Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain (1965)

A little less than a week ago, on December 4, I received news that a very dear aunt had passed away. My parents, my sister and I made arrangements to travel to Kolkata for the funeral, the next day. Early in the morning, just as I was about to leave for the airport, the newspaper was delivered, and one headline sprang out at me: Shashi Kapoor had passed away, too. On the very same day as my aunt.

I suppose if Shashi Kapoor had passed away on any other day, on a day when I was not quite so swamped in sorrow of my own, I would have posted a tribute to him earlier. Later, I thought. When I am a little less distraught. My father, reading the newspaper, remarked that he and Shashi Kapoor had been born in the same year, just 6 months apart (my father in September 1938, Shashi in March 1938). My mother, looking at a lovely photo of a smiling and very handsome young Shashi, remarked that he looked uncannily like a cousin of mine (which I have to agree with; I have thought so many times). In our own ways, all of us remembered Shashi Kapoor.

But there has to be a proper tribute. At least on this blog, where I’ve always made it obvious that Shashi Kapoor is a favourite. A man who was far more versatile than most people realize, and who managed to be a very believable leading man for a fairly long time.

Since I’d already done a Shashi Kapoor songs list, I thought I’d review a film this time. Which one, though? I’d already reviewed, over the years, all my favourite Shashi films: Pyaar Kiye Jaa, Prem Patra, Sharmeelee, Dharamputra, Waqt… I decided, then, to turn to a Shashi film I’ve been meaning to watch for a while now. For many reasons. One, because Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain has superb music. Secondly, because it pairs Shashi Kapoor with one of his most frequent co-stars, Nanda (the actress who agreed to star with a very young Shashi when none of the other leading ladies of Hindi cinema wanted to work with a newcomer).

(As I discovered while watching this film, it had connections, too, to my family on that day when we travelled for my aunt’s funeral. My mother’s observation that Shashi Kapoor looked like a cousin of mine? Well, as it turned out, Shashi Kapoor here plays a character who has the same name as that cousin: Vijay. And a good bit of the film was set in the very city we had travelled to: Kolkata). 

Vijay (Shashi) is a truck driver who works for a seth. Along with his helper/cleaner/friend Ramu (Kumud Tripathi), Vijay is constantly at daggers drawn with another driver, Kundan (Madan Puri). Kundan is always trying to poison the seth’s mind against Vijay, and Vijay always succeeds in getting the upper hand.

Vijay has no family to call his own; but the old lady (Leela Chitnis) who lives next door has been an honorary naani (maternal grandmother) to him. When the film opens, Naani has just returned home after an unspecified but obviously fairly long time. She is greeted by another neighbour (Chand Burque), who also happens to be mother to the evil Kundan. Kundan’s mother immediately sets out to badmouth Vijay: Vijay has knocked down part of the wall separating his home from Naani’s, and has been jumping over and getting into Naani’s house whenever he pleases.

Vijay arrives in the midst of all this backbiting (Naani, thankfully, does not seem to have paid too much attention to Kundan’s mother’s diatribe). Vijay is quick to defend himself: part of the wall did collapse because he kept jumping over it, but it had anyway been falling apart. And he kept coming into Naani’s home to draw water from her well, and to ensure her home was secure.

In the midst of this conversation, it emerges that Naani has returned from Calcutta, bringing with her her granddaughter Rajni, who had been studying in the city all these years. And lo and behold—here comes Rajni (Nanda), and Vijay is completely bowled over. He teases her, pulls her leg, embarrasses her with his goggle-eyed praise…

… and, in a quieter moment, confesses his love for her. Rajni is suitably demure, and though she says she feels shy admitting her love for him, she does do so, too.

Naani looks benevolently on at all of this; they have her blessings. But Madan and his mother are thoroughly miffed. Kundan wants to marry Rajni, and his mother likes the idea too, more so (and this applies to both mother and son) because Rajni is sole heir to Naani’s house. The two of them therefore set about maligning Vijay.

