1969-1973 was the period when Rajesh Khanna was the heartthrob of Indian young girls and the style icon of Indian males. His magic started waning from 1972 but during the three years period of 1969-1971, his mannerism and gimmick filled magic spoke from the heads of the audience when he gave 15 solo box office hits. From Aradhana (1969) to Amar Prem (1972), Rajesh Khanna enjoyed an unprecedented and unmatched journey of success and popularity and was termed by media as the superstar of Indian cinema. During this period only. Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971) was one of his hit movies released in that period which was his heyday.Rajesh Khanna was a romantic hero and hence most of the movies made by riding on his popularity were scripted as romantic movies. Whatever might have been the story idea, the screenplay gave a lot of emphasis to romance between Rajesh Khanna and his heroine. Mehboob Ki Mehndi (the henna applied to the hands of a lady which is meant for her lover) is one such movie only.
The story of Mehboob Ki Mehndi has a Muslim milieu containing Muslim characters. The plot is based on the character of an erstwhile Nawaab (Muslim ruler of an erstwhile princely state in India) but now impoverished Anwar Kamaal (Pradeep Kumar) who wants to settle an old score with Nawaab Safdarjung (Inftekhar). He approaches the house of Safdarjung in order to kill him and his son Yusuf (Rajesh Khanna) but is not able to do so and waiting for a suitable opportunity to do so in future, he accepts to serve in his household under the fake name of Khairuddin. However gradually the good behaviour and respect rendered to him by Yusuf makes his killing job difficult with the passage of time.
On the other hand, Yusuf falls in love with Shabaana (Leena Chandavarkar) who is the tutor of his nephew. Love blossoms in the heart of Shabaana too and their courtship heads towards the desired destination of wedding. However there is a secret about Shabaana not known to Yusuf and his family that she is the daughter of a courtesan with nothing known about her father. However a strange emotional bond gets developed between aged Khairuddin and orphan Shabaana. In the climax, the secrets buried in the past of Shabaana as well as those pertaining to the identity of Khairuddin no longer remain the secrets once a killing takes place and everything is set right after an interesting courtroom drama.
As said earlier, Rajesh Khanna starrers during that period focussed on romance more than anything else. Following that tradition, Mehboob Ki Mehndi also focusses on romance only which, like all the hit movies of Rajesh Khanna, is ably supported by melodious songs. The romance is bound to be dignified as the characters of the movie are Muslim characters and the milieu is traditional Muslim milieu soaked in the famous Muslim culture (Tehzeeb). It’s delicate and touching as well.The movie, written by Anjana Rawail and directed by Harnaam Singh Rawail, is very interesting right from the opening scene to the culminating scene. The sentimental and social parts of the plot have been beautifully amalgamated with the romantic part. Except the desirable interruption of melodious songs and undesirable interruption of the prolonged comedy track (which was perhaps a necessary evil for Hindi movies in those times), the narrative flows very well and heads towards its conclusion which is though a forgone one (considering that it’s formula-based regular Bollywood movie) but the curiosity of the audience as to how it will be arrived at, is kept alive throughout.Technically the movie is sound. The art director and the dress designer have kept the Muslim background of the story in mind while doing their respective jobs. And they alongwith the cinematographer, have done very well. Most of the scenes are very beautiful and eye-soothing. Background score and editing are also okay. The only irksome thing is the lengthy comedy track which, if done away with, would have made the movie crispier and better.
Laxmikant Pyarelaal’s music with the lyrics of Anand Bakshi is a big highlight of the movie. Which Indian cine music lover has not heard Lata Mangeshkar’s classic number – Jaane Kyun Log Mohabbat Kiya Karte Hain ? Alongwith that the album of Mehboob Ki Mehndi contains melodious songs like Ye Jo Chilman Hai Dushman Hai Hamaari, Mere Deewanepan Ki Bhi Dawa Nahin, Pasand Aa Gayi Hai Ek Kaafir Haseena, Itna To Yaad Hai Mujhe Ki Unse Mulaqaat Hui, Apna Hai Tu Begaana Nahin and of course, the title track in the enchanting voices of Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Hemlata.
Rajesh Khanna is at his romantic best in the movie. He is present here with all the gimmick and mannerism he was famous for. Beautiful Leena Chandavarkar has created good on screen chemistry with him and performed the emotional aspect of her assigned role also very well. Seasoned actor Pradeep Kumar is the best actor in this movie. All others are also well in place.
I had watched Mehboob Ki Mehndi in the Prabhaat cinema of Kolkata (then Calcutta) which was situated just in front of my residence in Chittaranjan Avenue in that period (1992) and enjoyed it very much. This interesting movie has a repeat value and can be seen by multiple times by the lovers of romantic flicks.
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