Manchali (1973)

Updated - November 11, 2017 11:59 am IST

Published - June 23, 2017 01:35 am IST

A FUN FILLED FILM “Manchali” starring Sanjeev Kumar and Leena Chandravarkar is entertaining and worth a revisit

A FUN FILLED FILM “Manchali” starring Sanjeev Kumar and Leena Chandravarkar is entertaining and worth a revisit

Harihar Jethalal Jariwala , better known by his screen name, Sanjeev Kumarwas essentially a late bloomer. Although he made his debut in 1960 with “Hum Hindustani”, he took time get into the groove. And when he did, there was no stopping the actor. Kumar had the confidence and the panache, the stamina and the verve to defy the black hole which has been the undoing of many an actor—he was never typecast, not in any role nor any genre.

In “Manchali”, a feisty and brisk rom-com, Kumar had ample scope to display his comic timing opposite Leena Chandavarkar, with whom he shared a decent screen chemistry. And he did not let go of the opportunity provided by Raja Nawathe, who produced and directed the film, which did good business at the all-important box-office. Decades earlier, Nawathe had cut his teeth as an assistant director with the showman, Raj Kapoor, before starting on his own in the early fifties, although it remains somewhat of a mystery as to why he was not as prolific as he could have been.

One can discern a pattern in Nawathe’s films, right up to “Manchali”— his last outing. It is the robust sense of music he possessed. The film, based on a novel by Satyendra Sharat (“Swayamber”) has a slew of songs penned by Anand Bakshi to music composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. These retain their effervescence till date, including the lively “O Manchali Kahan Chali” and “Gham Ka Fasana” , both Kishore Kumar solos. What adds mirth to the setting is the excellent editing, crisp screenplay (G. R. Kamat) and witty dialogues (Krishan Chander).

The story is about a rich, but spoilt girl, Leena (Chandravarkar) whose substantial wealth is taken care of by her uncle and aunty (suitably portrayed by character artists Krishna Kant and Nirupa Roy) with the condition that she will have access to it only after she marries, something which Leena detests. As they finalise a groom of their choice, a determined Leena revolts, and gives an advertisement in newspapers to select her own groom. Of the numerous responses, she is attracted towards a gentleman from Dehradun. When she reaches there from Shimla, she finds that her man is actually old and cranky. Taken aback, she is at her wits end on how to escape from the impasse in which she has landed herself.

To her rescue comes a vagabond (Sushil Kumar—Sanjeev Kumar displaying incredible comic timing), whiling away his time at the railway platform. Seeing the damsel in distress, he proposes an agreement, wherein the two will enter into a contractual marriage, which will last only till the time she receives her wealth.

The pact works well, till the time Sushil Kumar has a change of heart and starts fleecing Leena for money. He also wins the favour of her guardians, who, instead of transferring the wealth exclusively on Leena’s name, now makes a declaration, wherein Sushil is a joint owner. Leena is enraged by this and accuses them of betrayal and Sushil of perfidy. She even casts a finger of suspicion towards her best friend (played by Nazima; both Chandravarkar and Nazima could have been more restrained and understated with their performances). How Leena manages to escape from the clutches of a delinquent Sushil forms denouement of the film.

But even as Kumar achieved success professionally, his personal life remained bereft of true love. It is a matter of immense sadness for connoisseurs of cinema that such fine talent was destined to die at the age of 47 years from a congenital heart ailment.

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