This is such a good interesting movie! I watched it years ago and yet I still remember it well enough to write a review, which is a sign of a very good movie.
This is a Yash Chopra production, that was not directed by Yash Chopra. It was directed by Ramesh Talwar, a protegee of Yash’s who was more active in the theater than in film. And it is also a Shashi, Rishi, Neetu, and Raakhee movie. It has the Yash Chopra gloss, and fabulous sets. And it has a very stage feel in how the actors are used and encouraged to interact. And it has Rishi and Neetu presenting their very specific on/off screen youthful chemistry. Raakhee, in her late 70s cool and glamour, the married woman who still acted. And of course Shashi, being so amazing in a few short scenes that we miss his presence the rest of the film.
The thing all these sensibilities have in common is a very sophisticated attitude towards sex. This is a movie that is about the reality of early marriage to resolve sexual tension, of loneliness after the end of a sexual relationship, and of how sex and love can get confused in someone’s head so that they can’t untangle one from the other, especially a young inexperienced person.
Basically, this is a movie about how sex can Mess You UP!!!! If our three leads had no sexual desires, they could have lead far happy less complicated lives. And the happy ending is all of them recognizing that, controlling their desires instead of letting themselves by controlled by them. All of that and it still makes sex look fun! In fact, the plot complications arise by sexual deprivation which gives sex too much power, once the characters have their needs met, they can understand that there are more important things in life.
This is a movie that gives a lesson by bringing the audience right up to the line of sexual revolution and letting us fill in the rest ourselves. If Rishi and Neetu had been able to have sex without being married, their problems would have been a lot smaller. If Raakhee had let herself enjoy a sexual relationship after the loss of her Perfect Love, she would not have been so confused and vulnerable when she met Rishi. And if Shashi….nah, Shashi is perfect, as always.
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It’s an elegantly simple plot. Rishi and Neetu are college sweethearts who are so in love they can’t be apart. Their parents reluctantly agree to let them get married very very young. Meanwhile, Raakhee is a beautiful older woman who has been living in self-imposed celibacy and seclusion since the tragic death of her boyfriend Shashi. Rishi meets Raakhee through work, Raakhee is taken by his resemblance to Shashi and begins almost unconsciously to seduce him, Rishi is now bored with Neetu and intrigued by Raakhee, and Neetu is trapped in a one sided love and one sided marriage with Rishi.
Even more simply, Neetu wants Rishi, Rishi wants Raakhee, and Raakhee wants dead Shashi. It’s 3 people trapped in one way love stories. And sex is what has trapped them. Rishi and Neetu are really really hot for each other. Their parents finally give in and agree to their marriage after Rishi chases Neetu down on a school trip because he needs one more embrace. Their honeymoon is an idyll of sex, including leaving the taps on until their bedroom is flooded and they don’t notice because they are so caught up in each other. But what do you do when you wake up and realize sex is just sex? Neetu’s response is to obsess over her husband and want to spend more time with him, Rishi’s is to look outward to new challenges and, eventually, a new woman.
Raakhee is trapped too. After Shashi’s death, she isolated herself from the world. She killed her natural desires and need for human contact. Rishi breaks through that and it comes out in such a powerful flood that Raakhee is almost unaware of what she is doing. She is lost in a dreamworld, torn between believing Rishi to be Shashi, and believing that she is having a “harmless” fantasy that does no damage to this nice young married man. Both of these things are of course not true.
The most interesting part of this film, to me, is how the people not trapped in the triangle are remarkably sensible about what is happening. I actually find that really realistic. Neetu and Rishi are super horny, to the point of something close to insanity (Neetu actually pulled the emergency cord to stop a train just to get one last kiss!). Their parents are not really excited about this youthful marriage and encourage them to be serious about it. There’s no manufactured drama, they don’t disapprove of the relationship or anything like that, they just think Neetu and Rishi are running into marriage without thinking. Which, of course, they are. When Raakhee starts going after Rishi, her old friend warns her about what she is doing and that it is wrong, for everyone involved. When Rishi starts getting caught up with Raakhee, HIS OWN PARENTS tell Neetu she should just get a divorce and leave him. And all of this, to me, feels more realistic than films usually are.
I imagine everyone in the world has experienced being the voice of wisdom to a friend who has decided they are “in love”. Movies don’t usually show that, it’s all high drama, the couple who is passionately in love, and the people around them who are passionately against it, and so on and so forth. There’s no “wait a second, isn’t this a bad idea?” character. This movie, beyond our central nutty three, is full of calm sensible people having calm sensible reactions.
