Sachaa Jhutha (1970)

Written by Jeevanprabha M Desai and directed by her husband (Manmohan Desai), Sachaa Jhutha is a neat little tale of mistaken identity, thieves and honest men, and proves that dogs are smarter than most people.

Simple village musician Bhola (Rajesh Khanna) leaves home to seek his fortune in Bombay. His sister Belu (Naaz) had an accident in her childhood and has needed crutches since. He wants to get her married and having any kind of disability means she is expected to come with a hefty dowry. Through a series of unlikely but expected coincidences, he stumbles into a fancy masquerade party and the path of Ranjit Kumar (Rajesh Khanna) a cunning jewel thief. Ranjit sees the possibilities in having an exact duplicate of himself to parade around town so he dupes innocent to the point of being backward Bhola into perfecting his Ranjit act. Ranjit gets his minxy girlfriend Ruby (Faryal) to keep a watchful eye on Bhola, give him deportment lessons, and keep him from discovering his new BFF is a thief. Inspector Pradhan (Vinod Khanna) is determined to put Ranjit in jail but he can’t get the evidence he needs. He coopts a lovely young policewoman, Lina (Mumtaz), into playing a diamond heiress called Rita. It is well known that Ranjit cannot resist a pretty face or a sparkly rock. Bhola as Ranjit falls head over heels for Lina/Rita and his simplicity wins her over despite her misgivings. And then a flood devastates Belu’s village, killing her abusive stepmother too. She comes to the city with little other than her love for Bhola, a Significant Song, and the super smart and faithful dog, Moti. Will she find Bhola, or will she be found by Ranjit? What will become of these clueless bumpkins in the big city? Will Lina get her man? Will Inspector Pradhan get his?

Rajesh Khanna is quite enjoyable as Ranjit. He is suave, a narcissist, and wears some very snazzy outfits. He is never conflicted about his life of crime, and thoroughly enjoys his lifestyle funded by ill-gotten gains. As Bhola he overacts like there’s no tomorrow, grimacing and spouting proverbs to show he is pure and innocent. Bhola is a quick study though and it is amusing to see Ranjit getting a dose of his own medicine. Ranjit is a traditional filmi evil mastermind and he loves a needlessly complex plan so there are many silly hijinks to enjoy including a secret lair, tunnels, mysterious drugs that paralyse, disguises, and a gang of suited and booted henchmen. If you’ve ever wanted to see Rajesh Khanna fight a duel with himself, this is the film for you.

Mumtaz is gorgeous and bubbly as Lina/Rita. She seems like a competent young woman, and has a good head and a good heart. Question – were fancy chiffon sarees standard police issue? She is attracted to Bhola’s honesty and can’t reconcile her impression of him with her assignment of entrapping Ranjit the jewel thief. Lina doesn’t waste too much time sighing over her maybe potential slightly forbidden love, and just gets on with the job in the belief that the law will make her decision for her. She does get stuck with some silly “truth drug” shenanigans, but generally avoids the worst of the slapstick.

Vinod Khanna’s Inspector Pradhan is the driving force in the chase to get Ranjit. He is a little too good to be true. The perfect son to a doting mother, a genius police investigator, the golden boy. He has a strong sense of duty and what is right and he hates that Ranjit thumbs his nose at the law. There is nothing very real or interesting about the character but Vinod Khanna plays Pradhan with just the right degree of straight faced pomposity to make it funny yet still vaguely believable.

At first glance I expected to find Belu (Naaz) tiresome. But while people write Belu off as a cripple, and she herself would much rather not have a disability, she’s not completely passive. When a bunch of goons assaulted her she fought back with everything she had. When she came looking for her brother she made the most of the Desai coincidences that littered her path. Sure there was a lot of hobbling and crying but she isn’t pathetic, just overwhelmed. Naaz can handle the teary self-pity through to the more sparky repartee. She has a gentle presence that played well opposite the more extrovert characters in the ensemble.

But the real star and the brains in the family is Moti (Rexy). Moti protects Belu, fetches her crutches, fights off thugs, navigates Bombay traffic with heart stopping disregard for traffic lights, eludes gangs of armed assailants, and is generally a sound judge of what is going on. And when all else fails, trust Moti to sort the sheep from the goats.

