Sharmeelee (1971)

Happy 75th birthday, Shashi Kapoor!

Yes, the youngest of the three Kapoor brothers was born on March 18, 1938, in Kolkata. He is one of my favourite actors, and one of the very few whom I like also in his 70s avatar—that charm didn’t desert him with time. But. To return to the time period this blog specializes in: looking through the films I’ve reviewed till now, I realized there are only a handful of Shashi Kapoor films here. Prem Patra (another favourite), Pyaar Kiye Jaa, Pyaar ka Mausam, The Householder, Benazir.

So, this calls for another review, another Shashi Kapoor favourite of mine. Sharmeelee, which, though it was released in 1971, has enough of the feel of the 60s—in fashions, music, crew and cast involved—for me to include it in my list. Most of all, it has Shashi Kapoor at his absolutely irresistible best.

Shashi Kapoor in Sharmeelee

We are introduced to the eponymous sharmeelee (‘shy girl’) through a frame that says a lot [without the central character saying much, except to sundry creatures].
Kanchan (Raakhee) sits on a rock beside a mountain stream and trails her feet in the water—and derives a lot of joy out of that simple act. She is all alone, surrounded only by the woods, the mountains and the birds and animals—and is happy. A girl who shuns crowds, and whose best friends right now seem to be a parakeet, a rabbit, and a pigeon. [Shades of Nimmi in Amar? Thankfully, no].

Kanchan in the woods

Finding a wounded pigeon, Kanchan takes it to the local Christian priest-cum-doctor, Father Joseph (Nasir Hussain). Kanchan is so shy that she can barely even tell Father Joseph why she’s come to him, but the priest knows Kanchan well. He is an affectionate and understanding man [though his avuncularity starts getting on my nerves after a while], and Kanchan is not intimidated by him, even if she is shy.

At Father Joseph's

The scene shifts suddenly, and we are introduced to Kamini (also Raakhee), Kanchan’s twin sister. While Kanchan is shy and a school dropout (she’s only studied till Class VIII, Mummy have decided that a good, traditional housewife—as Kanchan will no doubt end up—needn’t be well-educated) Kamini is Westernised, sassy, smart—and doing her MA. When she enters the scene, it is to burst into her home, where a middle-aged woman and a girl are sitting.

Kamini is mistaken for Kanchan

These two, it turns out, are the mother and sister of a prospective bridegroom for Kanchan. They mistake Kamini for Kanchan, and like her immensely—with the result that when the twins’ mother Shanti (Anita Guha) appears, ushering in a sari-wrapped and nervous Kanchan, the two guests are dumbstruck. They recover swiftly, though, and the mother lets their hostess know that they would like Kamini as the daughter-in-law of their house. Not Kanchan.

Kanchan is rejected

When they’ve left, Kanchan and Kamini’s mother curses Kanchan. This is the eighth time someone has come to ‘see’ Kanchan and has ended up preferring the vastly more vivacious and chirpy Kamini. Kanchan is painfully shy, and all these ‘modern’ people can’t seem to see beyond that.
To her credit, Kamini seems to truly love her sister, and doesn’t deliberately try to wreck her matrimonial prospects. It just happens.

Kamini consoles Kanchan

Kamini now goes off on a trip to Kashmir with a group of collegemates. Their plans seem to be very ad hoc, because when they turn up at the guest house, the surprised caretaker says he can arrange bedding, but can’t provide food. Visitors bring their own food, he says. And the nearest settlement is three miles away; he’s not venturing out in this blizzard to bring food for this bunch of ignoramuses.

A Kashmiri caretaker tells off Kamini

Kamini’s sharp eyes spot some illuminated buildings nearby. It’s an Army Officers’ Mess, says the caretaker, and completely off-limits to civilians. That doesn’t deter Kamini; she and her friends are really hungry by now, so she sneaks off to the mess, and arrives in the verandah outside just in time to hear (and, more importantly, see) the gorgeous Captain Ajit Kapoor (Shashi Kapoor) spouting poetry.

At the mess: Kamini sees Ajit

Kamini is impressed. But food beckons, and she takes herself off to the deserted mess kitchen, which she hurriedly raids. Everything is dumped into a handy basket, and she’s scurrying out when she runs into the mess waiter (Rashid Khan). He raises the alarm, and Kamini races off, followed through the snow by Ajit. When he yells for the thief to stop (“Or I will shoot!”), Kamini plays possum…

The end of a brief chase

…and, when found to be a very pretty and (seemingly unconscious) girl, is picked up and brought back to the mess. Everybody (especially Ajit) is quite enchanted, and Ajit even orders the mess waiter to pack up all the food at hand, to be taken for the hungry girls. [Not a good idea, this, considering it means that all his colleagues now have to forego their dinners. Ajit is smart enough to personally accompany Kamini and the food to the guest house, leaving his brother officers with nobody on whom to vent their frustrations].

Ajit gives orders for the girls' dinner

At the guest house, romance swiftly blossoms between Ajit and Kamini while he sings a song and they exchange dreamy looks [and a rather fake-looking rose].
Ajit’s besottedness does not go unnoticed, and neither does his generosity. The next morning, his CO, the Colonel (Iftekhar) summons Ajit. Instead of hauling him over the coals for dispensing military rations in this arbitrary fashion, the colonel congratulates him on his initiative, and tells Ajit to invite the girls over for breakfast.

The colonel supports Ajit

[The colonel, unsurprisingly, was not one of those present at the mess the previous night, so has probably not had to go hungry].

Ajit, reaching the guest house, all afire at the thought of meeting Kamini again, has his hopes dashed when the caretaker tells him that the girls have left—they only stayed the one night. Oh, the disappointment!

Anyway, the scene now shifts back to Kamini and Kanchan’s hometown, where Father Joseph has received a letter which has made him very excited. He tells Shanti and her husband that his son is coming home. [They exchange looks of trepidation]. “But you’ve never been married, Father?” “No, of course not. But I have a son!” [Trepidation changes to wide-eyed shock].

Father Joseph drops a bombshell

But no, it’s all above board and completely innocuous. Father Joseph has been the foster-father of the orphaned son of a military officer who used to live in this town. The priest has brought up the boy-now-man [how he’s managed it without the rest of this close-knit community knowing it is beyond me].

