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Politicians must watch Shammi Kapoor’s Tumse Achha Kaun Hai to appreciate India’s diversity

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Tumse Achha Kaun Hai had a great soundtrack and an innocent paean to India’s incredible diversity.

One of the first things the new chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath did was to announce incentives for industries that mostly hire local workers. In the country’s current climate, it seems like a must to wear your regional identity, among others, on your sleeves – even if it’s a temporary brouhaha like the one over the Kashmiri Pheran.

In 1969, actor Shammi Kapoor railed against this notion of over emphasis on regional identity in the patriotic song in Pramod Chakravorty’s Tumse Achha Kaun Hai.

Ganga meri maa ka naam, Baap ka naam Himala

Ab tum khud hi faisla kar lo, main kis subewala

Also Read: Padosan is a film that can’t be made in today’s Republic of Easy Offended India.

Shammi Kapoor’s character Ashok sings across Indian landscapes about his ‘Indian’ identity in his trademark style — rhythm, not choreography. He sings praises to the sounds of India’s days and nights, seasons, states, music, culture and what have you. There is a tableau to showcase too. To Ashok, he is India.

The three-hour long film starts off with the song as Ashok preaches to an old couple that their daughter Sheila (Shubha Khote) shouldn’t be married to anyone just for the sake of their regional identity. The sequence features in the film’s running comic track involving Khote and Mehmood.

Just like his previous hits Ziddi (1964) and Love in Tokyo (1966), Chakravorty’s frothy entertainer was a light-hearted affair premised on the formulaic idea of a brother who struggles for the money needed for his blind sister’s surgery.

Ashok needs Rs 15,000 for Roopa’s operation, so he moves to Hindi film’s ‘shrewd mom’ Lalita Pawar. Playing Sarojini Devi, she asks him to get her three granddaughters back on track. Ashok obliges, and ends up falling in love with Asha (Babita), the eldest of the three.

Also Read: Smita Patil’s Mirch Masala is the movie a post-#MeToo India must watch.

Enter the ‘villain’ Pran (Pran). Previously engaged to Asha, Pran gets out of jail only to see the presence of Ashok. He rapes Roopa, gets Sarojini Devi abducted and proceeds to marry Asha. His partners in crime include Sarojini Devi’s twin sister Sarita.

And so, Ashok, with his friend Mahesh (Mehmood in his comic track), has enough on his plate to take care of in the film’s convoluted climax.

What makes the film consistently watchable, though, is the soundtrack by Shankar-Jaikishen and Rajinder Krishan and Hasrat Jaipuri. Of the film’s seven tracks, there are three bonafide hits — Tumse Achha Kaun Hai, Rangat Teri Surat Ki and Kiss Kiss Se Pyaar Karoon. While the first two are conventional ‘running around the trees’ romantic songs, the last one is an iconic club song featuring ‘Yahoo’ Kapoor doing his own thing.

Pyaar Ka Lekar Udan Khatola is another memorable song, picturised in a comical way on Mehmood and Shubha Khote. The soundtrack, fundamentally though, is a showcase of Mohammad Rafi’s versatility.

Five decades on, Tumse Achha Kaun Hai may have lost much of its entertainment value, with little to add the world of today. But it boasts a smashing album, including an innocent paean to India’s incredible diversity. As Ashok sings, “Main kuch bhi hoon, par sabse pehle Hindustani (I’m an Indian before everything else)”.

Also Read: Comedy king Mehmood who earned more than the lead actors of his films.


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