Shaadi isn’t one of the better films I’ve seen in recent times. In fact, it had some definitely irritating moments, and it called for more suspension of disbelief than is generally expected in Hindi films. On the other hand, it had quite a cast: Saira Banu, Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra, Indrani Mukherjee, Balraj Sahni, Om Prakash, Manorama, and others. Even more interestingly, it was Saira Banu’s second film and one of Dharmendra’s first few films. Overall bearable, especially since I didn’t have anything better to do.
In a village called Belapur, the erudite but poor Ratan (Balraj Sahni) is labouring to provide a decent education for his younger brother Ramesh (Dharmendra), who’s studying for a law degree in Bombay. Ratan loves Ramesh so much, he even donates blood when he discovers he’ll be paid for it. Ratan’s wife Shanti (Sulochana Latkar) and younger sister Gauri (Saira Banu) are also rooting for Ramesh, so there’s much happiness all around when Ramesh tops his class as well as the region.
Ramesh’s success is also noticed by Judge Motilal (Raj Mehra), who decides he wants this young man as a groom for his only child, Kala (Indrani Mukherjee). Kala’s mother (Manorama) thinks it’s a silly idea (I agree; just because this guy did well in his exams doesn’t mean he’s good husband material), but Motilal ignores her. He goes off to Belapur to meet Ratan and Ramesh. Ramesh’s marriage to Kala is fixed, and Ratan tells the judge they want no dowry.
Ramesh and Kala get married and live with Kala’s parents. Everything is hunky-dory (hunky, at least: Dharmendra, though a bit of a spring chicken here, does look good!), and soon after, Judge Motilal goes off to London for a case. Ramesh handles his practice in his absence (this confused me a bit: how does a judge have a practice? A lawyer will, but a judge?). One day, he receives a visit from a client called Seth Daulatram (Om Prakash).
Daulatram is greed personified: he lives for money. When he finds out who Ramesh is, he reveals that he once knew Ramesh’s now-dead father. He then goes on to ask for Gauri’s hand in marriage for his son Raja (Manoj Kumar). Ramesh suggests Daulatram talk to Ratan, so Daulatram scurries off to Belapur to meet Ratan.
It now transpires that Daulatram, who knows Motilal’s stature and wealth, expected that Ratan had been given a massive dowry at Ramesh’s wedding. He faints when it turns out no dowry was given, but comes around when Ratan promises that he will give a dowry for Gauri. So the marriage is finalised (without Gauri or Raja having met) and Ratan starts making arrangements for the wedding—and incurring huge debts in the process.
Ramesh, being Gauri’s brother, decides he must contribute Rs 10,000 for the wedding. Since he doesn’t have that much, he asks his mother-in-law for a loan. Harridan that she is, she refuses; but before the problem can be resolved, an urgent telegram arrives from London. Kala’s father is ill and needs immediate surgery, so can Ramesh please leave for England as soon as possible, with the required funds?
There’s only a week left before Gauri’s wedding; Ramesh is jittery, but finally decides that the only course open to him is to ask Kala to get the money from her father’s munshi and to go to Belapur. So, just in case he can’t make it, at least Ratan will get the money.
But Ramesh hasn’t reckoned with his mother-in-law. She snatches the money from Kala and forbids her daughter from going to Belapur. Kala, weak-kneed wimp that she is, is easily cowed and acquiesces.
On the day of the wedding, Seth Daulatram is getting antsy and threatening Ratan that he’ll take away the baraat if the promised dowry of Rs 5,000 isn’t handed over immediately (shades of Beti here?). Ratan assures him that Ramesh will be arriving any moment with the money.
At this point, things suddenly start falling apart. The first thing to disintegrate is Ramesh’s plane, which crashes into the sea (he’s rescued by passing boatmen, but nobody knows that for now). Since the dowry doesn’t arrive, Seth Daulatram pulls Raja up from the mandap—even though the rituals are over and Gauri is now legally Raja’s wife—and hustles the baraat off. With the baraat gone, all the people who’d given goods on credit to Ratan start pestering him.
Ratan tries to commit suicide by lying down on the railway tracks, but is saved by Shanti and Gauri. He falls ill, and Gauri suggests they take him to Bombay. Shanti refuses—Ratan’s too weak to withstand the journey—and Gauri decides to go to Bombay on her own to fetch Ramesh.
In the meantime, Daulatram is pressurising Raja to get married to another girl. Raja insists he’s already married (to Gauri), and fed up with his father, goes off to Bombay to make a life for himself.
