The Emirates flight catalog had over 500 films, including 25+ Hindi films.
With some 20 hours of flying I could see quite a few movies. But what surprised me was that I picked two old films from that impressive collection: Janwar and Kaajal.
Janwar is a film made for Shammi Kapoor and his mad antics. The storyline is wafer thin: Prithviraj Kapoor, a rich sethji, has two sons: Rehman and Shammi Kapoor. He is tough on Rehman and keeps shouting at him because he takes ages to obtain a purchase order from Calcutta; with his younger son (and asli beta in real life), the father is more indulgent … and lavishes him with praise even when he wins a silly tennis tournament cup from Kashmir.
But Shammi hasn’t just won a dumb cup; he’s fallen in love with a patakha named Rajshree. Rajshree initially acts snooty, but after her sahelis convince her, and Shammi reels off three lovely Rafi numbers, she goes down hook, line and sinker. I guess any girl would if she is courted with lal chadi , tumse achha kaun hai and meri mohabbat.
Of course that’s when problems start: Rajshree is very poor and an orphan (all her glamorous dresses were loaned by her sahelis). To make matters worse, Rehman in Calcutta can’t get that purchase order, but gets involved with a kothewali … and this after he’s left behind his first love in Bombay with a baby growing under her belly. Something that the sethji father can hardly digest; imagine two bahus of dubious khandaan!
Very complicated, as you can see, and Shammi Kapoor has to intervene. He pulls it all off eventually: by showing Rehman that the kothewali loves his money, not him; by convincing Rajshree (who’s off to become a nurse in Laos) that the devi she saw with him was actually his bhabhi; and with the happy disclosure by the munimji that Prithviraj is himself an orphan of unknown khandaan.
Rajendranath adds to the fun, and Rajshree is quite lovely. The truth is that it is the movies of the 1960s and 1970s that really chhoo-fy the dil.
Kaajal is more complicated, but still has that aura with a rajmata, a rajkumar, a munimji and a haveli. We have Dharmendra as the young nobleman being the devoted son of Durga Khote the rajmata or rani maa or whatever. But the heartbeat of the haveli is the dead munimji’s daughter Meena Kumari; when she’s not preparing tea, or reading the Ramayan for rajmata, she’s singing a lovely song with some help from Asha Bhosle.
Why can’t Meena Kumari be paired with Dharmendra, especially when they had a torrid affair going in real life? Because she’s the daughter of a measly munimji and because … we’ll know that a little later. So they find Padmini for Dharmendra instead. Padmini getting the hots for Dharam is hardly a surprise (he looked devastatingly handsome those days), but why does Dharam flip for her? Maybe because she was a captivating dancer.
But even when Padmini dances enticingly, Dharam’s eyes reach out for the singer Meena Kumari. The film tries hard to hint at forbidden love between Dharmendra and Meena Kumari but only they know that it is purely platonic. Padmini, after duly marrying Dharmendra, begins to get suspicious herself of the relationship especially with a lovely but naughty Mumtaz ready to spread evil gossip. Inevitably, Meena Kumari can’t take all this and tries to jump to death … but Raaj Kumar rescues her.
To kill the conflict, and take the story forward, Raaj Kumar is married off to Meena Kumari. But he’s a debauche and not surprisingly keeps Meena Kumari waiting on her suhaag raat while he’s off to Helen’s mujra and to behold her zulf. But Meena Kumari is the adarsh naari and pativrata and accepts the badmaash as her swami. She however doesn’t relent when he suggests that her lips chhoo le some sharab because no bharatiya naari can do that.
Like Billy Bunter waiting for his postal order, Raaj Kumar is waiting for a money order from his baap in Africa and, till that happens, keeps milking the haveli for money. Dharmendra signs the cheques reluctantly because Raaj Kumar is after all Meena Kumari’s husband.
Finally the baap arrives, but he’s really an imposter who knows the haveli’s deadly secret: that Raaj Kumar is really the rajmata’s real son and Dharmendra is actually the old munimji’s son (and so Meena Kumari’s asli brother). This upheaval disturbs Durga Khote … especially when Raaj Kumar starts mujras in the haveli itself … and she can’t take it any more and dies. The rajmata’s death triggers off more action including a bandook fight between Dharmendra and Raaj Kumar in which Meena Kumari all but dies. This opens Raaj Kumar’s eyes, he repents like hell near the river, and returns to hug Meena Kumari as life ebbs back (so strongly that she might have choked to death).
The ‘The End’ shot features three happy couples: Raaj Kumar-Meena Kumari, Dharmendra-Padmini and Mehmood-Mumtaz. Yes Mehmood is around too as Meena Kumari’s brahmachari brother … hating women till circumstances force him to choose between Mumtaz and Tun Tun. He chooses correctly and wisely. And thankfully no one calls him gay. The 1960s were innocent times.