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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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’.
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.]
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.]
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…
…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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.