And who might this be? Ajit Kapoor, of course. [Why am I not surprised? A film produced by Subodh Mukherjee, and no OTT coincidences? Is that possible?]
So Ajit comes home on leave, is met by Father Joseph, his housekeeper Rosie (Ruby Myers), and Rosie’s daughter, Lily. Much happiness and light.

Ajit comes home on leave

Father Joseph also broaches the subject of Ajit’s marriage. It’s time the young man got hitched, and he knows just the girl.

Seeing a flicker of sadness in Ajit’s eyes, the priest asks if Ajit is in love, and Ajit admits that though he had fallen in love with an unknown girl in Kashmir, that girl vanished, taking Ajit’s love with her. So Ajit has reconciled himself to marrying whichever good girl Father Joseph has chosen for him. [Whether the bride will be pleased to marry a man in love with some wraith out of his past isn’t discussed].

Foster-father and -son discuss Ajit's love life

The girl, of course, is Kanchan. Shy, pretty Kanchan, whom Ajit is invited to come and see for himself. And Ajit, seeing her, jumps to the obvious conclusion: this is his lost love! Okay, she is acting rather too shy and demure—completely different from when he’d met her—but that’s probably for the benefit of her family. He flirts gently with her, and by the time he leaves, Kanchan is delirious with happiness. She’s finally been ‘approved’ [yucky term, I know, but that’s it] by a man. And what a man, too.

Ajit meets Kanchan, and thinks she's Kamini

Alas, poor Kanchan is doomed. A couple of days later, Kamini returns from her gallivanting with her friends, and inundates Kanchan with many hugs and congratulations, because she’s heard from her parents about her sister’s engagement. When Kamini asks Kanchan what her betrothed is like, Kanchan shyly suggests waiting till dinnertime—he’s invited. But Kamini, bubbly and brash, dashes off to see him for herself.

Kamini comes home

…and, in the process, the misunderstanding is sorted out. She is initially furious that this man, whom she’d fallen in love with, is preparing to marry her sister; but Ajit’s assurances—that he didn’t know there were two women—works. Poor Father Joseph is given the task of explaining the painful truth to Kamini and Kanchan’s parents. Kanchan overhears. Her engagement to the man she has fallen in love with is over. Now Kamini is engaged to him.
[Father Joseph’s broken-record-like parroting of “God bless you. God bless you,” is little consolation].

A shattering blow for Kanchan

Ajit and Kamini are on cloud nine and looking forward to their wedding, when one day, at the club swimming pool, Kamini runs into an old flame, Kundan (Ranjeet). Kundan tries to get fresh, and is soundly thrashed by Ajit.
We now also get introduced to Kundan’s boss, Tiger (Narendranath). Tiger has VILLAIN written all over him. [Firang moll in bed? Check. Cigarettes? Check. Daaru? Check. Gold phone? Check].

Tiger, in his den

Tiger gives his minions some instructions, which basically centre round some dodgy espionage and getting rid of. Along the way, Tiger assures Kundan that Kamini will be his, not to worry.

Kundan’s libido, however, won’t bear any more waiting, so he takes matters into his own hands. [Um. Pun unintended]. On the day of the wedding, he writes a note to Kamini, asking her to come and meet him on a lonely hillside—and signs as Ajit.

Kundan, in Tiger's room

Kamini [who should’ve been expected to have been able to recognize her betrothed’s handwriting by now] goes off, and Kundan pounces on her. He threatens her with blackmail—all those love letters and photos of their good times together—but Kamini snaps back that Ajit already knows. This is when things get rough, but Kamini manages to break free, jump into her car—and run Kundan over. Smash. Splat.

Kamini runs Kundan over

Her luck is so terrible, though, that a police jeep stuffed to the gills with cops happens to be passing by, and the officer in charge smells a rat. They chase her car (she’s succeeded in stuffing Kundan’s corpse into it, in the meantime). But, at the end of a tunnel, Kamini loses control of the car, and by the time the cops arrive, they see her car hurtling down the hillside in flames and into the river below.

Kamini’s father is summoned to the local police station and given the news—that his daughter, a murderess, has presumably died in an accident. Her body hasn’t been found; it’s probably been borne away by the river or eaten by wild animals.

Kamini's father is told the news...

Back home, there’s desolation. What will happen to poor Kanchan now? Kamini has blackened the family’s name. Nobody will ever marry Kanchan.

Their maid (Dulari) comes up with a solution: why not pass Kanchan off as Kamini, and get her married to Ajit? The girls’ mother, who should’ve known better, immediately agrees that this is a grand idea. [And how, pray, will they account for the fact that ‘Kanchan’ isn’t present at her sister’s wedding—and is not heard of afterwards? And, anyway, will the marriage really be legal?]

The maid makes a crazy suggestion

Kanchan tries, in her docile way, to refuse, but is bulldozed into silence. Thankfully, she does show some spine, even if on the sly. She writes a note to Ajit, telling him the truth, and asking him to arrive for the wedding only if he is fine with marrying her, Kanchan.
Kanchan sends this note through Lily (Father Joseph’s housekeeper’s daughter), but it’s intercepted by Kanchan’s mother. She uses subterfuge to substitute the note with a photograph of Kanchan’s…

Shanti intercepts a letter

…with the result that Ajit arrives, all unaware, for the wedding, and Kanchan is so relieved and happy.

A short-lived relief, as it turns out, because when Ajit comes into their room that night and passionately addresses her as “Kamini”, the truth comes spilling out. Ajit feels (justifiably) that he has been betrayed and made a fool of; he blames Kanchan, tells her he doesn’t want to ever see her again, and drives off in his jeep.

Ajit learns the truth

Kanchan, meanwhile, tries to commit suicide, but is saved by Father Joseph [and more of that “God bless you. God bless you”]. But what will happen now? She has been deserted by the man she loves, and he will have nothing more to do with her. He is right now back in the army camp, drinking himself into a state of deep depression [not helped by the fact that his colleagues seem to be an exceptionally thick-skinned lot who don’t realize something’s wrong]. Tragedy, despair, and desolation abound.

