Shammi-Vinod: Bhai-Bhai

While watching parts of Manmohan Desai’s Parvarish recently, I recalled a film that I had seen way back in Doordarsaurus days in which Shammi and Vinod had played Bhai Bhai. Having heard of how the two actors shared a warm relationship and that Shammi had been a real support to Vinod after the latter’s return from US when he was trying to pick up the threads in his personal and professional life, I searched eagerly for the movie of which the only thing I remembered was that Vinod was engaged to Helen – a fact that had gladdened my heart because she was my favourite even back then and it used to sadden me that she never ever got her man.

Anyway my search zeroed in on to two movies: Preetam, and Jaane-Anjaane. Both were released in 1971 and had a similar star-cast.  So, first onto Preetam because that turned out to be the movie that I had watched.

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The beginning of Preetam is strongly reminiscent of Parvarish: a dying woman hands over her newly-born to her brother Thakur saab (Raj Mehra) and his wife (Sulochna) asking them not to let even his father’s shadow fall over him. The said father Rana (Tiwari) is a thief and a murderer who is currently serving a jail sentence. The couple keep their promise and bring up the child, Preetam, with love and affection along with their own son Anil. When a few years later Rana breaks out of jail and comes searching for his wife and child, the Thakur tells him that they are both dead. When Rana tries to extort money from him, Sulochana has enough presence of mind to ring up the police from another room. The Police Inspector though botches up things by stating that it was good they called him up. A furious Rana threatens dire consequences before being hauled away by the police.

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Culture Marker: Havildars still wore shorts and pagdis.

Time passes and the boys are now all grown up but sharing the same bond of love as in their childhood with Anil (a very young Vinod Khanna) idealizing his elder brother Preetam (an overweight but jovial Shammi Kapoor).

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Culture Marker: Much before Akbar made see-through shirts popular, there was Amar, oops Anil

Soon, however, Anil has to leave for Bombay for his higher studies even as Preetam prepares to meet the unusually named Sharan (Leena Chandravarkar), a girl his parents are keen he get engaged to. A misunderstanding, a kidnapping, an impersonation, a murder charge, a few songs and the two fall in love with each other.

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Also added into the mix is a barber named Safachatt (Mehmood) who is in love with a nurse Gauri (Baby Naaz now grown up to be called Kumari Naaz) whose father (Dhumal) is dead against the match.

 

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More than one hour into the film and Anil makes a reentry, making a call to his girlfriend [Now where did she spring from?????!!!!!!!] Sarita (Helen) [Poor VK! You are still a small fry, the director has no time to show your romance] informing her that he has passed ‘first class first’. She is happy and even more so when he tells her later that she has leave with him for their engagement. However, she also has her misgivings: “Have you told your parents I am a cabaret artist?” she asks. Yes, he has told them everything and they do not have any objection. [Three Cheers].

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But, of course, he hasn’t told them what he himself doesn’t know, viz, that she is part of Rana’s plan who hopes to plant her in the Thakur household and create havoc. Nor that the man who she claims is her ‘door ke rishte ka bhai’ (Manmohan) is actually her lover.

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The engagement is one happy celebration with happy guests, happy samdhis, two beautiful happy young women and two handsome happy men. Preetam flirts with Sharan and Sarita; Anil and Sharan bond well as Devar-Bhabhi; the brothers get into a mock fight and all is well with the world. I enjoyed this scene and when Sharan’s father invited everyone for Sharan’s birthday in a few days, I looked forward to having some more of these happy, beautiful moments.

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It was not to be because the next day Anil goes to pick up a necklace for Sarita, meets with an accident and it is his charred body that returns home. His brother and parents are devastated [as am I but what gives me hope is that it is a charred body in a Hindi filmJ] and so are Rana and his cohorts. But Rana is not one to give up easily and he comes up with another plan. Sarita informs the family that she is carrying Anil’s child. Now it has become a matter of honour and predictably Preetam is requested to marry Sarita so as the save the family’s prestige. Sorry, nothing doing. “Anil was my brother,” he protests, “I cannot even look at his fiancé in that manner”. And thus the great reveal:  He wasn’t your brother but your cousin.

