Pyaar ka Sapna (1969)

The buy-a-film-because-of-a-song bug bites again. I’ve had this happen to me umpteen times, and the symptoms are invariably the same: I remember hearing a lovely song (generally back in the long-ago days of my childhood), and I think, if the music is so fabulous, what must the film be like? (Yes, a nincompoop’s logic, but what the hell). Sometimes, I discover on imdb that the film has a cast I like. Very occasionally, I even find that it has a director I have great faith in.

When a film, besides starring the beautiful Mala Sinha, also includes three more of my favourite actors—Ashok Kumar, Helen and Johnny Walker—and features a deliciously romantic song, I can’t not buy.

What I get is an Indianised version of Barbara Cartland mush. This is pure Desire of the Heart, which memsaab used so well as a comparison for Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. A marriage of convenience turns sour (or rather, doesn’t sweeten at all) because one partner is spirited and out for a good time, the other’s all wishy-washy and old-fashioned. Pyaar ka Sapna differs from RNBDJ in that the differences between the two people are more of upbringing than of age.

Here, Sudha (Mala Sinha) is the well-brought-up Hindu girl (there’s a lot of stress upon her being a good ‘Hindu girl’) who’s currently on a pilgrimage across India, accompanying her old mother (Durga Khote). On a train, they end up sharing a compartment with elderly (and wealthy) couple Jwala Prasad (Bipin Gupta) and his wife Parvati (Mridula Rani). Both husband and wife are very impressed with Sudha – so gentle and sweet and docile. Just the bahu they’ve been looking for to make their son Ramesh a home-loving man.

That remark worries Sudha’s mother a bit, but not enough for her to raise any objections when Jwala Prasad proposes a match between Sudha and Ramesh. Perhaps she’s just relieved that Sudha – who’s been rejected time and again because she doesn’t know any English – will finally be getting married.

Ramesh (Biswajeet), meanwhile, has just finished his graduation and is busy whooping it up. In the midst of all this happiness, party-pooper Jwala Prasad arrives one day all unannounced to tell Ramesh that he, Ramesh, will be getting married a week from now.

Ramesh tries to remonstrate – he doesn’t want to get married now, he wants to go abroad (for what, it’s not clear; perhaps just to continue the partying). He wants his independence. Since Jwala Prasad is the one supposed to be financing the phoren trip, he springs a nasty surprise on his son. Fine, you want to be independent, you finance your own trip. So Ramesh, under duress and ready to do anything to go to Europe, agrees. He’ll marry Sudha.

They get married, with Ramesh stubbornly not even looking at Sudha’s face through all the ceremonies and after. A few days later, he takes Rs 15,000 from Jwala Prasad – expenses for the trip to Europe – but when Jwala Prasad insists that Ramesh take Sudha with him, our hero does the dirty on everybody and absconds. He does, however, talk to Sudha (still not looking her in the face) and tells her that he’s leaving. He also gives her a letter that’ll enable her to get a divorce.

And off he goes. Sudha now finds herself caught in a nasty situation. Her mother-in-law, led astray by the malicious comments of a friend (Leela Misra in a small but unpleasant cameo), starts being cold – though thankfully not cruel.

Jwala Prasad, furious with his dissolute son, promptly disowns Ramesh and vows that he will get Sudha married elsewhere. Which, of course, sends Sudha into a panic. She tries to reason with her father-in-law: that a Hindu woman, when she has taken a man into her heart, cannot even bear to think of another; that Ramesh will always be a God to her, and other similarly nauseating words of loyalty that Ramesh doesn’t deserve in the least. When Jwala Prasad – stubborn old fogey – refuses to listen, Sudha runs off to her mother.

Poor Sudha finds that her mother, while sympathetic, is of the opinion that Sudha should go back to her in-laws, no matter what. She agrees that Jwala Prasad shouldn’t be wanting to get Sudha married again, but still. Sudha shouldn’t have come away without telling her in-laws. So Sudha is put on the train, along with an old servant to look after her on the way. The old man soon goes to sleep, and when the train stops during the night at a small station, Sudha gets off the train and sets off to commit suicide.

