For its undeniable sentimental value and its obvious curiosity factor, Love in Bombay might be of some interest to a hardy Hindi film historian.
But for a critic, a far less patient creature at the best of times, assessing this film’s faded visuals, patchy soundtrack and none-too-bewitching story four decades after it was cobbled together, is a tricky task.
There is no getting away from appreciating a son’s gesture in paying homage to his dear departed father by salvaging a lost film.
Love in Bombay all but cost its director and lead actor Joy Mukherjee his movie career. It found no takers.
Neither can one ignore the fact that there has probably never ever been a film in history that has been theatrically released 42 years after it was produced.
But to be absolutely honest, some movie memories are best left alone.
Waheeda Rehman, a peerless screen goddess, did infinitely more accomplished work in her illustrious career than what she was allowed to come up with in Love in Bombay.
Kishore Kumar, a mercurial comic genius, scaled far greater heights in an eventful and multi-dimensional ride through showbiz than he had the opportunity to touch in Love in Bombay.
Shankar-Jaikishan, an iconic composer duo who defined Hindi film music at the peak of their prowess, was probably only operating at half tilt during the making of Love in Bombay.
And Majrooh Sultanpuri, lyricist par excellence, gave our collective voices far more sensitive lines to hum than the ones he delivered in Love in Bombay.
It is quite apparent that had this film been released in the early 1970s, it would have been quickly forgotten. It is only a quirk of fate that seems to have assured it a far longer life.
By virtue of lying in the cans this long, Love in Bombay has had the fortune of being revived in multiplexes long after the city in the title found a new name, and a year-and-a-half after its producer-director moved on to a new life.
Love in Bombay spins an outlandish yarn that, like so many others of its kind from that period, goes all over the place although it is supposed to be about one over-arching emotion and a single mega-city.
The male protagonist, Badal (Joy Mukerji), is a man of many parts. He is a deep sea diver, a deck hand, a fighter, a racing jockey and, of course, a lover.
Not to forget, he also owns a loyal horse called Cheetah although he is as poor as a dormouse.
Badal saves a wealthy tycoon’s daughter, Preeti (Waheeda Rehman), from drowning after a shipwreck.
He then also helps her escape from an island inhabited by – yes you’ve guessed it – by a tribe that appears to have emerged from a tank of tar.
These ‘savages’ are armed with bows, spears and poisonous arrows. They break into a strange dance when they espy the intruders from the big city.
The heroine’s dad (Rehman), referred to simply as Mr Verma, is, of course, in no mood to let his daughter be spirited away by the horseman.
So the old moneybag, to fob off the unsuitable suitor, gives Badal an ultimatum: earn five lakh rupees in three months or else forget Preeti.
Badal, egged on by a friend, a bear-owning bhau from Kolhapur, Ganpat Rao (Kishore Kumar), gets down to the task of finding a way to earn half a million rupees.
Love in Bombay resorts to all the tacky tricks that were known to makers of 1970s potboilers, including the devious machinations of a villain (Dev Kumar) and the antics of Tun Tun, whose mare is pursued by the hero’s horse much to the lady’s chagrin.
It would be rather meaningless to assert that the style here is dated: what do you expect from a film that belongs to a different era?
Love in Bombay is loud, over the top, and without the slightest pretension to subtlety, but it is marked by a certain degree of innocence that sometimes makes popular Hindi cinema of the 1970s and 1980s tolerable even when they are risible.
It is difficult to believe that Waheeda Rehman managed to retain her composure through the madness.
Kishore Kumar, clearly called upon to replicate Padosan’s inimitable musical guru act of three years earlier, simply did not have the raw material to work with in this film.
The highlight of Love in Bombay? For this critic, it is a song sung in tandem by Rafi and Kishore.
Not the best duet they would have rendered together, and not even among SJ’s top compositions, and yet it’s a treat to hear the two voices belt out a number with such free-throated energy from a present-day multiplex screen.