Jab Jab Phool Khile did not have the high-minded social relevance of a Do Bigha Zameen, the pathos of a Pyaasa, or the glimpses of psychological acuity that a Sangam afforded.
But for those who perceive cinema also as a medium of zany entertainment, Jab Jab Phool Khile has a certain je ne sais quoi charm that is not easy to come by; or to capture onscreen. This makes it a must-see. The film feels fresh even 37 years after it's release. And there's nothing aerosol about the freshness. Each time a wave of nostalgia about the typically-60s fluffy Kashmir romances engulfs me, a viewing of Jab Jab Phool Khile, a film that could well define the decade, serves the purpose.
|| Suraj Prakash
|| Kalyanji Anandji
|| Shashi Kapoor, Nanda
The visually-appealing film, more colourful than a Chinese kimono, boasts of a crisp screenplay and an eye-arresting opposites-attract romance that keeps the film merrily cartwheeling along, besides the lilting songs picturised with great care and affection, the dialogues that enhance the sweet 'n' sour flavour of the film, and the vibrant performances.
Interestingly, the film pulls off a casting experiment. The suave Shashi Kapoor, contrary to his image, is cast as a gauche and innocent shikarawala while Nanda breaks free from her weeping-willow chhoti bahen image with flourish, and seems to enjoy the experience.
She plays the privileged-class Rita, the only daughter of a moneybags Rai Bahadur (Kamal Kapoor). She airily decides to take off on a holiday to Srinagar chaperoned by Stella (Shammi). They park themselves in a picturesque shikara [houseboat] whose owner Raja (Shashi Kapoor) is soon smitten by Rita, his hoity toity 'memshaab'.
With an amorous mood wonderfully set by the postcard-pretty backdrop ('Yeh sama, sama hai yeh pyar ka' breathes Rita in anticipation), and faced with Raja's open-mouthed admiration, Rita finds herself nursing mixed feelings. Initially, she finds his candour embarrassing, yet inveigling.
To be sure, Rita is conscious of their class differences but finds herself touched by Raja's clean-hearted naivette, his romanticism and his belief in eternal love stories. Slowly but surely, Rita finds herself drawn to Raja's native charm.
When Rita returns to Bombay, Raja writes her a series of gushy letters. And Rita does return to Kashmir only this time she is accompanied by a suitor with a parental seal of approval -- Kishore (Jatin Khanna).
There's thunder on Raja's brow whenever Kishore is around, but he continues to woo Rita with hint-heavy folk songs (Ek tha gul aur ek thi bulbul) and even rescues her from a blizzard. Piqued at being sidestepped, Kishore manhandles Rita leading to a reprisal by a furious Raja. Cashing in on the emotional high point, the well-shot succeeding scene shows Raja furiously paddling the shikara and finally blurting out his long-implicit love to a shaken Rita.
But before a dazed Rita can truly respond, her father forcibly whisks her back to Bombay. Like Mary's little lamb, Raja follows suit. Her scheming father agrees to the match and asks Rita to make Raja 'socially presentable'. Rita now plays Pygmalion but she succeeds in making only superficial changes. Raja may sport smart suits, eat with a fork, and wow her party guests with his waltzing prowess, but at heart he is conventional, conservative, and well, a bit of a chauvinist.
Having beautifully captured the inexorable fascination between two diverse personalities, and then explored the forces that tear them asunder, the film should have ideally ended when Raja, unable to conform to Rita's society (evident in his plaintive plea: Yahan main ajnabee hoon, main jo hoon bas wohi hoon) decides to fly the coop and bids good-bye to Rita, while she continues to inhabit her world and straight-facedly dance with a stranger.
Of course, commercial considerations prevail. In an emotionally-charged but arguably-impractical climax, there is a more conventional closure. Rita decides to give in. Running on the platform, she begs for acceptance from Raja who is standing at the doorway of a train compartment. Raja takes his time before pulling her into the compartment and enfolding her in an embrace.
Prettified in the sixties idiom of beauty, Nanda, though a trifle on the heavier side, sails through her role with élan, imparting just the right shades of coquettery, elegance and expression.
Shashi Kapoor's performance merits a perfect 10. To begin with, the Kashmiri attire fit him as snugly as a glove. And, he endearingly speaks his lines with inflections (for instance, ausboat for houseboat). His infectious grin and his agility -- watch him express sheer joie de vivre while gamboling in the dales to Rafi's spirited Affo Khuda -- are also definite pluses.
In the scene where he is simmering with jealousy, the director resorts to using a red filter to emphasise his rage -- Shashi's hurt and anger singes you, anyway. The fact that one notices the finer nuances of Shashi's expressions without being distracted by the breathtakingly beautiful locales, is testimony of his ability to get under the skin of his character.
|Famous songs from Jab Jab Phool Khile|
| Pardesiyon se na
| Mohammed Rafi
| Yeh samaa
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Pardesiyon se na
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Ek tha gul
|| Mohammed Rafi, Nanda
| Humko tumse
| Mohammed Rafi
| Na na karte pyar
|| Mohammed Rafi,
| Yahan main ajnabi hoon
|| Mohammed Rafi
*Nanda was one of the few established heroines who regularly worked with Shashi Kapoor before he made it big. The two formed a popular pair going on to do eight films together.
*For Shashi Kapoor, Jab Jab Phool Khile was his first solo-hero hit. After early disappointments like Yash Chopra's Dharamputra (1961) and Bimal Roy's Prem Patra (1962), had been put it cold-storage, it effectively defrosted his career.
*Nanda says she has seen Kashmir in all the seasons. She fondly remembers visiting it often for her shoots and staying at the Oberoi.
*Besides giving a major boost to the careers of its stars, Jab Jab Phool Khile also established its music directors Kalyanji Anandji and its still-new lyricist Anand Bakshi in the A-list.
*Strangely, a couple of years later, Bakshi formed a pair with Laxmikant Pyarelal (1967's Milan, Farz) while Kalyanji Anandji veered increasingly towards Indeevar.
*Though they had been composing catchy tunes since 1958, Jab Jab Phool Khile and Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965) were Kalyanji Anandji's breakthrough scores.
*Mohammed Rafi was at the zenith of his commercial success and sang the songs with gusto. The film was made during the period when Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar were not singing duets so Suman Kalyanpur was pencilled in for Na na karte pyar.
You might also want to read:
Design: Uday Kuckian