Monday, July 21, 2008

Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962)

DVD-cover Director Raj Khosla's excellent romantic-thriller is an old favorite that I never get tired of re-watching. It has all my favorite elements - a taut, well-written story, a beautifully done romance, cute Joy Mukherjee, lovely Sadhna, great songs, and some startlingly modern views on marriage.
The story is set in turbulent Kashmir of the late 40s when the newly formed states of India and Pakistan were engaged in a deadly combat to take control of Kashmir. In late 1947 Pakistani tribal irregulars marched into Kashmir and got as far as the outskirts of Srinagar before the Indian Army seized control and stopped their advance.

Asha (Sadhna) is a young Kashmiri girl in Baramulla who is getting married just as the tribals (or kabaaylis as they are referred to, here) attack their village. The wedding ceremony is interrupted by the attack and Asha is abandoned by everybody in their haste to flee, including her groom (Kamal Kapoor). She manages to reach the shelter of a nearby forest.
Lt. Ajay Mehra (Joy Mukerji) is an Indian Army officer sent to Kashmir to be part of the Indian force involved in stopping the advance of the kabaayli. He comes on the scene just as Asha is about to be captured by some kabaaylis. Ajay scares off her attackers but sustains a head injury that induces complete amnesia. Asha, grateful to him for saving her life, nurses him and hides him from the marauding kabaaylis with the help of the intrepid Abdullah (a super-cute child-artist whose name I dont know) and his dog Sheroo.
What follows is inevitable in any movie saga. Ajay can recall nothing of his past life, not even his name (we dont find his name till the second half of the movie). He knows only Asha and clings to her. Asha never forgets that she is a married woman and tries to keep Ajay at bay but he manages to get under her guard and steal her heart. O.P Nayyar's excellent music and Rafi's beautiful playback may have something to do with this, and of course, being super cute Joy Mukerji doesnt hurt either!
The four of them - Ajay, Asha, Abdullah and Sheroo - hide in the forest playing happy families and manage to make it back to civilisation and safety. Asha leaves Ajay to recuperate at a hospital and goes back home to her uncles. It transpires that her evil Uncle (Chaman Puri who looks and sounds exactly like his younger brother, Amrish Puri) had given her hand in marriage in exchange for a fortune and is now anxious to collect that fortune by packing her off to her in-laws. Asha is distraught and seeks the help of the family patriarch - Uncle #1 (dont know this actor's name either, imdb has let me down big time!). Uncle #1 is all for rescinding her marriage once he realises how her callous in-laws abandoned her after the ceremony. Now thats a new one on me - wasnt 60s Bollywood this place in Satyug India where the holy bond of matrimony was unbreakable?
Drama and more songs later, the movie turns into a thriller. Ajay (he is still not referred to by name and we dont know it, yet) needs to discover his identity and goes to Bombay seeking it. The only clue he has is a tag on his shirt which tells him where it was bought. He starts his search in Bombay and runs slap in the middle of a daring robbery. He manages to unmask the robber-chief's face before he is thrown out of the car and injured for the second time in 6 months.
Of course he gets back his memory (aside: I wonder if medical science took due notice of this method of curing amnesia) but forgets everything that happened during the time twas lost, including Asha and the robbery. The police and the robbers think that his memory can yet take a 180ยบ turn and remind him of the heist. So, while the police place him under a 24/7 guard (good old witness protection program), the robbers send in a vamp - Kamini - claiming to be the woman who married him while his memory was out taking a walk in the clouds. Throw in a mercenary cousin - Sundar (Shyam Chatterji) - who is keen to inherit Ajay's immense wealth and there are two many sets of people wanting to exterminate Ajay. As if this isnt enough to confuse him, Asha walks in claiming to be his love-interest in the lost 6 months! Poor Ajay is left wondering how he picked up so many paramours and mortal enemies, overnight. O well, its a romantic-thriller, not a tragedy. You know everything will be resolved by THE END - but how? If you want an answer to that, you must watch the movie...
Now its time to evaluate the performances. To say that they were all very good sounds awfully trite - but I honestly didnt notice any bad performances. Of course, Joy Mukerji and Sadhana can do no wrong in my eyes, but the others were very good, too. Special mention should be made of the child-artist who plays Abdullah and the gorgeous night-club-performer-cum-vamp who looked like she could have given Helen some competition but whom I dont recall seeing anywhere else. The songs were plentiful and memorable - some of the best songs this side of the 50s. My favorites are Bohut shukriya, Aap yunhi agar, Main pyaar ka rahi hoon (which is inexplicably missing from my copy of the movie), Mujhe dekhkar aapka, Tumhen mohabbat hai, Humko tumhare ishq and Yaar zulfon waale. This is one of the few movies where I did notice the cinematography and so will mention Fali Mistry's noirish camerawork. There are a lot of netty images with the characters either behind or in front of nets - perhaps implying that they are being drawn into an inescapable net of intrigue. The stylish use of light and shade in all the frames heighten the drama and give it a film-noir feel.
The movie is by no means perfect. The story is pitted with plot-holes that are so large in places that they constitute craters the story could easily sink through! However, for such a well told, interesting story, I can forgive Raj Khosla (I think he's going to be my favorite director after Hrishikesh Mukherji and Bimal Roy) all the plot-holes he desires! In short, readers I strongly recommend your watching this movie.

