Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi (1969)
Cast: Mohammad Ali, Zeba, Rozina, Mustafa Qureshi, Lehri, Talish, Ragni, Ahmed Rushdie
Director: S. Suleman
Nutshell: Typical 1960s emotional melodrama with all the usual ingredients.
Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi was released in 1969 in an attempt to capitalize on a wave of romance oriented dramas and love triangles that had been so successful during the era characterized by Waheed Murad’s massive successes. This film was produced by playback singer Mala and brought together family favourites Zeba and Mohammad Ali who had as solid a record at the box office as any and had recently scored massive success with Aag. Zeba and Mohammad Ali were Lollywood royalty and their popularity was second to none as the new millennium rolled around. Here the real-life couple were cast alongside sultry Rozina and a recent but significant entry to the Lollywood scene; the menacing and suave Mustafa Qureshi. The first half of the film is the set up for the drama and emotion that will follow in the second part of the film.
Zeba and Rozina are two stepsisters (though Zeba doesn’t know it) who are as different as chalk and cheese. Rozina is all about fashion, fun, music shows and the good times while Zeba is all demure, all-sacrificing and dutiful as well as a complete bookworm; the perfect servile and docile desi woman any mother in law would adore. There is a clamor at the dinner table as Rozina is fretting about wasting her summer vacations at home while she should be out having fun in Murree. She has already put together her outfits for various parties and music functions she intends to attend but her parents and her dull sister are lagging and thus jeopardizing her plans. Fortunately, things work out for her and the entire clan are soon off driving to Murree where their car breaks down but soon they are met by a dashing playboy son of a millionaire industrialist who saves the day and drives them to their destination just in time for Ruby (Rozina) to make her music show. Najma (Zeba) is constantly clashing with her sister about their incompatible values and always killing poor sister Ruby’s joy by degrading and vilifying her lifestyle.
Mohammad Ali is also visiting Murree and soon the typical “chher charr” (frolicking and friendly teasing) and the banter between him and the girl who has caught his eye begins. He woos her in typically charming Mohammad Ali style (a few songs and jogs around the hills of Murree) and soon the ice-cold Najma begins to melt. Unfortunately, Ruby too has eyes for the Playboy hunk and it is not long before ugly complications begin to arise and things turn rather ugly. But not before Ruby wins great admiration and a membership at the highly exclusive Youngsters Club where membership is only granted to those who can dance and sing to an impossible degree of excellence. Ruby passes her test with flying colours.
After an eternity of attempting to woo Najma, Nasir finally changes his tactics and decides to lay on a lengthy sob story about being the loneliest and most unhappy and unfulfilled man on earth; a mere rudderless, directionless empty vessel drifting aimlessly through life. He tells her the moment he laid eyes on her he found a new reason to live blah blah blah and five minutes later Najma is totally smitten. Rozina overhears the romantic chit chat and hatches a dastardly scheme of her own that involves sneaking out at midnight from her parents’ home and heading off to her sister’s boyfriends place. When Ruby finds that Nasir has gone off to the city for work she plonks herself in his bed and spends the entire night there.
Ruby’s parents are mortified that their daughter hasn’t returned home all night and when Najma calls Nasir’s to ask for his advice a sleepy Ruby answers the phone pretending that Nasir is fast asleep beside her having immense difficulty waking up having exhausted himself the night before. Najma is shocked at her boyfriend’s infidelity but steps up to sacrifice her own happiness and forces Nasir to accept Ruby as his wife as the only way of saving the family from dishonor. Grudgingly Nasir accepts but hits the bottle immediately after his marriage leaving Ruby increasingly frustrated. She tries to arrange outings to the club or for a picnic but he shrugs off her every suggestion with disdain and she grows more and more frustrated at her loveless marriage. All he seems to do is mope around the house in a drunken stupor occasionally bursting into a typically morose Mehdi Hassan jilted lover song. Meanwhile Ruby seeks solace with a smooth fellow club member Naeem (Mustafa Qureshi) but doesn’t realize that his intentions are entirely evil. Using his considerable charms, he slowly draws her into his murky web of deceit and hatches a plot by which He and Rozina will hasten the demise of the ailing Nasir and usurp his millions before getting married to one another.
Najma discovers that Ruby had lied and that Nasir had been out of the city when she claimed to have slept with him and that it was all a devious concoction by her evil step sister. She heads off to see Nasir who she hears is heading for doom and he crashes to the floor as he tells her to leave him to his misery. Najma makes him promise to quit drinking which sparks a new resilience within him but then Ruby returns to find her husband being nursed by his ex-girlfriend. Incensed and accusing Najma of trying to steal her husband Ruby has a fit of rage as matters reel to a supremely dramatic conclusion.
The climax involves a poisoned cat and a puppet plunging down into the ravines of Murree and of course the power of true love.
Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi is a typically convoluted frothy romance turned dramatic tour de force but the pot stirring this formula never quite gets to bubbling point and remains rather tepid throughout its overlong 155-minute running time. The first half is mildly engaging especially the dance club scene featuring Ahmed Rushdie (as himself) as a sort of reply to Jaan Pehchan Ho and Bollywood’s Teesri Manzil songs. Another song is a twist on the Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar ke Charche by Shankar Jaikishen and generally the songs have that “haven’t I heard that before” familiarity to them.
Baharen manages to hold attention but barely so and the momentum never really rises above a relaxed amble. There is no bombastic crescendo with fireworks flying and Mohammad Ali going into his famous quiver amidst thunder and lightning. The whole film is just a little flat, flabby and flaccid and meanders along to its conclusion rather than build any head of steam. There are fun moments along the way and Rozina shines as the bad egg of the family while Lehri lends some endearing silliness with his usual deadpan brilliance. Zeba plays a role that she could probably sleepwalk through; the typical goodie two shoes while Mohammad Ali is his usual charming self even if it is a touch surreal that he be playing a man in his 20s with that massive gut and receding hairline. And yet he does so with aplomb! A few songs are fun and Mustafa Qureshi oozes slime but is sadly underused. Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi promised so much but delivers only a luke-warm affair far too languid to make a telling emotional or dramatic impact.