prem pujari (1970) – peace, love and spies

In one of those strange coincidences that make you blabber incoherently about the nature of the universe and things like that, I was watching ‘Prem Pujari‘ one evening, and later at night I read Sue Townsend in ‘The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Susan Lilian Townsend’,

“When I told my second son that I was going to Russia he narrowed his eyes and said, ‘Again?’ He went off on some mysterious late-adolescent errand and on his return said, ‘After you’re dead I won’t be surprised to be told that you weren’t really a writer, you were a spy.’ This made me laugh quite a lot. Spying, as a profession, seems to me about as interesting and useful as designing horse blankets for ‘My Little Pony‘. In my ideal world there would be an annual spies’ convention held in a hotel. Secrets would be swapped openly in the lobbies and bars; so much more comfortable than hanging around on street corners; cheaper too in the long run.”

Sue Townsend would have approved of the spies in ‘Prem Pujari’, who definitely do not hang around street corners, but meet in lobbies and bars over a lot of dancing, most of it for some reason, involving the belly.

And a lot of blue eyes.

It all does seem a lot of too-dah about nothing, because mostly what happens is (Rani) Zaheeda and (Ram) Dev Anand hop from one country to another in various disguises. They run on the streets when no one is chasing them, they look around suspiciously at poor ‘foreigners’ who only seem mildly curious about their antics.Β  ‘Operation Europe’ is coded in Chinese

and has many characters masterminded by Chang-saab, (Madan Puri)

but since everyone seems to know everyone else, the exercise in throwing white carnations at each other seems pretty pointless, but whatever.

Dev Anand does have some good disguises though as Yik Tok

and Peter Andrews.

Before he becomes a spy, he is Ramdev Bakshi, a peace-loving soul who would rather catch butterflies than serve in the army.

He also has a beautiful sweetheart Suman (Waheeda Rehman)

and they look very, very good together.

But he has that very filmi father, a retired army man, crippled in service, Subedar Bakshi (Nasir Husain) who insists he go back to duty where an Indian dog is killed on the China border because he teases the Chinese by showing them his butt.

Ramdev Bakshi refuses to fight the Chinese back and is court-martialed. He is sentenced to 2 years jail but escapes.

Ram shows us his sensitive side when he cries.

The song is detailed quite lovingly, with the relaxed laughter on Nasir Husain’s face at the end of the song, happy to be with his regiment, the old soldiers and the enameled tin mugs.

But then Dev-saab shows us his less sensitive side as a director when he zooms into Zaheeda’s bra strap as an introductory shot after a helicopter crash.

If the bra strap was meant to make us believe that Zaheeda is a hot, sexy babe, it fails miserably, because sadly she is a clumsy actress.

The spies watching her do a strip tease show which is her first act on landing in Europe seem to think so too.

Dev-Saab seems to have liked butts way before Ram Gopal Verma.

The girls are deliberately framed like that, with Zaheeda actually throwing up her skirt and showing us her bottom.

But I think the shot of his own backside is inadvertent.

Everyone smokes a lot, the patriots

and the enemy.

And if Ms. Townsend were still dissatisfied, there are some more handsome men,

including on the BBC.


  1. This would make an excellent movie. Or better still, a webisode. If only we had a teaspoon’s worth of drive amongst us, we could totally do it!

    I saw Hopscotch yesterday and Memsaab’s been on a spy kick too! There’s something in the air!

  2. You know, I think I might have seen this, unless the poor dog getting shot on the border appears elsewhere too…Why don’t I remember the other stuff (maybe I turned it off when the violence against animals was too much for me)…

    It does indeed seem to be a staple of Indian spy films that disguises don’t fool anyone, although they are worn with great abandon, and everybody does know everyone else’s business just like back in the chawlπŸ™‚ Love it.

    • Memsaab, the poor dog getting killed was really terrible. But I don’t think you would have forgotten this film if you had seen it.

  3. I seem to remember Prem Pujari as being very muddled when it came to story… looks like I wasn’t wrong. But one saving grace was the music: this film had some great songs, especially Phoolon ke rang se. Sublime.

    • Dustedoff, it was a muddled story. Specially the spy portion was largely there to make all the phoren trips.πŸ™‚ But yes, what lovely music.

  4. Dev A and Zaheeda can compete for the Worst Actor Prize. By the time the 70s arrived, he could’ve beaten Zaheeda hands down! I love the songs of this film, but post-mid-60s Dev A is pretty avoid yaar as far as I am concerned, even if he is backed by the likes of Waheeda Rehman.

    And spy thrillers are certainly in the air. I was trying to watch Richard Burton do the spy act in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (very depressing stuff) just a couple of days ago, and have a Clark Gable World War II spy drama lined up for my weekend viewing.πŸ˜€ Guess I should bring out my copy of Aankhen to bring in Bollywood!

  5. I really like this movie, although the story threw me off somewhere in the middle and it seemed a little too long. The songs are awesome, especially “Phoolon ke rang se”. And of course there is a young Amrish Puri, and an even younger Shatru to cheer about.

    Wasn’t a great movie, but there was something about it that kept me hooked.

    • True Ankit, I did remember Amrish Puri, a tiny role but so handsome, with a big cross, and his reluctance to shoot someone in front of Mother Mary.

      I wanted to put his picture, but honestly by then, I was just too tired of making extracts out of the DVD.πŸ™‚

  6. This movie was infortunately a flop, but it had a golden Kishore Kumar all time hit ” Phoolon ke rang se” and other melodious hit songs..That was paisa vasool enough..But I guess its no use when so many of you here have slammed it..Did asnyone of you understand the lyrics of the songs and; sensitive side and dialogues of Dev Saab…?

    • Nagesh, I didn’t know the film was a flop. But yes, it had lovely songs. And as for me, I enjoyed the film, and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

  7. Butt shots galore! Zaheeda’s assets, Waheeda’s and that abominable picturization of `Main Tasveer Utaarta Hoon,’ in Heera Panna. Pity, I always looked upon it as a fashion photographer’s song till I saw the movie ages ago and then rediscovered it on YouTube.
    As for Dev Anand’s, check out the Lata Mangeshkar version of `Tum Toh Dil Ke Taar Chhedkar.’
    All songs of this movie – super duper hit, save for `Doongi tainu reshmi roomal,’ which left me cringing.

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