Thanks to the less-than-ideal company of his friend Ramu, Vijay has been to watch a mujra at a kotha on the very evening that Naani and Rajni return; Rajni discovers this and is jealous, until Vijay assures her that Ramu had dragged him along. He, Vijay, has no interest in naachne-gaanewaalis. Rajni, thankfully, believes him—but Vijay is not out of the woods yet. Soon after, some foul-mouthed insinuations from Kundan make Vijay hit him, and Kundan’s mother goes to Naani with a tall story about Vijay being a gambler and drunkard who’s been going around besmirching Rajni’s name.

Naani, who should know better, believes this woman and refuses to let Vijay enter the house. Vijay manages to convince Rajni of his innocence and eventually win back Naani too, but there’s more to come. One day, just as Rajni and Vijay return from an exhilarating day at the mela, Naani hands Vijay Rs 200, asking him to hand them over to a creditor of hers. Vijay sets out on the errand, and gets diverted at the mela, where he returns to buy a pair of earrings he had earlier seen for Rajni.

While he’s looking at the earrings, Kundan passes by and picks Vijay’s pocket. Vijay discovers his wallet’s missing only when he starts to pay for the earrings, but by then, it’s too late. He has no clue where the pickpocket has gone. Deep in despair, Vijay leaves the mela, and on his way out, comes across a gambler in progress. Vijay may not gamble regularly, but he has a talent for it. So he jumps into the fray, and wins a good deal of money before the police come along and round up all the gamblers. Vijay ends up having to spend time in the lock-up.

… with the result that Kundan’s mother reports to Naani that Vijay has gambled away her money at the mela. By now, Naani has given up on Vijay, and even Rajni is beginning to plead with him not to lie, when he tries to tell her the truth. Now Vijay is even an ex-convict! She still loves him, though, and weeps when Vijay decides to leave home and go away to Durgapur to find a better job there.

But while Vijay goes off on a fruitless quest (he isn’t able to get a job, after all) to Durgapur, Naani receives a letter from Rajni’s uncle in Calcutta. He is ill and wants Naani and Rajni to come look after him. He has also a very good match in mind for Rajni… Rajni refuses, telling Naani that she will marry no-one but Vijay, and Naani, despite her recent disillusionment with Vijay, agrees. They will, however, go to Calcutta to look after Uncle.

So the two women go away, and Vijay’s letters, when they arrive at the empty house, go unanswered. When he, puzzled and worried, arrives to find them gone to Calcutta, Vijay too goes off in their wake—but where will he look for them in such a big city? And will he have redeemed himself in Naani’s eyes? Or will events transpire to make even Rajni turn away from Vijay?

Because, by the time Vijay sees Rajni again, she is a married woman.

What I liked about this film:

The music, by Khayyam. If there is one reason to watch Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain, it is for the songs: Theheriye hosh mein aa loon toh chale jaaiyega, Jo humpe guzarti hai tanha kise samjhaayein; Meri nigaah ne kya kaam laajawaab kiya… and several others, also good.

Shashi Kapoor and Nanda. The other Shashi Kapoor-Nanda film of 1965, Jab-Jab Phool Khile, far outshone this one at the box office simply because of the glamour of it and a somewhat more filmi storyline, but the chemistry between the two is sweeter in Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain: more believable, less contrived. Rajni and Vijay have been childhood sweethearts, and this shines through in their interactions even as adults: they are comfortable with each other, outspoken—and, oh, they look so adorable together.

What I didn’t like:

The odd turnabouts in attitude of Rajni’s grandmother. Rajni, until she gets what she thinks is irrefutable proof of Vijay’s waywardness, continues to give him the benefit of doubt (which I appreciated), but Naani does near-constant flip-flops regarding the man. One moment she’s fawning over him and wanting Rajni to marry Vijay; the next, just because some catty neighbour has passed some as-yet-unverified remark, she’s broken off all relationships with Vijay. She came across, on the whole, as a weakling, easily swayed by whatever anybody—Kundan’s mother, Rajni, Rajni’s uncle—says to her.

Also, Vijay’s penchant for jumping into games of chance is puzzling: why does he keep doing that?

