Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (1963)

For those who’ve been following this blog since pretty much its inception, or who’ve explored some of the older posts and specials on Dustedoff, it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of Shammi Kapoor. I have seen most of the star’s films from after his watershed year of 1957 (which was the year Tumsa Nahin Dekha was released, catapulting him to sudden stardom), and I’ve seen several from the early 1950s as well.

Finding a 60s (or late 50s) Shammi Kapoor film that I’ve not seen before is therefore a matter of singular excitement [or was; I have begun to realize, after several less than enjoyable experiences, that there is a reason most of these films aren’t better-known]. This time, when I came across Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, I approached it with caution. Pandit Mukhram Sharma’s name among the credits bolstered my hopes somewhat; he wrote some good stories, so I began thinking this might not be too bad.

The story begins with two friends, Kamla and Parvati, chatting. One of them is the wife of the Kunwar (Prithviraj Kapoor); the other is the wife of the headmaster, Ram Das (Nasir Hussain) whom Kunwar Sahib has appointed to the school he owns. Ram Das’s wife expresses her gratitude—all they have is thanks to Kunwar Sahib—but her friend brushes her off. In fact, she nurtures a desire that there be an even greater bond between the two. [No prizes for guessing what’s coming].

Yes, Ram Das’s little daughter, who comes in, almost on cue, will be one day Kunwar Sahib’s bahu. Her future mother-in-law takes off a distinctive necklace [I knew this was coming] from around her own neck and puts it on the little girl.

Sadly, this bliss is, right now, in the process of being shattered. In the school where Ram Das is the headmaster, an argument breaks out between two boys. Of them, the one who started it all is Kunwar Sahib’s own son, Rajesh. Ram Das slaps Rajesh, and Rajesh, sobbing, runs out of school and home to Daddy, where he complains about Masterji’s beating him.

A belligerent Kunwar Sahib goes rushing off to the school and is all for chastising Ram Das right there, in class. Ram Das and he eventually have a heated discussion in which Ram Das tries to explain his behaviour and how Rajesh was at fault, but Kunwar Sahib isn’t listening. He flaunts his wealth before Ram Das, says Ram Das is his servant, and how dare he he behave like this, blah blah…

The long and the short of it is that Ram Das, deeply hurt, resigns and goes away with his wife and daughter to the village.

And then we switch to years later. As is customary in films of this type, we are introduced to the hero Rajesh (now Shammi Kapoor) as he goes about in a car with a bunch of friends, singing (and with Rajesh dancing rather precariously).

Soon, Rajesh has a run-in with Savita (B Saroja Devi), a college mate. Savita is berating Rajesh’s male friends, and Rajesh takes their side—even tearing up Savita’s book in the process—without first finding out the facts [the people in this film tend to go overboard when it comes to meting out punishments].

As it happens, Rajesh is firmly in the wrong here. It turns out that Savita and her sahelis had been harassed by Rajesh’s pals. Savita gives the men an earful: their parents’ hopes rest on them, who knows how much their parents have sacrificed to ensure their sons go to college, and this is the way they’re spending their time in college?

Even as she’s lecturing fiercely, Savita loses all her audience, all except Rajesh, who waits till the end. When Savita’s finally had her say and gone, Rajesh apologizes to thin air. Hah.

Anyway, what with this and that, Rajesh and Savita soon become friends. She is extremely studious, and takes it upon herself to help Rajesh—who’s been too busy dancing on cars to pay much attention to studies—prepare for the exams. Over the course of their lessons, they fall in love too.

When the results are declared, it’s Rajesh who’s come first, and has won a gold medal. Savita is very happy for him—this is a win for her, she assures him—but Rajesh insists on putting the medal around her neck. He also insists on taking her home to meet his mum, and to point out the medal around Savita’s neck.

This, naturally, draws mum’s attention to Savita’s neck and the necklace already around it. [There we go. Full circle]. There is instant recognition; Mum—who was already inclined to approve of her son’s choice—is over the moon to discover that this is the very same girl whom she had earmarked for bahu all those years ago.

Sadly, Kunwar Sahib’s reaction is not quite that of his wife. While he, when introduced to Savita, is the very picture of politeness and geniality, when he’s gone into the other room to talk to Rajesh, he puts his foot down. He will not have Rajesh marrying the daughter of Ram Das, who was their servant. Never.

Since Savita is in the next room and Kunwar Sahib makes no attempt to keep his voice low, she overhears it all. She tries, later, to dissuade Rajesh: he shouldn’t go against his father’s wishes, etc… but Rajesh is confident he can win Daddy’s approval.

Daddy, sadly, is a hard nut to crack. Rajesh tries, Rajesh’s mother tries. Savita’s father, much against his wishes and bowing to pressure from his wife, puts aside his pride and goes to Kunwar Sahib, but even that comes to nothing. Kunwar Sahib will not budge.