She chooses to do so by wandering on to the highway and standing in the path of an oncoming car. In the car is Shankarnath (Ashok Kumar), who immediately gets his driver to stop; they haul the now-fainted Sudha into the car, and Shankarnath takes her home. A few days later, Shankarnath visits Jwala Prasad, introduces himself and lets Jwala Prasad know that Sudha is alive and well. He then says that he feels Sudha should stay with Shankarnath for a while; it would be better for all concerned.

Shankarnath shares a sad story of his own: he too had disowned his son years ago, when the son went off to London and flung himself into a life of debauchery. The son married an English girl; both of them are now dead, and Shankarnath, who’s being trying to trace his granddaughter unsuccessfully, is wishing he had not broken off all ties with his son. He tries to convince Jwala Prasad to reconcile with Ramesh, but if Sudha is a gaai (‘cow’, used to describe a woman who is docile and meek; bovine is more like it), her father-in-law is a mule.

Sudha therefore is ‘adopted’ by Shankarnath and he gives her a makeover. She’s taught English, how to use cutlery, how to walk in high heels, how to waltz and say “Je m’appelle Sudha” and sundry other French phrases. Her staid cotton saris are packed away and replaced with slinky chiffons, and she’s given a smart bouffant.

Then one day, Shankarnath gives her something more: a passport with a visa for the UK (a “passport for Europe” is how they put it, but I have my doubts about that). And the news that Sudha – now called Sushma – is to go to London and work her charm on Ramesh enough to make him completely devoted to her. All without him realising who she really is. Sudha is sceptical and apprehensive and feels guilty at the thought of fooling her own ‘husband-deity’ (okay, that’s because I can’t think of a better equivalent for pati-dev). Shankarnath should’ve tried to give her ideas a makeover too.

In the meantime, Ramesh has been enjoying himself in the UK. He’s made friends with the equally dissolute Gupte (Johnny Walker), and has been spending all of his father’s hard-earned money at bars and pubs and casinos.

Gupte also introduces Ramesh to the lovely Jenny (Helen), a girl who lives next door in the lodging house where Gupte has found a room for Ramesh. Jenny speaks fluent Hindi – not surprising, she says, considering that her father was Indian though her mother was English. She also tells Ramesh that she’s now all alone in the world, because both her parents have since died. (Does this ring any bells, anyone?)

Ramesh and Jenny have a fabulous time together, pub-hopping and going to nightclubs and amusement parks and whatnot. For Ramesh, it’s just a grand time with a pretty girl; he doesn’t realise that Jenny is falling in love with him.

One evening, at a party, Ramesh encounters a chic young Indian woman who fascinates him with her beauty and her wit. He quickly puts Gupte on the job of finding out who she is, and Gupte discovers that this is Sushma, who’s recently come to London and is staying with her ‘uncle’, Mr Malhotra (Rajan Haksar). Gupte cautions Ramesh: Malhotra is a dangerous man who packs a gun (“I’ve already murdered one man,” Malhotra tells Gupte later in the film). Note: Malhotra, since we know the background, is actually only a henchman of Shankarnath’s. And why he’s a murderer, or why he isn’t behind bars, or indeed why everybody makes him out to be so dangerous, is never explained – he seems quite a harmless sort, really.

Some initial hiccups – Ramesh tries to make a pass at Sushma, and she gets mad at him – and the Ramesh-Sushma/Sudha love story takes off. He soon realises that he is really, truly, deeply in love with Sushma. So much in love that even when she confesses that she is married, and that her husband left her a few days after the wedding, Ramesh doesn’t back away. In the meantime, Malhotra (on Shankarnath’s instructions) has had a message conveyed to Ramesh: that his wife Sudha has committed suicide.

What happens now? When will Ramesh discover who Sushma really is? And what will be his reaction? And what about Jenny, eating the laddoo of delusion and thinking Ramesh is hers?

