The story of this film is built upon one of the most overplayed tropes in the movies - romance between a rich boy and a poor girl whose families do not want them together. Yet Bobby, despite its hackneyed theme, was a giant hit in its time, introducing audiences to one of India's most beloved screen pairs, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia.
Raja (Rishi Kapoor) was a troubled child whose jet-setting parents paid little attention to him, eventually exiling him to boarding school. Upon returning home after graduation, he meets sixteen-year-old Bobby (Dimple Kapadia), the granddaughter of his former governess, and falls in love with her immediately. After a joyful courtship, they decide to seek the blessing of their fathers. But Raja's father Mr. Nath (Pran) is of the paranoid zillionaire mold, and is convinced that Bobby's fisherman father Jack has orchestrated a scheme to trap Raja in order to get access to his wealth. Jack, in his turn, is gravely insulted by this supposition. The result is that both fathers want the youngsters to have nothing to do with one another. Several misunderstandings and one motorcycle-riding elopement later, Jack and Mr. Nath force the issue, and Raja and Bobby get set to demonstrate just how far they will go to defend their love.
I suppose I can understand why Bobby was such a massive success upon its release - there is something inspiring about these fresh-faced kids standing up for the right of the younger generation to determine its own destiny. But in the end I found myself taking only an intellectual interest in the film and its characters, without any emotional connection. I felt I was watching it out of a sense of respect for its place in Bollywood history; I cannot honestly say I enjoyed it. Dimple Kapadia was spunky and pretty, but too young and girlish yet to be a truly compelling heroine - she is far more interesting as an adult. Rishi Kapoor came across as effete, sluggish, and weak, not at all the compact (even if pudgy) bundle of energy that he portrayed so adorably in Amar Akbar Anthony. Pran, too, whose angry tycoon routine worked well in Amar Akbar Anthony's broadly comedic context, in Bobby was only cartoonish and grating.
Bobby had a few strengths. It features a beautiful, emotional soundtrack by Laxmikant-Pyarelal (the prolific team who also penned Amar Akbar Anthony's brilliant songs), which includes such evergreen hits as "Hum tum ek kamre mein bandh ho" and the beautiful "Main shayir to nahin." There are even a couple of fun picturizations, notably "Jhoot bole kawa kaate" and "Ae phansa." The latter, which I unfortunately cannot find on YouTube, was a real highlight of the film - it features hordes of dancers in trippy, nightmarish costumes that are highly evocative of the troubled mood Raja is in when the song is performed for him - he has just learned that his father has agreed to marry him to a mentally disturbed girl as part of a business transaction, and he is indeed feeling phansa - trapped. "Ae phansa" is lusciously picturized on Aruna Irani, whose character is another of the film's highlights. She is a seductive vamp who, though at first interested in Raja, ultimately develops sympathy for the young lovers and proves their only ally.
Despite these enjoyable moments, though, I am sorry to say that on the whole I found Bobby dull and uncompelling. For the sake of my continuing Bollywood education I am glad I took the time to see it - but that is hardly a ringing endorsement of a film.