The swift plummet into despair

Sharmeelee is a bit of a cross between a couple of scenes from Aankhen, and a Mills and Boon novel. The twin sisters, the one man both of them love, the villain-and-his-villainy angle: all of it is covered. A good, entertaining, time-pass film. Not great cinema, but great mush.

What I liked about this film:

The sheer eye candy. Shashi Kapoor and Raakhee are simply gorgeous individuals, and that gorgeousness gets amplified much more when they’re together. I’ve watched this film again and again just to feast my eyes on them.

Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee in Sharmeelee

I also love Raakhee’s acting as Kanchan/Kamini: besides the fact that her look—costumes, hairdos, jewellery, etc—is very different, it’s her acting that changes. The tone of voice, the eyes, the body language. Kamini is sultry, sexually self-confident, bold—and it shows in every movement, every look. Kanchan’s shyness and her innocence shows in every look of hers too, and her entire demeanour is totally different.

SD Burman’s music. Khilte hain gul yahaan is my favourite, but a very close second is Megha chhaaye aadhi raat. I also like Kaise kahen hum pyaar ne humko, while Reshmi ujaala hai makhmali andhera is a lesser-known but good cabaret number.

What I didn’t like:

Much as I love Sharmeelee, the ‘bad West, good East’ thing irks me. Kamini, initially, doesn’t seem like a bad sort, even if she is a ‘modern girl’. Ultimately, though, there is no doubt about the message: traditional girls, good girls, are the ones who will win. The West and all that is associated with it is bad.

90 thoughts on “Sharmeelee (1971)

  1. Nice review – I saw this film a few years back and what lingers in my memory are two things. Firstly those awesome songs – Megha Chhaye Aadhi Raat and Khilte Hain Gul Yahan – Lata sounds exquisite. And secondly, Raakhee looking unbelievably beautiful. I never thought she was particularly attractive so my mum advised me to see her earliest films…and since then I’ve felt that at her peak, she was one of the most gorgeous faces to ever hit the screens. I do feel however that her beauty only last for a couple of years, as even by Kabhi Kabhie I no longer thought she looked great. Sorry, I sound superficial, but really she does look so amazing in this film!

    As for Shashi Kapoor, I wouldn’t call him a favourite but i do always like him onscreen. Did you see him at the awards show last year? It was so sad to see him in such a bad state. He looked very ill, perhaps some degenerative condition. And it was highlighted by the clips of him they were showing in the background.

    I saw Chand yesterday. It was such a pleasure to see Meena Kumari of course – she is feisty and chirpy, not just at the start when she is sparring with Manoj kumar (their only film together) but also later on when things get ‘complicated’. Balraj Sahni is wonderful as ever, but to my delight the film revolves around Meena Kumari. I liked the film a lot and I won’t say more because i know you are planning to watch it. I just WISH the ending had been more progressive – I kinda new it wouldn’t but i was desperately hoping they would take the braver route! Do let me know once you’ve seen it so we can discuss (even if you choose not to do a full review – I don’t know what proportion of films you see that you end up reviewing).




    • I remember Shraddhanjali being one of the first Rakhee films I watched, and the next few being some of the 70s films she worked in with Amitabh Bachchan – stuff like Kaala Patthar or Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, where her acting was great but she didn’t look that awesome. And then I watched Sharmilee, Aan-Baan (I think that’s what it was called – opposite Rajendra Kumar; awful film) and Aankhon-Aankhon Mein, and was completely blown away by her loveliness. Also in Jeevan Mrityu.

      I find it interesting that in Doosra Aadmi, in 1977, Rakhee (and looking quite pretty, too, in Chal kahin door nikal jaayein):

      …is playing ‘the other woman’ in Rishi Kapoor’s life.

      And just 5 years later, in Yeh Vaada Raha, she plays his mother! :-)

      Guess what? I discovered that the Chand I have isn’t the Meena Kumari one. It’s a film starring Begum Para. Will watch it sometime, of course, and if it isn’t a crashing bore, will probably review it. I review most old films I watch, unless I find them too tedious to even write about.


      • Here is another nice article, but again, always so sad reading about Meena:

        I’ve not seen Shraddhanjali. Recommended?

        Doosra Aadmi has been on my ‘too-watch’ list for ages. I like the songs a lot, so will check it out soon.

        Yes Raakhee was rather incestuous in that she romanced so many of her future sons :p

        And regarding Chand – enjoy :=)


        • Shraddhanjali is rather melodramatic (and violent, too), from what I recall of it – I saw it when I was a kid, so my memories of it are rather vague. If you want to watch a Raakhee film, I’d rather recommend Doosra Aadmi (which is good) or (and I guess you’ve already seen this one) Blackmail.

          Interesting article, that one, about Pandhari Juker’s memories of Meena Kumari. She was gorgeous in her heyday – look at films like Azaad or even Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam.

          Thanks for the link to Chand! Don’t know when I’ll get the time to watch it, but I certainly will. :-)


  2. Madhu, Madhu, Madhu! What on earth am I going to do with you? I have had to painstakingly wipe tea off my screen and keyboard! *note to self: Do not read Madhu’s reviews while drinking tea.*

    Your asides had me in splits! Especially the one about Iftekhar being so kind because he didn’t have to forego a meal the previous night, and this gem: [Why am I not surprised? A film produced by Subodh Mukherjee, and no OTT coincidences? Is that possible?] :)

    I thoroughly enjoyed Sharmilee. There was much to like about the film. I liked how Kamini’s character deteriorated to the extent where survival became more important than distinguishing right from wrong.

    I liked that Shashi had the honesty to break off the engagement because he wanted the person he had actually fallen in love with, not her lookalike, even if she was the ‘good’ girl.

    Though the treason was a bit hard to stomach, the characters were interesting. Human – flawed, but human. (Except Kanchan, who I found beautiful, but irritating, She was so ‘good’ I thought her halo would strangle her!) Loved the songs, and the Shashi-Raakhee combination as you did; they were absolutely gorgeous!!

