Amitabh Bachchan Retrospective: Pyar Ki Kahani, 1971

Continuing my retrospective on Amitabh Bachchan’s classic movies

pyar ki kahani

Three out of three? Nah. After two great first outings on screen (see my review of Saat Hindustani and Anand here), Amitabh stepped into the wrong shoes with this one.


And he literally did, because this role was actually intended for Jeetandra. Yeah – remember him? Jumping Jeetandra, the eternally youthful – the standard-bearer of romantically dancing and singing around trees, ideally with the legendary Sri Devi?

But because of some rule about actors not being allowed to do more than six films in a year, he couldn’t do it, and Bachchan, clearly eager to establish his place in the industry in his first full year, readily stepped-up. So all six-foot-four of him was shoehorned into a movie that did him no favours.


What happens in the movie?

Ram Chand (Amitabh Bachchan) stops Ravi Chand (Anil Dhawan) from killing himself – although this guy apparently leaves his home town, travels to another city and walks around for a bit before collapsing of hunger – so talk about a flipping procrastinator!

Same surnames. Did you notice? So is this a ‘Bees Sal Baad’ scenario? Nah, they ain’t long mela-lost brothers, but don’t worry there’s plenty of other absurd coincidences to make up for it. Wait for it.

So Ram left his well-off family to come find work – well well-off as soon as they win their court case for an inheritance or something. And despite his qualifications he ends up taking an office-boy position.

pyar ki kahani

Ravi left his, seemingly quite wealthy family, because he’s embarrassed by one of his sisters, Kusum Sharma (played by Tanuja) – ‘Sharma’ yeah guess old Ravi also lied about his surname. I dunno what’s going on there.

Anyway that’s a heck of a reason for a grown man to run away, but you don’t know the all of it yet. Kusum, who is a bit of a little girl in a woman’s body, spurned the advances of a local conman, Banke (Prem Chopra) so he went around spreading rumours that she’s a girl of ill-repute.

Guess that was a big thing in the early 70s, but while her father and big sister are miserable about all the shameful shaming they’re shamefully receiving, and big Bhai does a runner, Kusum is unfazed by it all and carries on picking up random strange men and giving them lifts in her car.

pyar ki kahani

Now back to Ram, he’d put in two job applications at the same company. He got the office boy role, but is now offered a senior managerial role instead. However, because his name matches (R. Chand) with his newfound friend’s (who he only met the day before), he gives him the better job instead!

What a moron! Okay, fine, he’s a good guy and wants to help a seemingly hard-luck case – which Ravi isn’t really – but then why not take the manager’s role and put him forward for the office boy position?

Anyway, for no apparent reason the pathetic Ravi’s luck entirely changes and he not only gets to wear a tie to work, but he dates and marries his secretary too – Lata (played by Farida Jalal). You think that’s a spot of good fortune? It gets better. Her dad goes off on a long pilgrimage and leaves the entire house to them, so Ram and Ravi leave their shanty hut and move in. Although it seems a bit like Ram got the servant quarters.

pyar ki kahani

Anyway, Ram doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest, wonders onto the roof and must have taken some drugs – or at least some incredibly potent cough mixture along the way somehow – because he then launches into a floating, psychedelic song about peace and love between all men, multiplying into different characters representing different regions, first fighting each other and then making up thanks to a round of chorus and a picture of Ghandi.

Meanwhile Ghandi must have put in a good word with God for him, because Ram’s parents win their case. And what do Indian parents do when they come into a bit of a money? Invest? Start a business? Splurge? Go on a cruise? Nah, they think about a grand wedding.

pyar ki kahani

So they call Ram back to see a girl, who, through a convoluted set of reasons, turns out to be Ravi’s reputation-ruined sister unbeknownst to everyone. For some reason the smart intelligent Ram, totally falls for the hapless imbecilic Kusum, and decides she’s the only one for him, dispatching the villain Banke with a simple effective wielding of a knife. Sheesh – why didn’t someone (I’m looking at you Ravi) just do that before?!

Anyway, the marriage decision is now down to Ram’s other lover… sorry, I mean friend… who takes one look at the picture Ram sends him and writes back cruelly crushing his dreams of finally making a woman out of Kusum.

pyar ki kahani

And then some other stuff happens, in which Kusum nearly does what Ravi was too whimpy to do at the beginning and is actually the cause of, and then everyone cries a lot and a particularly unbothered doctor turns up and then it’s either ‘they all live happily ever after’ or they all take poison and commit mass suicide, take your pick but you can probably guess which way it goes.

What’s good?

Themes of peace, love, honesty, standing up for what’s right, defending the defenceless and not giving a shit about bad stuff people say about you, are prominent in the movie, and those are all noble and worthy sentiments to highlight.

pyar ki kahani

What’s bad?

It’s supposed to be a nice, sweet, endearing movie with a charming storyline, likeable characters and warm fuzzy-feeling ending. It fails on all of those fronts.

It just comes across as forced and contrived, the story is absurd, the characters are not true to their cause, and the relationship between the two R Chands is almost homo-erotic – except that they wouldn’t even make a convincing gay couple.

Amitabh in the movie

Our man, Big B, is utterly misplaced in this movie. However, you do start to see some of the body language, facial expressions and unique style that became synonymous with Amitabh in later movies, whereas in the previous first two movies he didn’t assert so much of his own personality.

pyar ki kahani

But letting his persona peak through the someone-else’s-character he is inhabiting also means it’s incongruous with the sweet-natured emotional role he is supposed to be playing. So Ram getting upset and teary-eyed is not convincing, nor is him getting weepy over Kusum at all believable.

But the sequences where he loses his rag and gets into a fight in the café, or when he scares the pants off the conman do work, because he gets to use his soon trademark intensity.

This is not to say that the Amitabh of this time couldn’t do light, happy characters, or be comedic, or be good-hearted and self-sacrificing; he could of course as we’ll see in later movies. But this early on, he wasn’t able to pull off sickly-sweet too-good-to-be-true unrealistic characters, because it’s clear that he doesn’t believe in them either.

Frankly Jeetandra would have carried off this role much better for sure, though in retrospect that wouldn’t have necessarily rescued this movie or vindicated the script in any way.

Should you watch it?

Just watch the psychedelic song I mentioned above, because you’ll be like ‘WTF? How is this happening?’. Anyway it’s about the most interesting and memorable thing in the movie. Otherwise give Pyar Ki Kahani a miss.

Rating 2/10

Okay, if you really must watch it, here it is:

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