Agar Tum Na Hote (1983)
Director: Lekh Tandon
Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Rekha, Raj Babbar
Synopsis: Photographer Raj Bedi meets with attractive Radha, both fall in love, and get married. Shortly after the marriage, Raj has an accident and is hospitalized.
Besides featuring a giant bottle of talcum powder and possibly the longest pre-credits sequence known to man — we’re at least fifteen minutes, two songs, one birth and one death into the movie before they start rolling — Agar Tum Na Hote has little to distinguish it from the squillions of films Bollywood churns out year after year. It’s entertaining enough, even with a nearly three-hour running time, but its storyline, while resembling a typical 1940s Hollywood chick-flick melodrama, relies heavily on coincidence and contains an excruciatingly contrived ending.
The rather lovely Rekha pays a dual role, appearing first as the ill-fated Mrs Mehra, who dies after giving birth to a baby daughter, then as Radha, the wife of a crippled fashion photographer. Radha and her husband Raj (Raj Babbar) fall in love and marry while shooting photographs for an ad campaign for cosmetics tycoon Ashok Mehra (Rajesh Khanna), who just happens to be the still-grieving husband of the late Mrs. Mehra. Raj has a change of heart about having Radha’s body on display now that she’s his wife and sells everything he possesses to buy himself out of his contract with Mehra. Finding it difficult to find work after letting Mehra down, Raj falls from a factory roof during the one job he does find, and is crippled from the waist down. Only an expensive operation in the States will restore his legs and things to working order, so Radha must find a job to raise the money. She answers an ad for a governess to a little girl (Baby Shabana) who just happens to be the daughter of Mehra, whom Raj now holds responsible for his situation, and secures the job on the strength of the fact that she is the spitting image of Mehra’s first wife and pretends to be unmarried.
See what I mean about coincidence?
Rekha is very likable as Radha, a virtuous woman with the fortitude of an angel; it’s a role that could have been bland in the hands of a lesser actress but Rekha radiates warmth and is always believable. Raj Babbar is also convincing as her crippled husband, but Rajesh Khanna struggles with a role that makes too many demands on what appears to be a limited range of acting skills. The other key character in the film is Mini, Mehra’s daughter, who is played by Baby Shabana who is, by turns, annoying and irritating with only occasional forays into the land of cuteness. Mind you, her movie dad’s been promising that her dead mother will be coming back any day now for as long as she can remember, so it’s no wonder she’s got a few emotional issues.
Although it looks as if it was filmed on the cheap, Agar Tum Na Hote delivers some solid entertainment and, for a Bollywood flick, keeps the musical numbers to a minimum. If you are a fan of 80s Bollywood cinema, and you can overlook the manipulative nature of the storyline and that awful ending, you should be reasonably happy with this one.
(Reviewed 29th October 2005)