I’ve been on a Dharmendra-Mala Sinha spree, and it’s been a disaster. Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi started off promisingly, but deteriorated; and Neela Akash was an even bigger disappointment. I had grave doubts about Pooja ke Phool, and sadly, it proved even worse than Neela Akash. I’m not sure I want to watch any more Dharmendra-Mala Sinha starrers. I’ve had enough.
The film begins in a village where a poor blacksmith called Hansraj (Nana Palsikar) is slogging his butt off trying to scrape together money to pay for a college education for his younger brother Balraj `Raj’ (Dharmendra). The only other member of the family is Hansraj’s daughter Vijay (Sandhya Roy).
Vijay is being surreptitiously courted by the village casanova Balam (Pran). Balam will flirt with just about anything in a lehenga, and has already gotten one girl pregnant and is busy milking another of all her money. Vijay doesn’t know this, and thinks the world of Balam.
Raj, meanwhile, is trying to save money by moving out of the expensive college hostel. He discovers that the public prosecutor, Choudhary Hukumat Rai (Ashok Kumar) has a room to offer for rent. On his way to Hukumat Rai’s house, Raj hitches a ride with Hukumat Rai himself, unaware of who the man is. Hukumat Rai tells Raj that he knows the public prosecutor, and warns Raj that the public prosecutor’s wife will never rent a room to a bachelor, because she has a young daughter. He persuades Raj to say he’s married, and offers to accompany Raj to the public prosecutor’s home to put in a word for him.
Of course, when the public prosecutor’s wife (Sulochana Chatterjee) and daughter Shanti (Mala Sinha) appear, Hukumat Rai’s identity is revealed—but he continues the charade, convincing his wife and Shanti that Raj is married and soon to be a father. Mother and daughter approve wholeheartedly of Raj.
A few months later, Shanti gives Raj a lift to his college, and he inadvertently leaves his diary behind in her car. Shanti, who’s too infatuated to have scruples, reads it and discovers that Raj is both unmarried as well as in love with her. Eventually, all is revealed and everything is happiness and light for all concerned. I’m happy too; I don’t mind silly and frothy as long as it’s happy.
But it can’t last, of course, and just as Hukumat Rai and his wife are bestowing their blessings on Raj and Shanti, Raj receives a telegram from Vijay, informing him that Hansraj is dying of tuberculosis.
Raj goes to the village with Shanti and her parents. There, with his dying breath, Hansraj begs Raj to take care of Vijay—that is, get her married. Once he’s dead and cremated, Shanti and her parents return to the city, and Raj sets about finding a bridegroom for Vijay. He sees her with Balam, but though he tries to dissuade her (he knows Balam’s reputation), Vijay is adamant.
Raj goes to meet Balam’s parents (Shivraj and Leela Chitnis), and they come up with a novel idea: they’ll agree to Balam’s marrying Vijay if Raj will give them enough money to get their daughter Gauri (Nimmi) married off. Since she’s blind, they say, nobody will marry her unless given a major incentive to do so. Arrrrggggh!!
Balam comes by and incites his parents into making Raj agree to marry Gauri himself. Balam does this (as he tells his sidekick Khatpatiya—Mohan Choti) to stop his own wedding to Vijay. I can’t see how Raj marrying Gauri will prevent Vijay marrying Balam, but never mind.
Raj goes to Shanti’s home with the bad news, and even though all of them are pretty devastated, they try to empathise. Shanti tells Raj she doesn’t blame him, but once he’s gone and gotten married, she tells her parents she doesn’t want to get married to anyone else, and would rather study law. I can see crime looming on the horizon; there has to be a reason for Shanti becoming a lawyer.
Years pass; Shanti is now a lawyer; Vijay is regretting having married Balam; and Gauri is being a self-sacrificing martyr. [Aside: Nimmi was so good at this. She did the weepy heroine act in I don’t know how many films—Aan, Pooja ke Phool, Mere Mehboob, Amar, Barsaat—and it never fails to irritate me. The tears and the trembling lower lip, combined with the “You are my god and I will worship you no matter how nasty you are” attitude makes me see red.]
Gauri had discovered on her wedding night (when Raj was muttering in his sleep) that he’d given up his love, Shanti, for Gauri. Gauri therefore has been egging Raj on to bigamy. What a loser.
Raj keeps losing his temper at Gauri, mostly because, being blind, she can’t do much in the way of housework. Kinda nasty of him, I think—and so does Shanti, who arrives one day in response to a remorseful letter from Vijay, who (justifiably) feels she’s to blame for much of their misery. Shanti takes it upon herself to reconcile Raj and Gauri. She does this by singing a song, berating Raj for being mean to Gauri. Ho-hum.
Raj and Gauri come together (and how—the next we know, Gauri’s pregnant. This film moves in leaps and bounds). But Balam’s old girlfriend, the one from whom he’d been drawing money, has decided it’s time for a showdown, and she comes back into his life with a bang.
At this point, I sit up a bit because things have started to get exciting. There’s a crime (ha! I knew it!), and then of course Shanti holding forth in the courtroom, etc. But really, even though most of the ends are tied up neatly, the film leaves me feeling nauseated. There’s too much self-sacrifice, too much melodrama and tears. Nope, not something I’d see again.
What I liked about this film:
Nothing, unless you count a good-looking male lead and a very villainous villain (Pran is great). The music, by a composer I usually like—Madan Mohan—is all right, but not spectacular. And, as I mentioned, though the first half hour or so is enjoyable, the rest of it is irritating enough to negate it all.
What I didn’t like:
Vijay (talk about a blinkered existence).
Gauri (who just got more and more unbearable as time passed).
Whoever thought up the crime angle of the film. The courtroom scenes are especially daft—the arguments so don’t make sense that I was tempted more than once to just stop the whole farce and eject the DVD. Terrible.