Starring Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, Nasir Hussain

There was a time when romantic Hindi films couldn't be made without the picturesque background of Kashmir, and obviously, this film was no exception, especially as it was about “Kashmir ki Kali” (metaphor for a beautiful Kashmiri lady). A quintessential Bollywood formula film of boy meets girl; it's a love story interrupted at intervals by an archaic villain whenever they aren't singing, leading to a happy ending after customary rituals of fight and chase.

Romance and scenic beauty are the USPs of this Shakti Samanta film wherein the effervescent story by Ranjan Bose may seem wacky, but is not easy to script, especially since it adheres to commercial rigours of Hindi cinema. Though Manmohan Desai is much commended for trademark “formula films”, not many appreciate that despite sticking to constricting boundaries of “conventional cinema”, Samanta delivered immensely successful entertainers like “Howrah Bridge”, “Kashmir ki Kali”, “Evening in Paris”, “Aradhna”, “Kati Patang” and “Amar Prem” with subtle messages of secularism and integration in equal measure.

Engaging issues

While his basic story would always revolve round a man-woman romance, Samanta's treatment would tackle several layers of engaging issues, like pre-marital sex, widow re-marriage or women's emancipation.

Rather than forcing unabashed jargon, Samanta's cinematic expositions subtly communicate the Nehruvian socialist ideals of universal brotherhood and equality, without deviating from the main story.

Like most of his lavish productions, “Kasmir ki Kali” too is an eminently watchable film; a clean wholesome family entertainer without a single lewd gesture or dialogue, serving the pristine Kashmir landscape as a magnificent bonus.

Despite the swagger and ebullience of Shammi Kapoor, many present age viewers might find his romantic overtures to decorous Sharmila Tagore a bit tame and timid. Yet, even in this era of rocket science and technology, his lyrical eulogies and affirmations cast a hypnotic spell, making every cinegoer pine for such divine, romantic interventions in their own lives.

The film serves a sumptuous feast of foot tapping melodies that seem like odes to the “paradise on earth” by rhythm king O.P. Nayyar. All the seven songs of S.H. Bihari are delectably pleasing due to the harmonious blending of sparkling shairi and frolicking sangeet that have been extremely well choreographed by Surya Kumar. As you watch the three duets, you are spellbound by the manner in which Shammi is made to move daintily in tune with Sharmila, as well as the demands of silky soft verses.

But Shammi's exuberance is given full sway by Surya Kumar in the solos, whereby the Rafi classic “Ye Chaand Sa Roshan Chehra” on a Dal Lake shikara becomes an eternal “boat ballet” to remember.

Using Punjabi bhangra and its cherubic beats to perfection in the company of Mohammed Rafi (who sings all seven numbers) and Asha Bhosle, Nayyar creates everlasting melodies like “Kisi na Kisi Se”, “Isharon Isharon Mein Dil Lenewale”, “Deewana Hua Badal”, “SubhanAllah Hai”, “Hai Re Hai” and “Hai Duniya Usee Ki” that enthral listeners till this day. Utilising Rafi's genius and Asha's range, Nayyar's music is the fulcrum of the film's immense popularity whereby the story, at times, takes a back seat.

The film is about a young, rich business tycoon Rajeev Lal (Shammi Kapoor) who rushes to Kashmir to escape getting married but promptly falls in love with a flower seller, Champa (Sharmila Tagore).

Fierce persuasion works in his favour, but just as Champa responds to his passion, local contractor Mohan acts as a spoilsport, demanding her hand in marriage from her blind father Dinu (Nasir Hussain) in lieu of past favours. Subsequent events reveal Dinu is Rajeev's real father and had exchanged him with Champa, the real heiress to Textile Empire. After a brief chaos, Mohan is apprehended and the lovers united forever.

As one watches the magnificent landscape through VN Reddy's adroit camera, one is left praying for Kashmir's return to golden peace and sunshine, a land of perennial delight and ecstasy. Who knows if we show this film in the valley, things may actually turn for the better!

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