The 1973 story starts off in the household of the wealthy businessman Shamrao Damle, whose rules the family with a stern hand. His only daughter, Shanta (Waheeda Rehman) has, much to his disappointment, married a struggling writer called Gopal (Dharmendra). But where the story departs from films with a similar beginning is that Shanta stays with her affluent parents in the mansion, which is crawling with people from many communities and parts of the globe (whether they are paying guests is never clarified). Gopal comes to this house every night to stay with his wife. That looks ridiculous to me. Why would a self-respecting man agree to let his wife stay with her parents despite having trouble making ends meet? That Shanta also puts up with the ridicule that her parents hurl on Gopal bemuses me! Surely, she must be loving her husband a little less to be putting up with the many occasions when her proud and insensitive father keeps saying that by marrying Gopal she has brought dishonour and shame to the family! This is really a mad house of sorts!
That is why when she gets a good deal of attention from Dr Suman (Vijay Arora), she keeps comparing him to her father (of whom she has only heard stories and seen pictures). Satisfied that he matches up to the standards set up by her juvenile mind, she falls in love with him but never really mentally preparing herself that marrying someone also means growing up and dealing with problems on her own, without the help of a mother.
Though Shanta is distraught at seeing her only companion leave her home, she is happy that Santoshi marries the one she loves. The newly-wed couple goes to another town where Dr Suman is posted. Not having much to do and yearning for Gopal, Shanta spends her solitary existence roaming in her mansion and singing Sandhya jo aaye (Lata Mangeshkar). But when it gets too much she goes to live with her daughter and son-in-law. This is where the problems start. For, even though a daughter might love her mother to be near her, a son-in-law will never accept his mother-in-law to stay permanently in his house. Initially okay, Dr Suman soon finds Shanta's presence playing havoc with the privacy that he would like to share with his wife. For instance, when he nudges his wife from sleep complaining about hunger, his mother-in-law runs to him with food! When he tells Santoshi to sew the button of his shirt, Shanta runs to do it! Really irksome for Suman! Why should a man tolerate his mother-in-law doing things for him that he would love his wife to do! Suman is the most sensible human in the house who calls a spade a spade. But, Santoshi finds him being utterly insensitive towards his mother (I don't blame this girl who does not understand these intricate details of relationships). What I find funny is how Shanta sticks on in this situation even though she is humiliated on occasions more than one by Suman! Doesn't she have any ego? Or is she yearning a bit too much for male company? She justifies her presence here with her eagerness to be near her children (she considers Suman to be her son also) but at the next moment strengthens our belief in her loneliness when she pictures herself with Suman! Surely, this woman needs a man. But then, for a nasty thought that springs in her mind why is she so rude to this young man? There is a song (Doosro na koi is brilliantly sung by Usha Mangeshkar) at this juncture when Shanta pleads with God to help her out. We think can God really help her? A woman who had been so silly as to insult her husband for almost no reason and then is forcing her son-in-law to be nasty to her, how is this person to be helped?! There are innumerable moments when she yearns for male company (read Gopal) when she remembers the intimacy she had shared with him (Shobha Gurtu's Bedardi ban gaye is such a lilting and seductive track here).
Anyway, the ending as expected is happy. But, the journey is rather hollow and tedious. But, there are the good parts, though.
Then there's Om Prakash, who is more of a silent pacifier in the film. When things turn for the worse, he offers his soothing touch. Vijay Arora is good as the sane yet harried husband who is not getting why his mother-in-law is so darned bothered about her married daughter's household.