What I liked about this film:

Ae meri zindagi tu nahin ajnabi. This is the song that made me buy the film. Chitragupt composed some wonderful music for Pyaar ka Sapna, but this song – so beautifully romantic (and with Lac Leman and those lovely red geraniums too!) – is a gem. Incidentally, one of the nicest songs from Pyaar ka Sapna is Night is lovely. Helen at her best in a slinky sizzly dance number, but the song isn’t to be found on the VCD. Another song that’s missing from the VCD is Yeh zindagi hamaari kya khoob zindagi hai.

The ladies. Mala Sinha and Helen are both so pretty! Biswajeet is fairly pretty too, incidentally.

Actually, being the soupy romantic that I am, I don’t really mind the basic plot either – and the fact that Ramesh actually had never seen Sudha’s face makes it more believable for him to fall in love with her Sushma avatar. Not the farfetched moustache-and-clothes-as-disguise premise of RNBDJ. But…

What I didn’t like:

Okay, so I liked the romance. What put me off were some of the characters, including the leads. Sudha/Sushma is too spineless and too much of a believer in the “my husband is my God even if he treats me like dirt” dictum. If this had been confined to pre-makeover, I could’ve lived with it. But Sushma, even a fashionable, bouffant-and-high heels Sushma, is still a wimp at heart. It isn’t even a question of her forgiving Ramesh; she never even regards what he did to her as wrong. I’d have preferred it if Sudha had developed some spunk and decided to teach her errant husband a lesson.

And I don’t care for a hero who is so worthless – till the very end. Ramesh is a gambler, a drunk and a lecher (which I could have lived with; reformed rake, you know), but the problem is, he’s also selfish and never really sorry for the way he treated his wife. Not a nice man.

Worst of all is Jwala Prasad. This old man is an autocratic bully, going about taking decisions without consulting anyone else – even when the decisions are about their lives – and he always takes the wrong decision. I wanted to strangle this man.

The surprise? Guess who directed Pyaar ka Sapna? None other than Hrishikesh Mukherjee. This is certainly a far cry from both the early, sensitive Mukherjee films like Anuradha and Anupama, as well as the later comedies like Golmaal and Chupke-Chupke. This is more along the lines of Mukherjee films like Saanjh aur Savera, Chhaya or Asli-Naqli: heavy on melodrama, more entertaining than sensitive, and with (as in Saanjh aur Savera or Anuradha) a message that’s staunchly in favour of the traditional Indian idea of marriage: a woman, married, must stick with her spouse and regard him as God no matter what. Aargh.

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56 thoughts on “Pyaar ka Sapna (1969)

  1. I’d still love to see this film. I love mush. Sometimes. Though, I admit neither Mala Sinha nor Biswajeet are my favourites. But I also like ‘Europe’ in the earlier films. :)

    • Yes, I’m a die-hard lover of mush too – sometimes. This one’s pretty good on the mush angle; I just wish the Sudha female had been more feisty, and that her makeover+ensnaring husband had been a more gutsy affair. Perhaps she could have had him fall in love with her, then flung it in his teeth and forced him to woo her back…

      But yes, Europe in early films is so watchable. Actually, anywhere abroad – Beirut (Ankhen, An Evening in Paris), Japan (Love in Tokyo) – all so pretty to look at. And the locals turning to gawp at our hero and heroine dancing and singing down the street: priceless!

  2. Mala Sinha in the second screencap looks so much like Madhuri Dixit! I think I was told by a yesteryear person that Biswajeet and Mala Sinha had an affair and later broke off since the former was a married guy. The stories of their affair circulated in the film magazines of the time.

    • I hadn’t heard about the Biswajeet-Mala Sinha romance. But their onscreen chemistry, at least, was pretty good – in Pyaar ka Sapna, at any rate. I’ve seen other films of theirs too (Night in London, Jaal and Do Kaliyaan), in all of which I seem to remember them being good together. So it just may have been…

      • Though I do remember reading somewhere that Mala Sinha and CP Lohani’s marriage was a long-distance one most of the time, with him in Nepal and her in Bombay. Not that that’s an excuse for infidelity, but it makes it easier! ;-)

    • Actually, if I ever draw up a list of ten of my favourite mush films, this would probably figure on it. :-) I just wish the hero had been someone other than Biswajeet – though I don’t put him in the ‘can’t bear him’ category, he’s not one of my favourites.