    *going off to wipe keyboard again*


    • Hehe. Thank you, thank you!! :-)

      You hit the nail on the head when you talk about the characters being human – flawed, but human. One particular scene I like is the one where Ajit comes in when Kanchan is dressed up as herself, in a red-bordered sari et al. She ‘pretends’ to be herself, just to gauge whether Ajit would love Kanchan for herself, or whether it’s her bold Kamini self he wants – and quickly changes tack, pretending to be Kamini pulling a fast one on him when she realises that he still doesn’t want kanchan. The expression on her face, the sadness, is very telling.

      I too think Kanchan is irritatingly shy and just too gullible – but I like that she does stand up and show some spine now and then. For instance, in sending that note to Ajit before the wedding to warn him.


  3. You are right, this was a 60s film made in the 1970s. Neeraj/SD were a great combination and each song is superb, including Aaj Madhosh hua jaye re. Shashi had a new lease of life as a hero in the 1970s, starting with Chor Machaye Shor and then settled down well as Bachchan’s co-star. Quite an underrated actor–see Kalyug


    • I have to admit I haven’t seen Kalyug. Must correct that – I can see it’s on Youtube, so will watch it one of these days.

      Sharmeelee doesn’t allow Shashi Kapoor much scope to show off his acting, though I do like the scene towards the end where he begins to suspect – he’s great there.

      He also has a flair for comedy (which is the main reason I like Pyaar Kiye Jaa – he’s so uninhibited and fun in that).


  4. Madhu your post lifted my spirits. I was emotionally a little disturbed, yesterday I watched Sujata after a very long time, now I am deep into it for my next post and I found I was not able to distance myself, memories kept flooding back. Finally I decided to take a break and read your post. Like Anu I was in splits. Apart from that “God bless you” I burst out laughing on reading how Father Joseph’s avuncularity got on your nerves.
    I loved the film, quite entertaining and yes I absolutely loved Rakhee, Shashi Kapoor looked handsome. Mum was quite fond of Shashi Kapoor. She used to say, he is a good actor but he never really got the opportunity. Mum quite liked him in Benazir. I actually quite liked him in his home production Utsav, it was quite an unusual role, he was good and so was Rekha.
    Yes, I agree with everyone Sharmilee’s songs are superb, Neeraj’s lyrics always appealed to me.


    • Shilpi, you’ve reminded me of another film I’ve yet to see, Utsav. That was released when I was a kid, and because it had an A certificate, I couldn’t watch it – and somehow have never got around to doing it, either. I also thought Shashi Kapoor was good in Deewaar and Kaala Patthar, though in both films most people seem to remember only Amitabh Bachchan’s characters.

      I’m glad my post was able to lift your spirits a bit! :-)


      • OK, thanks for just reminding me that I am just about to be a senior citizen. HA! HA! I am joking, there is indeed a huge age difference between us.Yes you would be a kid when the film released, I, however, saw it much later on TV so much for an A certificate.
        This reminds me, I had seen Gumnaan at a trial show, it was a rough cut and therefore incomplete. I was a little kid and had very little memory of what I saw. Much later the film had a re-run – those days films had re-runs- I was just 15 then but desperate to see the film, I wasn’t sure I would get the opportunity again, remember there were no videos then and internet was something nobody could dream or think about. I was turned away by the theatre manager, finally we begged him telling him that I very much wanted to see my late father’s film. The manager took pity on me but allowed me in only after my mum and brother gave an undertaking in writing that, if anything happened to me while watching that murder mystery then the management would not be held responsible.
        I feel like laughing now when I watch Gumnaan whenever I want to on the net.– Shilpi


        • :-D Yes, the range of people frequenting this – and some other blogs – is quite varied, isn’t it? From people who are actually senior citizens (not you, Shilpi!) to teenagers. And yes, I’m so glad there are teenagers out there who enoy these old films too.

          Oh, I love your anecdote about watching Gumnaam. And they actually made your mum and brother give an undertaking in writing! LOL.


  5. I love Sharmeelee, partly because, as you point out, SO PRETTY, but also because I find a new layer in it every time I watch. It does have that ick of “modern=bad” but I’m convinced there’s a lot more going on in it as well. It’s really complicated, which I think is well evidenced by the characters having such a hard time figuring out how they should behave. In the end the shy one has to be quite brave – the meek, mute person from the beginning is not the woman who emerges at the end of the film (or gets the guy).

    Plus Kanchan’s wedding night dream where he drops the baby is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.


    • I agree about the layers in the film, Beth. The first time I saw it (admittedly when I was a pre-teen), all I could see was the prettiness and the mush. It’s only when I’ve seen it several times over the years that I’ve begun to notice nuances – especially in Kamini’s character. She starts off being not really a bad girl, just bubbly and modern. It’s only as the film proceeds (and we discover what she’s been through) that she changes – and it isn’t hard to realise that her experiences have hardened her and made her what she is by the end of the film.


  6. Very nice review, Madhu.

    For me Sharmilee has a special association. It was the first movie I ever saw in a film hall outside my own locality.

    We’d gone to Bombay on a holiday This movie had just been released, so we ended up seeing it.

    Reading your review brought back memories of watching it (though I have watched it once after that – many years ago). Oddly, my lasting memory of this movie is actually Narendra Nath. At that time I was used to Pran, Prem Chopra, Madan Puri, Jeevan as villains.

    Here was a new guy – and somehow he seemed more evil to me than the others I’ve just mentioned. I think he deserved to act in many more movies than he actually did – as villain, he was pretty awesome.

    Other than that, yes, the songs. The movie actually belongs to Raakhee, I guess, though Shashi is also very good (he usually is). If I remember right, the second half drags on a bit?

    Others have mentioned some songs. Nobody’s mentioned the title song. And then there’s “kaise kahen hum”, which is also very good – esp the lyrics. Neeraj’s lyrics/poetry have always been a treat.


    • Thank you, Raja – both for the appreciation, and for sharing that association of yours with Sharmeelee! I saw it for the first time on TV, on Doordarshan (which was how I saw most films before 1985).