Rajesh, however, is not one to take things lying down. So what if Daddy doesn’t listen. He marries Savita anyway, takes Kunwar Sahib’s ire on the chin, and sets up home…

…with the help of Jeevan (Pran), who is the son of Asha Ram (Om Prakash), an old servitor of the family’s. Jeevan, unknown to Rajesh, has long had an eye on Savita, but since he now pretends to have given up on Savita and is all courtesy, she too doesn’t caution Rajesh. Jeevan owns a hotel, and though Rajesh tries to get a room there, Jeevan says there are no vacancies. Instead, Rajesh and Savita can stay at the flat of a friend of Jeevan’s, who is currently abroad.

What neither Rajesh nor Savita realize is that Jeevan has another reason to throw a spanner in the works of their marriage. Jeevan labours under the delusion that Rajesh has made Jeevan’s sister Sarla (Shubha Khote, for once not paired with Mehmood) the plaything of an idle hour, as Wodehouse would put it. The events and misunderstandings leading up to this assumption are convoluted enough to require a separate post, so I’ll just leave it at the fact that Sarla’s beloved is actually Banke (Agha), who is Rajesh’s servant.

Or ex-servant, now that Rajesh has left home and all the luxuries associated with home. He and Savita, now on their own, are having to fend for themselves and are having a tough time. So tough that when Diwali comes around and Savita’s parents write to her, inviting Savita and Rajesh home for the festival, Rajesh makes Savita decline. How can he go to his in-laws’ home with nothing? Because they can afford nothing, not even the smallest of gifts…

This predicament, if they only knew it, heralds the start of the end (or what is the end until the inevitable—for Hindi cinema—happy ending). Because Jeevan, in cahoots with his girlfriend (whom he’s actually just using and doesn’t love at all), the cabaret dancer Neeta (Helen, who else), is getting ready to bung more spanners into the works.

What I liked about this film:

Shammi Kapoor, purely in terms of looks. And a couple of the songs: Bahaaron ki kahaani sunaati hai jawaani, and Jaan-e-bahaar husn tera bemisaal hai. Zindagi kya hai gham ka dariya hai isn’t bad, though it’s a little too angstily screechy for me. Ravi wasn’t at the top of his game here, though Shakeel is adequate—Zindagi kya hai has good lyrics.

What I didn’t like:

So much. Sadly, so very much.

First of all, the story itself, which is too predictable and too melodramatic. There are the obvious tropes, and the obvious ways they play out. The comic side plot, despite the presence of some stalwarts of the genre, becomes pretty tedious pretty quickly. And the characterizations are badly done (and, sadly, so common in Hindi cinema of the 50s and 60s, now that I come to think of it). The worst examples of this are Rajesh and Savita themselves. These are two people so deeply in love that they would rather face ostracization and bankruptcy than be separated from each other—but they’re both so quick to believe the worst of each other, too: they’re suspicious, they don’t talk things over, they never ask for explanations, they assume the worst.

And, Shammi Kapoor is horribly miscast here. What this melodramatic mess of a film needed was a Rajendra Kumar or Raj Kumar: Shammi’s joie de vivre is in place and appropriate only for his first few scenes, after which his character sinks into a morass of angst and sacrifice, followed by suspicion, self-pity and more, which means you basically see Shammi writhing and making pained faces through a good bit of the film.

All said and done, not my cup of tea.

18 thoughts on “Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (1963)

  1. Being older than DustedOff I saw this film at first go. When I was in school actually. Sitting in the ‘Upper Stall’ and chewing on a beef chop, which the canteen at Liberty Cinema, Nagpur sold for 50 paisa.
    My memories of the film were fond if not glorious and I would have joined issue with ML had I not seen the movie again on the Classic channel.
    This left me supporting this review whole heartedly.
    I felt sad. Nothing quite as depressing as nostalgia disillusioned.

    • Mr Murty, I only wish I could have been there, at the Liberty Cinema, if for nothing other than the beef chop! The only thing I ever got to eat at any of the cinema halls we went to before the days of multiplexes were potato chips.

      You are so right about nothing being quite as depressing as ‘nostalgia disillusioned’. There are so many films that I saw back in the days when they were aired on Doordarshan, and which I loved back then – but now, watching them again, as an adult I realize how they’re not at all anywhere as wonderful as I’d thought them then.

  2. Looks like a wholesale let down. Thank you for taking the pain of watching this and warning us. Looking at the plot and the flow there seems to be very little or no scope for “What-if” and “if-only” analysis.

  3. I WOULD DISAGREE COMPLETELY ON AT LEAST ONE OF THE SONGS BEING CONSIDERED NOT BAD: Jaan-e-bahaar husn tera bemisaal hai. IT IS A TOP CLASS SONG SUNG AS USUAL WITH GREAT ELEGANCE & FINESSE AS ONLY RAFI COULD HAVE DONE. RAFI SAAB HAS LIFTED EVEN THIS PEDESTRAIN LYRICS INTO AN EVER ” HUMMABLE AND SINGABLE ” SONG

    • I totally agree. It’s a great song by all standards based on Raag Malkauns. Ravi has given many such Rafi solo gems.

