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This 1949 melodrama, the second feature Raj Kapoor directed and a popular hit in India, sets up and reconciles stark opposites to get across the message that love conquers all. Two city sophisticates—the musician Gopal (Kapoor in a dashing, melancholic star turn) and his wealthy pal Pran (Prem Nath)—debate whether love is fleeting and physical or immortal and spiritual. But neither is prepared for the innocence and intense passion of two girls they meet on their country excursions, Reshma (the dewy-eyed Nargis, Kapoor's costar throughout the 50s) and Neela. Against a glossy panorama of Himalayan grandeur and artificial studio sets the plot twists and turns until Gopal and Reshma are reunited and Pran is redeemed by Neela's suicide. Following the conventions of Hindi cinema, Kapoor cuts to song-and-dance numbers now and then, though only some figure in the story; and he relies on an amalgam of native and European elements to sharpen the script's ideological contrasts. The acting is usually direct, even exaggerated, and the emotions are boldfaced, the visual metaphors obvious—as if Kapoor were pandering to a mass audience. Yet it's a tribute to his craftsmanship and romantic ideals that, even though we can guess the story's outcome from the first reel, the pull of the storytelling is irresistible. 171 min.

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