      I personally don’t think the second half drags, but then, I was too busy drooling to notice. ;-)

      Narendranath was good as a villain, wasn’t he? I thought so too. In my opinion, the fact that he was pretty good-looking seemed to heighten the evil in the characters he played. He doesn’t look evil, as Hindi film villains often were – that sneer, the contrived ugliness, none of that was there.


  7. I saw this ages back on DD. I liked all the songs but the film didn’t leave much of an impact on me at that time and since then have hardly watched it.
    But I think reading your review is much more fun than seeing the film. Enjoyed reading it! Thanks Madhu!


  8. I love the songs of the film. Apart from Khilte hain gul yahan, I love O meri O meri O meri sharmilee. I love the whole food heist thing at the army camp. Rakhee looks so fetching during that scene. Of course, Rakhee looks so beautiful throughout the film. Shashi Kapoor was at his handsomest during this period of his life.

    Lovely review.


    • Thank you, Ava. You know, I can watch this film again and again (and I have done so) just for the sheer gorgeousness of the leads. They’re so wonderful.

      One thing which has puzzled me, though: how come Ajit, when Kanchan’s pretending to be Kamini, never wonders why Kamini (who earlier never wore saris) now only wears saris? Smart chiffons, yes – not traditional cottons or silks – but saris nevertheless.


  9. Loved your review, esp the comments. Yes, Raakhee looked lovely here, and Shashi Kapoor was pure eye candy, delicious enough to eat. The songs were great too, but the story itself was the usual “Modern/college-going/western girls – bad, uneducated/bharatiya/ sari-clad girls – good”, which had me gnashing my teeth even in those days, and this was in ’72. I love your reviews of these masala films, because your comments are just too, too funny!


    • Thank you, Lalitha!

      This “Modern/college-going/western girls – bad, uneducated/bharatiya/ sari-clad girls – good” took a long time to die out, didn’t it? And from what I hear, it’s still not totally gone. Maybe outwardly the look doesn’t matter any more – you can be a good girl, but in jeans or skirts – but it’s the inner girl, the bharatiya naari, who seems to still win onscreen.

      This one, for example, which sounds pretty much along the same lines. Haven’t seen it, but it sounds familiar…


  10. Well, as a kid I used to think this film starred Sharmila Tagore due to the title song! Later after watching some of those early films of Raakhee like Daag, Aankhon Aankhon mein (Rakesh Roshan) ,Banarsi Babu (Dev), etc., I didn’t realise this was the same ‘ever suffering maa’ of another generation.
    Anyway, Raakhee was underrated, her films with Yash Chopra (Doosra aadmi,Trishul,Kaala Pathhar) had her in strong roles and this film seems like another one of those.I have only seen this once and never again, partly due to the bad print of the vcd.
    “one of the very few whom I like also in his 70s avatar—that charm didn’t desert him with time.”
    Completely agree with this, Shashi Kapoor was one, Dharmendra was another one. But Dev Anand remains the only 40+ actor I can tolerate playing a ‘younger’ role post the 70s.


    • “But Dev Anand remains the only 40+ actor I can tolerate playing a ‘younger’ role post the 70s.

      Ah, one point on which we disagree! I agree with you about both Shashi Kapoor and Dharmendra being very likeable in the 70s too, and about Raakhee being an underrated actress (I’ve always thought she was very good as an actress) – but Dev Anand, post Prem Pujari, I find hard to bear! And this from someone who’s a firm fan of his in his earlier films. :-)


  11. Great review. The ‘bad West, good East’ thing as you call it is such a fascination for me – there are so many movies of this era that explore it with varying degrees of seriousness, from Sharmilee to Jab Jab Phool Khile to Evening in Paris and beyond. For that reason I find this movie more intellectually interesting than entertaining. (Although admittedly I haven’t seen it in a very long time. I would like to watch it again, really.)

    I am glad you posted this today. I am enjoying everyone’s tributes to Shashi on his 75th. I posted one myself, of course! He’s one of my all-time favorites too.

    carla (filmi geek)


    • Thanks, Carla! I’m glad you enjoyed this – and I agree that it’s an intellectually interesting film, not merely entertaining (though I wonder if that was the intention, or it just happened as a result of a fairly good screenplay that made an effort to make its characters shades of grey rather than stark black and white). Both Kamini and Kanchan are fascinating in the way they change, one going from good to bad, the other shy to brave.

      Another film along similar lines – twin sisters, one bad (Westernised) and one good (traditional) – is Do Behnen, starring Shyama. It follows a very different storyline, and is more vehement in its disapproval of ‘bad girls’, but there are similarities between the two films.


  12. This was quite a thriller. I enjoyed this film a lot, and loved Raakhee’s different roles. A good actress. THe film is an entertainer through and through.

    >Gold phone? Check.

    Thank you for the interesting review, DO.


    • Thank you, pacifist! Glad you liked it. :-)

      I’d originally started off writing a no-asides review, trying to be good. ;-) Couldn’t help myself, though. The comments sneak in, no matter how hard I try!


  13. Madhu, your reviews are always enjoyable whether I liked the movie or not. I put Sharmeelee in the so-so category, as you have yourself mentioned – nothing great about it. One movie of Shashi Kapoor I really put very high above is Junoon. However Junoon is much more than Shashi Kapoor.


    • Yes, Sharmeelee (while I find it very enjoyable) is certainly quite definitely popular cinema. Junoon is in a different league altogether, and Shashi Kapoor is only one of the many things good about it… (which, actually, is also the case with Sharmeelee).


  14. Madhu,
    Shashi kapoor is one of my favorite actors. In 70s he is regarded as on of the three handsomest heros the other two were Dev anand and Jitendra . His first great hit was jab jab pool kile and later pyar ka mausam haseen maam jayegi Kanyadaan followed and ofcourse many multi starer films later. Having got all that needed to be a super star ha did not become one. Strange ofcourse.
    Your review is good as usual. The music by SD is superb. The picturiasation of song ‘ kilte hai guliyaha’ is simply beautiful . Both Shashi and Rakhee are beautiful people. Unlike hema malini in ‘seetha aur geetha ‘ Rakhee was not sucessful to bring out the contrasting traites in the double role. Not a great movie but enjoyable especially for its music


    • Somehow, when it comes to the 70s, I do not find either Dev Anand or Jeetendra handsome – Dev Anand was over the hill and Jeetendra stopped appealing to me pretty soon after Caravan. For me, the most handsome men of the 70s would be Vinod Khanna and Shashi Kapoor – though Rishi Kapoor was also boyishly handsome in some of his later films from the decade.