    • If you will read my words more carefully, you’ll see that I’m not referring to Jaan-e-bahaar husn tera as being ‘not bad’. That adjective is applied specifically to Zindagi hai kya.

      Also, would you please not shout? Writing in all capital letters is the cyber equivalent of shouting, and is considered very rude.

  4. If I were asked to name a single movie lead actor who would be my favourite, i would simply state the name of Shammi Kapoor. Apart from the music and the rhythm that his personality displayed, his acting was always from within, always genuine, always emotionally correct. Take any song from any of his films: each word is portrayed with feeling and a unique set of actions, though each song may be a standard love song. In a scene in Professor, he sits down on the ground in front of his ailing mother to console her. For this single scene he deserved a best actor award.

    • While Shammi Kapoor won a Best Actor award for Brahmachari, I honestly think his performance in Professor deserved one. Not just for that scene that you mention, but overall too – he manages to play the part of the older, wiser man very well: there are many scenes in that film where I think he becomes the character so well that one can really believe that this is not a young and flamboyant man.

  5. It’s so sad that this film had such a horribly melodramatic story line, isn’t it? Especially when the title is Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya?

    I remember that that was what surprised me about Junglee – there are spanners in the works, misunderstandings galore, but the hero and the heroine not only spoke to each other and cleared those up, but accepted apologies from each other and went on with their lives. That really was a pyar kiya toh darna kya film, especially Shammi standing up to his mother for his beloved and not believing rumours about her.

    Re: Shammi looking pained and making faces – so right you are! He looked like a cockroach had bitten him on his bum when asked to emote OTT angst. Give me the inherent sadness in Junglee or the real hurt in Teesri Manzil any day!

    Besides, the poor man shouldn’t have had to look pained at all; he should just have been made to sing and dance and prance around looking nice.

    Thank heavens you watched this so I don’t have to! :)

    p.s Totally agree with you about the songs; not one of his best where the music is concerned. Ravi must have been sleeping.

    • Anu, this is such a coincidence (though I shouldn’t be surprised about that any more, not when it comes to us!): while watching the more teeth-gritting sections of this film, I was finding myself comparing it to Junglee, where Shammi’s and Saira Banu’s characters, I thought, acted so like lovers should: what’s the big deal about pyaar kiya toh darna kya if you don’t even have that level of trust in your beloved to ask what the truth is?

      Sigh. Such a waste of Shammi Kapoor. :-(

  6. I agree with Mr. Murthy about the disillusion part. I loved many of the stuff dished out by average directors as a child and an adolescent. Now, I can see those plot holes, illogical behavior, extremely childish comedy. Particularly, when I see Rajendranath and Jagdeep, my anger increases due to their utter lack of talent. Particularly, Rajendranath must have had it easy since he was related to the Kapoor’s as he was Premnath’s brother. You see this non actor in many of Shammi Kapoor’s movies.

    • I agree about Rajendranath being very irritating. I can think of only a handful of films (Tere Ghar ke Saamne being one of them) where I didn’t mind him. I especially cannot understand why so many directors thought it funny to dress him up in women’s clothes in so many films – I’ve lost count of the number of films where he appears somewhere or the other dressed in a nightdress! Idiotic.

  7. Madhu,
    In any case I was never going to watch this movie. I have been always selective in seeing only those movies which made a mark for some reason. But I have been thoroughly disappointed by even those movies which became a rage in their times. You have also alluded to it. Among many, let me mention one, Sasural, which was supposed to be a golden jubilee hit, a great entertainer with great music and so on. I found it trite and unwatchable. That is probably true of the most of the ‘Bollywoodian’ films of the mid 60s – the heydays of the genre. I believe this gave ‘Bollywood’ a pejorative connotation, until Western scholars considered it worthy of serious study for its unique stylistic features.
    AK

    • I completely agree about Sasuraal. I watched that because of just one song – Teri pyaari-pyaari soorat ko – and wished I hadn’t. Boring, predictable, and so melodramatic. One wonders why films like this were so popular. Of course, it could have been that the music was what made them popular. My father, for instance, still remembers lots of films very fondly only because of the music. :-)

  8. “Pyar kiya to shaque karna Kya?”. Better title this???
    I will stay away form this one. Have learned my lesson since “Akeli Mat jJaiyo”. You unrecommended but still I…….🙄
    By the way I was just wondering, most people like Shammi Kapoor & Shashi Kapoor. Even Rishi Kapoor. There could be some debate over Raj Kapoor. But still.
    So, how about having some sort of poll. Most favourite of Kapoor’s or these 3-4 Kapoor’s kind? Just wondering, that’s all 🤔🤔

    • I will leave that poll to you. ;-) Actually, over all these years of blogging, I’ve realized that one should not attempt polls of this kind, because most Indians (Indians especially are guilty of this) cannot seem to bear to hear their idols being criticized or dismissed by anyone. In the early years of this blog, I’d done lists of people in Bollywood and Hollywood whom I thought were especially good-looking. The nasty comments I got on those made me swear off any such posts!

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