Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Music by Hemant, lyrics by Kaifi Azmi.
That, by itself, would be enough to make me want to watch the film. But then, there was the fact I hadn’t known anything about Do Dil before other than its name. And that, for a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, is odd. I guessed there must be something about it that was very forgettable.
There was only one way to find out: to watch the film for myself. With a crew like that, I figured that it would almost certainly not be outright awful.
Do Dil begins at a palace, with the death of the Maharaja (we are never shown this man). Some days later, though, a number of courtiers convene along with the Maharaja’s lawyer, who reads out the will. The Maharaja appoints his grand-nephew Kunwar Pratap Singh (Pran), who also happens to be the state’s senapati (commander) as his successor, though with Rani Indumati, the Maharaja’s sister (Durga Khote) as regent (this is all spelled out in very vague terms, so it’s not exactly clear what powers Ranima, as she’s known, will wield). Pratap Singh looks very pleased with himself…
… until the will continues, to state that the Maharaja has been feeling very remorseful for having disowned his daughter Aruna for having married a commoner. He wants that a search be instituted for Aruna and her husband; their offspring, if any, if found within the next month, will become the Maharaja. Pratap Singh, naturally, is very indignant.
Fortunately for the good guys, Ranima (who had brought up Aruna after her mother’s death) has already been searching for Aruna all these years. Her right-hand man is therefore able to find the real heir to the throne quickly enough: it’s a young villager named Mahendra Singh ‘Manu’ (Biswajit). Aruna and her husband died when Manu was a child, and Manu has been brought up by the local pandit (Brahm Bhardwaj). Manu is not at all keen on being king, but Ranima’s man is very persuasive, as is Panditji.
And Ranima, when she meets Manu at the palace (Manu is quite awed and intimidated by these luxurious surroundings), is also very persuasive. If Manu only wants to help the poor and downtrodden, the best way he can do that is by being king, she says. It is his duty to do good. Manu is finally won over, and agrees. Ranima (whom he decides he’s going to call ‘Nanima’) is very happy.
Nanima has already appointed a servant for Manu: Bahadur Singh (Mehmood), whom Manu soon befriends (they start off on a fairly informal footing, since Bahadur Singh, mistaking the humble Manu for a wayward villager, tells him off for barging into the new Maharaja’s private chambers). Bahadur and his girlfriend Albeli (Mumtaz) are constantly having to dodge her silly brother-in-law Buddhi Singh (Asit Sen), who, since the death of his wife, has taken it upon himself to make her sister Albeli’s life miserable.
Pratap Singh is most dissatisfied with these developments, and attempts to rather blatantly kill off Manu while, ostensibly, teaching him sword-fighting. Manu, though he knows nothing of swords, had been taught by the panditji back in the village how to fight with a single stick, and he improvises. Pratap retreats, hurt and resentful, and confides in a lady friend named Radhika (Indira Billi), whose role is not quite defined. Radhika seems to be accepted by all, even Ranima, as a resident of the palace, but not a maid or other form of attendant. Radhika smirks and tells Pratap not to worry; she will use her charms to attack Manu.
But even Radhika fails: Manu, waking up to find her in his bedroom, manages to get rid of her with consummate ease, and some help from Ranima.
Manu has been hard at work doing all the things a good king should, working late into the night, long after all his ministers and officials have gone to bed. He’s so tired and heartily sick of it all that he begs Ranima to let him go, he doesn’t want to be king, he needs a break. Ranima is understanding but refuses to let him have his way and go where he will. Sure, Manu can have a break; he can spend some days on vacation, in a pavilion by the river (or lake; it’s not clear where this is). Go in the morning, spend the day relaxing, and return to the palace by night.
This isn’t Manu’s idea of a break; it’s too stifling. So he bullies Bahadur into exchanging clothes with him, Manu staying back in the pavilion to hoodwink everyone into thinking he’s Manu, while Manu goes where he will…
… which, this being Hindi cinema, quickly brings him within earshot of a tribal girl, Bijli (Rajshree), who’s running about and singing. Manu, of course, is fascinated: so fascinated that he doesn’t see where he’s going, and falls off a cliff. Bijli comes rushing back and rescues him.
Then, because she’s quite taken up by him (and tells him so, too, to Manu’s surprise), Bijli takes Manu to her village in Parvatipur.
Here, her father (Kamal Kapoor) is the chief, and to him Manu is presented with much glee: Bijli tells Daddy she approves of this man, she thinks he will fit perfectly. Daddy is initially angry because Manu’s clothes identify him as the Maharaja’s servant (and Bijli’s people have suffered much humiliation and torment at the hands of the Maharaja in the past). But Manu convinces Daddy that he’s a good man, and that the Maharaja too is good (Daddy is sceptical). Mau says his name is Baadal. (Yes, well, he’s just become besotted by Bijli, so this is an appropriate name to be masquerading under: in fact, later in the story, Bahadur Singh comments on this).
And then it turns out what Bijli’s approving him for: to be a spy in the Maharaja’s palace for Bijli’s people.
How is Manu going to swing this? Spying on himself? And little does he know just how the people of Parvatipur are viewed in the palace. Not just by the dastardly Pratap Singh (who, of course, would be expected to be anti-poor, anti-tribals), but even by Ranima…
I have always said I like ‘raja-rani’ films. The costumes, the swashbuckling, the intrigue, the sets: even when it’s not supported by a great story, most films of this genre can at least be depended to be fairly entertaining.
Do Dil, I would have imagined (given Hrishikesh Mukherjee as director) would have had a good story too. But…
What I liked about this film:
The sets (in Jaipur? I thought I saw the City Palace, and possibly some parts of Amber): stunning, and lending an air of verisimilitude to the film.
Then, the moments of humour. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was one of those directors whom one could depend upon to make great comedies (think Biwi aur Makaan, Chupke-Chupke, Golmaal, etc) and here, too, there are fleeting moments which are fun. While Mehmood gets some of that fun (Bahadur Singh is constantly mispronouncing ‘Buddhi Singh’ and calling the man ‘Buddhoo Singh’ instead), there are other occasional bits of humour too.
Most notably, there’s that scene where Bijli is going on and on about how much she approves of ‘Baadal’ and simpering while she recommends him to her father. If you know Hindi cinema, you can pretty much guess what’s coming: brazen tribal girl that she is, she’s chosen this strange man to be her husband, and she’s telling her father she wants to marry Baadal. And then, the googly: no, she’s only approving of him as a potential spy.
How I wish this film could have been completely like this! A spoof on the raja-rani trope, an entertaining twist on the usual.
Now, that would have been classic Hrishikesh Mukherjee. This, as it is, isn’t a dreadful film; it’s entertaining enough (though I’m not a fan of either of the two leads), but there’s nothing that makes it stand out from the long list of other similar films. Democratic-minded, public-loving raja; evil, tyrannical senapati: haven’t we seen that before, and doesn’t it play out this way?
There was nothing I outright hated, though there were some niggling bits I am still wondering about: for instance, who is Radhika? And why was Indira Billi in this film anyway, given that there’s little reason for her character to be part of it? Who designed that atrocious outfit Rajshree wears in Tera husn rahe mera ishq rahe?
And, lastly, why did Hrishikesh Mukherjee make a film so different from his usual style?