Dillagi (1966)

This was what I call a ‘shot in the dark’ film—I noticed it on Induna and decided I’d give it a try, even though I hadn’t heard of it before. The decision was arbitrary, and mainly because the picture of the DVD cover appealed to me. I should probably have had a look at the plot summary on imdb but I didn’t, and ended up with a film that I actually rather liked, even apart from the fact that the lead pair looked yum.

Sanjay Khan and Mala Sinha in Dillagi

Dillagi begins in a misleading manner, with Sapan (Sanjay Khan) cavorting around with various extras while singing, which made me think he’s a playboy—which he isn’t.
The scene then shifts to a club. Sapan’s friend Deepak (Vijay Kumar) has been chatting with a new acquaintance, Seema (Mala Sinha) as they walk by the swimming pool in which Sapan’s doing a few laps. When Seema admits she can’t swim, Deepak decides this is a good occasion to spark off a romance between her and Sapan, and pushes her in. Sapan fishes Seema out and when she goes off to change, gives Deepak a piece of his mind. This just isn’t done; you can’t create love out of nothing in this idiotic fashion. Atta-boy!

Sapan tells Deepak off

Sapan doesn’t realise just how interfering his nosey friend can be. A couple of days later, Seema’s mother (Praveen Paul) discovers a love letter to Seema being smuggled in a book sent through the maid. She blows her top and confronts Seema, who reads the letter—signed Sapan—and though she doesn’t blow her top, is already simmering as she assures Mummy that this is all a lie, and that she’s going to get to the bottom of it.

A clandestine love letter arrives

Seema confronts Sapan in the billiards room at the club, and though he denies sending her the letter, she’s too mad at him to listen. While she’s berating him and tearing up the letter, other people arrive and listen in on Seema’s tirade. She’s too angry to notice them, but when she finally storms out, Sapan tells Deepak that he can understand her being angry; but why did she have to insult him in front of everybody? (The lad has a point, methinks. I’m liking him more and more).

Seema takes Sapan to task - in public

The next minute, Sapan shatters my high opinion of him by deciding that the best way of avenging this insult is to make Seema fall in love with him, just so he can have the pleasure of flinging her love in her teeth. Huh? Aren’t there easier ways? How about the cold shoulder?
Anyway, the point is that the situation being what it is, the chances of Seema falling for Sapan are slim indeed. Enter Professor BNR Chobe (Johnny Walker), who claims to be an authority on everything related to love. He even gives irritating and pointless speeches on love (his favourite phrase is “For your kind information and broadcasting”) at the club.

Professor BNR Chobe gives a speech on love

What Sapan and Deepak don’t know is that the professor is actually the penurious Pyarelal, who’s adopted this alias in an attempt to earn some money to keep body and soul together. His own love life—which consists of fervently but unsuccessfully pursuing the lovely Usha (Bela Bose)—is non-existent.

While his own love goes nowhere...

Professor BNR Chobe charges Sapan a hefty fee for a solution: hire some goons to threaten Seema, then jump into the fray and rescue her. She’s bound to succumb.
Sapan carries out the plan, and it’s followed up by Deepak telling Seema that Sapan’s been badly injured as a result of the fight. Seema, now more kindly disposed, drops by later to look Sapan up, and is told by the maidservant that he’s gone to the doctor to get patched up. The maid, who’s another busybody (Sapan seems to surround himself with these), indicates a tape recorder lying in Sapan’s room and tells Seema that she (the maidservant) has overheard Sapan speaking monologues addressed to her (Seema) into `that machine’.

The maidservant indulges in some gossip

Seema is by now not inimical to Sapan’s being in love with her. So she plays the tape—and discovers that though the initial bit is a paean to her, the rest consists of Deepak congratulating Sapan on getting the ‘rehearsal’ right; now all Sapan needs to do is be equally convincing in real life, to be able to fool Seema into believing Sapan is nuts about her.

