Like all movies that are cursed by a bad second half*, this one begins very promisingly. There are snapshots of exotic Kenya including African wildlife and the “wild” tribals (much as I resent the exoticisation of India I can bear it tolerably well when its done to any other part of the world!) – all of which should convince you that you are in exotic Africa!
Raj Kumar (Shashi Kapoor) and friend Tom Genda (Rajendra Nath) are on their way to the Airport to the accompaniment of I love Paris. At the airport though, a disappointment awaits them. The troupe of Indian performers that they meet at the airport does not include their favorite “Lata Devi”. The troupe manager Pran Mehra (Madan Puri) has brought instead, an unknown singer called Sangeeta Thakur (Sharmila Tagore). Raj is enraged at this substitution and threatens to cancel the East African tour he has planned for them.
Why would anybody be enraged at seeing Sharmila instead of Lata? It might sound strange to you and me but perhaps Raj is a different kind of guy? As it turns out, he is angry because he hasnt seen Sharmila err… I meant Sangeeta’s dimples, yet. The moment he sees them its love-at-first-sight for him. And Sangeeta isnt exactly averse to his attentions – she dimples beautifully at his fumbling attempts to declare his love.
Enter trouble in the form of Raj’s childhood playmate Rani (Azra). She is in love with Raj (he does have some neat dimples of his own, after all) and has been promised his hand in marriage by his dad Mr. Rai (Jayant). Rani manages to convince Sangeeta that Raj is something of a playboy and shouldnt be taken too seriously. The troupe’s star dancer Lakshmi (Lakshmi Chhaya) tries to convince her otherwise but Sangeeta stops dimpling at Raj. He is heartbroken but doesnt lose heart (hmm… thats two hearts, right there!). To the viewer’s complete satisfaction though, he speedily convinces Sangeeta of his sincerity and undying love.
The couple go on a tour of the wild sights in Kenya and romance in the most exotic and unusual settings – a bed in Sangeeta’s bedroom! (Sheesh, it’s only the 1970s. What was the Censor Board thinking of?!!)
When Rani fails to break them up, she takes the matter up with Raj’s father. Rani’s father (Raj Mehra) is Mr Rai’s good friend and more importantly, a very rich man. Rani is his sole heiress. Mr. Rai isnt about to let Raj marry a penniless nobody from India. And fate hands him the perfect opportunity for putting a spanner in the works and incidently, of ruining the movie!
Raj and Tom participate in a car race (the East African Safari Rally!) and meet with an accident in the last lap. Raj is seriously injured. When Sangeeta attempts to see him, Mr. Rai lets her know that he disapproves of her relationship with his son. For Raj’s father’s sake, Sangeeta gives up Raj and returns to India. I couldnt believe she was doing it. I asked her loudly and repeatedly, “Aakhir kyon?” but she ignored me! :-(
Anyway, Raj recovers consciousness to find his love gone. After a painful scene with his Dad, he follows her to India with Tom. The two establish their headquarters in Raj’s Aunt, Durga’s (Nirupa Roy) place. Durga is Mr Rai’s sister who married against his wishes and is still estranged from him despite losing her controversial husband. Her nephew though, is very dear to her, and she’s overjoyed when she learns about Raj’s love story.
Raj goes to see Sangeeta but she tells him their affair is over. When he turns up at her performance, she has him thrown out of the theatre! Raj is broken hearted at Sangeeta’s rejection and both of them are miserable, separately. The dimple quotient of the movie suddenly drops down to zero and I am equally unhappy.
Things are at a bad pass. Raj has taken to drinking and wearing designer stubbles. Sangeeta decides to drop her career while Pran sees the opportunity to snag her as his wife. To make matters worse (or more dramatic), Raj’s father comes over with Rani and her father to claim Raj.
Will Raj marry Rani now that Sangeeta has cast him off? Will Sangeeta fulfill Pran’s dreams and marry him? Will the movie’s dimple quotient ever recover to its level in the first half? To find that out, you will have to see the film yourself! I aint tellin…
The movie has a very promising beginning but the second half degenerates into a trauma-fest with no just cause for it. Surely the writers could have manufactured some interesting mis-understanding? A quick glance at the “Essential Guidebook to Bollywood Masala” would have revealed several alternate scenarios that would have served way better than the father-does-not-approve method.
The first half though, is very well done and the romance is melt-into-a-puddle sweet. More on the plus side - there is plenty of eye candy. Shashi, Sharmila, Azra and Lakshmi Chhaya, all look very, very good. Rajendra Nath is less annoying than usual and Jayant is appropriately menacing. Nirupa Roy is in the transition phase where she appears to be in-training for her careless-mother days that are yet to come.
Apart from the beautiful people and exotic locales, there are some great songs with music composed by Daan Singh (anybody heard of him before?). My favorite is the poetic Mukesh number Zikr hota hai jab mohabbat ka, but the lesser known Asha numbers Sunaate hain sitare raat bhar, Bheegi bheegi raat mein ho gayi, Guzar gaye jo haseen, Rafi’s My Love panzi waango and the sad Mukesh number Woh tere pyaar ka gham are also pretty good.
Its not a movie I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone but fans of Shashi and Sharmila. For others, you can watch it for the eye candy, the great songs and some good romance but be prepared for the cursed second half!
Edited Nov 26, 2008: