that played during the credits was by Van Shipley) with Malti (Sulochana) offering to bring her son Sunder to meet Sardar Roop Singh's (Mubarak) daughter, Nisha (Asha Parekh). Malti and Nisha's late mother had been friends and had decided their children would get married to each other when they grew up. (Why, oh why, do Hindi film parents do this to their offspring? A spirited discussion begins between S, Lalitha, and me, ending with S' admonition - Why are you taking on my role of asking questions?) Roop Singh is dead against the match, and Malti leaves with the warning that her friendship with his late wife will win over his wealth.
Nisha, who had overheard the conversation, is disturbed. She wonders if her father would similarly object if she were to fall in love with someone - her aunt (Dulari) assures her he would.
Roop Singh has already fixed her marriage with Sohan (Pran), his friend's son and his estate manager.
Roop Singh is planning to go to Darjeeling with Nisha - she is taking part in a charity show there, and he has to meet a Mr Popat Lal, from whose father Roop Singh had leased some land. Unfortunately, the lease will expire in six months, and the son has no intention of extending the lease. Sohan interrupts - Roop Singh cannot go anywhere; he has to attend a court hearing here in Neelgaon.
Nisha offers to bring Mr Popat Lal back, and though her father has no great hopes that she will be successful, he agrees. Meanwhile, in Darjeeling, Malti (Maaji, from now on) is seething at home. Sunder (Dev Anand!) is unperturbed - forget her, he says; is Nisha the only girl around? Maaji, like any other filmi mother, is adamant. Teri shaadi hogi toh Nisha se! How? asks Sunder bemusedly. (Yes, how?)
By praying to God, she says. (Yes, I can see how that will work!) Besides, Kamala appeared in my dream last night, she continues, and said that Nisha will be married to my son. Sunder is amused; I hope you said 'Thank you', he says, laughing. But he has more important things to worry about - he has been offered a job in Neelgaon, and he has to leave the very next morning. Maaji is ecstatic - see, Bhagwan has answered her prayers! (I like that Dev Anand is busy packing books into his knapsack while his mother packs his clothes!)
But that is on the morrow; right now, Sunder's friend has come to take him to the Darjeeling Club where there is to be a dance performance. Sunder is indifferent, but one look at the poster that his friend pushes into his hand makes him change his mind.
After the performance, Sunder and Prakash are hanging around in the bushes when Nisha and her friends come out and have a conversation about her plans for the morrow before returning home.
(Lalitha: I wonder why they have to stand around and talk so loudly about their plans.
Me: C'mon, yaar, how is Dev going to be able to impersonate Popat Lal if they don't do that?
L: Yes, but don't they have any sense? Everyone can hear them.
L: Yes, but don't they have any sense? Everyone can hear them.
So on and so forth until J exasperatedly butts in: Can't you just keep quiet and watch the film?
L [sotto voce]: I was wondering when he would say that!
Grins all around, but we decided that J had suffered enough.)
The pertinent information, of course, is that Nisha had never seen Popat Lal before. Which gives Sunder an idea. Nisha has invited all her friends to her room to watch how she entices Popat Lal to Neelgaon. She is sure that with a name like Popat Lal, the man must be short, dark and pot-bellied.
She is taken aback when she opens the door to see 'Popat Lal'.
And then of course, nothing quite goes as she expects. He is alternately charming and annoying her when the 'real' Popat Lal (Rajendranath) rings up.
(Lalitha: Why is Rajendranath always dressed up in a frock? And look at his hairy arms!
Me: Hey, he's got a flowered bonnet too.
V: He looks funny.
J is gently dozing away next to me.)
Sunder brushes Popat Lal off, and then manages to infuriate Nisha with his views on 'gaaonwaalis'. (Dev pulls off the supercilious city slicker act very well.) Scene set for the next song (S-J in their somnolent mood), and a food fight, while Sunder stands aside enjoying himself. Finally, though, it is left to Sunder to rescue Nisha from the mêlée.
(The how and the why can best be answered by Eros, who saw fit to cut the film right here. In the very next scene, Sunder and Nisha are sitting on the back of a truck, while the background is moving.
Lalitha: There comes the fake background again! Why do they always have to move the background to show they are driving somewhere?
J wakes up and informs the room at large that he was, is, engrossed in the film.)
Sunder and Nisha are still bickering, when the truck comes to an abrupt halt. The driver and his companion are surprised to see the stowaways, but Sunder offers them money to take them back to town. The sight of his well-filled wallet overcomes their annoyance; soon, the wicked two offer their unasked-for-passengers some bhang-laced laddoos.
