When in doubt, always pull out a favorite film. Unless you last watched it in your childhood, you know that you’ll enjoy it. And this film definitely fits the bill. It is overflowing with all my favorite actors – Sharmila Tagore, Moushumi Chatterji, Ashok Kumar, Uttam Kumar, Rakesh Roshan, Utpal Dutt, Asit Sen. The story is convoluted enough to keep me interested and told well enough to hold my attention. AND it features one of my favorite songs – Saara pyar tumhara maine baandh liya hai aanchal mein (I have tied up all your love in my aanchal).
Asha (Sharmila Tagore) is returning home from the city one day, when she misses the last boat to her village. Not willing to be stranded on the wrong shore for the night, she hitches a ride on a private boat. The boat owner Deepak (Uttam Kumar), turns out to be a childhood friend. He promptly takes the opportunity to see her home and visit her father, who was his school teacher.
In the years since Asha last saw him, Deepak has aged rather dramatically (MUCH faster than her), and has also become a fully qualified doctor. Not that his being a doctor will help Asha. Her father, Mr. D’Souza, is dying of cancer and is dreadfully worried about his unmarried daughter. Deepak spends the evening trying to cheer up Asha and her father, and is late getting home.
Deepak’s father, Pratap Narayan Raychaudhary (Ashok Kumar), is not happy to hear of his visit to D’Souza. Pratap Narayan is a very aristocratic and high-in-the-instep Brahmin zamindar (you can judge his elevated position by the sheer number of en-chandeliered ceilings in his haveli). He cannot condone his son visiting a lowly Christian, especially one who married a child widow, and then converted to Christianity!
Deepak ignores his father’s strictures and continues to fraternise with the D’Souzas. He and Asha exchange childhood memories and take romantic buggy rides. Before D’Souza breathes his last, Deepak makes him a death-bed promise to take care of Asha. Deepak then proceeds to get married to her, in full view of the village! Pratap Narayan is enraged, and threatens to disinherit Deepak unless he renounces his bride. Our hero chooses to break the ties of blood, rather than be separated from Asha and her dimples…
So, Deepak and Asha leave the village in search of a job and a new home. In the train, they run into a rich businessman Rasiklal (Utpal Dutt) who wants to endow a clinic in his village. He is overjoyed to find in Deepak, a doctor on the lookout for a village post. It is a match made in heaven! Asha and Deepak take over Rasiklal’s village dispensary and spend some quality cute-time billing and cooing – he in his stethoscope (and clothes!) and she in her nurse’s uniform.
All is right with the world, until Asha gets pregnant. Yes, they have to pay dearly for their early marital happiness. When Asha is battling with a difficult child-birth, Deepak is across the village taking care of a patient. By the time he returns home, he is a proud father of a baby boy and a bereaved widower. For a filmi character, he takes this in very good part, never once blaming his son for his beloved wife’s death! Instead, he takes the villagers’ help to take care of his son, Prakash, and carries on with his medical practice. When Prakash is a few months old, Deepak’s old nurse/nanny/family retainer Girdhari (Asit Sen) shows up, urging him to reconcile with his father. Girdhari has long been urging Deepak to do this, even when Asha was alive, and Deepak always refused. But this time, he agrees to hand over his son to be brought up in the haveli. He has but one condition – Pratap Narayan should never know that Prakash is his own flesh and blood.
Pratap Narayan is told that Girdhari has adopted an orphan. He grudgingly permits said orphan into the haveli when assured that the child is from a good Brahmin family. Soon, of course, Prakash has his grandfather wrapped around his little finger. His orphan-ness is speedily forgotten as he becomes Pratap Narayan’s de-facto grandson, without Pratap Narayan knowing that he is his grandson! Prakash grows up to be (of course) another doctor, and also Rakesh Roshan. Grown up Prakash is sent abroad for medical studies, according to the prevailing traditions in chandelier-owning classes.
On returning from vilaayat, Prakash joins the R&D Department of a multinational company - needless to say, he does his research in a chemistry lab! Both his grandpa and his father are disappointed that he wont practise medicine, but only his father decides to express his disapproval. Deepak descends upon his son to berate him for his decision. Prakash is very puzzled that a stranger feels so strongly about his career choices! Deepak calms down and the two then have a doctor-to-doctor chat. The upshot of this chat is that Prakash agrees to visit Deepak at home.
In Prakash’s city, Deepak’s “at home” is with his employer Rasiklal. Rasiklal’s sassy daughter, Kiran (Moushumi Chatterji), has known Prakash since college and has long nursed a crush on him. So when Prakash visits their house to meet Deepak, she loses no time in pressing her suit. Dr. Prakash firmly refuses all romantic overtures, but soon succumbs to her charms – as any right minded man ought to. Deepak is delighted by their budding romance, but Pratap Narayan is made of sterner stuff. He forbids the marriage on the grounds that Kiran is not a Brahmin.
What will happen to Kiran and Prakash’s romance? Will Prakash ever find out that he was an orphan adopted by Pratap Narayan? Will the two ever find out who Prakash’s real parents were? Will Rakesh-Moushumi get any cuter? Will there be more melodrama? Do you really need an answer to any of that?
Its such a sweet film, with exactly the right mix of melodrama, romance, humor and 'family values'. Oh! I forgot the scenery chewing. Uttam Kumar should definitely get a prize for the amount of scenery he managed to gobble up so brazenly. Nobody who’s seen the Mahanayak (‘great actor’ - Uttam Kumar’s sobriquet in Bengali Cinema) in action would believe he had it in him! The rest of the cast also looked like they were having fun – especially Sharmila, whose dimples kept flashing.
Nosing around on youtube, I discovered that this film was simultaneously released in Bengali, too. And from the lip sync, it seems like the Bengali version is not a dubbing but was probably shot at the same time. The best part is that the Bengali version on youtube has scenes that were inexplicably missing from my copy! So I was able to patch up some of the missing links in my copy. Take that Moserbaer!