A shattered Preetam goes to explain things to Sharan who surprisingly is celebrating her party (Didn’t they hear about Anil’s demise????????????) Preetam’s  mood is not helped by Sharan’s choice of dress

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which must have reminded him of his younger, carefree days when he sang “Aajkal tere mere pyar ke charche” with the livewire Mumu and cared two hoots for public opinion: “To kya?”

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Now he has to bow to his parents’ wishes and marry Sarita [And Helen makes up for all the times she didn’t get married to the hero by looking absolutely lovely as a bride].

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That night, however, he has the shock of his life when Sarita slinks into the sheets with him, horrifying him with her brazenness. When he admonishes her, she tells him that she had never loved Anil who forget about impregnating her had actually never even touched her. Disgusted, he walks out. [This scene is the highlight of the movie with Shammi all bluster and Helen cool as cucumber knowing she holds all the aces].

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His parents are as distressed as him and Sarita’s wanton attitude creates further turmoil. Sharan’s father asks Preetam to give her money and get a divorce. But Sarita and Rana are playing for higher stakes and she refuses. Rana plans to murder Preetam so that Sarita (and through her, Rana himself) can inherit all the wealth. Meanwhile Sharan’s mother asks Preetam not to meet her daughter and of as he is now a married man. Pushed to the end of his tether, Preetam sets off in a murderous rage.

With violent intentions all around, what’s going to happen next? Will Preetam kill Sarita? Will Rana kill his own son, Preetam? Will Preetam be ever free  of Sarita? Will the Thakur household be ruined forever? Can Safachatt be of any help? And the million-dollar question: Is Anil really dead?

*

The second movie has Shammi and Vinod playing brothers -on opposite sides of the law.

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Ramu (Shammi) , abandoned as an infant by his mother Shobha (Sulochna), is brought up by Laxmi (Lalita Pawar) and her petty-criminal,  bootlegger husband Shankar (Jayant). As a young child, Ramu once sneaks into Shobha’s home (now married to a lawyer Sajjan ) and tries to steal a train-set belonging to his half-brother Hemant. Shobha, recognizing him from the locket that he wears, saves him from being arrested by the police. The scene is repeated years later when Ramu has graduated to bigger things and is being chased by his police-inspector brother Hemant (an earnest Vinod Khanna).

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In the meantime, Ramu has also fallen in love with Mala (Leena Chandravarkar) who reciprocates his feelings.

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She also happens to be a childhood friend of Hemant who wants to be more than just be friends with her. However, when Mala informs Hemant that she is in love with another man, he not only withdraws graciously [Absolutely loved this scene, no histrionics or melodrama, just two adults discussing the situation in a mature manner]

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but is also caring enough to ask her to reform her man once he comes to know of Ramu’s criminal activities.

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And Ramu does promise Mala that he’d refrain from all illegal activities and thus she succeeds where his mother and childhood friend Koyli (Sandhya Roy)  – both of whom had asked him to lead an honest life – had not.  [Found this a bit difficult to digest. Both Laxmi and Koyli loved him, had known him all his life, and had been pleading to him to mend his ways for so long and yet he paid heed to the woman he knew but for a few months.] Still I guess I can’t complain looking at how overjoyed his mother is:

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Anyway, Ramu’s honest ways are not liked by Shankar who in a fit of rage not only throws Ramu out of their home but also reveals the fact that Ramu is not their son, a revelation which shatters Ramu but still he keeps his promise to Mala and continues his honest ways.

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Meanwhile Hemant in pursuit of stolen goods comes in search of Shankar and asks him to surrender. The latter engages him in a gunfight and one of Hemant’s bullets kills Laxmi . Shankar, repenting too late, is taken a prisoner. When Ramu,comes to know of his mother’s death, he vows to kill Hemant. Shobha is terrified at her two sons gunning for each other so she goes and meets Ramu and tells him the truth about his parentage.

The scene –strongly reminding one of Karn-Kunti scene in the Mahabharat – has Ramu asking some hard-hitting questions to his mother and though she pleads and begs, he does not relent. Hemant will die at his hands.

