This may make it sound bland, and in a way, it is. But it's a... nice sort of bland, a mashed potato sort of bland, even - at times - a poignant Morandi painting sort of bland. It's a humanistic, non-demanding comfort movie for the jaded PPCC reviewer's soul. And anyway - we love Raj Kapoor.
The bromance is strong in these two.
And the trio has great chemistry as well.
The story is simple. In a working class chawl somewhere in Bombay, two buddies - Raj (Raj Kapoor) and Bansi (Agha) - struggle to make ends meet. Raj is the sensitive, poetic one who, of course, is a struggling playback singer, while Bansi is loud, boisterous and working nights on the movie sets. (There's a funny implicit commentary on the inefficient, haphazard way movies are made in Bombay, as Bansi is more often coming home from cancelled shoots than anything else! And there's even a surreal Shammi Kapoor reference!) One day, the boys get a letter from Raj's friend, alerting them that the friend's daughter will be visiting Bombay and could they show her around, yadda yadda.
When Raj goes to the train station to pick her up, he sees that she is the beautiful, bewildered Rekha (Sadhana). Although Raj is anxious to get rid of her and put her up in a decent hotel, lest people talk, he eventually gives in and lets her stay with them. Eventually, her wide-eyed, Bambi-esque naive good humor wins over even his (relatively) more cynical urban bad attitude, and they fall in love. Marriage, sweetness, memory loss and emo ensue.
A cute moment.
Another cute, intimate moment. Awww!
There were a number of sweet little grace notes in this film, and the vibe throughout is one of gentle good humor. Even the latter half, which falls into the usual old school emo and made us wonder if tragedy king Dilip Kumar would have been better suited, was never really that dramatic. When a despairing Raj proclaims he's going to go wander around India and wallow and don't try to find him, we weren't that surprised to see that he was actually just down the street, moping but remembering to shave. Or maybe we've just gotten used to spectacular, over-the-top dramatics - where losing love pretty much guarantees death and destruction - so it was pleasantly surprising to see Raj despair in such a contained, rational way.
Raj's emo despair is only expressed in some handy superimposed flashbacks on low volume.
The performances matched the film's understated sentimentality. Critics of Raj Kapoor can relax in knowing that he's very toned down in this film, with none of the trappings of the squirrelly, "Ji!"-ing tramp persona he was most famous for. We should note that he shares the screen very well in this film - acquiescing his huge screen presence (and iconic fame, at the time!) to Agha again and again. For a performer that sometimes suffered from overly self-indulgent theatrics and occasional outright screen-hogging, it was refreshing to see how well he worked with the other two leads, Agha and Sadhana. Beth rightly notes how sweet the bromance between Raj and Agha is and, while Sadhana's performance sometimes felt flat for us, the romance was lovely (sometimes heart-meltingly so!). For that reason, we liken this film as more Chori Chori or Jagte Raho than one of those "It's The Raj Kapoor (Me! Me! Me!) Show!" movies, and Raj Kapoor haters, you should give this a try.