The great Indian spectacle, a vast ocean comprising an ever evolving riot of cultures, social mores, languages and customs has always been overwhelmed, and bound together by one enduring tradition –– love for the family. Times might have changed, formats might have undergone shifts but love for the story that showcases compassion, strife, sacrifice, forgiveness, separation, pathos and usually a happy ending always manages to excite audiences across India thus encouraging filmmakers to repeatedly use the family drama genre. Examples of films based on this genre striking gold at the box-office abound, including Manoj Kumar’s “Upkaar” even though it had several layers, Do Raaste and Tapasaya among others.
Mohan Kumar, with his penchant for making films starting with the alphabet ‘A’, made significant strides in developing and nurturing this genre, with a string of successful films, including Anpadh , Aas Ka Panchi , Aayi Milan Ki Bela and Aap Aaye Bahar Aayi . Aap Beati too based on this reliable formula reaped rich dividends at the box-office.
However, the film, despite its successful run, suffered some glaring flaws, one of them being the lack of depth in its musical score which was surprising considering the team of Anand Bakshi and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Further the occasional lapse in editing which gave a feeling that songs have been unduly inserted in the narrative added to it. The story of Aap Beati , penned by Mohan Kumar revolves around the trials and tribulations of the lower middle class Kapoor family, in which the patriarch, Kishorilal (Ashok Kumar) works in the factory shop floor and wants to send his son Prakash (Sujit Kumar) to study in America. To make ends meet, Kishorilal’s daughter, Geeta (Hema Malini) works as a sales girl in a retail shoe store. Unknown to her family, Geeta is in love with Ranjit (Shashi Kapoor), the dapper son of Seth Mayadas (Madanpuri). On knowing about it, Seth Mayadas is livid, and threatens to to end her relationship with Ranjit, citing the glaring difference in the status of their families. Geeta refuses to give in.
With Prakash’s return from abroad there is an improvement in Kapoor household which includes Kishorilal’s wife, Lajjoo (Nirupa Roy) and his brother-in law, Bahadur (Premnath). Prakash gets employed in the same factory in which his father and Bahadur work. Thereafter, he marries his girlfriend, Reena (Aruna Irani), whose brother-in-law, Jumani (Asrani) is in cohorts with Seth Mayadas in smuggling activities.
The story moves on predictable lines with Reena unable to manage her lavish lifestyle on Prakash’s meagre salary prevails upon him to move out, thereby leaving an ailing Kishorilal and hardworking Geeta to pay the debts accrued by the family. Meanwhile, Seth Mayadas puts pressure on Ranjit to marry a girl of his choice who on refusal is asked to leave his house. An embittered Geeta is heartbroken, although she avails an opportunity to enhance her credentials with a visit to Paris. The weeks go by in a jiffy, and when she returns, to her shock and dismay her entire life has changed. How and why should be seen by the viewer.
Undoubtedly, the film depends heavily on the splendid screen presence which Hema Malini exudes. These obfuscate her limited histrionic prowess and style of dialogue delivery, which, besides, being heavily accented, lack variety or modulation. She is complimented in equal measure by Shashi Kapoor, who gives a trademark graceful performance.
For this film, Mohan Kumar has an enviable ensemble of seasoned actors. Ashok Kumar, Nirupa Roy and Madanpuri perform effortlessly, and contribute with their collective brilliance. As for Premnath, the jury can be divided on his calibre as an actor. Even though a scene stealer, at times there is a certain uniformity in the characters he essayed.