20 comments:

  1. OMG! All this and a dog too! I NEED to see this.

    Sounds like you get two or three different films for the price of one! My favorite kind!

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  2. Chaman Puri??? wow! I had no idea!

    And I absoluitely agree- cant go wrong w/ Joy Mukherjee :D

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  3. Hats! Mysterious actresses! Soap opera plot! I love it! (And LOL about "Florence Nightingale's modern avatar")

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  4. I need to watch older Bollywood movies. Thanks for the caps and review

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  5. @memsaab: The dog is neat but he doesnt really do much except bark and tag along... And yes, its always great to have romance and thrillers mixed-up - my fave elements too! :-)

    @Shweta: I recently watched an old movie where there was an actor who looked and sounded so much like Amrish Puri that I went back and checked the cast. Sure enough there was a 'Puri' in the cast and I was convinced he must be our Puri's dad. A little detective work at Wikipedia (I love that site) showed that he was the older brother!

    Joy Mukerji doesnt always lead you to movies that are a joy to watch - there was the terrible Aao Pyaar Kare that even his presence couldnt make joyful!

    @ajnabi: I had tons of fun screencapping this. OK no, I went mad taking screencaps (but then know all about screencap madness! lol).

    @Nicki: Certainly you should. Its so much fun discovering your favorite actors' Moms and Dads dancing around trees and looking impossibly young and beautiful. :-D For e.g. the hero here - Joy Mukerji - is Kajol and Rani Mukherjee's Uncle.

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  6. Amrish Puri's older brother was Madan Puri and he was the main villain in many old BW movies. When he got older, he changed to old-man-with-golden-heart kind of roles.
    If you haven't seen it, I recommend "Love in Shimla" with the same lead pair. It was Sadhana's first movie and quite funny.

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  7. @Anonymous: Thanks for the comment. According to wikipedia there was another brother as well. The resemblence between Chaman Puri and Amrish Puri is quite striking (cant trace any fraternal similarity between Madan Puri and Amrish Puri).

    Love In Simla is one of my favorites, too. Besides these, do you know if the Joy-Sadhana did any other movies?

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  8. I love this movie! As far as I'm aware this one and Love in Simla are the only two in which they appeared together. I actually have a fondness for all his earlier movies. Glorious!

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  9. They looked so good together, its a shame they didnt do more movies! I loved his earlier movies too - they were such fun. Even Shagird wasnt so bad - if only it didnt have screechy Saira Banu. Wonder where Joy Mukerji disappeared to - never saw his old-age avatar doing character roles.

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  10. Hi Bollyviewer,
    I'm trying to remember who this delightful Sadhana makes me think of... Am I right to feel she looks that somebody else?! I too loved that "hats off" picture!
    (silly comment I know!)
    cheers

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  11. Cant say that she reminds me of anyone else. Her "Sadhana fringe" was clearly a take-off of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Maybe thats who she reminds you of?

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  12. PS yves, I liked that picture too. Couldnt resist screencapping and putting it in here!

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  13. Yes! Audrey Hepburn, you're right. And she's got something of AH's nose, I think.

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  14. The cute little boy who played Abdullah is Master Aziz. He also acted in Dil Diya Dard Liya and Bhabhi ki Choodiya.

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  15. Oops!I posted the comment on Abdullah/Master Aziz but accidentally entered myself as "Anonymous".

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  16. Hey Sonajoy, thanks a lot for the info. I have seen both Dil Diya Dard Liya and Bhabhi Ki Choodiyan but cant recall any of the child actors in either! Guess I'll have to look out for him if I ever re-watch those movies (hopefully not!).

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  17. I came across a Youtube vid today and had to find out more about the movie. Your funny review is the first substantive one I reached. Sadly, it's relegated to the 3rd page of Google results for the movie.

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  18. Third page, eh? You must want to know about the film pretty bad, to get that far! I'm so glad you found this review. It is a lovely film - do try to watch it.

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  19. hi my e-mail address is sonny22044@yahoo.com and can u people help me that is there any site from where i can download this movie ek musafir aur ek haseina . as i love this movie but unable to get it from anywhere....thankx a lot in advance for helping me.....

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  20. Anonymous, you can buy Ek Musafir Ek Haseena at Rhythm House (here).

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