Director: Shakti Samanta
Music: RD Burman Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Duration: 139 minutes
By the early 1970’s there were no hotter stars
than Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman in the business and one expects romantic
fireworks in their pairing here, but it never quite erupts into more than
a mild sizzle. Rajesh was one of the last of the quiet wistful romantics
that were the fiber of Bollywood heroes in the 1950’s and 60’s. They tended
to be urbane, poetic, gentlemanly and somewhat passive in those days –
but exactly what young women in the audience found to be desirable as good
material for husbands. Those days were coming to an end though and a more
masculine hero was on its way with stars like Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan
beginning to take center stage with more action oriented rough hewed personas.
Interestingly, a similar thing was occurring in Hong Kong film with the
scholarly effete male leads making way for a more hard edged action male
hero. Soon Zeenat was to become a mainstay in the arms of Amitabh in numerous
films and actors like Rajesh were shunted to the side. While watching this
film, one can almost feel the frustration some in the audience must have
had in the passive victimized character that Rajesh plays and found themselves
wanting someone who would fight back with his fists ala Amitabh.
The film begins with a young woman dressed fashionably
in high boots and a lime green raincoat rushing into a small out of the
way train station to buy a ticket to Bombay. Sonia (Yogita Bali) just misses
the train and asks the stationmaster Rohit (Rajesh Khanna) if he can lock
her briefcase in the station safe and he does so. Since the next train
will not be until the next morning, he also offers her his modest home
to sleep in where she will be safe while he remains working in the station.
Later she calls him to ask for cigarettes and hopes that he doesn’t think
her a wanton woman for smoking and they get into a conversation that brings
old memories back to Rohit like a shot to the head. He tells Sonia that
he is married but his wife no longer lives with him and describes her as
“a fragrance that lingers but cannot be possessed” and as he lights her
cigarette, he muses “Unlike a cigarette that gets burnt, love burns the
lover”. Depressed and broken on the pillar of love, his mind flashes
back in time.
Rohit is a carefree young man just out of school
and looking to make his way in the world, but coming from a lower middle
class family with no social connections he has few prospects and few hopes.
Driving along a country road in a reddish orange jumpsuit that matches
the color of his motorcycle, he gets into a flirting duel with a beautiful
woman behind the steering wheel of her convertible. He quickly falls victim
to her stunning looks and her English phrases such as “Oh shut up” and
“You stupid old so and so” and when it turns out they are going to the
same wedding ceremony he sings her a song that wins her heart. That old
Bollywood bugaboo raises its ugly head though – she is the daughter of
a wealthy father with vast landholdings and she has a lecherous widowed
brother-in-law (the always vile Prem Chopra) who wants her and the inheritance.
Rashmi (Zeenat) is able to get a job for Rohit working for the brother-in
–law, Mr. Moti, but when he discovers that money is missing and that Mr.
Moto is likely responsible he is framed for attempted rape by the lovely
Bijli (Chandra Sekhar) and is horsewhipped and thrown out of town as Rashmi
looks on in silence.
She soon learns the truth though and rather than
telling her father what’s going on she jumps on the train with Rohit and
they do a mini-Dil Se by singing and dancing on the top of the moving train.
Life is good. Love is good. They get married. She sings and dances in her
nightgown in the rain thus speeding up male heartbeats all over the world.
She cooks badly in an adorable polka-dotted dress. What could go wrong?
Money, that’s what. Rohit has a mid-level job in a publicity firm working
for the hideously dressed badly color co-coordinated Mr. Puri (Madan Puri)
and brings home a measly 400 rupees a month – barely enough to pay for
her fingernail polish and mascara and certainly no more polka-dot dresses
in her future. So she decides to become a model – not just a model – but
the biggest model in Bombay – the talk of the town with men ogling her
with lust in their loins. This doesn’t sit well with Rohit and things quickly
go downhill and he soon finds himself alone and trying to escape his past
and his heavy heart by banishing himself to the hinterlands – and he soon
finds himself framed yet again – this time for murder!
None of this is particularly compelling and the
lovers don’t have much chemistry together except during the throbbing rain
dance duet. For Zeenat fans though there is plenty to enjoy as she looks
great and has lovely fashion sense for all occasions. The same can't be
said for the men in the film and one can only hope and pray that these
clothes fashions never make a comeback! The music from RD Burman is as
usual quite good with a couple standout songs to the voices of Lata, Asha
and Kishore. The character of Rajesh is just a bit of a sullen sod and
he never really fights back – he is the antithesis of the soon to come
“angry young man” – perhaps the “somber young man” - he acts as if this
is his fate in the world because he wasn’t born privileged and so accepts
it with a kick me in the pants look on his face. Bring on Amitabh, who
would have shot Mr. Moti with a smile on his face, had Zeenat over his
knee and begging for more and strung up the men who try and frame him.
My rating for this film: 6.0