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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Prem Patra (1962) - a beautiful love story

A song on youtube put me on the track of this movie and when I finally saw the movie it was worth the price of the DVD and more! It is old, B&W, has a great cast (Shashi Kapoor and Sadhana, both of whom look lovely), beautiful songs composed by Salil Choudhary and a very romantic story.... Whats not to like? OK so there are very convenient co-incidences, Rajendra Nath does his usual comic turn and Shashi's character obsessively dislikes our heroine. But these are just minor details...

The story begins with Kavita Choudhary (a very beautiful Sadhana) a fifth year medical student receiving her nth love letter (prem patra). The unknown lovelorn youth had the audacity to tie the letter to her saree palloo! In her fury she plans to complain to the College Principal and is dissuaded by her friend.
The hero of the story is introduced less dramatically. Dr. Arun (Shashi Kapoor) is shown to be a serious and caring doctor hard at work with his patients. His moustache and well oiled hair attest to his seriousness and sincerity. (Shades of Raj Kapoor? Even Shammi Kapoor started out looking like that in his earlier movies!)
His hard work is rewarded when he is told that he will get a fellowship to study further in England. In his happiness he runs up the stairs and (surprise!) collides with Kavita with the inevitable result. A little bit of matchmaking from mutual friends Kedar (Rajendra Nath) and Sumitra (Chand Usmani), and the couple are well on the way to romance.
Enter: trouble in the form of Arun's young foster sister - Ratna (Parveen Chowdhury) - who is desperately in love with him (its Shashi after all - who can blame her!). She writes a love letter in his handwriting to Kavita who is inexplicably unhappy with the love missive and complains to the college principal. (Kavita expected better love letters from Arun??!!)
Arun is heartbroken at this rejection of his love (even though he didnt write it, he didnt think the letter was sooo bad!) and also loses his scholarship. He goes home to his village. On the advice of his uncle, Arun agrees to marry the local landlord's daughter, sight unseen. In return, the landlord finances his trip to England and all is right with Arun's world again.
Arun's fiancee Tara (Seema Deo), in the meanwhile, is sent to her city cousin to gain some town polish and sophistication. The city cousin is, of course, Kavita. Aside: how come families in Hindi movies happen to be so closely knit and spread everywhere to catch the hapless characters? O well, we wont trouble ourselves with these details.
Coming back to the story, Tara acquires not just sophistication but a boyfriend as well (the poor woman hadnt seen her fiance, so, this isnt too surprising).
Tara is ordered by her father to start up a correspondence with Arun. She gets Kavita to write for her, setting in motion a correspondence between the two. Over the next few months, Kavita and Arun fall in love with each other through letters.
Arun, in the meanwhile, has been undergoing a transformation of his own. He's lost his earnestness and moustaches and learnt to smile. He is shown smiling (the trademark Shashi Kapoor smile) over a letter in a chemistry lab, of all places! What is a doctor doing in a chemistry lab? Waiting for the explosion, of course!
The inevitable happens and he loses his sight. He returns home, blind and helpless (wearing the coolest shades and suits!) and Kavita helps care for him as Tara. She learns how much Arun still dislikes Kavita and dreads the day when he will recover his sight. What happens when he does recover?
The storyline has a comforting predictability about it. What raises it above the standard Hindi fare of the times is the excellent direction, cinematography and great performances by the cast. Sadhana brings a depth of sensitivity to Kavita's character. You can feel Kavita's pain when Arun tells her how much he hates Kavita. Shashi invests his character with appealing sincerity and charm. Rajendra Nath is pretty good as the caring friend and turns in a more restrained performance than usual. The side stories of Tara and Subhash (Sudhir) as well as Ratna are well sketched and interesting. The movie also offers some beautiful songs - Do ankhiyaan jhuki jhuki si (Mukesh and Lata), and the Talat Mehmood - Lata duets Saawan ki raaton mein and Yeh mere andhere ujaale na hote. All in all, a soft and beautiful love story and definitely worth a watch.


  1. I love this movie---it's sentimental as all get out, but not tacky.

  2. This is my favorite of all Shashi Kapoor movies. Its a pity Bimal Roy didnt make more movies with him. The only other one I found was Benazir (1964) and I have just posted a review of it....

  3. I am on an exploring trip thro your blog today and finding gems after gems! It is turning out to be a treasure hunt.

    Did Bimal Roy direct this film or is he just the producer?
    I know the songs, but didn't really know the plot

    Sounds good, should try to get my hands on this.