I could foresee, pretty accurately, the end, so this did not come as a surprise to me. And I’ve seen several films with a similar premise: the old lover reappearing in a married woman’s life, the dilemma she faces, the fear of suspicion arising in the husband even when the woman herself is ‘pavitra as the Ganga’. Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain didn’t take the road less travelled; it was predictable enough, but—perhaps because of the songs, perhaps because of a good cast (among the others in this film are Ramesh Deo, David, Anwar Hussain, Rashid Khan, Tabassum and Helen)—this wasn’t utterly painful.

And Shashi Kapoor certainly was part of the reason I liked this film. Yes, other actors could also have played the romantic hero who, thanks to a series of unfortunate misunderstandings (not to mention his own foolish decisions at times), ends up dumped while his sweetheart marries another. I’ve seen almost exactly the same men being played by everybody from Rajendra Kumar to Dilip Kumar, from Manoj Kumar to Jeetendra, and very few have managed to appeal to me in both avatars. The romantic hero, singing love songs to his beloved, is usually likeable enough (in Shashi Kapoor’s case, outright delectable). The betrayed and tormented hero is a different ball game: too often merely accusatory and self-pityingly melancholic. Shashi manages to imbue his Vijay with a little more depth: you can see the hurt in this man, and the way he tries to balance what he sees as his duty with his own feelings of both anger as well as deep love.

RIP, Shashi Kapoor. May your films live on, as your memory does for those of us who liked you so much.

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41 thoughts on “Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain (1965)

  1. Good Evening dear Madhulika,
    This is indeed a great tribute to him from you. He was a very simple man without any show or Hifi behavior. His acting was simple but touching.
    The one and the only dialogue from him still echoes in my Heart and ears still remember his dialogue from the film Diwar which breaks the tall Amitab bent on his kneels, “Mere pass Maa Hai’.

    I love his acting in Waqt too.


    Din Hai Bahar Ke Tere Mere Ikrar Ke : Full Video Song | Waqt | Shashi Kapoor & Sharmila Tagore |


    Deewar 1975 Aaj Mere Paas Paisa Hai, Bangla Hai Dialogue 1080p.

    May the legend Sasi Kapoor’s Soul rest in peace in his heavenly abode.
    Regards
    Uma

  2. Bashful. Flamboyant. Vulnerable. Mischievous. Shashi Kapoor wasn’t the world’s greatest actor but was eminently watchable. My favourite Shashi Kapoor song: Sa re ga ma pa with Hema Malini.
    RIP, Shashi Kapoor.

    • Those adjectives are so apt! I agree completely, he may not have been the world’s greatest actor, but he was immensely watchable. I have never found myself cringing while watching Shashi Kapoor. True, there were films of his that I don’t especially like (Jahaan Pyaar Mile, Raja Saab and some other early ones), but he, himself, never was a turnoff for me.

  3. I too am a great fan of Shashi Kapoor (who isn’t?). But for a tribute review you could have chosen Junoon, Kalyug, New Delhi Times or Deewar

    • Considering this blog only focuses on films from before 1970 (with only the occasional exception being made for films that had delayed releases and/or have a flavour of the 60s, like Sharmeelee or Pakeezah… that wouldn’t have been possible.

  4. I am sorry for your loss (your aunt’s). I was anxious to see a tribute on this site, because I just love your writing. It is indeed my bad that I did not understand. In fact, I had been thinking that your absence on this blog for a while was due to Shashi’s death. Little did I know about your other loss.

    RIP to your aunt too (I do not know her name).

    • Thank you so much. Much as I liked Shashi Kapoor, a personal loss does hit so much deeper and so much worse than that of somebody you don’t really know, doesn’t it? And though I hadn’t spend a long time with my aunt, I loved her a lot and have been pretty shaken up by her passing…

  5. Sorry to hear about your loss. I always found Shashi Kapoor to cheer me up with his dreamy eye smile. His presence on screen was magical (depression proof for me). Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain seems to have really good music as you mention in the post. My favorite is Thehriye Hosh Main Aa Loon To Chale Jaiyega… Suman Kalyanpur sang really sweetly with Rafi with an equally good visuals.. Shashi and Nanda look great together..

