Rajendra Kumar is one of those actors whom I’ve repeatedly mentioned as ‘not being one of my favourites’. Saira Banu, beyond her first few films (notably, Junglee and Shaadi), I find too shrill for my liking. Despite the fact that these two star in Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan, it remains one film I like a good deal—because it has such an unusual story.
A story to which there’s a brief nod in the first scene. Sanjay (Rajendra Kumar) and Priya (Saira Banu) meet in what looks like an obviously ‘indoor set’ representation of a cliff. There’s a little banter, she insisting that he’s irritating her with his wooing, he professing his love for her and asserting that he could do anything for her—even give up his life. Priya eggs him on: yes, please. Go ahead. Show us.
So Sanjay jumps off the edge of the cliff. And Priya, who hadn’t been expecting this at all, is so horrified and heartbroken that she jumps off too. Moments later, they find themselves together. In heaven [which looks like a skating rink with lots of mist and odd plants crafted from pink-dyed chicken feathers]. Sanjay reassures Priya that they will now be together for all eternity; nothing and nobody can come between them. What bliss!
This, though, is nothing but a dream. Sanjay (who’s been dreaming it all) is rudely woken by his friend and roommate Hanuman Singh (Rajendranath). Hanuman is fretting about two creditors who’re due to come today. From the conversation that ensues, it emerges that Sanjay and Hanuman live in Darjeeling, and that:
(a) Sanjay is a tourist guide, these days driving around, in his jeep, a group of young women, of whom one, Priya, fascinates him [yes, this is one of those odd films where a man actually dreams of a girl—recognizable face and all—after having seen her, not as a sneak preview]
(b) Sanjay’s love for Priya has made him shy of asking for the payment due for his services as a guide and driver; and
(c) Hanuman, who works at his uncle’s store as an assistant, is thoroughly miffed by Sanjay’s wishy-washiness
Sure enough, the two creditors (one of whom is played by Ram Avtar) turn up. When Hanuman makes his escape by vanishing into the bathroom, Sanjay gives the two men some rigmarole about Hanuman having gotten engaged (he even offers them some sweets as proof). This, of course, convinces the men that Hanuman must be solvent, since you don’t go about plunging into matrimony if you aren’t… they let Sanjay drive off in his jeep, and wait for Hanuman to emerge.
Sanjay soon collects the girls from their hostel, and as he’s driving away with them, the two creditors come chasing after in their jeep. There’s a mad chase, and Sanjay shakes them off only with great difficulty. (It later emerges that these two men beat up Hanuman after discovering that he couldn’t pay them).
We now have an extended (but surprisingly fairly funny) episode involving Hanuman, Sanjay, Priya, the lady (Sulochana aka Ruby Myers) who runs the hostel in which Priya lives, and a cupboard. The Sulochana character (she’s only referred to as ‘Madame’ by the girls) comes to Hanuman’s uncle’s shop, where Sanjay, who’s come to meet his pal, passes himself off as an employee and sells her a fine cupboard.
This is all very good for Hanuman, because his uncle has been threatening to fire him if he doesn’t sell something substantial soon—but uncle mustn’t know that Sanjay (and not Hanuman) sold the cupboard. To hide from the very pleased Mamaji who comes out from his office to meet Madame, Sanjay ducks into the cupboard. And finds himself inadvertently locked into it by Mamaji.
Much happens: the cupboard (with Sanjay in it) is transported to the hostel, where it’s put in Priya’s room. She begins shoving her clothes and jewellery in it, comes upon Sanjay, and then has to shut it again because someone comes along. Much adventure and frantic to-ing and fro-ing follows.
Hanuman, having realized that Sanjay is in the cupboard, comes to rescue him, and both he and Priya end up trying to make the other believe that the cupboard’s empty.
By the time they open the cupboard, Sanjay collapses in Hanuman’s arms, and Hanuman is convinced that his poor friend has copped it. [Another nod to death lurking].
The end result, however, is that Priya and Sanjay confess their love for each other. All is well.
But fate is standing in the wings, cudgel in hand.
