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 180º 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.