    Thanks for the review!

  4. This movie certainly was an unexpected surprise - I had no idea that Shashi ever worked with Bimal Roy (he directed this one, himself), before I discovered this. Its a sweet film and one that I think you will like.

  5. hi,

    what a lovely review; even i found the film to be a surprise ; u dont get bored as there is not that much of mushy stuff going around. the film has a sweet pace of its own;and i like that; for me and i m sure for many the most important thing about a film is the pace of the story;
    Even Benazir was a surprise its very sweet and loved all the lead stars.
    I have watched many of Meena kumari films but there were so long ago; She is an amazing actress and if she were during this period she would give all the heroines a run for their money!!!
    I have u and Beth to blame for my renewed interest in Shashi Kapoor films as i brought quite a lot of them.
    I never knew i had it in me.
    I m awaiting my next batch of films thru my mail;My husband is not going to be happy;))
    Please check out Rajnikant films all of us could have a lot of fun with them; u ll just find them too much;

  6. A new Shashi-fan? You can never have too many of his film! :D :D

    Strangely enough, inspite of the number of Hindi films Rajnikant did, I've never seen any of his films! He did work in my least favorite decade and did the kind of films I'm not particularly fond of. If he's done any soft, romantic films (like Mouna Ragam), I will definitely watch. Can you recommend something?

  7. I had just watched this film on VCD and I would like to share a touching scene from the film. A letter from Arun is recd in the name of Tara who had gone out on Jungle safari and Kavita is very anxious to know the contents of the letter. However, she can not open the ltr being addressed to Tara. The Director Bimalda had perfectly shown the anxiety, eagerness of Kavita thro her eyes, her behavier and her body language. It also underlines the high ethical values of our society prevailing at that time.

  8. Anonymous, I remember the scene you mention - it was certainly touching. I think the incident is more indicative of Kavita's respect for her friend's privacy than "society's high moral values at the time"!

  9. Dear you may be correct. I also want to mention about song "Ab aur na kuch bhi yaad raha, na apni jafa na teri wafa" in this song Sadhanaji looks very stunning, most beautiful, innocent and her face expressions are very authentic in this song which is composed, sung and picturised most beautifully. Kudos to Bimalda, Rajinder Kishan & Salilda.

  10. Vinay, Sadhana was lovely in this and she was always a very good actor.

  11. A beautiful movie. Have been watching the DVD (parts of it about 20 times). Was disappointed to know that it flopped.
    Shashi Kapoor has a minor role but gives a good performance. The movie seems to be for Sadhana and she is brilliant. The directorial touches
    (her eagerness to meet Tara so as to get to open the second letter, her cheerfulness and bright dresses after the second letter), excellent.
    The plot is a mixture of terrible carelessness
    and lovely subtleties. It makes Sadhana appear extremely dumb.
    If you receive a crude letter from someone you like you go talk
    to him, right? not get his head cut off? This could have easily
    been done in such a way that it goes out of Sadhana's hand
    inadvertently but Shashi Kapoor thinks she did it deliberately. Her ploy of substituting Tara for herself and trying to
    fool him in the end is incredibly stupid.
    Finally, obsessive hatred (Shashi Kapoor's) for a person cannot be `adjusted' in a few minutes into love.
    But the idea of mixing hate and love in love letters
    and in romantic interactions is quite beautiful and carried out brilliantly.

    I lived a few buildings away from Sadhana around the time
    this movie was made. She got married in a field opposite
    our house, watched by all of us through a toy telescope which provided additional colour! The marriage lasted thirty years till Nayyar's death. Was sorry to hear that she is
    having problems with another tenant now. Sad that `legends'
    have to face life like the rest of us.

  12. Excellent points, hn. But for all it's plot-holes, I can't help but like this film a LOT. You don't often see a 60s Hindi film where romance really gets a chance and isn't sidetracked by duty, honor, social justice, and needless melodrama in the second half of the movie.

  13. I agree with you that this is really a very nice movie and parts of it are worth seeing again and again. Sadhana is a truly gifted actress.

  14. This was Sadhana's second film with Bimal Roy after Parakh and later she also did Gaban with him. Bimal Roy did a nice job that he didn't cast her sporting her trademark"fringe" in any of those films.She looked very natural and lovely without it...................

  15. I just love sadhna.
    such a graceful actress she is !
    Her beauty is out of the world.