The Kalyanji-Anandji soundtrack gives Mumtaz some opportunity to dance, but the duets are tailored to Rajesh Khanna’s awkward posturing so I felt there was an opportunity missed. And what lunatic casts Faryal and doesn’t include a dance number for her?

While the film is visually pleasing, it isn’t a blinged up special effects laden experience. The drama is generated by people, the confusion and near misses, the things we know that the characters don’t. It’s an undemanding and entertaining movie, stylish and fun. 3 ½ stars!

 

 

 

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Pyar Kiye Jaa

Pyar Kiye Jaa is my favourite film starring Shashi Kapoor and I think he’s at his absolute Shashilicious best here. It’s a very funny comedy with a couple of romances thrown in for good measure and a fantastic star cast.  Sridhar takes the opportunity of a plot line involving making a movie to poke gentle fun at the film industry as well as relying on more conventional comedy scenes and the excellent comedic talents of his stars to make this a very entertaining film. Great songs, funny dialogue,  excellent performances and plenty of dramatic Shashi Kapoor – what more could you possibly want?

I didn’t realise until recently that Pyar Kiye Jaa is a remake of the 1964 Tamil film Kaadhalikka Neramillai which was also written and directed by C. V. Sridhar. Rajashree starred in this original version as well and reprised her role in the Telugu version Preminchi Choodu the following year, so I hope she enjoyed the role! One apology as well – I’m sorry the screen caps here are so blurry, but my DVD copy of this film is really poor quality.

The film opens with a song where Shyam (Kishore Kapoor) and Malti (Kalpana) dance along the beach in a last meeting before Shyam heads back to work for his rich father Devraj (Chaman Puri) and Malti leaves Mumbai to go home with her sister Nimala (Rajasree).  Malti and Nimala are the daughters of Ramlal (Om Prakash), the owner of Ramlal estates and the employer of Ashok (Shashi Kapoor) who just happens to be good friends with Shyam. All that in the first 20 minutes! But these first few scenes effectively set up most of the main characters, their relationships with each other and their social standing which leaves us free to concentrate on the mainly very funny comedy. It’s an excellent way to open the film and this first song is very catchy and upbeat with great moves by Kishore Kumar.

Ashok has a run in with Malti and Nimala when he crashes his wreck of a car into their vehicle. Despite his winsome smile, the sisters are not impressed and once they get home demand that their father sack Ashok immediately. To his credit Ramlal is reluctant to fire someone he thinks is a good employee, but he cannot stand up to his daughters’ persuasions and has no choice but to go ahead and dismiss Ashok.

Unfortunately for Ramlal, Ashok knows his rights and is not about to take his dismissal lying down. He sets up a rather magnificent striped tent opposite Ramlal’s house and armed with a set of expressive signs sets about protesting and demanding his job back.

His next step is to hire a band and some supporters which leads to this wonderful song.  This is the ‘best Shashi song ever!’ for me and nothing can beat Shashi’s gyrations as he demands his job back and berates Ramlal while Malti and Nimala fling buckets of water at him. His support crew groove away in the background and the band rather wisely keep well back to avoid the deluge. The Tamil version from the original film is almost as good and is filmed at exactly the same location, but I have to say that I think Shashi beats Ravichandran in terms of cuteness and the Hindi song is has a bit more pep as well.

Meanwhile Ramlal’s son Atma (Mehmood) has set up a film production company named vah vah productions in the hope that this will be the audience reaction to his films (although my sub titles call it wah wah productions, which has a totally different meaning and may in fact be more accurate!). He’s relying on his father to bankroll his first production but Ramlal is rather slow at handing out any money. So vah vah productions at this stage consists of Atma as director, producer, screenwriter and everything else besides. Atma spots the beautiful Meena (Mumtaz) as she’s walking home and decides she would be perfect for his heroine despite her lack of acting talent.

After witnessing Ashok’s rhetoric as he protests outside the house, Atma engages Ashok as his scriptwriter and the scene is set for a number of possible storylines to be explored. These scenes may be where Farah Khan got her inspiration for Om Shanti Om as Sridhar does an excellent job of sending up the film industry including some wonderfully bad dialogue delivery and acting by Meena and many clichéd scenes described by Atma. These culminate in Atma’s final description of his film, which has been a tragedy and a romance in previous incarnations, but has morphed into a ghost story as he relates it to Ramlal. Atma adds in appropriate sound effects and the combination of Mehmood’s voice and Om Prakash’s facial expressions is both brilliant and hilarious.