Sunder soon realises what is happening. (I like the fact that Sunder continues to eat the laddoos even after he realises they are doctored.) But he manages to fool the would-be robbers and hijacks the truck only to crash it. (How, you ask? Well, even Dev cannot drive a truck like this and expect it to stay on course!)
They leave the truck behind, running away until Nisha can run no more. She is dizzy, she says. Sunder is definitely intoxicated - but twice as much, he claims; by the laddoos, and by her intoxicating eyes. Uff yumma!
(J: I love the way the songs are interwoven into the story!
He is wide awake now - for the song.)
The song ends with Nisha losing consciousness. Sunder, gentleman that he is, carries her safely back to her hotel room. When she comes to, all she has is a note he's left her. Nisha is bewildered but she has to get to the station to catch the train; Sunder, seeing her in the compartment, hides himself on the upper berth, but soon realises that the man he is impersonating is a co-traveller. He fools Popat Lal into thinking Nisha is mad, and incites Nisha into picking a fight with Popat - soon Popat Lal has disappeared through the window, and Sunder puts in an appearance just when Nisha is longing for him. She still cannot admit she loves him, and the two continue their bickering until Sunder threatens to jump off the train. Go right ahead, she tells him. She will regret it, he says. Of course she wouldn't; would he like her to open the door for him? And so Sunder jumps, and Nisha screams and...
...it's time for Jiya ho, jiyo o jiya kuch bol do ...and they are in love, though that doesn't stop them from squabbling through the rest of the movie. (It's quite charming, actually, and quite realistic.)
Meanwhile, Sohan has his own troubles.
Who is Khanna (Raj Mehra)? Why is Sohan being blackmailed? Who is Shanti and what does Sunder have to do with her? What will Nisha's reaction be when she realises that the man she termed a 'clumsy old goat' is the real Popat Lal? And that her Monto (Sunder) had deceived her badly? Will love really surmount all odds?
And if you think the mystery is a bit too mysterious, blame the butchers at Eros for it. The DVD jumps from scene to scene with no thought for continuity; most of the songs do not have endings, and one whole song Bin dekhe aur bin pehchaane is missing. Makes you want to take a hatchet yourself. When will the DVD companies learn? Do they even care?
The music of this film is a mixed bag. If S-J gave us some excellent melodies in Jiya ho, Yeh aankhen uff yumma, Sau saal pehle (S [to J]: Listen carefully, and you can hear the mandolin being played in the interludes. It's probably Laxmikant playing. J: It's amazing; these songs would not be the songs they are if it were not for the contribution of these musicians. The rest of us grin.), and my favourite Teri zulfon se, the rest were probably composed in their sleep. Pleasant enough nursery rhymes.
Devsaab was at his charming best, and there was quite a bit to like about the movie itself. The mother-son interaction, for one, even if the mother is hysterical, whiny, lachrymose, and as emotionally manipulative as most screen mothers were. It is affectionate, it is humorous, and what is more, Sunder has his own firm stand on issues and doesn't just follow maaji's orders. Neither does he kowtow to Nisha's father. It is all so reasonable and sane and a very pleasant surprise. The Dev-Asha pair also worked, at least for me.
What I didn't like was Nisha's character - if she was so conflicted about leaving her father, why go after Sunder to vow her undying love? And why, at the first instance of trouble, believe her love is capable of murder? And Popat Lal. Why was he even there, in the first place? Neither the imposters nor the 'real' real Popat Lal had anything to do with the story. The plot had its holes, of course, though Nasir Hussain would recyle this over and over again. I also did not like the female version of Jiya ho. It was too effervescent a song to be sung in that context.
(S on Lata's version of Jiya ho: Rafi sang it while Dev sat on a car chasing a train; Lata sounds like she has a train to catch.)
It is still a good watch, especially when you are watching it with friends. Bombaynoir, I hope we have made you properly jealous. :)
Trivia: After Devsaab's death, heroine Asha Parekh was reminiscing about the film, and she had this to say about shooting Yeh aankhen uff yumma!
"The best part about him was that he was unpredictable. Sometimes he'd start doing things that were not in the script. I remember we were shooting this song 'Uff Yumma'. We were supposed to act like we were a little drunk. So in the middle of the song, he took off his gloves and started hitting me with it. I was perplexed and didn't know how to react. Then I started hitting him back. It was the most fun I have ever had during a shoot."