This is a classic, but a fun classic. The kind of movie that you don’t want to pick at too much because then you will end up ruining it. Which means, yaaaay! Probably a short review.
This is one of the few Hindi movies, maybe the only movie, that has 3 brothers playing 3 brothers. And on top of that, the future wife of one of the brothers plays the future wife of his character. It’s not the most real-reel overlapping movie in Indian film history, but it’s at least tied for the top.
The first time I watched it, I was all ready for conflict and drama and angst spilling from the real to the reel. But no, it’s the opposite! The happiness and good feeling they all have for each other in real life spills over into the reel characters. This is an extremely happy movie, that is why it is a classic, 3 brothers having a good time together, and a young woman falling in love with a man who makes her laugh. On and off screen.
Kishore is known primarily as a singer, that was the majority of his career. But before he became a full time singer, he was a singer-actor. His brother, Ashok, was the bigger star. But Kishore didn’t try to imitate him, to ride his coat tails, he came up with his own way of being onscreen. Kishore was a comic star, not afraid to make a fool of himself, to laugh at himself and at others and to encourage us to laugh too.
Kishore’s comic style doesn’t quit fit in with the way anyone else does things. He had a patter, a fast talk. But it wasn’t wise cracks, it was a kind of innocent fast talk. He could also fight, be romantic, and be a little bit childish too. Maybe the best way to explain it is my favorite song sequence from this film, when he storms into a romantic beautiful stage performance to sing a duet patiently asking for the money owed him by the lead performer. He isn’t showing off, and he isn’t angry, he is just determined and stubborn. And this is Kishore’s movie, he sets the tone. So it is comic and makes the whole real world seem a little comic as well after you finish the film.
Sometimes humor comes from laughing at the way we suddenly see the world itself is funny and the illogical logic of the leads is common sense. That’s what this film lives in, ridiculous plot twists and main characters who just plow through and accept them all. The title means “if it goes, call it a car”. That’s what this film is about. If it goes, it’s a car. If there’s a boy and girl, call it a romance. If there’s an older brother, call him an authority. None of these things are really true, but they are almost true, so close to being true that they make the real “truth” suddenly seem strangely false by revealing how shallow it is.
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Ashok, Kishore, and Anup Kumar are brothers and play brothers. In real life, they are 3 brothers working together to make a film. In reel life, they are 3 brothers working together in their garage.
Ashok is the oldest by several years, practically raised the younger two (again, in real and reel) and they respect him. And that is why they obey his orders that none of them should have anything to do with women (okay, that’s not true in real life, Ashok didn’t care). Things start to change in their happy bachelor life when Madhubala suddenly appears in the middle of a rainy night and insists on Kishore fixing her car.
Kishore is intrigued by this gorgeous smiling woman. But not so much that he forgets what she owes him. Madhubala takes off without paying which leads to Kishore stubbornly following her to a dance performance and insisting on his money. And then following her back to her apartment that night and causing a scare when he is discovered hiding and waiting for his money.
Somehow, with all this stubbornness and silly view of the world, Madhubala falls in love with him and vice versa. This is one of those romances that I knew was coming from the start of the film and couldn’t see how it was going to get there. And then it made complete sense! Madhubala has a restrictive over protective guardian. This funny little guy who keeps singing to her and stubbornly following her is just what she wants. And Kishore can’t resist Madhubala’s laughter at all his silliness.
At the same time, Madhubala’s forward friend Sahira is exactly what Anoop wants, too shy to talk to women, he needs someone who will take the lead. And so both younger brothers are in love, but of course marriage is forbidden so long as Ashok Kumar forbids it. And so they go to him and try to persuade him that woman and marriage aren’t so bad, which is when Ashok tells his sad story. He was in love once, and she betrayed him! Married a richer man. He has always kept her photo to remind him of her betrayal, and forbade his beloved younger brothers from women to save them from the same broken heart he suffered.
Well, this is an impossible fix! Right? Something that could only be solved by a heavy dose of movie magic. And that is provided. In a completely silly-and-we-know-it-is-silly kind of way. Kishore is kidnapped and threatened with death unless Madhubala and her rich father agree to her marrying a layabout who will take all her money. And, totally coincidentally, also held at the kidnappers den is Veena, who Kishore recognizes as THE WOMAN IN ASHOK’S PICTURE!!!!!! You see, she didn’t leave Ashok for a richer man, she was taken by force and has been made to stand around and work for the gang all these years. And now she is ready to help Kishore escape. And as she helps him out, who should arrive but Ashok! Former boxing champion (did I not mention that before?), here to beat up everyone who would hurt his little brother and just generally save the day.
That’s my favorite part, that Ashok gets to save the day. Because it is such a blurring of real and reel. Ashok was 47 when this movie came out, Kishore and Anoop were 18 and 15 years younger. But Ashok was the oldest brother, of course he got to save the day and be the big hero in the movie. It was the only appropriate happy ending.
(Also, Helen and her mentor Cuckoo do an item number together. It’s just the best movie!!!)