Love in Simla (1960)

Memsaab reviewed Love in Simla a while back. I am, on purpose, not reading it again, just to make sure I don’t end up subconsciously lifting phrases and ideas (though my excuse can always be that imitation is the sincerest of flattery!) I can’t hope to write as delightfully as memsaab does, but for what it’s worth, here’s my two cents.

Love in Simla is the quintessential Cinderella story: the fairy godmother helps turn the ugly duckling into a swan so she can steal Prince Charming from the clutches of the evil stepsister. Of course, this being Bollywood, the swan has a heart of gold and can’t bring herself to harm even the evil stepsister.

Sadhana in Love in Simla

Sonia (Sadhana) is the supposedly plain Cinderella of this tale. I say supposedly, because in my opinion heavy spectacles and jeans instead of glittery shararas and much jewellery don’t mean you’re ugly. She lives in Simla with her grandmother (Durga Khote), her uncle, Major General Rajpal Singh (Kishore Sahu), his wife (Shobhna Samarth), and his offspring, the lovely but spoilt Sheila (Azra) and Ravi (Master Ramesh). Sheila and her mother treat Sonia with a lot of disdain and are constantly taunting her about her looks, her lack of personality and her general unworthiness.

Sheila and her mother bully Sonia

Sheila is (by the standards of 1960 Hindi films) not a good girl. She’s ambitious and scoffs at Sonia’s ideals: a houseful of children, a husband whom she can devote herself to serving, etc. [Aside: I’m not a good girl either, by that benchmark]. In fact, Sheila admits quite candidly that her romance with her rich boyfriend Dev Mehra (Joy Mukherji) is based on material things—at least as far as she’s concerned.

Sheila mocks Sonia for her values

Sheila’s heckling finally gets to Sonia, and she hits back by telling Sheila that she, Sonia, can attract any man she wants. Not just any man, even Dev. Sheila and her equally mean friend Vijay (Vijaylakshmi) have a good laugh, leaving Sonia simmering.
Meanwhile, Dev is on his way to Simla, riding the Toy Train and singing a delightful song, Dil thhaam chale hum aaj kidhar—he careens and topples all over the compartment in a cutely realistic way (I’ve always wondered how a lot of train songs have people dancing and wandering around as if on solid ground: I lurch around like mad when on an Indian Railways train).

Dil thhaam chale hum aaj kidhar...

When he arrives at Rajpal Singh’s plush bungalow, Dev is in for a surprise. Sonia intimidates her pushy relatives in his presence, and then proceeds to look after Dev in her own ham-handed manner. He’s initially bemused, but eventually relaxes enough to tell Sonia all about his love for Sheila—how much he adores her, how the other men envy him, and how he and Sheila often communicate in whistles when in a crowd. Sonia thinks this is idiotic (so do I), and tells him so.

Sonia shows some spirit in Dev's presence

But Sonia’s disapproval is ignored by Sheila and Dev as they moon about, singing Love ka matlab hai pyaar. Sonia provides the refrain, insisting that this is all a bore, and that love is about faith and not about beauty, which is only skin-deep.

Sheila and Dev romance each other

Sonia then goes off to cry on her grandmother’s shoulder about how plain she is, and why Dev isn’t interested in her. Granny says Sonia needs a complete overhaul, and launches forth on it.
(I’m a bit confused here; if Sonia thinks beauty is superficial, why should she agree to being made into a glamour puss? Ah, the blissful illogicality of filmdom).

Granny gives Sonia a makeover

Anyway, we have a very beauteous Sonia emerging as a result of the makeover. And at the club that night, she gets her chance to start practising her charms on Dev. Sheila is too busy dancing with the dance champions in town—there’s one from Calcutta, another from Madras—to dance with Dev;. Dev frets and fumes, then dances with Sonia. They’re a big hit, and Sheila doesn’t like it one bit.

Dev and Sonia at the party, before the dance

That night, Sonia drugs Sheila (or so it seems: the Shemaroo VCD I got was badly edited, and I’m not sure if Sonia drugged Sheila or was simply being sweet by bringing her milk at night). Whatever the cause, Sheila sleeps till very late the next morning. Dev, who’d planned to go sightseeing with her, is at a loose end. Sonia offers to show him the sights, and the two of them have a great day out.