Seema is furious and decides she’ll give the treacherous Sapan a taste of his own medicine. When he gets back, limping and bandaged, she fawns over him, tilting an entire bottle of horrid medicine down his throat, piling blankets onto him, and generally smothering him till he’s too tired to even protest. [A cute scene, this one: Mala Sinha is delightful in it, and Sanjay Khan really looks as if he doesn’t know what hit him.]

Seema `looks after' Sapan

The next few scenes and songs are devoted to how Sapan and Seema pretend to be in love with each other. They manage to fool themselves and their parents, so much so that one day Seema comes home to find Sapan’s father (Jagirdar), who knows Seema’s parents, at home. They’re busy arranging her marriage to Sapan.
Although Seema doesn’t blow a fuse in Sapan’s father’s presence, when he’s gone, she tells her parents they shouldn’t be fixing up her marriage without even asking her. [Interestingly, their defence is that they’ve seen her and Sapan together, not that as parents, it’s their birthright.]

Sapan's father come to meet Seema's parents

Unknown to Seema or her parents (or even Sapan, for that matter) Sapan’s father has a secret up his sleeve. Every now and then, a slimy character called Puran Bahadur (Keshav Rana) visits the old gentleman, who hands over a wad of money to him secretly. There’s obviously blackmail going on here. Sapan can sense that something is wrong (he hasn’t seen the money exchanging hands), but Daddy refuses to say what…

Puran Bahadur come on one of his regular money-grubbing visits

…Except when he has one of his frequent ‘attacks’ (they’re called dauras in the film, and I thought they were probably heart attacks, but the speed at which he recovers argues against that assumption). When he thinks he’s on the brink of death, he calls Sapan and starts to tell him a secret, but then as soon as he’s okay, he laughs it off, so Sapan’s none the wiser.

Sapan's father nurses a secret he refuses to tell

In the meantime, Deepak has found a love interest of his own (Thank heavens! Hopefully he’ll now not have the time to go about pushing his nose into Sapan and Seema’s lives). The girl in question (Nazima) spends most of her time sitting by the lake and gazing soulfully out over the water. Deepak meets her one day when the radiator of his car heats up and he goes to fetch water. There’s instant chemistry here, though the girl doesn’t tell him her name.

Deepak meets a mysterious girl by the lake

Shortly after, Sapan and Seema’s relationship reaches a turning point: he confesses his love for her (yes, willy-nilly, he has fallen in love). Seema tells him what he can do with his love—she hates him and just wanted to beat him at his own game.
This drama happens on the edge of a forest, and when Seema flounces off, Sapan tries to stop her. She goes deeper into the forest, until she comes up against a nasty-looking cobra. About turn, and back—to fling herself into Sapan’s arms. Yes, she’s in love too.

Seema gets a fright - and goes back to Sapan

Sapan and Seema are by now lost, and he suggests they spend the night in a cave and make their way back the next morning. They do. And, in another departure from Hindi cinema norm, where a cave and two people on their own would have led to interesting developments, this is all very innocent (he sleeps outside the cave, which is anyway pretty open). There’s a very tender scene when Sapan, who thinks Seema is asleep, covers her up with his jacket. And she, when she thinks he’s fallen asleep, promptly comes and drapes the jacket over him. Sweet!

Seema covers Sapan with the jacket he covered her with

Anyway, their love story comes full circle, and they end up engaged and very happy.
A few days later, Sapan’s father has a heart attack (yes, this one’s actually called that), and is now definitely at his last gasp. With his dying breath, he tells Sapan his secret: he has a daughter, whom Puran Bahadur has been drawing money all these years to educate. The girl’s name is Lajwanti, and now Sapan, as her brother, must look after her.

The sordid secret emerges

On no account, says Sapan’s father, must Sapan let the world know who Lajwanti is to him. The family’s name will be besmirched. (Haaah! Hypocrite! If the family name was so very important, shouldn’t this old gent have been mindful of it when fooling around?) He makes Sapan promise, and then tells him the name of the school where Lajwanti’s studying.
After his father’s death, Sapan goes to the school to fetch Lajwanti, but discovers she isn’t there—has never been there, in fact.
Our hero heads for the red light area of town and asks for Puran Bahadur, whom he finds on the verge of selling Lajwanti off to a lecherous old seth. And guess who Lajwanti is? Deepak’s mysterious girl.

