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02 November 2022

Joroo ka Ghulam (1972)

Directed by: Bhim Singh
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Starring: Nanda, Rajesh Khanna,
Om Prakash, Achala Sachdev,
Manisha, Ramesh Deo,
Sharad Kumar, Iftekhar,
Gurnam Singh
When Shalini had suggested Joroo ka Ghulam as part of the Rajesh Khanna retrospective, I’d baulked at the suggestion. I distinctly remember not liking it and my overarching memory of the film was Nanda in tight churidar kurtas and a bouffant, neither of which did her any favours. But when, the other day, sleep having decided to give me a miss, and looking for something light to watch, YouTube threw this movie up on the sidebar, I figured the universe was trying to tell me something. So, have I changed my mind about the film? Read on…

Kalpana (Nanda) is the only daughter of the wealthy Shyamlal (Om Prakash) and his wife, Saraswati (Achala Sachdev). Now, she’s off to college after the summer holidays and her father is making it clear that he wants her to have nothing to do with boys. Her mother is more lenient. In any case, she’s to stay with her uncle (Iftekhar), who manages a clothing company.

Rajesh (Rajesh Khanna) is an artist whose day job involves sketching ads for an advertising firm. One day, uninspired by the portfolio in front of him and facing a deadline, he spots Kalpana in a building opposite (he must have very keen eyesight to spot anyone across the road) and sketches her instead.

Kalpana had been visiting her uncle in his office; she leaves to meet her friend, Sudha (Manisha?), and with Sudha’s brother Deepu (Sharad Kumar) and his fiancée, Beena (Alka) at Jehangir Art Gallery. There, the girls have a run-in with Kabir (Gurnam Singh), a photographer, who takes Kalpana’s picture.

The next morning, Kalpana is in for a shock and her uncle is furious – she’s featured in an ad (in a bikini, oh, the shame of it!). This is not what good girls from decent families do. Kalpana points out that the ad is for her uncle’s clothing company, and that she had never modelled in her life. When Kalpana gets a good look at Rajesh, however, her anger dissipates. 

Rajesh apologises to her, but is totally unrepentant when her uncle fires him. Kalpana, who has already developed a mild crush on him gives him a ride home. Soon (well, lots of cute scenes and one song later), they are in love, even though Rajesh is a struggling artist and Kalpana lives in the lap of luxury. But Kalpana’s parents soon get wind of their affair from her aunt, and her father sends a telegram calling her home – her mother is seriously ill. Of course, when she reaches home, it is to find her mother hale and hearty (and totally unaware of her husband’s actions) and her father laying down the law – no more studies; her marriage has been arranged with a boy from a wealthy family.

Aghast, Kalpana runs back to Rajesh in Bombay. Rajesh is flustered and not very welcoming. Poor Kalpana turns to go, but Rajesh confesses that it’s not that he doesn’t love her or want to marry her – it is that he would much rather marry her with her parents’ blessings, and perhaps with a little more saved up to live on. Seeing her distress, however, he agrees, and they are married at the registrar’s office.

Kalpana and Rajesh settle down happily, but Shyamlal is furious. Despite his wife’s protests, he disowns his daughter. Not wanting to see Kalpana sad, Rajesh suggests they go meet her parents and apologize to them. Kalpana tries to dissuade him, but he insists. Unfortunately, Shyamlal refuses to even meet him. When Kalpana tries to explain, he insults Rajesh; self-respecting Kalpana walks out.

Kalpana is understandably apologetic, but Rajesh is very understanding and tells her not to worry too much. But the state of affairs has made one man very happy – Shyamlal’s nephew, Ramesh (Ramesh Deo). Under the pretence of being a simpleton, he’d been defrauding his uncle and lining his own pockets at the latter’s expense.

One day soon after, Kabir visits Rajesh and Kalpana. He tells Rajesh that the fault lay in telling his in-laws the truth. Why say he’s an orphan or poor? How are they to know if he fudges reality a little? After all, the world runs on a little exaggeration. Kalpana is struck by this and soon, begins to regale her mother with little tidbits – Rajesh has been promoted! They have bought a car! A house!

Shyamlal still refuses to unbend, not even the news that their daughter is pregnant. But when the baby is born, Saraswati decides that enough is enough. She is going to visit her daughter and that is final. Shyamlal is melting, but, he tells his wife, they will stay for only two days.

When Kalpana hears this, she’s horrified. They have no house, no car… they live in a little rented flat. When she approaches Sudha for help, the latter suggests that in a city like Bombay, everything can be hired. So Kalpana rents a huge bungalow, furniture, a car…

Unfortunately, Rajesh wants nothing to do with the plan. Truth will out, he tells Kalpana and when she begs him to reconsider, he suggests she hire a husband as well, before walking out. Poor Kalpana is at her wits’ end, when Sudha persuades her brother Deepu to act the part of Kalpana’s husband. 

Meanwhile, Rajesh is suffering guilt pangs; Kalpana had left her home and family for him. She had lied to preserve his reputation and he couldn’t support her? He goes back to the bungalow only to discover that Deepu has already been introduced to his in-laws as their son-in-law. A wicked sense of humour leads him to suggest that Kalpana introduce him as their domestic servant.

Reluctantly, she does though her parents have reservations about ‘Neelkanth’. Shyamlal thinks he looks too much like a film star and Saraswati is aghast that a servant has no clue what to do in the kitchen.

Adding to Kalpana’s stress is that Deepu is engaged to be married in a couple of days’ and is petrified that his fiancée will discover what he is up to. And so, the scene is set for a comedy of errors. Will Kalpana and Rajesh’s marriage survive this deception? What will happen if/when her parents find out they were deceived?

I have no idea why I hated this film so much. This time around, I loved it. The relationship between Rajesh and Kalpana is really cute, and RK and Nanda seem very comfortable with each other. Nanda is sweet (though I still hate her in tight kurtas and the beehive) and not at all cloying. In fact, neither Kalpana nor her mother, while being relatively conservative, are doormats. They can both stand up for themselves and are not shy about calling out their respective husbands’ attitudes.

Rajesh, similarly, is shown to be understanding of his wife’s frailties, and sees the intent behind her deception. While he tells her that truth will win over lies any day, he realizes that it is her love for him that cause her to act the way she does.

The RK-Om Prakash interactions are also great comedy. While Shyamlal is bossing Neelkanth around, the latter always seems to get the better of him. As master and servant, the two of them were a hoot. Om Prakash, particularly, was great at playing these ‘irascible old man’ roles, and he aced the part of the blustering, stuck-up Shyamlal very well.

Rajesh Khanna’s innate charm makes him a shoo-in for the role of Rajesh. He’s very effective at situational comedy and his famed voice modulation and dialogue delivery make his portrayal a joy to watch. It’s hard not to smile when he’s on screen, simply because he makes his scenes seem so effortlessly natural.

I have only one quibble – the side track of Ramesh Deo and the baby was totally unnecessary and over-the-top in its execution. Thankfully, the director summarily disposes of this side plot. On the whole, Joroo ka Ghulam (love the pun) is an entertaining watch, and I owe Shalini an apology for not watching this with her. That would have been a whole other level of fun. 

P.S I haven't completed the Amitabh Bachchan retrospective but since I was travelling we missed two weekends when we could have watched the films we had planned. Those reviews will appear in due course. 

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