Kaagaz ke Phool pulled me down so much, that I thought, even I need a break from Guru Dutt, thus joining the long string of people who “bhichde sabhi bari bari” from him. Moreover Nutan celebrated her Jayanti on 4th of June (and bollywood deewana celebrated his birthday as well), so I thought of jumping the bandwagon to celebrate it. I looked at my pile and first my eyes went to Bandini, but then I remembered how dustedoff once recommended Paying Guest to me. So off I went to see it.
Last summer I saw the beginning of it in Bombay, but the VCD player decided to strike on that day and seeing Dev Anand’s antics I was even relieved. But this time when I saw it, it was less irritating and I think I even warmed up to it. It is pure masala film. Is Film me kya nahin hai, is me drama hai, emotion hai, suspense hai, love story hai, sundar heroine hai, matwala hero hai, sunheri vamp hai. It is in fact a three tier film, wonderfully knotted together. The only thing lacking is a good director. So, off we go……………………….!
The Love Story
As many of the 50s heroes, Ramesh (Dev Anand) is garib (poor). Well, he is not unemployed but he is too much of an unsuccessful lawyer.
On his search for a room he lands up at Mirza sahib’s house. Coming there, he gets promptly in a fight with the tenant upstairs, Shanti. Not only a lawyer but uncouth in his behaviour leads him to being thrown out. Shanti and her father, Digambarnath also leave the house and move to another one.
Digambarnath, who would like to line his wallet a bit more, is searching for a tenant, who would be paying guest. Knowing that, after his silly behaviour Digambarnath won’t take him up as a tenant; Ramesh dresses himself as Mirza sahib, an old muslim gentleman. (Where in the hell do the hindi film heroes get the disguises so soon. If I had to search for a disguise I wouldn’t know, which place to look).
Shanti is no dud, she is a student at the local college and is also a member of the debating club, where they discuss such high brow topics like ‘money or love, what is more essential for a successful marriage’. Shanti is all for love and her opponent her friend Chanchal (Shubha Khote) all for money. I would have liked to tell Chanchal not to be so open about it, but then remembered, that she can’t help it, Subodh Mukherjee (the director) asked her to be so.
Ramesh, meanwhile carries on with his wooing (Mana janab ne pukara nahin) and his idea of it is to get beaten up by his alter ego Mirza sahib, which brings in oodles of sympathy from Shanti.
And while playing Holi; Mirza sahib’s disguise falls, her father gets a fit. This gives Ramesh a chance to look after him and impress him. Since Miya, Biwi and Baba all are raazi, the screenplay sails to other shores. (O nigahen mastana)
The social drama
Shanti is not the only daughter of Digamabarnath. His eldest daughter Uma (Dulari) is married to Prakash (Yakub), who is a pukka Raavan (though after Mani Ratnam’s film, we all will have to revise our views of Raavan, but till then we go on with it). He not only demands money from his father-in-law for drink but also mistreats his wife. I brace myself to hear some Sitagiri. But hooray, we are spared of it. But not poor old Digambarnath! This leaves the family, what with Ramesh’s unemployment and Prakash’s drinking, very much penniless
Meanwhile Chanchal has married an old rich lawyer (Gajanan Jagirdar), who is immersed subah aur shaam in kaam hi kaam (morning till eve only work on mind) and doesn’t take pyaar ka naam (word of love) in his mouth.
Seeing Ramesh and Shanti’s not only blossoming but blooming love, she becomes jealous and plans to seduce Ramesh and also because he had made fun of her a few scenes back about her marriage to the old barrister.
Prakash comes to her help to ‘create a rift in the lute’ (as Jeeves would put it). He gives Chanchal chocolates, which will make Ramesh drunk, though how that is going to help matters is past my understanding.
Ramesh does get drunk and sings ‘hai, hai, hai yeh nigahen’ and when he arrives home, Shanti give him a piece of her mind. It seems after all the trauma which her sister undergoes through a drunkard husband; she has grown an acute aversion to all sorts of alcohol and alcoholics, even temporary. I mean temporary alcoholics not temporary aversion or husbands.
Chanchal sees her chance and takes him to her home. This doesn’t go quite well with the old barrister. He removes his wife from his will and takes her to a far, far away place, which is near a sea or a river and confronts her with her (unsuccesful) attempts at adultery and asks her to leave his home and hearth. Why they don’t quarrel at home like all husbands and wives escapes me. But broadminded as he is, he is ready to bring her to back to the town. Prakash meanwhile, who has watched this scene, slits the tires of the car. That means they can only take the boat across the river. Don’t worry if this is making your mind boggle, even my head was spinning at this twists and convulsions of the story which would put a python to shame.
Anyway off they go paddling a boat and just as the boat passes a young coconut palm, we hear his blood-curdling cries. I have always wanted to use this word ‘blood curdling’. Ha!
And in the very next shot we see Chanchal sobbing with her dead husband’s head (still connected to his torso) in her lap, while she is narrating how her husband drowned. We all know that foul play is afoot here.
Remember Ramesh and Shanti. Well, Shanti just has to sing ‘Chand phir nikla‘ and Ramesh returns to her. Her aversion it seems was temporary.
Prakash, who has aided Chanchal in the crime, wants his pound of flesh. She though, would like to take the shorter way out and threatens him with a gun. In the flood of emotions, they accuse each other of all the dirty deeds. This leads to Prakash throttling Chanchal, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Shanti, who rushes to her aid and finds her lying on her back in front of Prakash.
She assumes that Chanchal in this position doesn’t need her help and runs away. They in turn think that she has heard everything and needs to be removed. And off goes Prakash in hot pursuit, shooting bullets here and there (reminded me of the opening scene in Munnabhai MBBS). Shanti finds refuge in a store room, where Prakash slips and loses his weapon and Shanti takes it up and a shot is fired, killing Prakash. Police come and arrest her, but on their return the corpse is missing!
So where has Prakash disappeared? Did Shanti kill him? What did Chanchal tell her man-servant when the police came? Will Ramesh get a chance to do a Perry Mason?
To get the answers to this questions, watch Paying Guest. But please don’t forget to shut off your enquiring brain. Just enjoy the ride!
By the way what is Dev Anand wearing here in this pic?
And here is Amrish and Madan Puri’s in-mela lost brother Chaman Puri