Dev and Sonia enjoy themselves around town

Dev and Sonia are bosom buddies by now. Sheila, who’s too involved in the ongoing Miss Simla contest to notice, takes Dev along with her parents to a lunch for the contestants. The announcer (Hari Shivdasani) gets very annoyed at Dev, because Sonia phones him every few seconds to pester him to come home for lunch.

Dev gets repeated phone calls at the pageant

Dev finally leaves Sheila and gang behind and sneaks off home to sing, dance and eat with Sonia. This is obviously not mere friendship, and Sheila—arriving home suddenly—accuses Dev of lying to her and sucking up to Sonia. Dev denies it all, but goes gallivanting with Sonia soon after, racing along the Mall, singing and pulling a rickshaw with Sonia seated in it. Sheila’s father and Vijay see the two of them, and are shocked.

pic112

There’s more to come. A priest who knows Dev meets Dev and Sonia at a restaurant and tells them about a charity show he’s organising. He needs actors for it, and asks Dev and Sonia to help out.
[This doesn’t really need a screen cap, but I can’t resist this: look at that frill-like ruff around the priest’s neck. What were they thinking of? I’ve not seen a single priest wearing anything even vaguely like that].

The priest asks Dev and Sonia to act

At the show, Dev and Sonia are onstage, singing a romantic song—Kiya hai dilruba pyaar bhi kabhi—and Sheila, her parents and granny are in the audience. They wake up to the fact that Dev and Sonia are in love (Why should this be a foregone conclusion? They’re actors on stage, right? So singing a romantic could be completely innocuous).
Back home, Sheila rails at Sonia. Sonia retaliates by saying she’d never even have looked at Dev if Sheila had really been in love with him. When Sheila continues to crib, Sonia (knowing Sheila won’t do anything of the sort) says she’ll let go of Dev if Sheila goes down on her knees and begs.

Sheila and Sonia fight over Dev... sort of

Sheila doesn’t do that, of course—not until Diwali, when she finally breaks down and falls at Sonia’s feet. Now Sonia’s in a dilemma: she loves Dev, but she’s promised Sheila she’ll let Dev go. And since she’s a good girl (a Hindi film heroine) she’ll have to put honour before love.
The solution’s a time-honoured one: make the loved one feel you don’t care. Sonia does this by entering the Miss Simla contest. The prize includes a film contract, and Sonia knows that Dev will feel Sonia’s love for him is a poor second to her ambition. And phut will go their romance. Dev will go back to Sheila. Or will he?

Sonia enters the Miss Simla contest

It’s all fairly predictable, but enjoyable too in its own way. Don’t expect major histrionics or much sense—but if you like fluffy romances and lots of songs, then this one’s for you.

What I liked about this film:
The songs. The music’s by Iqbal Qureishi, and some of the songs are very hummable. They to tend to come a little fast and thick, especially in the last half hour or so, but they’re good.
Sadhana. This was her first film as a star (I’ve heard she was in the chorus in Mud-mud ke na dekh from Shree 420, but I’ve never been able to identify her). She was billed here (along with Joy Mukherji) as a `Sensational New Star’, and though she’s not as luminously beautiful as she was in later films like Woh Kaun Thi or Waqt, she has an innocent prettiness that’s very beguiling.
Durga Khote, as Sonia’s dimpled and sympathetic grandmother is perfect: the fairy godmother personified. Delightful!

Durga Khote in Love in Simla

What I didn’t like:
Some of the characters are frightfully inconsistent. At the beginning of the film, I thought Sonia was cowed by her aunt and Sheila; but that happened only in some scenes. In others, Sonia gave back as good as she got, and in the scene where Dev arrives, she actually had Sheila and her aunt and uncle on the run. Which made me think: why’d she let them bully her at other times?
And Dev struck me as basically shallow. Later in the film he accuses Sheila of never having loved him as much as he loved her; but if he loved her that much, how could he fall for Sonia so fast?
In any case, I think the film is inconsistent in its basic premise: it seems to suggest (while Sonia is her plain self) that love shouldn’t be based on looks—but then Dev falls in love with Sonia only when she’s looking pretty. Nah. Something wrong there.