      I tend to also disagree about Raakhee not being successful in bringing out the differences in Kamini’s and Kanchan’s characters. As I mentioned in my review, that was one of the things that really appealed to me: her acting. Hema’s acting in Seeta aur Geeta was good, too, but I stand by my assertion that Raakhee did a good job in this film. :-)


      • vinod khanna and shashi kapoor were the most handsome men of the 70s. Rakhee and sharmila are frequently compared i can’t say who is better ??


  15. Dev 40 plus actor
    Dev anand looked young up to Johnny mera naam and prempujari.he was 47 years then and effortlessly stretched to Gmbler and Tere mere sapne. His charm started diminishing from then onwards ofcourse he was past 50 by then. But on thing is indisputable no other actor has this kind of longevity as Dev has.


  16. Like Dharmendra, I think Shashi was a seriously under-rated actor and producer/director. Some of his earlier movies with good directors were awesome (the Merchant-Ivory movies) and a lot of his movies fromt he 80s were sheer brilliance – Kalyug, Utsav, Vijeta. But the teen in me still drools over the Shashi of this period when a smile turned ones knees to jelly.
    Madhu – you just have to do an Ajit movie….. if I cried laughing at your description of what makes a villian here, what, oh what will you do with an Ajit film. (I know the stereotype wasn’t before 70… but I can imagine now, can’t I)


    • I don’t remember seeing any of the 80s’ Shashi films you mention. :-( But I have seen most of his work from the 70s, and most from the 60s too – and yes, he’s totally drool-worthy during the 60s. My favourite film of his from the 60s is Prem Patra, such a great film, and he and Sadhana are so good together. :-)

      An Ajit film? The ‘loin’ type? LOL! I do like Ajit, and have reviewed a couple of his films (Dholak is one of my absolute favourites – and he’s fabulous in it), but no – the stereotype emerged only in the 70s, so I shall have to regretfully decline.


  17. To second Harvey, much better to read your reviews than watch the film!!!. Loved several hilarious comments, especially the one about Kundan’s libido (LOL!!!).
    I don’t know whether it is true, but a story I heard is that Producer Subodh Mukherjee & Producer Nasir Hussain (of Teesri Manzil) fell out. Subodh Mukherjee apparently kept needling Producer Nasir Hussain by creating silly roles for the actor Nazir Hussein, like the one in this movie. Nasir Hussain retaliated by creating the silly fat man character called Sabodh Mukherjee and his silly fat brother called Parbodh Mukherjee (Yaadon Ki Baarat).
    Keep these reviews coming :)))


  18. Wow it feels so good to be back on here after a LOOOONG while, fab review as always. Am i dreaming??? a 1970’s movie on here well i think we’ll have to see more of them at some time anyway, what would happen to this blog when you cover all the films from the 20’s to the 60’s, you’ll have no choice but to start looking at movies from the 70’s ;)

    Happy birthday to the lovely Shashi and I have this movie but I have always denied myself the pleasure of watching it thus far as I know screen capping it will be a big problem as there’s so much eyecandy. I think its time to indulge ;-)


    • And it feels so good to have you back after such a long time! Welcome back. :-)

      Oh, well, even though Sharmeelee is a 70s film, it’s really a 60s one in tone – like Pakeezah, you know, or Prem Pujari: it screams 60s, so if you didn’t know when it was released, you’d probably think it was sometime in the late 60s.

      And no, no chance of me running out of films from between the 20s and the 60s – not for a long, long time! :-D

      Do indulge, please. This is an entertaining film, and Raakhee is very stylish in a lot of scenes. Tell me what you think!


  19. I also would put Shramilee in the category where the review is far better than the film.
    Even as Neeraj did pen poetry, SDB just seems to have performed the motions of composing tunes, except, Megha Chaaye Aadhi Raat.
    Cabret Number, like the two numbers in Jewel Thief, is more the handiwork of the able music arrangers – Manohari Da and Jagmohan.
    Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee were certainly beautiful and looked younger than their age.


  20. Shallow person that I am, I spent “Sharmeelee” drooling at Rakhee’s saris…and I don’t even wear saris!:-) Seriously in a film with so much pretty, those saris still stand out.


    • Her saris are gorgeous, aren’t they? I do wear saris now and then, and these ones – especially that gorgeous black one with the red-and-gold border, when she learns that Ajit wants to marry Kamini, is my favourite. Simply wow. :-)


  21. Shashi Kapoor is spectacular as eye candy, which is one of the reason I went crazy a while back and tried to watch all his films after seeing this one. He looks so handsome as the captain. And Rakhee too! The songs made this movie worth the watch, and the film was entertaining, if kind of overboard.


  22. hahaha, yes, I’m sure his friends weren’t too pleased about his giving up all their food. And it was a really harebrained scheme to try to pass of Kanchan as Kamini… reminds me of when my lating teacher got fired and the school tried to tell us he was sick. Till today they haven’t admitted that he was fired (uhhuh).
    I watched this movie when I was really little, around 7-8, and I remember the part where Shashi throws up the baby in Aaj Madhosh Hua Jaaye Re really freaked me out…and Shashi is so mean to her even when he doesn’t feel like he’s been tricked! Ugh…and of course house wives don’t need past a middle school education. And the modern girl with a Masters turns out to be the bad one…ridiculous.But, not reading into it too much, Sharmilee was good entertainment and fluff. Shashi isn’t one of my favorite actors- though he’s certainly the most attractive, and one of the sweetest! I can’t find Prem Patra everywhere- I’ve tried so hard! What did you think of Aa Gale Lag Jaa?


  23. All life i was confused between who is better sharmila or rakhee. i watched megha chaye aadhi raat bairan bun guyi nindya. i think rakhee is better at least in emotional scenes and dramatic ones. i have watched trishna. rakhee’s face shows build up of tension and fear very aptly. body language supports this. sharmila becomes Over the top. i find her better in happy scenes. she shows her usual self , showing confidence.


