Asha Parekh, Jeetendra, Aruna Irani, Ravindra Kapoor, Kishan Mehta

Entertainment was paramount when Nasir Hussain planned a movie. He did not believe in making his audience sob. Romance and comedy embellished his work, and fans would flock to theatres, the remedy to escape the rigours of daily life. His cinema was clean and meaningful, with an emphasis on music.

Many of Nasir saab’s films came to be classified as musicals, and the best part of his career was that he carried along his entourage of faithful workers for a long time. It was a real-life caravan where Nasir saab treated his crew as very special contributing elements of popular cinema.

If it was a Nasir Hussain movie, the music had to come from Rahul Dev Burman. The songs had to be penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri, a much underrated lyricist. The Majrooh-RD combination was a sure ticket to success and Nasir saab tasted it first hand through hit movies like “Teesri Manzil”, “Yaadon ki Baraat” and “Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen”.

Asha Parekh was Nasir Hussain’s favourite from the time he launched her in “Dil Deke Dekho” in 1959. Twelve years had passed and Asha Parekh had come to excel as a leading lady in many hit movies, but “Caravan” was not among her major individual achievements. She had to share space with Aruna Irani, who won accolades for her portrayal of a gypsy, forming a love triangle involving the two central characters of the movie.

Asha Parekh is Sunita, who flees from the clutches of a scheming Rajan (Ravindra Kapoor). She is tricked into marrying Rajan, who eyes Sunita’s property after killing her father, but she escapes in the nick of time, only to embark on a journey fraught with danger as Rajan chases her. Sunita’s encounter with Mohan (Jeetendra) and Johnny (Kishan Mehta) leads to some hilarious episodes and, ultimately, romance, which is detested by the ravishing Nisha (Aruna Irani).

This film is more about the lovable gypsy that Aruna Irani portrays so beautifully. At 19, she was still making her mark in Hindi cinema, and this was a platform that propelled Irani’s career in a big way. Her dancing skills added to her repertoire and she came out triumphant on this score with some delightful songs as Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle contributed some memorable and peppy numbers.

Mohan and Rajan own a lorry that caters to this group of nomads who perform dance and theatre to earn a living. Sunita seeks refuge and the two oblige, little realising that the association would lead to some tricky situations. The gypsies form a lively group and the caravan moves along until Sunita runs into Rajan, who meets a violent end for the movie to sign off on a happy note.

Mohan and Johnny, in a lorry that is outpaced by a bicycle, provide a touch of humour, with songs and dances keeping the audience engaged. There is immense quality here as RD and Majrooh strike a delightful combination. Asha Bhosle is at her sensuous best in “Ab jo mile hain to bahon ko bahon me” and “Piya tu ab to aa jaa” and there is not a trace of indecency as Irani and Helen leave a lasting impression on the audience with these two numbers.

In fact, Asha had once confessed to “Daiyya yeh main kahan aa phasi” being one of the most difficult songs she had sung. There are two Rafi-Lata duets — “Chadhti jawani” and “Kitna pyara wada” — and a Rafi-Asha offering, “Goria kahan tera desh”. But “Dilbar dil se pyare”, picturised on Irani, was a stand out. Lively music and entertainment quotient made “Caravan” a movie worth a second viewing. No wonder, it was a super hit!

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