Meanwhile, Ramesh has been brought home to Kala. The trauma of the crash has made him amnesiac, and Kala, who’s half-hysterical, blames Gauri for it. If it hadn’t been Gauri’s wedding, this would never have happened. A little far-fetched, but anyway. What it boils down to is that when Gauri arrives, Kala gives her a earful and says that Ramesh now doesn’t want to have anything to do with either Gauri or Ratan. As proof, she takes Gauri to Ramesh, who because of his amnesia doesn’t recognise her.
Heartbroken, Gauri sets off for home and is assaulted by a passing goon. She is rescued by two young men, one of whom is Raja. Raja recognises Gauri, but she doesn’t know who he is; she does, however, tell him her entire tale of woe. Raja’s friend (Mohan Choti) takes Gauri and Raja to stay with his mausi (Leela Misra). There, Gauri overhears Raja telling his pal that Gauri’s his wife, but that he won’t tell her until he’s capable of providing for her. Gauri is, understandably, quite excited by all of this, and decides to play along, pretending she doesn’t know who Raja is. The mausi, who’s overheard it all (doesn’t anyone in Hindi films pass up a chance to eavesdrop?), agrees to keep Gauri’s secret.
In Belapur, Ratan, still weak and ill, is being hounded by his creditors. Matters reach such a pass that he and Shanti are finally forced to sell their house and their beloved cow (!) and come to Bombay to meet Ramesh. Kala and her mother do a re-run of their tirade and turn Ratan and Shanti away, leaving them to take refuge at a dharamshala.
Much more happens in the next few minutes: Ramesh is cured of his amnesia, by means of a whirring fan and a tape recorder playing sounds of a plane’s engines followed by a big bang. (I love the way Hindi films dumb down medical procedures: hilarious!) He discovers Kala’s perfidy and leaves home to stay in a hotel.
Raja becomes a film star. He shifts to a flashy bungalow, and Gauri shifts too, ostensibly to look after him—but Raja, who doesn’t know she knows who he is, thinks his wife’s getting enamoured of `another man’, even though he is the other man. Complicated, this.
And if you think that’s enough complexity for one film, you obviously aren’t as ambitious as whoever wrote this story. There’s plenty to come, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, lots of pleading for forgiveness, misunderstandings galore, coincidences by the bushel, and much melodrama.
What I liked about this film:
The cast: some of them went on to become big stars, but are still endearingly raw in Shaadi. Dharmendra is gauche but likeable, Indrani Mukherjee is lovely, and even Sulochana Latkar (though already an established actress) is for once a bhabhi and not a mother. Balraj Sahni is his usual dignified self. Best of all, Saira Banu is very pretty (thankfully not shrill) and makes a nice pair with Manoj Kumar—much better, in fact, than their later hit, Purab aur Pacchhim (a film I don’t care for at all: mostly because I don’t like Manoj Kumar in his patriot avatar).
And at memsaab‘s request (justified, I think), a screen cap of Indrani Mukherjee:
I think she looks a bit Meena Kumariesque. Perhaps it’s the tears. Whatever, she is beautiful.
The songs. Some of them—the qawwali Log toh baat ka afsana bana dete hain and the song Aaj ki raat naya chaand leke aayi hai—are tuneful (the music’s by Chitragupta), and the delightful Tere pujan ko bhagwaan banaaoon bank main aalishaan has funny lyrics, by Rajinder Krishan.
What I didn’t like:
The majority of the characters are too flat and one-dimensional: either they’re very good, long-suffering and weepy (Ratan and Shanti are prime examples, though Shanti shows a bit of spirit when she yells at Kala) or they’re greedily evil (Daulatram, Kala’s mother), or just plain weak-willed (Kala). Gauri and Raja are slightly more likeable, mainly because they’re generally more optimistic and don’t spend all their time crying.
There’s a fair bit of the `my husband is my god’ business: most irritating.
This film didn’t do its homework about any of the professions it encompasses. If you go by Shaadi’s standards, a doctor can cure a patient of amnesia with about two minutes of a whirring fan and a scratchy tape recorder. An unknown small-town singer can sing one qawwali and become a film star, with producers clamouring to sign him on. A producer can want to sign on an actor whom he’s never seen (or for that matter, whose photo he hasn’t seen). A lawyer can desert his practice to go gallivanting about the countryside and no-one will be any the wiser.
Too many unanswered questions: for example, how on earth did Daulatram go blind? And why didn’t Raja—an able-bodied adult—not refuse to get up from the mandap?