Some weeks back, in commemoration of the birthday of Hema Malini, Anu (at Conversations Over Chai) did a post on the actress, listing some of her best roles. Reading that post, I could not help but remember some of my favourite roles of Hema Malini’s. Many, of course, were the type that Anu covered in her post: roles that showed off Hema’s skill as an actress, roles which had her portraying strong-willed, humorous, interestingly unusual, or just plain old feisty females. But to my mind came also roles that were more of Hema as eye candy. And thinking of that—and of Dharmendra, so inseparable from Hema, really—I could not help but think of Tum Haseen Main Jawaan.
Some to-and-fro of comments on Anu’s posts ended up in a joint decision to do a simultaneous Dharam-Hema Double Bill. Anu has written up her review of another early Dharmendra-Hema entertainer (the delightful Raja Jani), which you can read over here, at her blog. Mine, also a review of a Dharmendra-Hema film that was outright entertainment (especially with both of them looking pretty much at their best), is what follows.
Dharmendra and Hema Malini co-starred for the first time in Sharafat (1970), where he played a conscientious teacher who (like Sunil Dutt in Nartakee) meets and falls in love with a dancing girl. The two of them went on to work in a total of 28 films (getting married along the way, in 1979), but in the same year that Sharafat was released, they also co-starred in Tum Haseen Main Jawaan, an entertaining film about an heiress on the run with her sister’s baby.
The story begins with the reading of the will of a wealthy old man who’s recently died. Among those present is the dead man’s nephew, Ranjeet (Pran) and Ranjeet’s wife Gina (Helen). Since Ranjeet’s cousin—the dead man’s only son—had married a woman named Gayatri against his father’s wishes and had consequently been disinherited, Ranjeet is certain that all that moolah is going to be coming his way.
But no. To Ranjeet’s shock, in his will Uncle forgives his son and leaves all his wealth—barring a few minor bequests here and there to faithful servants, including Rs 25,000 to Ranjeet—to the son. And, in the event of the son dying, to his child. Ranjeet is furious, and even though Gina attempts to calm him down, he isn’t listening. There is, however, one clause in this will that gives Ranjeet hope [and, worse than hope, an idea]: if Gayatri is not able to bring her child to the executors of the will by February 12, 1970, the money will be Ranjeet’s.
It turns out that Gayatri, a widow (her husband died recently) is actually due to deliver right now. She’s in the Cochin National Hospital, along with her father (Iftekhar) and her younger sister Anuradha (Hema Malini, looking pretty as a picture). Daddy and Anuradha are worried: they know about the clause in the will and have figured out that Gayatri’s baby is not safe from Ranjeet. The doctor reassures them: they’ve done what they can to throw Ranjeet off the scent. For one, Gayatri has been registered at the hospital not under her own name, but as Anuradha.
This, obviously, is not enough for a criminal of the likes of Ranjeet, who has one of his minions get on Gayatri’s trail immediately. Gina, who has a baby of her own and is both a doting mother as well as a cabaret dancer [I find that such a refreshing combination for Hindi cinema], tells Ranjeet to give up. It’s not as if they need the money; they’re happy as they are… but, as usual, Ranjeet’s not listening.
Meanwhile, Gayatri’s baby—a boy—is born, and the doctor comes out to give the relieved grandfather and aunt the news. He also tells them that Gayatri lost a lot of blood during the delivery, so he’s sent for more blood from the hospital’s blood bank. This turns out to be unavailable, and both Daddy and Anuradha beg to be allowed to donate blood to Gayatri. Their blood samples are tested, and the doctor asks Daddy to come into his office for a moment: he wants to ask him something.
While Anuradha’s blood and her father’s are the same group, Gayatri’s is not; this cannot be possible according to medical science [medical science back then was obviously something far different from the basic biology taught to me in middle school]. How can this be? There is a secret behind this, isn’t there? [The woman is lying in a critical condition, and this idiot would rather chit-chat about her past]
Daddy, either enough of an ignoramus or too cowed by the doctor’s bossy curiosity, tells him the truth: Gayatri is not his biological daughter. Years ago, when she was about 3 years old, he had found her, running about lost, at a mela. [Sigh. These melas. Where would Hindi cinema be without them?] But he has brought her up as his own child, and she is as dear to him as is Anuradha.
In the meantime, we are also introduced to a group of sailors aboard a cargo ship that’s just docked at Cochin. Sunil (Dharmendra) and his colleagues get into a massive free-for-all at a party, and land up, all of them with bruises and black eyes and sundry other injuries, at the Cochin National Hospital. While the doctor’s looking them over, the nurse comes to report that the blood needed for Gayatri, AB—, is not available at any of the other hospitals either.
Sunil is surprised: why, that’s his blood group, too! [You know where this is going]. He will donate blood, happily. So, without having met the family of the woman to whom he’s given blood, and having made passes at all the nurses he’s encountered, Sunil finally leaves the hospital.
Now that Gayatri is fine and has been able to coo over her baby a little, the doctor brings forth a large fruit basket fitted with a false bottom, a compartment under the fruit, and an air vent through it. Anuradha will put the baby in the compartment and smuggle him out of the hospital. She will then take a taxi to the doctor’s own home, where she will stay until Ranjeet is convinced that the baby was stillborn. [This man is a marvel at multitasking: not only does he seem to be the only doctor in this hospital, he also manages to excel in all this subterfuge and whatnot].
Anuradha succeeds in getting away with the baby. Ranjeet, arriving at the hospital shortly after, is informed that Gayatri’s baby was stillborn, but—even though he pretends to believe that—is not convinced. He therefore sets off in a car, following Anuradha.
Anuradha, canny girl that she is, realizes she’s being followed. Spotting a fruitseller by the roadside (with a fruit basket which is the spitting image of the one she’s got), she stops her taxi, gets out, manages to surreptitiously switch baskets, and gets back into the car.
