Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (1969)
Cast: Mohammad Ali, Zeba, Yusuf Khan, Ibrahim Nafees, Rangeela, Ilyas Kashmiri
Director: Riaz Bukhari
Music Director: M. Ashraf
Synopsis: Formulaic, frothy melodrama with equal measures of comedy and intrigue
There’s a languid start to the movie with the first half being entirely devoted to frolic and romance as was typical of the era – the dramatics normally began with a killer scene that brought the intermission curtain down; only then would the serious stuff and intrigue truly begin. And thus was the case with Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai with a portly, balding Mohd Ali and prerequisite comic sidekick Rangeela (supposedly college students) cavorting around Hill Stations wooing beautiful Zeba and her friends with every trick in the book – pranks, song and dance routines, picnics, more songs, more pranks, more songs – get the picture?
Love finally finds its way and Mohd Ali musters up the courage to ask Zeba’s dad for her hand in marriage. But before that can happen fate brings Mohd Ali to the point where he has come for a job to the vile Seth’s house….moments later Zeba shows up and Mohd Ali is humiliated and called a lowly “servant” by the miserable Seth and his dreams of marrying Zeba appear to be all but shattered. Yet Zeba remains adamant and beckons Mohd Ali to ask for her hand despite the humiliation and sings a stirring song or two to keep him interested.
The father is a renowned and super rich businessman who is known for keeping the company of a very exclusive set and never ever associates with mere common folk. Problem is Mohd Ali is a man who has hit hard times financially and falls woefully below the expected standards of the big Seth Sahib. So blossoming love is nipped before it can flower and there is much despair and in Mohd Ali’s case a lot of quivering and the tendency to lapse into Mehdi Hassan songs of angst and betrayal.
Will Zeba get married to the creep lined up by her father played by Yusuf Khan or will he somehow come to accept Mohd Ali as his future son in law or does the loyal doddering servant who seems to perpetually be in agony as though suffering from an acute case of haemorrhoids and who keeps muttering prophetic sayings hide a dark secret that he has sworn somehow never to reveal …..but might do so when push comes to shove!?
The film is typical of the “class based” drama where the petty morals of the rich are juxtaposed and shown up vis a by the superior morals of the less privileged masses. It’s a pretty convoluted and excessively overwrought affair which though engaging is rather predictable. The film doesn’t pull any punches our spring any interesting surprises on the way to it’s rather taken for granted conclusion.
It’s merely an adequate Lollywood film from the late 60’s but an entirely formulaic and safe effort with pleasing songs but it lacks a certain spark or oomph and the masala is just a bit insipid and even stale. This sort of rich vs poor struggle with the rich representing evil shallow scum was quite the norm during the 60’s and 70’s – in fact in all eras – Yet more of a trademark of the 60’s, 70’s films.
The climax is stirring but perhaps not quite dramatic enough by desi standards – no jumping in front of bullets to save others, no squirming death speeches, no miracles, no masks being torn off to reveal a secret identity, no amnesia or blindness suddenly being cured by a frenetic song. The revelation when it comes had been telegraphed very clearly throughout the movie so even the shock revelation isn’t quite the killer jolt that the film makers and audiences had hoped for.
Mohd Ali, though the wrong side of 40 and with a well rounded belly is none too convincing as a second year student but that in itself has some nostalgic charm. He is endearing and plays his role with distinct ease. Zeba does the bimbo thing effortlessly while Ibrahim Nafees huffs and puffs as the beastly father/seth sahib.
It’s a perfectly reasonable Lollywood flick yet lacks a certain spice or dimension of intrigue, a twist any sort of fireworks to make it memorable in any way – the film also fatally lacks tension and together with its inability to get its audience emotionally involved it’s no surprise that it failed to cause many ripples Box Office-wise upon release.
Worst of all, Rozina is featured in the cast that adorns the VCD release of the movie yet fails to materialize at all which was a bit of a let down considering her presence in the cast was the motivation for watching the film to begin with!