Meanwhile, Ashok and Nimala have patched up their differences and fallen in love. After all who could resist Shashi when he starts to strip off to jump into a canal in a daring recue of a transistor radio? The couple know that there is no way Ramlal will consent to their marriage and Ashok has to come up with a cunning plan. For this he needs his friend Shyam, plenty of make-up and Devraj’s Chevrolet car, which Ashok hopes will make the right sort of impression. Relying on his friend’s good nature Ashok persuades him to act as his rich millionaire father to win Ramlal’s approval for the marriage. Atma also takes the opportunity to try and solicit more funding for his film from the visiting millionaire, which means another great song.

The plan is working well up until Devraj happens to come to the area to look at some property. He meets his old friend Ramlal and decides that Malti would be the perfect match for his son. So Shyam has to find a way to be both himself and Ashok’s father and explain why the eccentric millionaire Mr Raibahadur Ganga Prasad is driving his father’s car. It all works out in the end of course, but not before Shyam and Ashok have to concoct various other tall tales and even end up in jail.

I love this film, partly because Shashi is fantastic and totally irresistible, but also because everything comes together perfectly. It’s a well written film where the story flows consistently and the comedy is cleverly integrated into every scene. The plot devised by Ashok requires constant revision as events unfold, and Shashi’s character is funny as well as resourceful and inventive. Despite his con-artist ways, Ashok is so engaging and charming that it’s possible to forgive him for lying to his potential father in law. This is helped by the fact that he confesses all to Nimala early on and she’s equally happy to hoax her father to get what she wants. Kishore Kumar plays a great straight man to Shashi’s Ashok and his performance as the pompous and eccentric billionaire Raibahadur Ganga Prasad is superb. Shyam enters in to the deception with some reservations, but is unable to resist Ashok and then makes the most of his disguised . Both Rajashree and Kalpana are good in their roles although they intermittently seem to be wearing so much make up that it’s amazing they can move their faces at all. Neither character is reluctant to stand up for what they want and they both are strong and determined women. They both look beautiful in the songs and in the later romantic scenes and I like the way the two different romances develop.

Mumtaz only has a small role as Meena but she is funny as she tries to follow the instructions given to her by Atma and she is very good at being a bad actor! Mehmood is on top form as the wannabe director with plenty of wonderful expressions and Om Prakash is excellent as the rather hen-pecked Ramlal. Another major plus of the film is the fantastic music by Laxmikant and Pyarelal. All the songs are well placed and each is utilised to develop the story further. Everyone gets their chance to shine and there is a song here for every possible occasion. I love every single one and it’s been very difficult to decide which to add in here.

I just wish the quality of the film was better, since there are many places where black spots and lines appear, and that my copy had subtitled songs. Otherwise there is nothing I don’t like about this film – it’s perfect Shashi Kapoor fare and a real classic. 5 stars.

Temple says:

I do love Pyar Kiye Jaa but I have to say it edges towards my maximum tolerance for slapstick and silly disguises. Heather has described the plot in some detail but it isn’t the story as much as the actors that I enjoy. There is something in the dynamic between the male stars, a balance of energies, that is very pleasing. Shashi seems to be having a ball, playing the filmi hero and making sure his performance is appreciated – mock fainting in distress and surreptitiously checking how his audience react before swooning a bit more. Of course he is also the perfect clean cut romantic lead which doesn’t hurt in a fluffy love story. There is an extra sparkle in Shashi’s eyes when he and Mehmood are sending up their own industry. Mehmood’s Atma is strangely reminiscent of Tony Curtis with his quiff, terry-towelling leisure wear and Capri pants. Mumtaz brings a squeaky exuberance to Meena and is the only memorable female cast member for my money. There is such a thing as too much Mehmood, and sometimes even too much Kishore Kumar, but good writing and well matched performances avoid that pitfall. Laxmikant-Pyarelal excel at the swinging big band style. This soundtrack stands up really well without the visuals, and is even more fun with them. Kehne Ki Nahin Baat is just the best unfair dismissal protest song ever (and has Beth’s vote for greatest song in the world). There are a few negatives – a bit too much slapping, stalking and shouting in some ‘comedy’ scenes and a very unsurprising plot. But see it for the charm and good humour of the cast, and some stylish retro rom-com fun. 4 ½ stars!