      • i like sharmila ji in hrishikesh mukherjee movies only. she once said in old interview that shakti samata feels the actor do not need any guidance to do the scene. so actor has a bit of difficulty. i don’t like her in aradhna at all.


        • Her roles in most of Shakti Samanta’s films were usually not anything exceptional. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, on the other hand, used to bring out nuances in characters that made you really identify with them. All the way from Anupama to something as diametrically opposite as Chupke-Chupke.


  24. my most painful shashi ji moment was aa galey lag jaa. he fighting on skaters. typical manmohan desai . compromising intellect and common sense that one needs physical relation to save themselves from cold. i don’t like aa galey lagg jaa at all.


  25. Idk why, but I realized that most films that released in ’71, ’72 or even as late as ’73 can sometimes be confused for the 60s. I remember watching Caravan thinking it was a 60’s movie, but was kinda shocked to see it come out as late as 71. This could apply for most decades. It’s probably just me though.


    • I know just what you mean! Several films – this one, Caravan, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Tum Haseen Main Jawaan, etc – are very 60s. As someone recently commented on another blog post, that’s probably because story lines didn’t change much (until we hit the mid-70s and AB’s angry young man came into play), but I think in these cases, the music and the fashions had a lot to do with that impression – the music in some of these was very 60s, and the flared bell bottoms and huge floral prints of the 70s hadn’t yet appeared in these films, or at least not in a big way.


      • I guess 1969-1983 can be classified as one gigantic era – the ’70’s.

        November 1969 – January 1973 (60s 70s transition / Rajesh Khanna era)

        This phase begins with Aradhana’s success and ends with Rajesh Khanna getting married to Dimple. Aradhana’s success signifies an end to the 60s sugarcoated hill-station romances, and paves a way for melodramas.

        January 1973 – October 1978 (Core 70s / Hema Malini era – Hema Malini was bigger than Amitabh and Dharam during this period)

        The releases of Zanjeer and Bobby start a new era. This is obviously Hema Malini’s era with several hits. Ends with the release of Muqaddar Ka Sikandar where Amitabh Bachchan displaces Hema Malini in popularity.

        November 1978 – February 1983 (70s 80s transition – Amitabh Bachchan era)

        Amitabh Bachchan’s superstardom signifies the start of a new mini-era and ends with the release of Himmatwala. The success of Himmatwala paves the way for crass Madras masalas


  26. Here’s a more detailed take:

    Early 70’s: November 1969 – March 1973

    * Phase 1: November 1969 – October 1970:

    A very late 60s time. Rajesh Khanna rises to humongous stardom with consecutive hits. Jeetendra, Manoj Kumar and Dharmendra are not too far behind with a few hits here and there. The main 60’s trio: Shammi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar still dish out a few films though they are slowly fading into oblivion. Bengali-style melodramas such as Aradhana, Do Raaste and Safar come in this time. Several 70’s faces: Amitabh, Shatru, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra make their debut as character actors around this phase. Another 70’s face, Raakhee makes her debut.

    * Phase 2: November 1970 – December 1971:

    A time that consists of both late 60’s and early 70’s influences. Dev Anand’s Johny Mera Naam gives Bollywood a new superstar in the name of Hema Malini. Though she had Sharafat and Tum Haseen Main Jawaan with Dharam earlier, this film catapults her to immense stardom. Rajesh Khanna reaches his peak with average films like Haathi Mere Saathi, Andaz, Kati Patang and Aan Milo Sajana becoming humongous hits. Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar are on their last legs as heroes paving way for a new generation. Dev Anand arrives in a slicker avatar. 70’s faces such as Amitabh, Shatru and Vinod make their breakthroughs through films such as Anand, Mera Gaon Mera Desh and Mere Apne respectively.

    * Phase 3: January 1972 – March 1973:

    A very early 70s era. Rajesh Khanna’s superstardom is slowly on the wane with films like Amar Prem and Bawarchi barely becoming hits. Apna Desh and Dushman are his only hits in this era. Shatrughan Sinha arrives with a bang as a stylized villain in films such as Bhai Ho To Aisa and Raampur Ki Lakshman. Hema Malini becomes a superstar with Seeta Aur Geeta. While Shammi Kapoor permanently retires, Rajendra Kumar delivers his last hit as a leading man and Sunil Dutt and Shashi Kapoor are pretty much out of the race. Another new face, Zeenat Aman arrives and changes the popular image of an Indian woman.

    Core 70s: March 1973 – October 1978

    * Phase 1: March 1973 – May 1975:

    A time of immense change. This phase begins the Bollywood 70s as we now know it. Amitabh’s Zanjeer despite becoming a super hit, changes the face of the Indian hero. His Namak Haraam and Deewaar are also released during this period, and pave the way for a new era and a new hero. Parveen Babi makes her debut with Majboor and Deewaar, and along with Zeenat, she changes the heroine’s image from a virtuous sati-savitri to a flawed vamp-like character. Dharmendra hits his peak while being cast alongside Hema in several potboilers. Rajesh Khanna gets married leaving several broken-hearted females behind while delivering a few modest hits. Several 60’s faces such as Shashi, Jeetendra and Sunil Dutt make a comeback in a different avatar by growing sideburns and their hair. Bell-bottoms arrive and dominates the fashion scene for about a decade or so. Multi-starrers are another trend that

    * Phase 2: June 1975 – April 1977:

    An era characterized by the emergency period. This period also begins with the release of Sholay, a film which shatters all records and paves the way for a new era of Bollywood films: all action, song and dance. Rajesh Khanna slowly loses his fans to Amitabh due to the former unleashing insipid fare. The Dharam-Hema pair reaches their peak during this era. Dharmendra’s last blockbusters are also released during this period.

    * Phase 3: May 1977 – October 1978:

    Amitabh Bachchan eclipses Dharmendra from the superstar throne with films like AAA, Parvarish, Trishul, Don and MKS. Hema Malini also gives her last hits with films such as Dream Girl. After this era, she more or less becomes reliant on Amitabh to stay relevant. This era is more or less defined as the peak of the multi-starrer era.

