This time we have stories from three more films starting with P: Prem Shastra, Pyaasa and Pyar Hi Pyar.
Dev Anand (DA) was 50 when Prem Shastra (1974) was filmed, and it shows.
The film’s plot had something going for it and, on another day, it could well have been successful. Sadly, the treatment is pedestrian, and the film was promoted to be a sleazy affair – perhaps because it was directed by B R Ishara.
DA is a popular writer and he’s at some attractive location searching for ideas and inspiration for his next novel. Inspiration shows up in the form of Zeenat Aman (ZA). It’s not clear what ZA is up to, but it’s abundantly clear that she’s incredibly attractive.
ZA starts wooing DA almost from day one. Most unbelievably DA plays hard to get! This was a big risk; what if ZA had decided she didn’t want the budda?
Fortunately, ZA doesn’t give up. She even leads DA to a bedroom, and, with a dazzling smile, suggests a let’s-do-it-now.
They do the ‘do’. DA returns home promising to write ZA a letter every day. Back home DA is greeted by his wife Bindu (B). B was a former Miss India, scheming and promiscuous; she had phassao-d DA into marriage because she wanted to brandish a successful and respectable husband.
And then the surprises start. B is apparently ZA’s mother, and ZA is pregnant. So is DA in a shocking relationship with his own step-daughter?
The rest of the film is about DA trying to prove that ZA is not his step-daughter. He succeeds after a sufficiently intriguing courtroom drama that brings I S Johar and Rehman into the plot.
The film’s music by LP is a complete disaster; I couldn’t recall a single song! Dev Anand is sufficiently polished, Zeenat Aman is alluring. The film flopped miserably, but it probably helped the Dev-Zeenat friendship to continue longer. But soon Raj Kapoor would take Zeenat Aman away with just three words: Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.
Pyaasa (1957) hit me hard. It is dark, melancholy but always gripping.
Guru Dutt (GD) is a poet that no one recognizes. He’s very good (because the poet’s real name was Sahir Ludhianvi), and can burst into verse almost instantly.
In an impromptu college class gathering, his friends dare him to say something poetic off the cuff. GD is so impressive as he unleashes his magical words that his classmate Mala Sinha (MS) is immediately besotted. Love happens in a romantic haze, but things eventually turn sour, and MS chooses the more pragmatic option of marrying a rich book publisher Rehman (R).
This isn’t such a surprise. GD is after all kadka, dejected, brooding and even his brothers (one of them Mehmood) don’t want him hanging around doing nothing except scribble poems on numerous sheets of paper that fly off, unwanted, everywhere. In fact, the brothers sell the poems to a raddiwala to earn a few annas. A shocked GD rushes to retrieve his poems, but he’s told that they’ve just been sold. To whom?
.. To a lovely and bewitchingly beautiful prostitute Waheeda Rehman (WR). And when she hums his songs she seems doubly vivacious and effervescent. WR would eventually turn out to be the only person who truly loves and cares for GD.
This, to me, is an enduring puzzle. Why does GD have such a disconnect with the rest of the world? In his own way he’s caring and sensitive. He winces in pain when a butterfly fluttering on a flower is accidentally trampled, he calls WR ‘aap‘ when nobody else has even a modicum of respect for her.
GD’s problem is that he has no Plan B. Plan A is to write poems, get them published, and thereby fend for himself. When Plan A fails, GD is at his wit’s end. R might have published his poems, but when he discovers that he was his wife MS’s lover, he’s doubly determined to humiliate him. He appoints him as a naukar in his house and makes him serve drinks at the house mehfil. But surrounded by smaller poets, GD displays his mettle and pedigree and sings a song of anguished magic directed at MS.
So it’s pretty much the end of the road for him, especially when he spots his brothers at the Ganga Ghat near Howrah Bridge immersing his mother’s ashes. The cruel brothers don’t even offer him the option to respectfully mourn his tragic loss.
GD therefore contemplates suicide, even writes a suicide note, puts it in his coat pocket … but then beholds a poor beggar on the roadside shivering in the cold. He promptly hands him over his coat … and the beggar promptly gets run over by a train with his body mutilated beyond recognition.
The duniya thinks that GD is dead. MS is shocked, but also slightly relieved because it was disconcerting to see her former lover reduced to servility. WR, on the other hand, is agonized. She rushes to R, offers the only silverware she has, and implores him to publish GD’s poems.
The poems are published, and the book is a runaway success. The dead GD overnight becomes a cult figure; there’s even a massive public meeting arranged by R to bemoan his departure (and further bolster book sales?). The only problem is that GD is still alive, and actually shows up at his memorial meeting.
This leads to unprecedented chaos. Everyone wants to ‘own’ GD because so much money now rides on him. But a shocked and chastened GD walks away from it all. Into the sunset holding WR’s hand.
It is hard to stop praising this film: Guru Dutt’s direction, Sahir’s delicious poetry, S D Burman’s music, that rises to an amazing crescendo, V K Murthy crisp and evocative photography, Mala Sinha’s ethereal charm, Waheeda Rehman’s intoxicating looks … and I could go on.
Pyar Hi Pyar
Vyjayantimala (V)’s name is Kavita. So the handsome hunk Dharmendra (D) decides that he wants to be a kavi (poet).
And since V isn’t succumbing to his advances, a little subterfuge is called for. So, D gets into the lift with V and makes sure that power is switched off. By the time power is restored, V is smiling broadly at D.
A part of the reason for the wide smile is that D is looking his best (while V looks past her prime), but the real reason is that D is a CID officer, and V hopes that he’ll solve the mystery of her missing father.
Sadly for V, her baap (who we never see) has been bumped off by her step-chacha in partnership with Pran (P).
D has his own story. Following some anaath ashram confusion and intrigue, he is presumed to be the son of the city’s biggest sethji. In reality, the sethji‘s real son is his driver Mehmood (M), but we’ll know that only in the last reel.
Pyar Hi Pyar (1969) is tedious and there are complicated sub-plots. V is herself missing frequently although her eyes are always full of love for D. You survive because there are some good cameo performances. The little fellow, Mehmood Jr, clearly wins his scene versus the real Mehmood, and there’s a telephone call in which bihari Shatrughan Sinha steals a march over punjabi P.
The film did reasonably well at the box-office because SJ (sounds more like S) composed some catchy tunes, but there were scenes that bothered me. While romancing the heroine in the lift was conceptually a good idea, it constitutes completely unacceptable public behavior to harass her like that. Also, there was absolutely no way that the lovely long-legged Helen could have the comedian Dhumal as her father. They should’ve called Kabir Bedi to play that role.
Helen dances lustily but with a hint of indifference. V isn’t even pretending not to get bored, and, to be honest, I got pretty bored myself as the film went on and on.