[Spoilers ahead, but nothing you wouldn't assume knowing that this is a sweet little comedy and love story.]
Squeeee! I loved this movie! Dulha Dulhan was given to me by Si, my friend and Hindi tutor, among a handful of other Mysterious Movies from Yore in a bag of treasures from her summer in Rajasthan. A good movie is always a treat, but because I'd never heard of this one (and I don't think she had, either), its lovableness feels like an especially wonderful random gift from the universe. Thanks, universe!
Raj (Raj Kapoor), a radio singer, shares a room in a Bombay chawl with Bansi (Agha), a film studio musician. One day Raj gets a letter from a friend, asking him to go to the train station to meet the daughter of the friend's boss. There he finds Rekha (Sadhana Shivdasani), penniless and with nowhere to stay, and takes her in. Rekha is delightful, and, as her naivete in the big city charms the roommates and the whole neighborhood, she and Raj fall in love.
But there are buts.
But #1: Raj gets another letter from his friend apologizing for not having written sooner to say that his boss's daughter never made her trip to Bombay. So who's the girl staying in his apartment? Of course, it doesn't matter, and after a few attempts to shake her off, Raj realizes how much he loves her and they get married despite her unknown identity.
But #2: While she's out doing some shopping, someone from Rekha's past comes looking for her and takes her back home to Jaipur [ooh, that's a nice concidence for me, since Jaipur is where this DVD began its journey to my house]. Rekha also conked her head and suddenly remembers her actual past - her name is Chanda, and she had been fighting with her family over an unwanted engagement - but forgets her current life in Bombay with Raj. All of this happens while Rekha is out of the apartment, so Raj comes back to an empty room and has no idea why or where she's gone. Nahiiiiiin! Will Raj find Rekha? Will Bansi find Raj? Will Rekha remember her husband and their life together? Will the chummy world of the chawl be reunited?
The film is adorable, start to finish.* Raj Kapoor is twinkly and sweet.
Raj (the character) makes several attempts to get rid of the mysterious and reputation-risking Rekha before he finally gives into his affection for her, and you see the pain on his (the actor's) face as his love struggles against his sense of propriety and pragmatism. He is heartbreaking as he sings a melancholy version of "Hum Ne Tujhko Pyar Kiya" to Chanda in Jaipur, echoing back to her the words she sang him in Bombay to win him over.
Raj and Agha also have great chemistry, squabbling and making up and vowing their eternal loyalty like an old couple. Sadhana is a wide-eyed, cutey-patooty delight.
You might call her simplistic, but she comes off as wholehearted and genuinely charming rather than dumb. The three together form a dear little urban family of sorts.
Rekha's and Raj's isolation is referred to repeatedly. In the Bombay-based portion of the film, neither of them has any literal family. As they plan their wedding, Raj says that orphans like them don't get all the fancy trappings like the groom riding a white horse
but the neighbors work together to give them a lovely wedding and party, complete with musicians borrowed from Bansi's latest film set. (When I went back to get screen captures, I noticed that their festive, "proper" wedding is hinted at in the film's fun animated title sequence.
More on them in a minute.) Later, their landlord tells Chanda's father that Rekha is like his own daughter and welcomes her to stay in Raj's room rent-free. Interestingly there's no contrast to happy, family-filled village life, no moral lesson about how the big city is cold and evil - maybe the point here is that each of us can create family out of the affections we find, no matter who the people we're fond of happen to be.
Anandji-Kalyanji's songs are stellar, starting right away with the titles.
After he claps his surname into existence, cartoon Raj morphs into the R of his first name, then back again. And don't you love how much he looks like actual Raj? There's no doubt who that is. A dancing cartoon Sadhana twirls until her skirts form an S, and she becomes her initial too. Later they dance together, Agha does handsprings, and Anandji and Kalyanji play the drums.We have to wait a bit for the next song, but it's worth it. The whole chawl dances around together in "Mujhe Kehte Hai Kallu Qawwal."
"Bane to Ban Jaye Zamana Dushman" reminds me of Paheli's "Phir Raat Kati" puppet dance with its theatrical painted backdrop and stylized choreography.
I don't know how either Sadhana or Raj were regarded as dancers, but I thought they were really expressive and completely in keeping with their characters. "Piya Khiche Hue Bandhe Hue Chale Aayenge" [phew!] has little to do with the movie and might just be an excuse for Sadhana and her friends to dance around in the mountains, kind of like a superfluous slumber party squeal-fest, Bollywoodishtyle.
I loved it. Filmi Geek found me the soundtrack online at Dhingana, a site I've never seen before, and I listened to it all day - though after multiple times through the music in isolation, I've decided I prefer it with its picturizaitons and in the context of the story.
And oh, some of the lyrics! The front of the DVD case says the lyrics are by Gulshan Bawra, Anand Bakshi, Harun, and Indivar, and I don't know which of them to credit for what I'm going ot quote. In the sad version of "Hum Ne Tujhko Pyar Kiya," Raj pleads with Chada:"You were proud of my love for you. Try to recollect those times." Later, he wanders the countryside, lost after his attempts to win her back fail:
You brought me to such a turning point, then shattered my heart.... You did not leave me fit to belong to someone else. What do I say about your unfaithfulness. It makes me ashamed of my faithfulness. That love you had given me.... Who are you turning back and looking at, o heart?
Isn't that beautiful? Aaaah! I love how the actor and the words express the confusion, the not understanding, of your beloved just vanishing into thin air...it's not just sadness and grief, it's also the pain of not knowing. Beautiful.
I can't imagine there's much new in this movie, but it's absolutely adorable anyway. The tight focus on Rekha/Chanda and Raj helps a lot, I think; both leads do a fantastic job being charming, lovey, confused, and vulnerable. If this story of the leads' off-screen dislike for one another is to be believed, I'm even more impressed at how well the movie succeeds - and at how convincing they are as an on-screen couple. It didn't even suffer the Curse of the Second Half! The balance of elements does tip more towards sadness and drama then, but everything still moves along to the predictable happy ending. Like Pyar Kiye Jaa, the whole thing just comes together perfectly and is totally satisfying. I had intended to keep this writeup really short, just saying "This is really cute! You should see it!", but it seemed wrong to withhold screen captures and whatever other enticements I could dig up. But it is really cute, and you should definitely see it - and then tell me whether you thought so too.
* [There are some more detailed spoilers in this caveat about the movie's adorableness.] Well, almost. There are a few moments of "oh come on, 1964." The chawl is scandalized by the idea of Rekha staying overnight with Raj and Bansi, and an ashamed Rekha takes some severe action when she realizes that her presence causes trouble. Later, when Raj finds Rekha in Jaipur, he pleads with her father to believe that they were married, but the only evidence that her father will accept of her marriage to Raj is...well, a physical condition that you don't have to be married to have. And, taking her doctor's diagnosis as proof of her wedding herself, Rekha decides right then and there to return to Raj, even though she doesn't remember him. Insert eye-roll. I can't defend these plot points in any way, but at least they pass quickly, with nobody really freaking out or making a big deal out of things. I was so charmed that I just let them go.