A couple of days back, while browsing through a DVD store, I saw the DVD of An Affair to Remember (1957) and immediately Basant (1960) came to my mind.
Basant (1960) was a movie I desperately wanted to see at one point in time – because I loved Chori Chori Ik Ishaara ho gaya hai – (a song that used to be featured regularly in Rangoli during the DD days) and because it starred two actors I absolutely adore – Shammi Kapoor and Nutan.
So after much scouring of various stores, I finally laid my hands on the VCD at a dingy shop in Palika Bazaar, many years ago and got to watch it. And what a thorough and complete disappointment it was! The said VCD was discarded after that one watch…. to be fished out now. This time, I decided to view it with a less critical eye – after all I knew the story (or whatever that is supposed to be!).
Produced and directed by Bibhuti Mitra, Basant turned out to be a complete khichdi of It happened One Night and An Affair to Remember and an absurd Assam related subplot.
Now that you are warned, (if you have not seen this movie), here goes the review.
We meet young Ashim Shom (Shammi Kapoor) who saves an elderly gentleman from being robbed and drops him. A conversation ensues and Ashim tells him of his love story. The lady in question is Meenakshi Roy (Nutan), the spoilt daughter of Rai Bahadur Mrigank Roy (Murad).
The story of their acquaintance/ love dates back to the time when Meenakshi had set her sight on marrying Rajesh (Pran); much to the disapproval and chagrin of Rai Bahadur. In a bid to change her mind, the Rai Bahadur forces a change of scene and the warring father and daughter duo are on a train to Calcutta.
The contrary daughter, who openly proclaims that she does not do what she has been told, runs away from the train. Not only is she insolent and spoilt, she is also very careless. (That kind of comes with the territory, I guess. No ayah to pick her things up behind her!)
Her bag gets stolen at the station, barely five mins after her running away and she runs behind the culprit, a charming petty pickpocket, Billoo (Johnny Walker). The purpose of this scene is to get her out of the station. She comes to a crowded circus, in search of the bag and the thief, and voila, she finds it.
By this time the efficient cops (maybe because their client is the Rai Bahadur Saab) have also landed up at the circus looking for Ms Roy. So she lands up backstage, bag in tow, and then finally on stage. Scene set for a lovely song with our hero!! (How on earth does one just land up on stage and then sing and dance in perfect synch with the other dancers is one thing I never shall know! Oh yes, she also finds a costume to change into in the meantime.)
Song over, Ms Roy (out of costume) tries running out again. Only to run into Ashim Shom, who we learn is on his way to Bombay. He was dancing by the way to make a quick buck. Typical first meeting clash ensues and they part ways. In the station, Ms Roy overhears her irate father yelling at the poor cops and again manages to lose her bag….. and conveniently gets it back! Scene set for second song – this time dressed as a dancing girl!
Our hero by now has recognised the lady and offers to help. Time for another squabble. As Ms Roy waits for the bus at the bus stop, Mr. Walker flicks the damn suitcase and runs. This time, our observant hero makes a dash for the thief and the bag but is unable to catch hold of him. When he comes back to report this to the lady, she is completely oblivious!
On the bus to Bombay, guess who she sits next to – yes Johnny Walker again and he manages to return her suitcase and steal money from her purse!!!! (I know this is all for laughs… but this dumb, really?).
The cops stop the bus and Johnny Walker slimes off. Our hero then makes an appearance and pretends to be this lady’s hubby. Together they hoodwink the cops.
Johnny Walker also figures out that this lady, who is such an easy prey, is none other than Ms Roy.
Ashim and Meenakshi are now on their way to Bombay, with the cops and Johnny Walker behind them. Needless to say that the rest of the journey is peppered with many such nonsensical incidents and songs! Including a sub-plot featuring Johnny Walker’s love story.
Poor Rai Bahadur is by then quite distraught; in a bid to get his daughter back home, he promises Rajesh (Pran) that he shall wed Meenakshi. Yes Pran finally makes an appearance. As expected, by the time Ashim and Meenakshi are in Bombay, they are in love. (Phew!)
Now Ashim smartly decides that they shall meet only after a month – to see if they are really in love. So they pine for each other, singing yet another melodious song (the best in this movie).
Story time over. The patient Sethji who had been listening to Ashim’s tale suddenly decides that he has a job for him. Ashim is entrusted with the same naulakha haar that the thief had been trying to steal. He is asked to go and hand it to one of the sethji’s friends. Now this friend is in Kamarup, Assam. Our hero promptly accepts the assignment and decides to go to Kamarup.
Do Ashim and Meenakshi meet after one month? What happens in Kamarup? Is there a happy-ever after ending?
The rest of the movie answers these three questions, after much meandering and useless side plots!
My two cents:
For a Shammi -Nutan fan, this is a visually appealing movie.
Shammi Kapoor is dashing and Nutan shines – but to no avail. Their combined good looks and acting chops cannot lift this dismal hotchpotch.
I had an issue with the character Meenakshi – sure, she is supposed to be feisty, spoilt and headstrong – but she comes off as downright rude and ill-mannered. And does she have to be that stupid? Spoilt and sheltered does not necessarily translate to stupid. And that constant “My foot” refrain grates.
But she looks lovely and plus this is the one movie where you see Nutan dance.
The Johnny Walker love story angle comes off as superfluous and is tiresome. Pran is wasted in the villain’s role.
I would have preferred to watch more of his villainy than Johnny Walker’s romance.
On the plus, the musical score is brilliant – While not one of OPN’s best and popular score, it has some very fine tunes. My picks are – Chori Chori ik ishaara ho gaya hai, Naino mein suraj ki kiranein, Raaste mein ik haseen. The dance sequence featuring Cuckoo and Nutan is quite sweet.
This viewing, truth be told, I switched off the VCD midway. I knew what was to happen and I had no patience to sit through the silly drama. Even the less critical viewing didn’t quite work.
A pity though, for this movie did have potential. A brilliant cast got wasted and so did a good musical score.