  3. I usually love the movies you write about, but this one I just have never come to terms with. #1- Biswajeet- argh! I know you dont like him, so I do admire you for sitting thru this :) #2- All the crap the heroine goes thru for …Biswajeet! The only redeeming bit for me was the sizeable role granted to Helen.

    • “All the crap the heroine goes thru for …Biswajeet!”

      LOL! Yes, too true. I mean, if she had to go through all that crap for someone like Shammi Kapoor or a young Prem Nath, I’d have understood. But Biswajeet? Really.

  4. Oh I’d be torn on this one if I could find it with subtitles…I do love me some occasional Barbara Cartland, and her heroines incidentally are pretty regressive too. And Helen! But Biswajeet :( And Mala’s character sounds a bit one-dimensional, and not in a good way. Hmmm. Well, it’s not likely to have subtitles any time soon so I guess I am spared :)

      • Yes, Mala Sinha’s character is pretty one-dimensional and regressive. But as Shweta mentions, Helen has a substantial enough role (as does Johnny Walker) and the songs are good. Not just Ae meri zindagi, but also these ones:

        Haseenon ki aankhon ka taara:

        Tere chehre se hate aankh:

        Jee lagta nahin apna:

        And you just might be lucky and get a DVD that has the Night is lovely song (my VCD didn’t have it):

          • I have just finished watching a film (Meherbaan, 1967) – very long and melodramatic and tedious, but – surprise, surprise – the VCD was on three discs, not two! So (as far as I could tell) no scenes were arbitrarily chopped off, and no songs were cut. Why can’t that be done more often? I don’t mind paying more, as long as I get the entire film.

  5. I have always found it difficult to sit through such films, imagine Hrishikesh Mukherjee directing such a film. I also never liked the Mala Sinha-Biswajeet pair, Mala Sinha looked older than Biswajeet.

    • “also never liked the Mala Sinha-Biswajeet pair, Mala Sinha looked older than Biswajeet.”

      Apparently, most directors didn’t think so! They acted in so many films together – but yes, I agree with you, she does look older than him. I guess it’s something to do with his somewhat effeminate (or is it boyish?) looks.

  6. I am honestly not a big fan of Mala Sinha, personally I always thought of her acting as more melodramatic than really required :-\

    But Hrishikesh Mukherjee you say? I was like –> :O
    I would have never believed it! He made such sunny films like Chupke Chupke! Wonder what went wrong with him :-\

    • Frankly, I don’t care for Mala Sinha in melodramatic roles like in Anpadh or Maya – but then, I love her in stuff like Ankhen or Dillagi. I wish she’d done more roles like that; unfortunately most of her filmography seems confined to melodrama.

      “Wonder what went wrong with him”

      No, no – what went right with him! Remember, this was before Chupke Chupke and Golmaal etc. Such delightful films, all of those! But early Mukherjee is very different from later Mukherjee…

  7. I love mush too, but it always leaves a bitter taste behind!
    Am certain this one would surely do it.
    I wonder what Mukherjee was thinking, while he directed these kind of films.

    Jwala Prasad seems to be, though a dumbo, quite progressive, if he is ready to marry off his own daughter-in-law! I know marrying off itself is such, lets say, a controversial word. Even in Saraswati Chandra the father-in-law is progressive enough to let his widowed daughter-in-law remarry, but the womenfolk are made to mouth the conservative dialogues.
    There were surely more spin-offs of the story in regional cinema. I surely remember one in Marathi and one in Kannada.
    ROTFL at Europe passport! EU cannot agree on matters like common asylum laws leave alone passport or for that matter European visa. Even now the Schengen visa doesn’t allow you to enter the UK. But you must be knowing that already! :-) Europe is used so malleably in Hindi films. In DDLJ the characters use the word for continent and elsewhere for UK!

    I would love a film with the plot like this one to conclude with an end where the heroine says going through this process has made her win her own self-esteem and goes her own way!
    I HOPE Helen is not bumped off in the end!

