कश्मीर की कली
When discussing Kashmir ki kali ("Blossom of Kashmir"), it's essential to get this out of the way: The plot is
unimportant. The twists are absurd, the coincidences unlikely; the
storyline swirls in the film's second half into over-the-top madness.
But Kashmir ki kali is a complete delight nevertheless, thoroughly fun and stupendously entertaining.
After Rajeev Lal (Shammi Kapoor) inherits the reins of his family's massive industrial empire, his mother decides that it is time for his marriage. Rajeev, uninterested in surrendering his bachelorhood, flees to the family's lakeside bungalow in Kashmir. There he meets a local flower-seller, Champa (Sharmila Tagore), and instantly falls in love. He woos her aggressively, but to avoid intimidating her he hides his identity, telling her that he is Rajeev Lal's driver. Champa warms to him quickly. But their romance is thwarted by a scheming lumberman, Mohan (Pran), who wants Champa for himself. He blackmails Champa's father (Nasir Hussain) by threatening to disclose dirty secrets of Champa's parentage. But there are surprises in store for everyone before the rivalry is resolved.
The pleasures of Kashmir ki kali are entirely star-driven. I'm not completely on the Shammi Kapoor train - he's too pudgy and spastic to really have much appeal for me. Here, though, he is quite loveable, chasing Sharmila with an intensity that is entirely sweet, not creepy-stalkerish as filmi romance can sometimes be. His comedy antics as he avoids engagements by feigning drunkenness - or even madness when expedient - are genuinely - sometimes hysterically - funny. His gyrations seem spastic but they are clearly not uncontrolled - he is talented at physical comedy, and uses it to great effect in set pieces and songs alike.
And if Shammi is amusingly charming, Sharmila - here in her first Hindi film - is adorable beyond compare. Though her Champa is an ingenue, she's spirited and game for adventure. Some of the most delightful scenes come when she submits to Rajeev's antics, as in the fabulous balle-balle song in which they give Mohan the slip by spontaneously joining a dance troupe at the local fair. I've been nursing a growing crush on Sharmila Tagore and this film was just the thing to goose it along; she's good enough to eat as Champa, wearing traditional Kashmiri costumes and smiling with delight and wonder at the whirling dervish of romance that has burst into her life.
Indeed, the songs are far and away the best thing about Kashmir ki kali, the delightful songs come fast and thick in the O.P. Nayyar soundtrack, and each picturization is more colorful and energetic than the last. Even if I never watch this film straight through a second time, I know I I'll be watching the songs again and again. Many of them, like Rajeev's anthem "Kisi na kisi se" and his manic declaration of impatient love "Tarif karun kya uski," in addition to the appeal of the Shammi and Sharmila, also showcase the unparalleled beauty of the film's uncredited star - the gorgeous Kashmiri landscape itself. It is the songs and their picturizations, more than anything else, that makes Kashmir ki kali a sparkling gem. (See Sanket's concurrent post at Bollywood Music Club for more.)