I don't think I can give a more fitting synopsis of this adorable madcap comedy than the one on the box of my Ultra DVD, which begins thus: "Vijay (Kishore Kumar) was born reverse. Seth Lalchand, a millionaire business magnate of Jubbalpur, who fathered this abnormal addition to mankind, began suffering its chain reactions right from the day Vijay acquired mobility with the postures of a quadruped. Years later, when Vijay was skipping about rather too vivaciously on his hind legs, his antics and acorabaties (sic) were immeasurably greater than those normally found in the average biped animals." The movie makes a little more sense than that - only a little - but it matters not at all, as Kishore Kumar's limitless zany energy, Madhubala's irresistible charm, and several absolutely superb songs combine to make Half Ticket a delightful and hysterical ride.
Vijay (Kishore Kumar) is a relentless troublemaker. His antics get him kicked out of college, and when they embarrass his father (Moni Chatterjee), they get him kicked out his home as well. Left to fend for himself, he decides to head for Bombay by train. To con his way into a reduced fare "half ticket," Vijay dresses as a young boy and poses as an arrested development case, and caromes around as a zany man-child. A jewel thief on the lam from police, Raja (Pran), sneaks a stolen diamond into Vijay's pocket, thinking that Vijay, an apparent mental patient, will be easy to manipulate and recover the diamond from. Trying to escape from Raja, Vijay meets a performer named Asha (Madhubala), who also goes by Rajni, and charms her into protecting him. Asha's marriage-obsessed aunt (Manorama) sees a match between Vijay and Asha too good to resist. But just when Asha begins to fall for this peculiar fellow, Raja and his girlfriend Lily (Shammi), scheming to recover their stolen diamond, interfere to set Asha against Vijay.
So much for the story, which is light, improbable, and totally beside the point. The point, rather, is Kishore Kumar horsing around, donning goofy costumes, making silly noises, and just generally being funny. And he delivers many laughs indeed, both on his own and with the help of the rest of the cast. Sometimes the shouting-and-slapstick variety of Indian comedy doesn't work on me, but Kishore Kumar brings a transcendent ability to the screen - his wild flailing is utterly manic, yet he performs with perfect physical control. He really is a riot. It's difficult to choose just a few scenes to highlight, but some of the best include a scene in which Vijay squirms away from Lily's aggressive grab-ass tactics as she tries to pluck the purloined diamond from his rear pocket. Another comes in the form of a magnificent song, "Aake sidhi lagi," in which Vijay (fleeing from Raja), and Raja (fleeing from police), stumble into a gypsy camp, don costumes, and perform a love song together. This song really has to be seen to be believed - you have not lived until you have seen Pran and Kishore romancing each other.
Madhubala is good with physical comedy too, and Asha's reactions to Vijay's antics are delightful. There is something ineffably charming in watching a poised and competent young woman like Half Ticket's Asha (or Nutan in Dilli ka Thug, whose character is also called Asha) slowly and incredulously falling, against her better judgment, for one of Kishore's completely loonytunes characters. Madhubala is masterful - and delicious - with facial expressions, especially in her two delightful songs with Kishore, like "Aankhon mein tum." There are not enough superlatives to describe how beautiful Madhubala is in songs like this one. And speaking of mastery of facial expressions, Half Ticket offers a generous helping of Manorama at her best as well, especially in the film's climax, where she drives a crane from which poor Vijay is dangling.
On reflection, it occurs to me that Half Ticket offers less in the way of substance than other Kishore comedies I've seen - Chalti ka naam gaadi has a lot more going on, and even Dilli ka thug has a mild social context (the villains are purveyors of tainted medicine). No matter - Half Ticket is chock full of deliciousness, laughs, and absolutely amazing songs - I can't neglect to mention "Woh ek nigah", which features Helen conspiring to protect Vijay from Raju. (How can you not love a movie that has not just one, but two Pran songs?) Some of the humor is even a little less broad - there is very comical dialogue (including one great scene where Vijay scares away a pandit intent on finding him a bride), and some wonderful sight gags as well - look for the moment in "Woh ek nigah" where Raju pulls off Vijay's fake mustache, and Vijay reaches into his pocket to pull out a fresh one. With all of this going for it, Half Ticket is naturally an instant favorite.
More screencappy goodness - once again, as always, click to enlarge.