    • Yes, the ‘European passport’ thing really had me laughing. Surely when the crew went to the UK (and then to Switzerland and France) to film the scenes there, they should’ve realised:

      (a) That a passport is issued by the country you’re a citizen of
      (b) A visa is issued by the country you want to visit
      (c) Europe is not a country

      Made me wince and laugh at the same time. And I’d have thought by the time DDLJ was made Indians were more savvy and used to travelling abroad, so they’d know better….

      No, Helen isn’t bumped off in the end! :-) In fact, the end is nice for her, in a sweet sort of way.

    • Happily one can move within EU Europe from one country to the other (except UK – always the exception ;-) ) without having to show your passport or ID, and just walk out of the airport.

  8. I do this all the time. I sat through Sambandh for the songs. I think I have seen this movie on TV. There were some others with a similar theme, so I may be confused here. But yet, these movies presented some lovely songs which makes it worthwhile to sit through all the bharatiya naari stuff.

    • Yes, the songs and the locales in Pyaar ka Sapna at least made it worthwhile to sit through the pativrata naari stuff! I’ve just finished watching Meherbaan (1967), which though it had a fabulous cast (Ashok Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Nutan, Mehmood…), had a horribly melodramatic story and no memorable songs to compensate. :-(

  9. I remember watching this movie—if I am not mistaken it didnt do well at the boxoffice.Some of the songs were melodious.If Dad was not in the film I would have surely skipped it as I am not a fan of Biswajeet,BUT his movies had good songs!!!

    • So true! Biswajeet’s films always had such good songs – Bees Saal Baad, Kohra, Mere Sanam, Night in London, Kismat… actually, come to think of it, a lot of these films did fairly well too, at the box office, despite Biswajeet. ;-)

  10. This formula of the hero leaving his ‘bride’ after marriage without looking at her face only to reconcile at the end seems to be a Rajesh Khanna speciality [raja rani ,kati patang,etc]. it has been repeated lot of times even in 90’s.

    I prefer Biswajeet over Rajendra , Manoj Kumar. didn’t he deserve more hits on basis of the songs like Rajendra Kumar had? he is waaay better than the dharam of late eighties who romanced Sri devi oops!!

    • I definitely prefer Biswajeet over Rajendra Kumar – I find that man’s ‘Jubilee Kumar’ tag hard to fathom – but I’m not so sure about Manoj Kumar. Can’t bear him in the patriotic films that he did (Upkaar, Purab aur Pachhim etc) or the later films – like Shor, where he adopted those awful mannerisms. But I like him in more normal roles like in Nakli Nawab or Gumnaam: he’s good there.

      Didn’t Rajesh Khanna’s character get dumped before he was married in Kati Patang? That’s what I seem to recall… and then he falls in love with the same girl later.

  11. Loved the ‘Ae meri zindagi,tu nahin ajnabi’ song from this film! Biswajeet and Mala Sinha did act together in a lot of films! Mala Sinha was a very talented actress,and yes,I too thought she did resemble
    Madhuri Dixit!

  12. I remember watching this on DD long ago and did not like it much, even in the good ‘ol days when I could buy into the ‘romance’ of a wife wooing a worthless and uncaring husband!

    The whole watch-a-film-for-a-song is a habit impossible to break! Inspite of what I heard about it, I watched Vallah Kya Baat Hai for Shammi Kapoor+Bina Rai and Ek to surat pyaari – and has that taught me to keep me away from choosing a film for it’s songs and actors? NAHIIIN! :D

    • Why do we do it??! Always! I’ve watched, this past week, two films which were both pretty awful in their own way: Meherbaan (stellar cast: Ashok Kumar, Nutan, Sunil Dutt, Shyama, Mehmood, Ramesh Deo; terribly melodramatic) and Post Box 999 (a gorgeous Sunil Dutt, lovely Shakila, and some excellent songs, but a very incoherent suspense story). Neither will stop me renting/buying more films just because of the cast or even just one good song!

    • Yes, you’re right about Mala Sinha – she’s so stylish in films like this and Night in London. Another film in which she’s stylish and has a good, non-weepy role is the little-known Dillagi, with Sanjay Khan. I liked that film quite a bit. :-)

  13. Biswajeet looked ok. in some of his films, but he wasn’t that great an actor.The songs in his films were almost always hits, though!

