दिल अपना और प्रीत पराई
Dir. Kishore Sahu
Mopey movies about mopey lovers separated by circumstances can be so dreary. Somehow, though, Dil apna aur preet parai doesn't bog down in its own pathos. Given the subject matter, it easily could. Even its obligatory comic side plot carries a dark tone; it is set in a hospital ward and revolves around the jovialities of a patient's terminal cancer (the patient is Om Prakash). Yet while there is plenty of angst to go around, the movie manages to remain lively.
No small part of this is due to the pure radiance of Meena Kumari, the life she brings to her role of Karuna, a nurse who falls in love with a doctor just in time to see him married to another woman. But the script gets some credit as well; it allows Karuna to live, not just to fold in on herself, even in the ache of unrequited love. Karuna socializes with her fellow nurses, even when her heart is ailing; she does not isolate herself in a lonely tower of suffering. Even when she is at her most anguished, Karuna remains connected to the world; in a charmingly real moment, she spills her teary secrets to her roommate like any young woman in love might do.
This sensibility of the real, even in what is a pretty basic filmi melodrama, buoys the movie and helps it stand out in its genre. In one scene, Karuna spies her love, Dr Verma (Raaj Kumar) bringing back his new bride Kusum (Nadira) after a trip to his native Kashmir. As she understands what she is seeing, Karuna bobbles the tray she is holding - but it's just a bobble, not a melodramatic crash and clatter, no dropped tray accompanied by a thunderclap or a loud, tense note from the strings. The restraint renders the scene all the more effective. Later, Dr Verma tells Karuna that his mother has brought her a gift from Kashmir, and asks if she wants to know what it is. She replies, archly, "Dulhan?" and leaves Verma gaping. Karuna suffers, but she retains a sharp self-awareness, and punctuates her grief with wry smiles and snarky comments. There's even a wryness to the delivery of Karuna's famous song, "Ajeeb dastan hai yeh." (Contrast the inward-focused, ascetic heroine of Bandini, who almost revels in her own suffering.)
There are other delightfully real touches that keep the story alive. Karuna realizes her love for Dr Verma is returned when she sees her name written in all kinds of decorative ways on his desk blotter. Who among us hasn't doodled an infatuation's name this way and that on our notebook and papers? It's a detail that is both relatable and sweet, and it's charming to see it attached to a man, rather than to a starry-eyed girl. Indeed, throughout the arc of their romance, Karuna seems more grounded in reality than Dr Verma; his love is characterized by a rather funny daydreamy song sequence, the end of which finds Verma making out with the door of a truck before jolting awkwardly back to reality.
I have an inexplicable fascination with Raaj Kumar, and he doesn't disappoint in this movie, young and fairly boyish as a character, if not physically so. And of course I have an even more unholy thing for Nadira. But she draws the short stick in this movie; Kusum is horrible. And not sexy-horrible as in Aan, or sexy-shrewd-horrible as in Shree 420, but just horrible horrible. Kusum has one sympathetic moment in her unhappy marriage, when Verma unreasonably objects to Kusum using money given by her father to decorate their home to her taste. Dil apna aur preet parai could have made Kusum human, and been a poignant story about how this marriage of obligation damages all three of the principals, not just the two lovers. Instead, despite that one moment, the movie presents Kusum as a deranged harpy; she blows whatever sympathetic capital she has when she interferes with Verma's work and hastens a patient's death. It's hard to root for a character who says in nearly so many words: To hell with your patient's critical surgery, you need to take me to the movies.
And then take me to dinner, where we shall eat soup in unison.
And Kusum's dive off the deep end leads straight to Dil apna aur preet parai's completely ridiculous, deus ex machina ending. I will spoil it here: Kusum, having come thoroughly unhinged, drives her flashy left-side-drive convertible off the edge of a cliff with Karuna in the passenger seat. A few moments after the car splashes into water, Karuna surfaces, sputtering, and a heroic Verma dives in to drag her back to dry land. Disturbingly, Verma and Karuna never look back to see whether Kusum might have survived; so desperate are they for the universe to unite them that they seem silently to conspire to let Kusum sink out of the picture. When I began this movie, someone on Twitter had warned me that it is a very good movie, except for the ending. I can't disagree; it's the only blemish on an otherwise lovely piece.
Kusum about to go over the edge; plus, Helen in a delightful rip-- er, adaptation of Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song.