    Late 70s: November 1978 – February 1983

    * Phase 1: November 1978 – March 1980:

    This is Amitabh Bachchan’s era. Films that are released during this time slowly deteriorate in terms of quality. 80’s faces like Mithun Chakraborty, Raj Babbar and Farooque Sheikh and Tina Munim make their debut. Jeetendra also makes a comeback as a solo hero in several Madras melodramas. Seeds of the disco culture are also formed in this era.

    * Phase 2: March 1980 – July 1982:

    This era is more or less defined by what I would call the waning of the expensive multi-starrer extravaganza. Costly ventures like The Burning Train, Shaan and Rajput bomb at the box office. Kranti is the only costly multi-starrer that becomes a hit. This era also mark’s the end of the Salim-Javed era. Cinema from this point onwards starts to seem crude in quality. The disco phenomenon rises with Nazia Hassan becoming a huge star via Qurbani. Namak Halaal and countless other films capitalize on the disco mania. Ek Duuje Ke Liye’s success paves the way for several South remakes. Several 80’s faces also become huge stars, e. g. Kumar Gaurav, Sanjay Dutt.

    * Phase 3: July 1982 – February 1983

    Amitabh Bachchan’s accident marks the end of an era. His accident not only translates into huge losses for the industry, but also paves the way for a dark era. Mithun Chakraborty takes disco to a new level. 70’s formula dies in this era with Himmatwala becoming a huge success. A new star, Sridevi arrives and snatches the throne from Hema Malini. Several 70’s stars such as Raakhee and Hema end up in character roles.


    • I don’t want to start an argument but I think the true feel of any decade starts in the ‘5’ year. Sangam, despite having scenes in Europe is still more or less a 50’s film probably because it was Raj Kapoor’s last success as a leading man. Similarly how Roti, in my mindset is a 60’s film despite releasing in ’74. Rajesh Khanna, is more of a 60’s star. But then to each to his or her own, I guess.


  27. Just curious, where exactly would you place the boundary between the 60s and the 70s. I would probably place it around 1972 or so. It seems to be a year where films of both 60s and 70s influences existed. Seeta Aur Geeta and Gora Aur Kala are more 70s while films like Amar Prem, Pakeezah, Bombay to Goa and Bawarchi seem to have a more subdued, muted 60s feel.


    • It’s hard to put an exact year to it, because there are films from later years – beyond 1972 – which feel as if they were from the 60s (Loafer, for one) and there are films from even as early as 1970 which seem markedly different from most of their contemporaries (Khilona, Dastak). But I would agree with your suggestion of 1972 as a good enough watershed: I think the majority of films by this year had a distinct feel to them that was very different in tone and look than films of the 60s.


  28. That was a lovely review of a lovely movie , Madhu ! Sharmeelee was a good looking film.. The main stars were awesome, the scenery, the sets , the clothes, everything in it was so beautiful . Raakhee looks so astonishingly gorgeous in this one , and she’s acted well too. I agree with you that her body language, her tone of voice , her hairstyles and her dresses , change so effectively when she’s playing Kamini versus Kanchan. Though Kanchan does appear bovine and zombie like at times. During my early days I NEVER paid attention to the heroes , except Shammi Kapoor , who was my favorite. So I missed Shashi’s good looks here. It was only when I watched the movie several times later that I realized that he too was very handsome. Similarly Dharmendra’s Greek God looks were lost upon me earlier, now he’s my favorite star !
    Raakhee is one of my favorite heroines. Her subtle make up, her flawless skin and her stylish dress sense and her eyes all are added attractions. And she never overacted , unlike almost all Bengali actresses { here I’m ducking to avoid brickbats from Bengali movie goers ! }. She was awesome in her later character roles.too..
    Subodh Mukherji, the producer must have wanted to showcase this new actress in a big way and he was successful. But unfortunately after some years Raakhee let her figure go and was relegated to supporting roles. Samir Ganguly’s direction was excellent here and the airport scenes in the last part were excellent., To be honest I only liked the feisty, and oh so glamorous Kamini, especially when she wore slinky gowns and languorously smoked cigarettes with her eye make up smudged , and then hurriedly threw away the lipstick lined butt and sprayed herself lavishly with perfume
    {Estee Lauder’s “Private Collection” was her favorite ! } when Shashi Kapoor arrived unexpectedly !
    When Raakhee’s contract with Mukherji expired she was hijacked by a lot of other directors, Mostly cosmopolitan. Whereas Sharmila and Jaya Bhaduri were usually promoted by the Bengali film makers of Hindi Cinema . { Being bitchy again !! } No. no, I’m not biased the BEST movie makers, writers and directors ,editors and so on are undoubtedly from Bengal. The great Bimal Roy, though and Hrishikesh Mukherji were not so clannish at all.
    All in all this was a very insightful review of yours. Do give more ” Lists I”ve Made” too.


    • I thoroughly enjoyed reading that comment. I love the way your enthusiasm shines through in your words!

      Reading about Raakhee letting herself go in later years reminded me of something that brought home that realization to me – in 1977, she acted opposite Rishi Kapoor in Doosra Aadmi, as an older woman but not drastically older (and she looked very stylish in places, especially in songs like Door nikal jaayein):

      And just five years later, she played his mother in Yeh Vaada Raha. It is a reflection of what short screen lives actresses used to have in Hindi cinema as leading ladies, but the fact that she also looks fairly acceptable as the mother is a sad reminder that Raakhee really did lose that glamorous look pretty quickly.


  29. I’m having problems with my password, hence that previous message, like Mike testing, testing ! Yeah, it was a pity that Raakhee had to play Rishi Kapoor’s mother in “Ye Vaada Raha” with artificial silver streaks in her hair , after looking so stylish and not so old in “Doosra Aadmi “. And don’t you think that “Ye Vaada Raha” Looked like a prolonged commercial for “Fair and lovely” cream ? All the main characters, including Shammi Kapoor, looked so fair and bright !


    • Heh! Yes, Everybody was so fair and bright in that film. :-) I still like it, though – actually more enjoyable than The Promise, on which it was based. Plus I love the title song.


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