यादों की बारात
In my review of Hare Rama hare Krishna, I recounted the tale of my discovery of filmi music through the sparkling "Dum maro dum" on a Bollywood compilation CD. My next favorite track on that disc was a pretty, melodic tune called "Chura liya hai tumne." Like "Dum maro dum," "Chura liya" is an R.D. Burman tune, sung by Asha Bhosle. It also turns out that like "Dum maro dum," "Chura liya" is picturized beautifully on Zeenat Aman - so it seems I was destined to become a Zeenat fan.
Unfortunately, "Chura liya" also turns out to be the one of the few aspects of Yaadon ki baaraat ("Procession of memories") that is above average. The film is, in most respects, an unremarkable masala film. Its plot is a standard Bollywood trope: Three brothers are separated in childhood after their parents' vicious murder at the hands of some ruthless criminal. The youngest brother Ratan (Tariq), raised by the family's nanny, grows up to be a rock-and-roll singer, performing a nightly cabaret show at a swanky hotel. The middle brother, Vijay (Vijay Arora), was found and adopted by a kindly old widower who works as a valet for a wealthy man. The eldest brother, Shankar (Dharmendra), grew up on the streets, to become a fairly accomplished crook.
Like the lives of the separated boys, the story of Yaadon ki baaraat splits into separate tracks so different in tone - and in quality - that it almost seems to be two distinct movies. One, is a perfectly enjoyable light romance: Vijay falls for a beautiful, mischeivous college girl named Sunita (Zeenat Aman) and poses as a wealthy, cultured gentleman to try to woo her, leading to an escalating prank war. On the film's other track, Shankar is hell-bent on avenging his parents' death, but he is sidetracked when a high-tone criminal gang hires him for a heist. Unbeknownst to Shankar, the leader of the gang - an absurd caricature in the mold of a Bond villain - is the man he is hunting for vengeance.
Eventually, of course, Shankar figures out the truth about his new boss, Vijay gets his girl, and the three brothers are reunited, thanks to Ratan's nightly performance of the song their mother had sung to them when they were boys. Unfortunately, the journey toward that stock Bollywood ending is not as fun a ride as it could have been, and the result is a film that is barely adequate as a timepass.
The Vijay-Sunita romance was sweet enough, and the fun battle of practical jokes seems to be the antecedent to the college films of later decades like Dil. The Shankar thread, though, is a pointless underworld drama with little to redeem it. It is a shameful waste of Dharmendra, who exudes such charm in his ruffian-with-a-heart-of-gold roles in films like Sholay and Seeta aur Geeta. Costuming didn't do as good a job concealing his paunch in Yaadon ki baaraat as in Sholay a few years later - or perhaps it's just that Veeru in Sholay was such an appealing character that it didn't matter that he had a little spare tire. In Yaadon ki baaraat, though, Dharmendra is just a dour, wooden thug; he is so stiff that I wonder if that belly of his wasn't stuffed into a corset. He has little to do in the film but scowl and punch people.
Ultimately, I think, Yaadon ki baaraat is remembered more for its R.D. Burman soundtrack - especially the stellar "Chura liya hai tumne" - than for its story or performances. The rest of the soundtrack is not bad, though none of it is as transcendent as that one beautiful song. The title song has an added bonus - it features a delicious 6-year-old Aamir Khan:
Aww! The soundtrack also features a classic Asha/R.D. rock and roll number, "Lekar hum diwana dil." Unfortunately, this song's picturization may be the worst I have ever seen in a film not called Disco Dancer. Among other things, it includes an awful, stompy, writhing performance by Neetu Singh, early in her career - later in the 70s she was a graceful and lovely heroine in such classics as Amar Akbar Anthony. It's hard to believe that it's the same girl.