Nasir Hussain, as someone (he himself?) once remarked, came to Bombay with one story in his briefcase, and made out of it one blockbuster after another. The story of a son, separated by circumstances from one parent and going through various ups and downs (including falling for the distant parent’s foster offspring, being impersonated by a crook, etc) before the happy ending, was one that was played out in Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Deke Dekho, Phir Wohi Dil Laaya and Pyaar ka Mausam.
But, contrary to popular belief, Nasir Hussain was by no means a one-trick pony. He had other plot elements up his sleeve as well, and they appear now and then sporadically in various films. The ‘couple promised to each other as children’ trope is one [which always ends up with the couple—completely unaware of having been ‘betrothed’ in childhood, even sight unseen—falling in love with each other]. Another was the hero being [mistakenly, of course] believed to have killed a sister [or sister figure] of the heroine’s, after having played fast and loose with her—this, naturally, causing serious heartache and betrayal for the heroine until she realizes that her beloved couldn’t possibly do something so heinous.
Then there was Rajendranath in drag. And the tyrannical father [not in drag, I hasten to add; merely present as an important and irritating part of the company]. And the hero, for no good reason, posing as someone else. And lots of good songs. Plus, a more or less guaranteed chance of being entertained. You may not come away from a Nasir Hussain film enlightened or fired up with socialist zeal or anything of the sort, but you’d almost certainly come away at least entertained.
Which is really what Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai is all about. More about the good [plenty], the bad [not much, and that forgivable] and the ugly [Rajendranath in a frilly dress] later, but for now, let’s get into the story…
…which begins at the house of the wealthy Sardar Roop Singh (Mubarak) in a fictitious place called Neelgaon. Roop Singh’s daughter Nisha (a lovely Asha Parekh) and his sister (Dulari, who spends most of her time knitting throughout the film—she must have really caught up) are watching on, unseen, as Roop Singh is nasty to a woman who’s come visiting. This is Malti (Sulochana Latkar), and from the bitter conversation between them, it is obvious to the two eavesdroppers that:
(a) Like proper true friends, Malti and Nisha’s mother had promised that their offspring would get married when they grew up;
(b) stemming from (a): Malti has brought up her son Sundar in the belief that he will one day marry Nisha, and so he has, since childhood, nurtured the thought of this girl he has never even seen [my nephew, at age 6, firmly declared: “ I’m never going to get married!” In other words, he will never be a Hindi film hero].
But Sardar Roop Singh—even if he was once poor and a bad match, and Nisha’s long-dead mother married him in the teeth of severe opposition from her parents—is now a prosperous man. He is brusque and tells Malti off. This marriage is a pipe dream of hers and his dead wife’s.
Malti leaves, and Nisha, curious about her father’s motive for refusing the match, asks her aunt. That, says Auntie, going purl and knit like a pro, is because he has already decided on a groom for Nisha.
The man in question is Sardar Roop Singh’s right hand man, Sohan (Pran). Nisha doesn’t say much about whether or not she likes Sohan [or whether or not she likes her life decided for her in this arbitrary fashion], and the scene shifts to Sohan coming in to meet Sardar Roop Singh.
Roop Singh mentions to Sohan that Nisha and some of her college friends are going to Darjeeling to participate in some event [where would a Nasir Hussain film be without that happening?], and Roop Singh has decided he’ll accompany them. Because there’s a man called Popatlal [whom, conveniently, Roop Singh has never met] who is also coming to Darjeeling. Popatlal’s father had leased some land to Roop Singh; the father’s died, and now Popatlal is the heir, and since the lease is coming to an end, Roop Singh wants to meet Popatlal in person and extend the lease. Roop Singh tells Sohan that he’s been corresponding with Popatlal on this matter, and the man seems unwilling. Coaxing him is going to take some doing.
Nisha, who’s been listening in, decides to jump in here. She tells her father that he should stay on in Neelgaon and attend to his work here; she will go to Darjeeling, track down Popatlal, and wheedle him into coming to Neelgaon, where her papa can work his charm [if he has any, though Nisha does not appear to take this factor into consideration].
So Nisha lands up in Darjeeling…
… as does Sundar (Dev Anand), who has, of course, been told by his mother Malti of her fruitless mission to Sardar Roop Singh.
Sundar’s friend (Ram Avtar, who appears only briefly) has shown Sundar a programme sheet which coincidentally [where would Hindi cinema—and not just Nasir Hussain—be without coincidences?] features Nisha and her upcoming dance in Darjeeling. Sundar decides he should take a chance on Nisha’s falling for him, so he goes off with his pal to Darjeeling.
As is to be expected, one long and goggle-eyed look at Nisha and her dancing, and Sundar is completely smitten. So much so that he lurks about behind the bushes (with friend in tow) after the programme, watching Nisha and her friends leave. This is how he gets to discover the Popatlal angle to Nisha’s arrival in Darjeeling, and the fact that Nisha doesn’t know this Popatlal from Adam. He also overhears Nisha say that she’s already made an appointment to meet Popatlal at 9 AM; he will be coming to her hotel room.
Impersonating another man being the first step to getting a girl to fall for you, Sundar turns up just before 9 AM the next morning. Nisha, expecting someone quite different, is pretty much bowled over. After some initial gawping at this ‘Popatlal’ [“My friends call me Monto,” Sundar tells her, which to me isn’t much of an improvement], Nisha pretends to regain her cool and tries to show him who’s boss.