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22 thoughts on “Love in Simla (1960)

  1. Love the logic in these film.

    But I think they all follow the cardinal rule — the herione must be the prettiest girl around or if she is not, everyone should act as if she is. I can’t resist a snicker when I hear Kareena Kapoor being described as beautiful.

    It must be very annoying being a supporting actress ;-)

  2. True, it is inconsistent, not to mention terribly male-chauvinistic – a woman must be beautiful and must fight for her man. But there are times when all such faults can be swallowed, and for Joy+Sadhana, I’m willing to sacrifice my principles! lol They look so cute together and I admit, I am a sucker for Cinderella stories.

    Isnt it a bit ironic that the “traditional” and “homely” female is the one in pants while the traditionally dressed woman is the “bad” girl (I think most of us are “bad” by 60s standards!)?

    And that is Hari Shivdasani? lol I always thought of someone else as that (just as I used to think Mumtaz Begum was Shobhana Samarth)! Wasnt he Sadhana’s father?

  3. Sabrina: Ah, yes – the logic of Hindi films. That’s a paradox, isn’t it? ;-) And it’s amazing how a lead actress has to be beautiful. I’m currently working on the rest of my eye candy posts, and the Bollywood women post is driving me nuts – there are literally dozens of women (and this just from the 50’s and 60’s) who are absolutely gorgeous – which just goes to show.

    bollyviewer: Agree with you totally! Joy Mukherji and Sadhana make such a lovely couple! (Must admit, though, that I like them even better in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena). And yes, Hari Shivdasani was Sadhana’s father – I think she inherited her mother’s genes! LOL.
    That `good’ versus `bad’ girl theory observation is interesting… I think it’s more a way of saying that a beautiful woman is one who’s decked up to the nines in traditional clothes and jewellery – after her makeover, Sadhana is almost never in Western clothes any more!

  4. I saw this as an afterthought, and was struck by the continual references to Ghalib throughout the film (one of the songs is a rendition of a famous ghazal of his). The inside jokes in the conversations assume an easy familiarity with Ghalib.

    Nice, fluffy, feelgood stuff I thought. Like the review : )

  5. Thank you – and for drawing that to my attention! I hadn’t realised there was that much Ghalib in this film. Which song is a rendition of a ghazal of his, by the way? Was it Husnwaale wafa nahin karte?

    Interestingly enough, the other Joy Mukherji-Sadhana starrer, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena has a song with a refrain originally written by Amir Khusro: Zubaan-e-yaar-e-man Turki o man Turki na mee daanam, which was written for Nizamuddin Auliya.

  6. What does the Zubaan-e-yaar… mean, do you know? I’ve always been puzzled by that refrain in the song.

    Ek Musafir Ek Haseena has such lovely songs, and even I like it a lot better than this. Wonder why Sadhana-Joy dont have more movies – they look so good together!

  7. For once, I have the answer to your question! (I have my sister to thank for this one; she’s a historian and loves trivia, so she’d told me this a long time back):

    Zubaan-e-yaar-e-man Turki” literally means “The tongue (or language) of the friend of my heart is Turki”. “O man Turki na mee daanam” means “And my heart (or mind) understands no Turki”. If you know Hindustani, you can actually see the resemblance – `daanam‘, for instance, is derived from the same root as `naadaan‘ or `daanishmand‘, both related to knowledge. Words like man, yaar, zubaan and na mean what they do in modern Hindi. Anyway, Amir Khusro was basically saying that while Nizamuddin Auliya spoke Turki, he (Khusro) didn’t.

    I don’t see much connection to the song, except in the last verse, where she says something about love transcending all barriers, even those of language.

    I do wish they’d done more films together: they’re such a pleasure to watch!

    • My beloved’s language is Turkish
      but I do not know turkish.
      Here Zaban is language and Yaar is Beloved
      and “Na-midanam ” means ” I do not know “.not familiar.
      “Man” is I or Me. .”Midanam” is to know or be familiar.
      This is Farsi couplet and Urdu is an offspring of Farsi & Hindi .
      (Urdu means Camps )

  8. since I haven’t seen either movies. I always get confused which ist Ek Musafir ek hasina and love in shimla. But at a after thought I don’t even know a single song from the later.
    I love Sadhana’s unglamourised avatar! But she had style enough to carry the later one as well.