Sapan goes to rescue Lajwanti

Sapan manages to get Lajwanti out of the kotha and takes her home. She spends one night there, and then Sapan (who tells her why he can’t let people know she’s his sister) finds another house for her, where she begins to stay, with Sapan visiting her nearly everyday, often dining with her too.
People being what they are (gossipy), there are soon rumours afloat that Sapan’s got himself a mistress. Seema’s father comes to know, and Seema overhears him telling her mother.

A nasty rumour comes to Seema's ears

What follows is pretty usual masala fare, idiotic in places, highly melodramatic in others, but with one refreshing departure from the norm: Seema’s trust in Sapan. Where other Bollywood heroines would have assumed the worst and broken up the romance (or worse, gone into self-sacrificing mode), Seema is level-headed enough to go to Sapan and ask him what’s up.

On the whole, a fairly enjoyable film. It’s not the best of its kind, but it’s watchable enough.

What I liked about this film:

Seema and Sapan’s romance: it’s sweet, believable, and after the initial banter is over, somewhat better than the usual filmi romance. That scene in the cave with the jacket (see above, before you start jumping to smutty conclusions) is meltingly tender, and even elsewhere, there’s affection between them, not just dumb mooning about. I love the fact that they behave like friends, too: they have their tiffs (even on very serious issues), but make up when they realise they’re in the wrong. And they try to talk, and to discuss things (not that that works every time, but still).

And they look so beautiful together. Sigh.

Sanjay Khan and Mala Sinha in Dillagi

What I didn’t like:

Vijay Kumar as Deepak. Deepak, in any case, didn’t appeal to me: he was an irritating little busybody who got on my nerves. And Vijay Kumar just sort of creeped me out. Watch him in this song, and you might understand. The entire flavour of the song is very Shammi Kapoorish, and Vijay Kumar’s obviously trying to act a bit like Shammi Kapoor too (he’s failing miserably). Ugh! Nazima deserved better than this as a hero.

I wish the screenplay had focussed more on the real romance between Sapan and Seema: that was the strong point of the film, but it gets drowned in too many songs (of which I really liked only one—Ab jeene ka mausam) and too much comic side plot.

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22 thoughts on “Dillagi (1966)

  1. I dislike Sanjay Khan and Mala Sinha doesn’t do anything for me either. This sounds exactly like Bhai Bahen from a few years later too!!! I do love Bela Bose and Nazima, but think I’ll pass on this one :)

  2. I remember reading your review of Bhai Bahen and thinking that it sounded a lot like Dillagi. I liked the fact that this one didn’t go overboard on the brother-sister relationship being misconstrued: the drama never got too high, and didn’t stretch too much.

    I don’t like Mala Sinha in weepy roles, but she’s great in this one – intelligent, feisty, and not one tear anywhere. Liked her a lot in it. And Sanjay Khan? Well, I’d choose him over Feroz Khan, any day! :-)

  3. This definitely sounds like my cup of tea! Sanjay Khan is absolutely gorgeous looking (I think I prefer him to his brother too, though his acting leaves a lot to be desired). And Mala Sinha looks so stylish in this. That chess-check patterned saree in the last-but-one screen cap would look ridiculous on anyone else!

  4. mala-ji kya baat hai, she looks utterly gorge. The cave scene had me thinking of a Ek phool do maili type senario sorry for bringing that name up again) Lol

    Sanjay Khan is definitely a looker haven’t seen too much of his work thus i guess i’d choose Feroz over him

  5. I love Mala Sinha and have liked her in all the films that I have seen of her. This one confused me a bit. Isn’t there another film called Dillagi (which I think I have seen).