    Off topic but one of my favorite songs of Shashi is Saari Khushiya Hain (Rafi/LP/Anand Bakshi) from 1970 Suhana Safar where despite his crooked teeth Shashi looks stunning!

    • Thank you, Ashish, for the condolences.

      Yes, Shashi Kapoor was always such a pleasure to watch. Not the greatest actor (though not bad, and actually pretty good in several films) – but always very watchable. Coincidentally, I briefly toyed with the idea of reviewing this very film – Suhaana Safar – from which you’ve embedded that song. I watched it a couple of years back, and found it entertaining enough (and it had a somewhat surprising, though thoroughly satisfying, end). Thank you for that song! Nice one.

      • i have only read the comments and responses to your post. and landed up here. i incidentally saw Suhana Safar on the day SK passed away. “his safar and suffering ended”
        i was also surprised with the end that the movie had…i had expected him to be that poet “ujala” for whom the heroine had walked out of the house
        My condolences to you on the passing of your aunt.
        and will miss Shashi Kapoor

        • Thank you for those kind words.

          Yes, Suhana Safar had a really unusual end – I’d been expecting, too, that he would turn out to be the poet. Such a refreshing change from the predictable!

  6. RIP Shashi Kapoor
    I’ve no idea about the film. But I love its music.
    Thehriye hosh Mein and Jo humpe guzarati hai are my favorites.
    I like his chemistry with Nanda.
    Haven’t seen any of his movies fully.
    I’m actually a boy (man) of 90s.
    So dont much remember doordarshan movies either.
    But deeply interested in Hindi film music of 50s- 60s
    Many of the from the period are remembered only for the songs.
    This is one of those.
    😃

    • Yes, this film is definitely one of those which are remembered only for their songs. Really fabulous score, though a pretty forgettable film. That said, I will still say that compared to several other films that use a similar plot line, this one manages to let the ditched man be a little easier to like, because he’s more real and not quite so melodramatic…

  7. Sorry to hear about your loss, Madhulika. May your aunt RIP.

    Shashi Kapoor is one of those actors whom I like more in their middle-age avtaars. He was fantastic in KALYUG. VIJETA and NEW DELHI TIMES are tremendous movies too.

      • Yes, JUNOON is the one I like the best among his non-middle-aged (is there a word like that?) ones. Found him very good as the besotted, hot-blooded Pathan who gave Jennifer real heart-burn during the shoot, perhaps for the first and only time. I wonder if Shabana went to the hospital or to his funeral. She didn’t for Vinod.

  8. Dear friend Madhulika,
    Kindly forgive me for the delay in conveying my condolences to you on the sad demise of your beloved Aunt. May her soul rest in peace in her Heavenly abode.

  9. Shashi Kapoor gives Raakhee a smouldering look in Sharmeelee and yet, it’s not sleazy. Years later, he plays a corpulent and horny patron of the erotic arts in Utsav. Meanwhile, he produces and acts in Vijeta, a film which brought to fore a suave Sardar leading man on screen, Kunal Kapoor (who is not Sikh, incidentally). Along the way, he shared the gifts of theater with theater lovers, not theater lovers, moms with kids who really wanted their kids to watch plays rather than TV and so much more with the Prithvi theater in Juhu. I saw him in later years, in a wheelchair in Prithvi theater and I must say, he wears all those hats so lightly. Big hug to you for this, Madhulika!

    • :-) What a lovely comment! So true, Tejaswini. A man of many talents, wasn’t he?

      Incidentally, a couple of years back, Akshay Manwani and I were discussing Shammi Kapoor and how he was one of the very few heroes who were so uninhibited. When it came to dancing, for instance… and the one other visual that kept popping into my mind was Shashi Kapoor going totally nuts in that first song from Pyaar Kiye Jaa, or gadding about on a donkey in O meri sharmeelee… he could be as wild and uninhibited as Shammi.

  10. Most charming star of our times! And a very natural actor too! How I wish that you review a lesser known film of him and Nanda, RAAJA SAAB which was not a great film but had a couple of outstanding songs ( Hamne aaj se tumhen ye naam de diya AND kisi meharbaan ki nazar dhoondhte hain ) and of course, that Shashi – Nanda chemistry !
    Although Shashi looked spontaneous in almost all his films, to me, his best film acting-wise was certainly the 1993 film MUHAAFUZ ( IN CUSTODY ).