Soon after, Ranjeet catches up with her and asks about the fruit basket she’s got in the car. Oh, I was going to congratulate Gayatri on the birth of her baby, Anuradha explains, but since the baby was stillborn, I’m taking the basket back. Ranjeet, not convinced, searches the basket, which of course turns out to be just what it looks like: a basket full of fruit.
He goes off, disgruntled and grumpy, and a relieved Anuradha hurries back to the fruit seller to reclaim her basket. But disaster has struck—the basket has been bought by a group of sailors (“There they go”, the fruit seller tells her, pointing to a jeep roaring away towards the dock). Anuradha follows to the docks, but isn’t allowed anywhere near the ship. It’s about to sail, anyway, she’s told: it’s headed for Bombay, and that’s where she can catch up with it. Fortunately, she manages to catch a glimpse of Sunil’s face, so she knows what the man she’s got to find looks like.
While Anuradha catches a flight to Bombay so that she’s there when the ship docks [resourceful girl, this], Sunil and his colleagues discover the baby. Sunil immediately warms up to the little fellow and decides he’s going to adopt this stowaway. That’s all very well, but there are many pitfalls along the way.
Firstly, where will they get a feeding bottle? [A surgical glove pilfered from the ship doctor’s room comes in handy] Then, how will they keep the baby hidden from the very strict Captain Shamsher (Anwar Hussain), who has a rule that no women or children are allowed on board ship [this they manage by convincing the Captain that there’s really no baby aboard, and that he’s hallucinating—which, says the doctor, is probably a result of a guilt complex the captain harbours because he’s never gotten married and had children of his own].
In the process, Sunil’s pal and colleague, Romeo (Rajendranath) ends up having to wear a sari and pretend to be a woman, so that the baby will be more amenable to calming down and having some milk from Romeo’s hands [I didn’t know newborn babies associated saris with loving mothers].
Anyway, all’s well that ends well, because Captain Shamsher, even though he discovers the baby as Sunil is taking it off the ship at Bombay, is bowled over by the baby’s cute smiles. Shamsher Jr, as Sunil has named him [Sunil should be a politician, not a sailor] goes off with his namesake’s blessings…
… and Anuradha, who’s trying to shadow Sunil, finds herself left behind. In desperation, she begs a woman in a passing taxi for a lift. She’s lucky: the woman (though Anuradha doesn’t know who this is) is Ranjeet’s wife, Gina, and she’s very helpful. When they lose Sunil’s taxi, Gina consoles Anuradha and tells her that she can contact the shipping corporation’s office the next day to find out Sunil’s address.
Meanwhile, Gina invites Anuradha home, and then to come and see Gina’s show that night. Anuradha goes for the show and whom should she happen to spot there but Sunil!
Instead of going up to him and introducing herself, Anuradha chooses to intercept the man he’s sitting with and asks him who this sailor is, where he lives, etc. Sunil’s acquaintance tells all, and later that night, Anuradha lands up at Sunil’s doorstep. She is greeted by Bansidhar (Mohan Choti), Sunil’s servant, who immediately takes her to be an applicant for the post of governess for Shamsher Jr—they had put out an advertisement, since Sunil and Bansi are having a tough time handling the baby. And what with Sunil’s mother (Sulochana Latkar) and sister away on a pilgrimage right now, there’s no woman around.
Anuradha realizes that if she takes up this job, it’ll mean she and her little nephew can stay incognito in Sunil’s home till February 12th—so she happily accepts, never letting on who she really is. With, naturally, romantic consequences [how long, after all, before a pretty girl, even if she’s a nanny, is noticed by a handsome young man, even if he’s a Casanova to seemingly beat all Casanovas?]
What I liked about this film:
Let’s be shallow: the eye candy. The biggest draw of Tum Haseen Main Jawaan is exactly what the title indicates: two gorgeous people. Hema Malini is dewily pretty and Dharmendra is in his prime—plus, he looks fabulous in dress uniform.
Then, the title song. While the songs of this film (composed by Shankar-Jaikishan) aren’t bad, the best one for me is Tum haseen main jawaan. The picturization is fun, too, though it does make one wonder how a man cannot recognize a woman who lives in his own house if she dons a blue wig and a sheath dress.
I also found the characters played by Hema Malini and Helen to be somewhat more enterprising than the typical Hindi film heroine. No, they aren’t the extremely feisty character (like Hema Malini’s one in Seeta aur Geeta), and eventually it is the hero who saves the day, but when needed, both Anuradha as well as Gina are good at thinking on their feet and coping by themselves. Anuradha’s several successful attempts to evade Ranjeet—including one where she actually topples him into a swimming pool while escaping with her baby nephew in her arms—are especially laudable. Plus, as I mentioned before, it’s refreshing to see Helen play a woman who isn’t just a cabaret dancer, but also a wife and a loving mother.
What I didn’t like:
The way the film seems to lag in the middle and forget that this nasty bad man is after this innocent little baby. While I don’t mind that the focus shifts to the romance between Anuradha and Sunil, it would’ve been rather more realistic to not shift focus completely (and, seriously, if she’s supposed to be keeping an eagle eye on her nephew, how on earth does Anuradha find the time to go off gallivanting about in gardens?)
Also, the idiotic comic side plot, featuring Rajendranath’s character, the girl he falls for, and the man who falls for him while he’s in drag… oh, so completely unnecessary. And why on earth does Dhumal end up playing men who fall head over heels in love with men in drag in so many films?
Verdict: Don’t expect a brilliant film. Entertaining enough, pretty enough, but not so great that you must see it. Unless you happen to be a fan of Hema, Dharmendra, or their jodi.