    I don’t care much for either Feroze or Sanjay. It all depends on the film. He looks very good in these screen caps. :-)

  6. bollyviewer: I agree, Sanjay Khan’s acting leaves a lot to be desired (except in Haqeeqat – he has a small role but is very good in that). He’s okay in Dillagi: not a knock-your-boots-off actor, but passable. And he looks awesome! ;-)
    Mala Sinha looks so good in the Western avatar – much better than in films where she’s the typical Indian aurat. (Probably the reason I liked her so much in Aankhen). As you say, she even manages to carry off that checked sari! Love her hairstyles in this, too. Incidentally, she’s 5 years older than Sanjay Khan – he was only 25 when Dillagi was made; she was 30.

    bollywooddeewana: Haha! Yes, that cave scene is a bit like Ek Phool Do Maali (and Sanjay Khan again!). But this doesn’t move along the same lines: it’s all very chaste. He sleeps at the mouth of the cave, she’s inside. Very good!
    I have seen a dozen or so of Sanjay Khan’s films, and the reason I tend to prefer him over Feroz Khan is that he always strikes me as a more likeable person – there’s something boyish and sort of sweet about him. Tip: Do not watch Pushpanjali or Beti if you’re ever looking for Sanjay Khan films – they’re awful. His best films include Abhilasha, Haqeeqat, Dus Lakh, Dosti, Dillagi and Intaquam.

    pacifist: Yes, you’re right, there are other Dillagi versions too – there seems to have been one in almost every decade in Hindi cinema! One that I remember seeing stars Hema Malini and Dharmendra as college professors. Not good (memsaab reviewed it some time back).

    Himsingz: You’re welcome! It may not be great, but Dillagi is watchable enough.

  7. Well, it sounds very awful, when I just write droooooool! So here some comments. Although I am still looking at the beautiful train station clock in screen cap number two. ;-)

    I agree with you, I prefer Sanjay Khan any day over Feroze. It seems both the brothers were pioneers in shedding clothes. So to say Salman Khan’s uncles. my first response, when i read the review was “this sounds like a movie, which memsaab wrote about sometime ago!”. Thanks to her for reminding us it was Bhai Bahen. But if you say it was not over the top like the latter movie, then I believe you. Well, people talking to each other instead of assuming things is always good and there is a lesson to be learnt there.

    As to Vijay Kumar, I don’t think he is trying to be Shammi Kapoor in the aforementioned song. But he is awful all the same. He reminds me somehow of Karan Johar.

    “The family’s name will be besmirched. (Haaah! Hypocrite! If the family name was so very important, shouldn’t this old gent have been mindful of it when fooling around?)”

    Agree totally, i would like to see a movie with a similar case, but the hero goes against the wishes of his father and gives a big party instead and introduces his new sister to everybody.

    The movie sounds good, but I don’t think it will come on my shopping list though. I can’t stand Mala Sinha’s acting, moreover when she is trying to be young and ‘natkhat’.

  8. Offhand, I can think of a few other films – Izzat, Khilona and Sharaafat, to name just three – where ‘well-respected’ men go to great lengths to hide the fact that they have an illegitimate child floating around somewhere… and people (often the offspring in question) connive to keep it hidden. Such hypocrisy!

    Re: Mala Sinha, I have very little tolerance for her young and natkhat roles too – I didn’t like her a bit in stuff like Ujala, for instance. In this one, she manages to be spirited without being irritating about it. For most of the film, she’s a pretty, sophisticated and really rather likable woman. Along with Aankhen and Pyaasa, I’d call this one of my favourite Mala Sinha roles.

  9. Thanks for reminding me about the movie I was thinking about. :-)

    Somehow that Dharmender, Hema Malini starrer registered as ‘dilfareb’ in my head (no idea why). But now that you mention it clicked.
    I loved this Dillagi with Hema and Dharam. I don’t mind slow peaceful films. I remember reading the review over at memsaabs and posting a comment.

  10. pacifist: I don’t really remember very much of the Hema-Dharmendra Dillagi, except that it was offbeat: they usually were to be seen in the typical masala films, so this one was unusual!

    harvey: I welcome the occasional slow film too. Like Baaton Baaton Mein: cute.