  9. Oh, you must see both films, they’re loads of fun! (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena is about an army officer who loses his memory after he’s concussed during a skirmish in Kashmir, and falls in love with a local girl). It has awesome music (and fairly well-known too) though Love in Simla has good music as well.
    Sadhana’s unglamorous avatar is I think at its best in the lovely Parakh – a very well made film, with one of my favourite songs: O sajna barkha bahaar aayi.

  10. “O sajna barkha bahaar aayi” is also one of my favorite songs!
    And I agree totally with you about Parakh. I find Sadhana wonderful in Asli naqli as well with “Tera mera pyar amar”.
    Joy Mukherji is another cup of tea altogether. I have a hard time liking him. He was okay though in Shagird. I have a feeling he didn’t know, what he wanted to be: Shammi Kapoor or he himself.
    Durga Khote is always so wonderful in her roles.
    What about Shobana Samarth? Does she have much of a role. Quite a change for her from playing the demure Sita to a shrewish aunt! I remember an interview of her once on TV. The interviewer was oohing and aahing about her portrayal of Sita and she was very straightforward and said “There was hardly anything to play there, just look shyly and drop my face to one side”. Which was very true! Th interviewer didn’t know what to say!

  11. Though this appears to be an out and out Sadhna movie, I’d watch it for Joy, poorly written character and all.

    Finally added you to my blogroll- dunno why I havent for so long, but the error has been finally rectified :D

  12. harvey: Yes, I see your point about Joy Mukherji being a lot like Shammi Kapoor, but I’m okay with that – after all, by the time Joy Mukherji made his debut, Shammi Kapoor was all the rage, so I don’t blame JM for aping him. He is great in Shagird, as also in the three films he did with Asha Parekh: Love in Tokyo, Ziddi, and Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon. He was, in my opinion, at his best in fluffy, funny films.
    Shobhana Samarth didn’t have that much of a role here (Sadhana, Joy Mukherji and Azra dominated the film), but yes, I can imagine that this would’ve been quite a change from Sita (you see, I haven’t seen her play Sita)!

    shweta: Thank you, you are too kind. :-)
    And yes, even though Sadhana does hog the limelight, Joy Mukherji is quite in his element too.

  13. Ah! The Talat Mehmood/Suraiya song, right? Mirza Ghalib, as far as I remember – though I haven’t seen the film. Lovely music, it had: I even like Nuktacheen hai gham-e-dil.

  14. Dustedoff: If I may add here the complete verse of Amir Khusro, it is a lot naughtier:

    Persian:Zabaan-e yaar-e mun Turkie, wa mun Turkie nami daanum,
    Che khush boodi agar boodi zabaanash dar dahanay mun.

    (My beloved speaks Turkish (language or tounge) and Turkish (tounge) I do not know; How I wish if her tongue would have been in my mouth.)

  15. LOL at – “Zabaan-e yaar-e mun Turkie, wa mun Turkie nami daanum,
    Che khush boodi agar boodi zabaanash dar dahanay mun. ” :-D

    But I think the poet is just saying that he wished her tongue (language) was in his mouth.
    Amir Khusro specialized in sufi devotional poems, etc which would of course tend to be religious, and was famous for lyrical, and tender poems.

    Its relevance here is that Joy Mukherji has lost his memory and can’t even remember his name, and would love to know who Sadhana is, and who he is, and can he fall in love with her etc etc.

    I’m not surprised that everything is Greek and Latin .. errr… Turki, to him!!¨:-D

  16. Actually, pacifist, now that I think of it, my sister (she’s a historian and knows Persian) was the one who first told me about this verse, and she mentioned that Amir Khusro wrote it for his friend Nizamuddin Auliya. So it may well have been innocuous – just a way of saying that he wishes his friend’s language was his own.

    But I want to see Ek Musafir Ek Haseena again… lovely music and such an entertaining film too!

  17. can we know more details of this beautiful actress who played Sheila in love in simla. I think she also had small but supporting roles in mother india (where she looked so ethereal) and gunga jamuna,where is she these days can you also post some pictures of her
    thank you

  18. I wish I could help you – unfortunately, I don’t possess any other films starring Azra. I do know that she acted in both Ganga Jamuna and Mother India, as you mention; she also acted in the Shammi Kapoor-Saira Banu starrer Junglee, but that’s it: no idea where she is now.

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