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So does Ramu kill Hemant or is Hemant going to arrest/ kill him? Will Hemant ever come to know that Ramu is his own brother? Will Shobha ever declare to the world that Ramu is her son? What about Koyli? Does she have any part in Ramu’s life or would she just be abandoned? What would Hemant and his father’s reaction be if or when they come to know of Shobha’s past?

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With tighter plotting and direction both the movies could have been so much better but as it is they remain worth only a one-time watch. The performances are adequate.  Shammi has author-backed roles in both the movies but he is clearly past his prime and it is especially painful to watch him in action scenes. However, his joviality makes him very much likeable in Preetam though his snarling face in Jaane-Anjaane doesn’t do much. Mehmood, hogs a major portion of Preetam but except for his name reminding me of a word that has now virtually disappeared from my vocabulary, does little else to interest me. Vinod is sidelined in both the movies to leave any forceful impact though he looks good

in whatever he does.

 

In fact, the performance that I enjoyed most was that of Helen who was bold as brass in Preetam and had the best song of both the movies in Jaane-Anjaane.

 

Have you seen the movies? How did you find them?

 

4 thoughts on “Shammi-Vinod: Bhai-Bhai

  1. As soon as I saw the title of your post, I thought “Preetam“? Though I’ve heard of Jaane-Anjaane, I’ve never seen it. I am very conflicted about movies of this period – Shammi (whom I really like) was beginning to frankly look terrible and should probably have stopped appearing as the hero after Jaanwar or so. But Vinod Khanna… yum. 🙂 He is reason for a one-time watch, at least.

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    1. Unfortunately,Shammi is not the only one. Almost all the heroes of the Hindi film industry continued to play heroes and romance heroines half their age well past their prime. Sad to see them desperately trying to cling to an already disappeared youth. Strange because middle-age can be equally attractive. Who can forget Shashi Kapoor in Kalyug?

      There is an innocence about VK in both the movies. He also appears light-eyed. Do watch Jaane-Anjaane. Had they shown more of the conflict between the brothers, it could have turned into an engrossing movie.

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      1. “Almost all the heroes of the Hindi film industry continued to play heroes and romance heroines half their age well past their prime.

        Very true. Shashi Kapoor was one of the exceptions. Shammi, oddly (or was it because of Geeta Bali’s death?) began to go to seed pretty early on. I mean, if you look at his career graph, he only became really successful with Tumsa Nahin Dekha, in 1957 – and by the time Teesri Manzil came around, in 1966, he was already looking well past his prime. Men who act their age are far more appealing to me than men desperately trying to behave 20 or 30 years younger than they are (Rajesh Khanna is a sadly embarrassing example in those terrible 80s films he appeared in).

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        1. “Rajesh Khanna is a sadly embarrassing example in those terrible 80s films he appeared in.”

          My first aquaintance with Rajesh Khanna was through those 80’s horrors like Maqsad and Aaj Ka MLA and though there was the occasional Avtaar, I used to dislike him immensely. It was only later when I watched movies like Anand, Aradhana, Aan Milo Sajna etc that I realised his charm. Often think that Kaka is the copy-book example of a superstar who had a great fall. And must add that his last ad for some electric fans moved me quite a bit.

          Rishi Kapoor in his autobiography mentions Shammi going to seed so early on (he was only in his late 30s) and says that it was because of Geeta Bali’s death.He also mentions Shammi’s contemporary Feroz Khan saying that Shammi looked old enough to play his father in Dharmatma. This resulted in a drunken brawl b/w Shammi and Feroz:). However, I do like Shammi in his portly papa roles.

          Shashi did act his age though seeing him play Amitabh’s rotund senior in a horror called Akalya (or was it Ajooba???) was distressing after seeing him play Amitabh’s young brother or friend in so many movies. Jenifer’s death really did shatter him. What is with the Kapoor men and the deaths of their wives??

          And though i typed ‘continued’, the trend actually continues because even now we have instances of heroes clinging to the last vestiges of their youth instead of aging gracefully.

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