We now have a quick change of scene, to a room in Calcutta, where the cops have come to arrest an old gentleman, Shankarlal (Gajanan Jagirdar). He protests that he’s innocent, but his hard-eyed and cold accuser, Prem (Prem Chopra) is not moved. He tells Shankarlal that his elder brother TK knows of Shankarlal’s embezzlement, and is the one who has made this accusation. Shankarlal is taken away by the policemen…
… and, back in Darjeeling, Madame gives Priya a telegram. It’s from Priya’s father in Calcutta; he’s summoned her home urgently. Priya is very worried, and wants to leave immediately. It will mean getting driven all the way from Darjeeling to Bagdogra, from where she can catch a flight to Calcutta, and there’s too little time even for that. Madame tries to stop her, but Priya goes rushing off to Sanjay, to ask for help.
Sanjay drives her to Bagdogra, the drive a hair-raising one with much screeching of tires and many close calls, but they get there just as the plane’s doors are about to be shut. Priya manages to get on the flight, and Sanjay, heading back to Darjeeling, is relieved and happy enough to sing a song as he drives. [It’s not a good idea to combine singing, Hindi film style, with driving, as we shall see].
Going around a corner, he runs into a truck coming the other way. Sanjay swerves madly. The jeep goes off the mountain, tumbling down into the crevasse. Sanjay gets thrown out, and as he lies there bleeding into the grass, a mysterious [not to mention sort of translucent] black-clad figure materializes, helps him up [or, rather, a Sanjay double, also mysteriously translucent now] and takes him away.
Not to heaven, but to an intermediate sorting office of kinds, where long queues of people move slowly forward. It takes Sanjay some time to come to terms with the fact that he’s dead, and when he does, he still refuses to believe that that’s it. It wasn’t even his fault, for pity’s sakes! It was the truck driver’s!
Amidst all this commotion and Sanjay’s protests, a benevolent angel-administrator, Swamiji (David Abraham) arrives, and Sanjay turns to him with his grievances.
Swamiji gives Sanjay a patient hearing and has his case looked up in the case files of the department. Who is he? Who was his father? Sanjay is asked. Much confusion ensues when it’s discovered that the Yamdoot has brought the wrong man by mistake (the Yamdoot admits that this is his first time in this department; before this he worked for the animal department, and was responsible for bringing the souls of cats and dogs).
That’s your department’s problem, raves Sanjay. What about me?! Swamiji calms him down and says he’ll be escorted back to Earth immediately and returned to his body.
Unfortunately, when they arrive in Darjeeling, it is to find that Sanjay’s body has already been cremated, and Hanuman is sitting and mourning his poor dead friend.
Now this is a situation even Swamiji doesn’t know how to deal with [and Sanjay is getting very irate indeed]. So Sanjay is quickly taken back up to Yamlok and presented to the Mahabali [to whom Sanjay gives a piece of his mind; their department, he tells them, has made a mess of things, so they’d better sort this out]. The sages—after some deliberation, and with many interjections by Sanjay—reach one conclusion: Sanjay’s soul can be put into the body of the man who was originally supposed to have died. After all, they both look exactly the same. And anyway, it’s not the body or the face that matters, but the soul; his near and dear ones will still recognize the soul.
Sanjay is reluctant, but has little choice. So Swamiji takes him to Calcutta, and to the house where the man in question, TK [recognize that name?], lives.
Meanwhile, Priya has met her father in the lockup, and he, despairing, has told her it’s no use. TK has so much clout and wields so much influence that there’s no hope of Shankarlal proving his innocence. Priya insists; she will go and meet TK and try to reason with him.
Priya, therefore, goes to meet TK’s brother, Prem, to seek an appointment with TK. Prem realizes Priya might be a handy tool to further his own ambitions, so he tells her that TK will meet her at his home at 7 that evening.
That fateful evening, Sanjay and Swamiji (both, of course, invisible to human eyes) arrive in TK’s study just as Prem sneakily shoots a bullet into TK’s back. TK keels over, dead as the dodo, and shortly after, Priya arrives. Prem lets her into the room and leaves her alone, and Priya, thinking TK is asleep, tries to wake him by giving him a shake—and has the corpse (of which she hasn’t seen the face) flop right over. Much strident shrieking [Saira Banu is good at this] follows.