In the midst of all this, there’s a phone call, and Sundar [smart cookie that he is] realizes this is probably the real Popatlal. He tells Nisha he’d asked to be called here, and takes the call, telling off the man at the other end. Who is, as Sundar had rightly surmised, Popatlal (Rajendranath, dressed in a frock for no reason that I can see). Sundar succeeds in letting Popatlal know he’s not welcome, while giving Nisha the impression that this is some old friend he’s chatting with.
There’s now some unnecessary [if you think song and dance unnecessary] plot elements involving Nisha competing in a dance; Nisha and Sundar hitching a ride in a truck and being drugged by the crooked truck driver to steal Sundar’s wallet; and Sundar and Nisha singing all over a misty hillside.
All said and done, Sundar and Nisha take the train from Darjeeling to Neelgaon, as do Popatlal and his secretary. Sundar manages to convince both Nisha and Popatlal that the other’s loony [a trope which got repeated in Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon], with the result that Popatlal—initially in the same compartment as Sundar and Nisha—runs away into another compartment before Nisha even realizes who he is. Sundar has a tiff with Nisha, sings, makes up, and generally arrives in Neelgaon happy and contented.
And unaware, as Wodehouse would have put it, that fate was waiting in the wings, cosh in hand, waiting to let loose.
Because, while Nisha is taking Sundar/Monto home (her father is away for a few days, so she—suitably chaperoned by Auntie—will have this man all to herself), Sohan is meeting a certain Khanna (Raj Mehra, who could look as sinister as the best of them). He hands over some money to Khanna, who hints at spilling the beans if he doesn’t get the rest of the money within three months’ time. Blackmail is in the air.
When Sohan’s subordinate (who’s witnessed it all) asks Sohan what this was all about, Sohan is quick to get it off his chest. A year and a half ago, he explains, one of Nisha’s friends, Shanti, had come to stay with Nisha. Shanti and Sohan got acquainted—a little too well. When Shanti told Sohan she was pregnant, he managed to pack her off to Calcutta. Then, when she kept pushing to get married, he went to meet her at the Calcutta hotel where she was staying.
Shanti told him that she was very happy he’d finally agreed to make an honest woman of her, and, in her happiness, had written to Nisha, telling her everything. The letter, she said, had been handed over to the hotel manager, to be posted the next day. Sohan therefore did what any self-serving creep in this position would be expected to do: he stabbed Shanti—and was seen through the keyhole by the manager, Khanna [I’ve worked in the hospitality industry too, and this willingness to brand all hotel employees as blackmailers, keyhole-peerers and worse is beyond me. Who has the time?!]
Soon after, Khanna confronted Sohan, told him he had kept that incriminating letter, and that he’d seen the whole thing. So Sohan had better pay well to keep Khanna’s mouth shut. Which is what Sohan’s been doing.
Now for one of those crazy coincidences no Nasir Hussain film can ever be complete without. Sundar, now settling down in the room Nisha’s allocated to him, opens the cupboard—and finds, at the bottom of it, a framed photograph of Shanti.
We switch to flashback, and it turns out that the very day Sohan murdered Shanti, Sundar was staying in the same hotel, in a nearby room. Khanna, to help Sohan escape, took it upon himself to frame Sundar—by planting Sundar’s photo in Shanti’s suitcase [how he got hold of Sundar’s obviously posed photo is left unexplained] and by planting Rs 5,000 in Sundar’s suitcase, which he told the police he’d overheard Sundar demanding from Shanti.
Sundar was arrested and tried, but eventually acquitted, because he had a good alibi: he had been attending a friend’s wedding, and there were plenty of people to vouch for his being elsewhere.
In the middle of these reminiscences, Nisha comes by. Sundar asks her, cautiously, whose picture this is. Nisha tells him what had happened and is vehement in expressing her belief that the man who was tried but let off was indeed guilty. She doesn’t know his name or what he looked like [odd, considering she seems to have followed the case closely], but if someday she comes across him, she’s going to choke the life out of him with her own hands.
Uh-oh. This does not look good.
But things, of course, this being a Nasir Hussain film, will end happily. There will necessarily be many more twists and turns and convoluted coincidences, but the walk into the sunset is a given.
What I liked about this film:
The general paisa-vasool satisfaction of it. Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai may not be brilliant cinema: it has no great message, the acting is fine but not memorable, and some of those coincidences are completely crazy—but still. The point is, it’s got plenty going for it. The eye candy is exceptional, with both Dev Anand and Asha Parekh looking fabulous:
… and the overall scripting being well-paced and fast-moving enough to keep you going. If you’ve seen enough of this sort of Hindi film from the 50s and 60s, you can pretty much see what’s coming, so it’s not unpredictable, in that sense: but the ride, even though you know the destination, is still very enjoyable.
What I didn’t like:
Rajendranath, in a frock. With frills. Why? There’s also a sticking-out-like-a-sore-thumb Arab (played by Wasti) who owns a mining outfit in the hills near Neelgaon, which sounds very tall to me. Plus, there’s a secondary impersonation angle which was completely unnecessary and leads nowhere.