Maybe that’s why this film is a little off-putting? Usually movies give us the sexy fantasy, the fantasy world that Neetu and Rishi and Raakhee are all living in in this film. But this movie takes a step back, forces us to see them from the outside, instead of being lost in the drama we are cringing and wishing they could all just be SMARTER.
That same step back is why I find all three characters forgivable. In a dramatic version, Neetu is obviously the innocent. She is a young woman who adores her young husband, and her young husband is being a jerk to her. He doesn’t physically cheat on her with Raakhee, but he misses their wedding reception party to spend time with Raakhee, he lies to her about where he is and what he is doing and puts her in the awkward position of having to repeat those lies to his own family, and in his own heart he makes the decision to leave her. Poor Neetu just loved too much, that’s all. She is still the woman he loved, and the woman he wanted to marry, and somehow Rishi doesn’t love her any more. In this same dramatic version, Raakhee is Evil, and Rishi is Weak. But this isn’t the dramatic version.
Let’s look at the real version, the one we are given where we can take a step back and be the practical people who watch what is happening and understand how it isn’t really anyone’s fault. Neetu is the exact same woman Rishi married, and that’s the problem. He was a carefree college boy who married a college girl. She is sweet, she loves him, and they can now finally have sex. But once sex is no longer forbidden, once they can stop obsessing over not having it, Rishi moves on and starts growing towards new challenges, and Neetu stays in the same place. This is why young marriages don’t work out, people change so much between the ages of 20 and 30, you truly are not the same people you were when you got married. In just the first few months of marriage, Rishi has already grown into a whole new person, a person who just isn’t interested in spending time with this college girl who hasn’t changed at all. Their parents are right, they should be thinking about divorce.
Raakhee is seducing a married man, yes. But the genius of this film is in casting Shashi as her dead lover, and Rishi as the young man. They aren’t the same, this is no mysterious doppelganger situation, but there is a strange matching energy between them. We can understand why Raakhee is swept away, why she sees Rishi as a second chance while still convincing herself that it is just a fantasy. And also, it’s Shashi! We can understand why she was so incapable of forgetting him, why no man can possibly measure up. Shashi, with his effortless sex appeal, good cheer, and kind of warm glowing vibe of aliveness, to have him and lose him would drive any woman a little bit crazy.
And then there’s Rishi. He is a married man with a wife who loves him very much, who he married for love, and within months of marriage he is treating his wife like garbage and pursuing a sexy older woman. This is terrible! But this is also human. If I were caught up in the drama of the film, I would hate him. But taking a step back, I see him as a young man who mixed up love and lust and rushed into marriage. And now he is finding himself in a whole new way, excited about his career and new challenges, and there is this beautiful older woman who can understand everything he wants and guide him to find it. She helps him in his job, helps him learn how to dress and drink, and in their physical moments (close dancing, riding in cars) she guides him as well. It’s intoxicating for a young man finding himself. And yes, he leaves his wife behind, but he has no more to give her. She wants to go to movies, and “date” like they did in college and he can’t do that any more, it’s not who he is.
The movie resolves the way it has to resolve, not just because of Filmic Morality but because of reality. Neetu is not leaving this marriage, no matter what. So Rishi has to suck it up and make the marriage work. And Raakhee has to respect that and understand that Rishi isn’t really what she wants either. This isn’t just how it would work out in a movie, but how it would work out in reality as well. Marriage is marriage, and if one person wants to stay in and one person wants to get out, one of them is going to have to give in. And most of the time affairs are just affairs, not passionate love stories, and all you need is a tiny dose of reality to cure them.
Again, I go back to casting Shashi and Rishi. Raakhee doesn’t have a magical love that defeats death, she just has a regular love story and then a little fantasy of a relationship that hits cold hard reality once Rishi announces he is ready to leave Neetu. We forgive her, she is grieving, but we also can’t root for her and Rishi to end up together because it is clearly wrong. It was just an affair, a tawdry human little affair to escape what they wanted to escape (Rishi’s marriage which was already boring him, and Raakhee’s unwillingness to move on from Shashi).
I started by saying it was Neetu chasing Rishi chasing Raakhee chasing Shashi. The ending is Neetu settling for a Rishi she knows cheated on her, Rishi settling for a wife who now bores him a little, Raakhee settling for her old friend instead of her Shashi memories. The beauty of the film is that this doesn’t feel like a depressing ending. In the real world, this is a far happier ending than most people get. Neetu and Rishi can work on their marriage and make it better. Raakhee gets a nice man who loves her. No one gets the fantasy, not in the real world, and chasing it will just make you more unhappy. Accept that sex will never be as good as it was on your honeymoon, or with Shashi Kapoor, and move on.