Prem, who’s been waiting for this, quickly captures Priya and accuses her of TK’s murder. He phones for the police.
In the meantime, Swamiji tells Sanjay that this is his chance to save Priya. After all, if TK should get up and prove he’s alive, there won’t be any case against Priya. Sanjay agrees, and when the inspector (Jagdish Raj) arrives, he enters the study to find TK alive and well [Prem hasn’t bothered to even look at the back of TK’s dressing gown to check for a bullet hole, which is just as well, because there isn’t one]. Priya is released with apologies, and a bemused Prem makes himself scarce.
Sanjay now has to get used to being in the body of TK. Of being, in essence, someone he does not resemble at all in anything except form. As he discovers over the course of the next few hours, TK couldn’t be more unlike the ‘good’, simple Sanjay. This is a man who is woken up every morning by a scantily dressed maid who massages him awake; who has champagne for breakfast…
… who is a gambler, a race-course addict, a party animal [of the risqué party type] and has been having an affair with his pretty secretary Rita (Praveen Choudhary, looking very chic).
… and who has estranged just about everybody who truly cares for him, including his butler Devi Lal (Brahm Bhardwaj), his driver Ram Das (Krishan Dhawan), and especially his old grandmother (Durga Khote).
Worst of all, though, is that TK is the man who wrongly accused Shankarlal of embezzlement, and whom Priya therefore loathes. Loathes so deeply and with such intensity that it’s going to be difficult to convince her that underneath that shell lies the soul and the spirit of Sanjay.
What I liked about this film:
The overall plot, which is so different from the ‘usual’ Hindi film. The entire premise of a dead man’s spirit returning to Earth in another’s body (even if they are lookalikes) is refreshingly different from the run-of-the-mill melodrama/suspense film/masala flick. Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan is masala, true: but masala of an unusual blend.
Some of the songs (with music by Shankar-Jaikishan). While none of the songs of Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan are outright bad, a few of them are especially good. My two favourites are the title song (which keeps getting repeated, often with the tune being just whistled rather than sung, throughout the film) and Unse mili nazar.
Prayag Raj’s dialogues for Rajendranath, which manage to be punny and fun. Here’s a sampling:
Hanuman Singh: Paise laaya? (Did you get the money?)
Sanjay: Nahin, yaar. (No, pal)
Hanuman: Kyon? (Why?)
Sanjay: Kya bataaoon, dost. Aaj ishq ne phir zubaan band kar di. (How shall I put it, friend? Today, again, love sealed my lips)
Hanuman: Arre, aaj zubaan band kar di hai, kal dukaan band ho jaayegi! (What?! Today it sealed your lips, tomorrow it’ll seal our shop!)
Ram Das: Chaliye, TK Sahib aapka intezaar kar rahe hain. (Come, TK Sahib is waiting for you)
Hanuman: TK? Kaunse teeke? Mata ke ya cholera ke? (Teeke? [A pun; a vaccination is called a ‘teeka’ in Hindi] For what? Smallpox or cholera?)
Ram Das: Ji! Aapke bachpan ke [Sanjay/TK has told Ram Das that Hanuman is his childhood friend]. (Sir? From your childhood!)
Hanuman: Bachpan ke? Woh toh maine lagvaaye thhe. (From my childhood? But I’ve already had those)
What I didn’t like:
The way the film falls flat in the last half-hour or so. It’s not as if it’s really awful, but it just doesn’t succeed in fulfilling the promise of the earlier part of the film. Director Lekh Tandon and writer Omkar Sahib let the story fall into the usual trap of blackmail, murder, and rather shortsighted villainy, leading to a hurried and unconvincing resolution.
Still, despite that, a film worth seeing, if only for the offbeat theme. I might have liked this more if the hero had been played by someone (Shashi Kapoor, perhaps?) other than Rajendra Kumar, but even then, it’s entertaining enough—and one of the few films where I really don’t mind Rajendra Kumar.
Little bit of trivia:
Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan is a remake of the 1941 film Here Comes Mr Jordan.