    • Yes, he was very charming indeed. A pleasure to watch.

      I have seen Raja Saab, years ago. I didn’t like it enough to want to sit through it a second time in order to review it for this blog, to be honest.

      I’ve heard of Muhafiz, but have never watched it… will a note of that.

  11. Dear Madhuji,
    Sorry to hear about the passing of your aunt. About Shashiji, what more can one add? Of all the Hindi movie stars, he possessed a sophisticated air that set him apart. The word “Gentleman” springs to mind when one hears his name. He was a gentleman in body and spirit. Only a true gentleman would risk his savings for movies like “36 Chowringhee Lane” and “Junoon”. My intention is not to look down upon these movies. In fact I have seen both on the large screen. But, one could safely forecast that these movies wouldn’t set the box office on fire.

    The other noble act of his was to revive his father’s “Prithvi” theatre. They show that Shashi was devoted to the industry though his brother, Raj Kapoor compared him to a taxi for signing too many movies when Raj was directing, “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”.

    • Thank you for your kind words re: my aunt.

      As for Shashi Kapoor, so true. ‘Gentleman’ is the word that immediately springs to mind as a description of him. The two examples you set forth – of films that were very important, even if bound to be commercial duds, and his investment of time and effort and money in Prithvi – are fine instances of just how much more there was to him than just a good actor and a handsome star.

  12. It was really shocking to learn the passing away of Shashi Kapoor. A couple of years ago, I watched one of his old movie (Prem Patra) and instantly fell in love with one of the song and its video, which I’m posting below. Shashi Kapoor looks exceptionally handsome in this movie.

  13. A good homage to late Shashi Kapoor. He surely was an actor, who had no parallel. Although he took up roles in mainstream cinema, which were quite run-of-the-mill, and his repertoire was quite limited. He lent each of his roles such a charm, which nobody could. At times he could go overboard, like in his roles like Kabhie-Kabhi, but one knew, that wasn’t for real. He could stand in the shadow of AB and still shine and one just loved him for what he was and not the role he played. I think, even if he had played a villain’s role, one would have loved him all the same. A big pity, that nobody gave him roles like the one he did in Utsav, that of buffonish villain. Maybe he was offered and didn’t take them up, but how often does one get a director like Girish Karnad, who could give it the grace.
    Thank you Shashi for acting in so many films and lending them your charm and thank you for producing wonderful films like Kalyug, Junoon and Utsav. you lightened up our lives! Happy Journey!

  14. Shashi Kapoor was indeed the most underrated actor from the Kapoor clan of Bollywood. And I acknowledge that you have chosen a very good movie to pay tribute to the charming hero. I had seen this movie on Doordarshan decades back and it had effortlessly conquered my (teenager) heart, leaving a throbbing once it’s over. I liked not only the movie but also its climax, the Shashi-Nanda pair and the songs. Jo Hum Pe Guzarti Hai and Meri Nigaah Ne Kya are still my favourites which I can listen to any number of times. Compliments for this very good article.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you liked this post. This was a film I’d been meaning to watch for a long time now, because the songs are so good, and because I generally like Shashi Kapoor and Nanda together. I didn’t have much hope for this after it turned out that her character had married another man (though I could figure out where it would lead), but I was pleasantly surprised that it was handled well.

  15. Madhuji,

    A balanced, if indulgent review. Songs have been the most durable part of a majority of Hindi films, and this movie is no exception. Shashi Kapoor was, however, one of those stars who could carry a film without a song (Kalyug). Here is my favourite Kapoor singing one of my favourite songs in a Bimal Roy movie (“Dil mein ek jaane tamanna ne” – Rafi in Benazir; MD: SDB).

    • Thanks. Yes, songs are definitely the major highlight of this film, though I didn’t really mind the film itself. Predictable, but perhaps the presence of Shashi Kapoor made it better than it would’ve been with another leading man.

      Dil mein ek jaan is a lovely song. Not a film I liked, but it had good songs.

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