  14. As a fellow sufferer of the watch-a-film-because-of-its-music syndrome, I totally understand how one can sit through unpalatable fare due to a compulsion to see the settings of the songs. And your review makes an enjoyable read, even if the film was not enjoyable :) I shan’t be watching the film I think but will check out the music videos. Isn’t it surprising how many good songs Biswajit and Rajendra Kumar in their films? They managed to succeed purely on that I figure..given their general lack of charisma.

    • Thank you for reading, and for your kind words – and welcome to my blog! :-)

      Yes, Rajendra Kumar is another one who I thought lacked charisma (or, well, just about everything except the Jubilee Kumar tag, which I’ve never been able to fathom!). But his films too invariably had great music. Just like Biswajeet.

      • Rajendra Kumar I thought,was a better actor than Biswajeet.I liked him in movies like Sangam. And,you’re right, his movies had great songs too,maybe that’s why his films were given the Jubilee Kumar tag!

        • Yes, I didn’t mind him in Sangam (I didn’t even mind Raj Kapoor in that film, though I otherwise find RK hard to tolerate!). Oh, and I liked Rajendra Kumar in Mere Mehboob. That was good. I wish he’d done more roles like that. And he was certainly a better actor than Biswajeet – who, now that I think of it, always seemed to do only one type of role. He never did diversify too much.

  15. Thanks for this lovely review, i enjoy camp dramas like this, i’m really curious to see how things come together, though i’m sure i know that already but still. I think Hrishikesh made another Mala Biswajeet starrer Phir kab milogi, have you seen that

    • I’ve seen only the start of Phir Kab Milogi – this was in the good old days when we used to have power cuts, and no backup. The film was being shown on TV, and the power went after the first half hour or so. All I recall is that the Biswajeet character used to skimp all through the year in order to go on holiday once a year to Kashmir. And there he sees this village girl… it has a lovely song, Kahin karti hogi woh mera intezaar. Beautiful!

      P.S. Thank you for sharing the ‘revolving bed’ song from Chingari, in the Mahendra Kapoor post. Liked it. :-)

  16. Nice piece, that European passport bit was an LOL moment. Watched the film yesterday, on seeing that it has one of my favorite directors, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and another huge favorite actress, Mala Sinha. Saw your blog today, was fun reading. Sudha/Sushma’s character was cringeworthy, but then today’s Indian soaps are full of such sacrificial pati-vrata (husband worshipping) women even now (if the articles on them are correct), so I just rolled my eyes over it, thinking this was the 60s (though a departure from Hrishi da fares like Anupama).

    Agree with those who think she resembles Madhuri, another favorite of mine, and I find the resemblance in many films, so it was fun to watch them together in Khel (that loose adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

    Glad YouTube has made many Hindi films available (atleast in India, can watch them, not sure if there are region wise restrictions).

    Will watch Dillagi, sounds like another unknown nice watch, I see Shemaroo has it in 14 parts though, unlike most old Hindi films, which are uploaded in 1 part. And the song Night is lovely was edited from the Saregama uploaded version on YouTube as well.

    Am definitely going to check your blogs on old films I’ve seen recently, another nice collection after Memsaab :)

    • Agree with comments who say Jwala Prasad (JP) was a progressive father-in-law, in trying to get Sudha married. Not many progressive ones exist even now. Loved the line where Sudha said there’s no divorce in Hindu scriptures and JP rebuts with saying how hopeless sons like Ramesh did not exist when the scriptures were written and one should change with time.

      Rediff columns in 2002-2004 by Dinesh Raheja were a good guide to revisiting/ watching many old Hindi films. Here he’s profiled Mala Sinha http://www.rediff.com/entertai/2002/may/22dinesh.htm

      A 2010 movie, Dulha Mil Gaya (Sushmita Sen, Fardeen Khan, Ishita Sharma) has a plot quite similar to this.

      • I’ve heard of Dulha Mil Gaya, but hadn’t realized it had a plot similar to this. Fardeen Khan isn’t a favourite of mine, so perhaps I shall give it a miss. ;-)

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