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.
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 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’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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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 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.
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].
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 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?
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!
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.