  11. there is a cancelled song in the movie….

    kya kahoon aaj kya baat hai…its an excellent song.is there any possibility to get the song in the music downloads sites or music india online?

  12. I watched this purely on the basis of your review (as well as the song Mere Dil Pe Chal Rahe Hain).

    I think it’s pretty cool how Mala was able to pair with heroes who were several years younger than her like Sanjay Khan, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna and even Amitabh.

    Anyways, I enjoyed it a lot.

    And then randomly watched the Hema-Dharam Dillagi which was even better!

    I’m watching Suraj now…(for some reason I got it mixed up with Prince so was disappointed/surprised when I saw Rajendra instead of Shammi!!)

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. :-) This is probably the only film that I’ve bought on pure chance and have ended up liking. Otherwise, too many of the films I buy just because of the cast or the music end up being total duds.

      Yikes. It’s been a long, long time since I watched Suraj, but my memories of it are not the type that make me want to watch it again. Some fairly popular songs, but Rajendra Kumar is… well, the less said about him, the better.

  13. “Yeh Aaj kal ke ladke” was a lovely solo rendered by Usha Mangeshkar in this movie
    but unfortunately this song does not get listed anywhere even Usha’s hit list,
    can you post it ??

  14. Thank you so much for this review DO. Was putting off reading it till I watched the film. Came to your site after watching Pyar Ka Sapna and came to know about this film. So thanks for doing this review :)

    Watched it because of my favourite Mala Sinha, and Sanjay Khan is dishy, definitely prefer him to his flamboyant older brother. I associate Sanjay most with Tipu Sultan, as that TV show was my introduction to him, saw his movies much later.

    I wouldn’t have known about the leads’ age difference had you not mentioned it, they certainly didn’t look 5 years apart to me. One of the many reasons I admire Mala Sinha is that she was a working woman in many of her films, a trait not easily found in most female leads then. A doctor in Lalkar and Tamanna, a spy in Aankhen (huge favourite of mine as well), a dancer in Maryada, an IAS officer in Sanjog, a nurse in Hariyali Aur Rasta, running the business in Phir Kab Milogi, Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, etc. And she’s feisty, intelligent, strong in many others like Dillagi (as you said). I noticed that she got top billing before her heroes in both this and Pyar Ka Sapna. We really were ahead in some aspects then (recall Shahrukh doing a whole commercial centered around having his female lead’s name first in Chennai Express).

    Back to the film, I thought the comic sub-plot involving Johnny Walker was given too much time (and a song!). Deepak was one meddlesome friend, that acting cupid bit was an epic failure. And that cave scene, oh so sweet, and you’re right, a departure. No Roop Tera Mastana moment. Would have preferred to see more scenes of Sapan and Seema, or have a shorter movie.

    I think the frequent attacks were heart attacks, despite the belying appearances. In the beginning Sapan asks his father to take medicine and take care of his health or he will get another heart attack. Probably one for the blooper section?!

    Even I really liked Ab Jeene Ka Mausam :D Something very catchy and hummable about the tune. Mala Sinha looked oh-so-chic in the puffed hairdos and fabulous outfits. Lots of eye candy and an easy watch story, thanks again for the review.

    PS – anyone know which hills some of the film was shot? I spotted Madras Forest Department board in one, so guessed Ooty.

    • Glad you enjoyed this, Pri – yes, it is certainly an ‘easy watch story’: not too melodramatic, lots of eye candy, and just generally good time-pass. I agree with you that the Johnny Walker-Bela Bose comic side plot was a waste of time; I’d much rather have had more scenes revolving around the lead pair. Although their romance is sweet (I love that scene where she, already angry and aware of his deception, comes to his room when he’s supposedly ill and literally shoves the medicine down his throat!)… I could have done with more.

      I think this was shot in and around Ooty too. The vegetation points towards it, and one of the songs (I’ve forgotten which one, and don’t have the time to go search for it right now) – perhaps Ab jeene ka mausam? – seems to have been filmed in the Ooty Botanical Gardens, or what I remember of them…

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