Don't roll your eyes. Love In Simla, despite its nomenclature, is not another archetypal sixties' fluffball film. This movie, which introduced the lovely, fine-boned Sadhana to Hindi films, has the exuberance of youth, tongue-in-cheek dialogue and the capricious wit one associates with a classic romantic comedy.
Even as it lightheartedly delves into the eternal issue of the importance of looks in love, Love In Simla captures a class of elitist people at a certain period of time. Shimla, the former summer capital of the British, serves as the backdrop for the film's rich protagonists who dance at clubs, live in homes attended to by turbaned bearers but cannot deny the subterranean hurts that lurk underneath.
Imagine Jane Eyre set to a laugh track. That is the beginning of the film. The British have left Shimla but some burra houses still retain a colonial hangover. In one such mansion, lorded over by a ha-ha type major general (Kishore Sahu), lives the family's poor relative, the plain Jane orphan, Sonia (Sadhana). Sonia's armyman uncle tries to be genial to her but is cowed down (part of the joke) by his tart-tongued wife (Shobhana Samarth) and their beautiful but covetous and vain daughter, Sheela (Azra).
The pant-clad, harum-scarum, bespectacled Sonia is the butt of the immaculately turned out Sheela's unthinking derision. Spurred by Sheela's snide remarks about her inability to snare a man, an emotionally steamed Sonia blows her fuse. She challenges Sheela that she will steal the affections of her fiancé, Dev (Joy Mukherjee), from right under her retrousse nose.
|S Mukherjee||R K Nayyar||Iqbal Quereshi||
Joy Mukherjee, Sadhana
Sonia's initial bumbling attempts to ingratiate herself with Dev fall flat. Declared hurt but still in the game, Sonia seeks the help of her grandmother (Durga Khote). It's makeover time. Granny believes in the classic adage that boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses. She tosses off Sonia's spectacles, shears her hair (into the famous Sadhana fringe), wraps her in a sari and teaches her to walk like a lady and waltz like a dream.
When the mist created by the talcum powder on Sonia's face settles down and her visage emerges, you are mesmerised by Sadhana's (Sonia's) stunning looks.
That wins half the battle for Sonia, while a selfish Sheela unwittingly helps her win the rest. Sheela spurns Dev at a dance contest, preferring to opt for a series of champion dancers as her partners. Dev retaliates by dragging Sonia to the floor. Despite a few snafus, Sonia and Dev win the contest.
After a series of similar mirth-filled shenanigans, Sonia has Dev totally under her thumb. A desperate Sheela loses a beauty contest, and is in danger of losing Dev too to Sonia. Finally, she begs her to leave Dev alone.
Sonia, however, finds that revenge is anything but sweet. Both Dev and she are in hopelessly in love with each other by now.
Thankfully, director R K Nayyar doesn't swathe this Cinderella story in morose melodrama. The script chooses to crackle with anything-goes humour, with all the characters (including Sahu and Samarth) taking turns at appearing foolish or making cracks at each other.
There are also neat details here and a strong urge to do away with stereotypes. Sonia, unlike other Hindi film heroines, doesn't think twice about resorting to underhand tactics. Her credo is simple: everything is fair in love and war. So she happily spikes her sister's glass of milk with sleeping tablets and makes a getaway with her beau the next morning. Also, she has no qualms about being a killjoy at her sister's dates.
Dev, too, flirts openly with Sonia and spares no opportunity to be with her (in one scene he bursts a string of crackers in the club so that the authorities throw him out and he can rush home to surprise Sonia). Yet, publicly, he keeps the lid on his feelings for Sonia and refers to her as his girlfriend's sister.
He has no qualms about rattling off endless small fibs to a suspicious Sheela about his many romps with Sonia.
Nayyar shows an unerring sense for extracting juice from romantic pulp and a knack for tickling the funny bone. The scene where Sadhana suggests that Joy steal a home guard's cap and he complies, despite his better self, is hugely funny.
|Famous songs from Love in Simla|
|Dil tham chale hum||Rafi|
|Love ka matlab hai pyar||Asha-Rafi|
|Eh baby idhar aa||Asha-Rafi|
|Gaal gulabi kiske hain||Rafi|
|Haseeno ki sawari hai||Rafi-Suman Kalyanpuri|
|Muskurayen khet pyase||Rafi-Suman Kalyanpuri|
|Dar pe aaye hain tere||Mukesh|
|Yun zindagi ke raaste||Rafi|
Debutante Sadhana has a blinding smile. The similarity with the early Audrey Hepburn is unmistakable. She displays gamine charm and bushels of attitude. Azra makes for an attractive adversary while Joy Mukherjee proudly wears the badge of 'chocolate hero'.
Durga Khote gives a swishy performance as the granny who couples wisdom with wry humour. The merry glint in her eye is priceless.
* Dharmendra was keen to work in Love In Simla but was turned down because it was felt he looked more like a hockey player than a hero.
* In the film, Sadhana wins a beauty contest and is awarded a three-year film contract with Filmalaya. In real-life too, Sadhana was under a three-year contract with Filmalaya. She was paid Rs 750 a month for the first year; Rs 1,500 a month for the second; and Rs 3,000 a month for the third year. During this period she also worked in Filmalaya's Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, once again opposite Joy Mukherjee.
* Sadhana and director RK Nayyar fell in love with each other during the making of this film. Her parents tried to nip it in the bud and stopped them from working with each other.
* Music director Iqbal Quereshi was unable to capitalise on the success of Love In Simla. He did make waves again though with Cha Cha Cha, which boasted of Ek chameli ke mandve tale.