Starring Prem Kishen, Rameshwari, Madan Puri, Shyamlee, Shashikala, Jagdeep, Iftikhar
The second half of the 1970s witnessed a transition of sorts in Hindi cinema. Romance, epitomised by Rajesh Khanna, superstar once, was making way for action heroes. Manmohan Desai’s hugely successful lost-and-found theme was enjoying unexpected longevity. Multi-starrers were considered a safe investment. The presence of Amitabh Bachchan ensured box office success. Rishi Kapoor still managed to bring the young crowd into the theatres. Dharmendra, Jeetendra and Vinod Khanna were among those who continued to make their presence felt in varying degrees.
The year 1977, when “Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaye” was released, Desai entertained the movie-goers with offerings like “Amar Akbar Anthony”, “Dharamveer”, “Chacha Bhatija” and “Parvarish”. Prakash Mehra’s “Khoon Pasina” and Nazir Hussain’s “Hum Kisise Kum Nahin” ran to full houses. Rajesh Khanna held on to his fast-diminishing popularity with “Chaila Babu” and “Anurodh”. Vinod Khanna and Amjad Khan made “Inkaar” a highly likable thriller.
In the midst of these social dramas, two movies of completely differing genres stood out — B. Nagi Reddy’s “Yehi Hai Zindagi” and Rajshree Productions’ “Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye” Both targeted family viewing with a good dose of value education. Sanjeev Kumar’s yet another intense performance carried “Yehi Hai…”to success. But the golden jubilee run of “Dulhan…” intrigued many.
The title matched the length of “Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai”. Its hero, Prem Kishen, son of actors Premnath and Bina Rai, was trying to find his feet in the industry he had grown up in. Director Lekh Tandon was desperate for a hit. Debutant heroine Rameshwari, selected for the role originally penned with Tanuja in mind, had just about made it as the best among those responding to advertisements in newspapers. Lekh Tandon, hired by Rajshree for an eventual non-starrer “Ali Baba Chalis Chor”, produced the first draft of a story in just 15 days. The protagonist, Kammo, was inspired by the leading character of Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” — flower-girl Eliza Doolittle.
The story revolves around an ailing rich businessman Harikishan (Madan Puri) wanting his only grandson, the immature Prem (Prem Kishen) to bring home the lady of his choice. A model Prem loves, Rita (Shyamlee), is away to Srinagar for a fashion show and cannot return to Mumbai as all flights and traffic stand suspended due to snowfall.
Answering a call of desperation, Prem’s manager and ad-man friend Jagdish (Jagdeep) presents Kammo as Rita before a seriously ill Harikishan.
Before long, Kammo charms every individual of the household with her ways. She uses her culinary skills, almost blackmails Prem to attend to family business and eat at home. She recites chaupai and sings even a ghazal. Kammo, whose initial dislike for the spoilt-brat Prem turns into love, does everything with effortless ease. Harikishan’s condition shows dramatic improvement and the script follows a predictable course.
Once Rita comes back, with her divorced mother Lily (Shashikala) in tow, Kammo’s truth is revealed to Fareed (Iftikhar), Harikishan’s friend and family doctor. The two wise men still prefer Kammo over Rita. Prem rebels and leaves the house only to learn that his love for Rita meant nothing to her without his grandfather’s wealth. He returns to bring Kammo home.
Rameshwari, with big, expressive eyes and likeable diction, holds most of the attention. Prem Kishen was convincing in his character that had shades of grey. But credit should go to all the character actors who play their part to perfection. Leela Mishra, Sundar, Shivraj, Piloo Wadia among others do justice to their brief roles. The bad man of Hindi cinema, Madan Puri, is at his best as the doting father-in-law and the pampered oldest member of the family.
The stand-out performance, supported by the script, comes from Shashikala. Her dialogue-delivery in scenes with Iftikhar are one of the highlights of the film. In fact, the movie won Filmfare’s Best Screenplay award.
Ravindra Jain’s music was noticed mainly with songs like “Khushiyan hi Khushiyan ho”, “Le toh aaye ho haemin sapnon ke gaaon mein”. Singer Hemlata gained the most, rendering songs of different genres.
Initially released only in two theatres in Mumbai, the movie benefitted hugely from word-of-mouth publicity. Even 35 years after its release, “Dulhan…” retains its recall value.