Silsila is an acclaimed but financially unsuccessful Bollywood film about adultery, an issue that Bollywood films seldom deal with in any depth. The story starts with Jaya Bhaduri and Shashi Kapoor as a young engaged couple who are totally blissfully happy, although she's an old-fashioned kind of a girl and a little alarmed by his love of booze and risky profession as a military fighter pilot. Meanwhile, Shashi's beloved brother Amitabh Bachchan has a Meet Cute with Rekha, and they are totally blissfully happy, so what could possibly go wrong?
Shashi dies in a plane crash, and when Amitabh finds out that Jaya is pregnant, he feels that he owes it to his brother's memory to marry her, which would give his unborn nephew a father figure and save Jaya from the stigma of unwed motherhood. When she loses the child in a miscarriage, Amitabh discovers that his old girlfriend is now married to his wife's doctor (Sanjeev Kumar). The two slowly renew their affair, to the increasing awareness and discomfort of their spouses, and eventually decide to elope together, but fate has a couple more twists to throw at them....
This film provides examples of:
- Airplane of Love: early on, Jaya's character spends a lot of time watching her fiance zoom past overhead in his jet fighter. Played with later on, when the doctor's business trips by plane to Mumbai are a signal that the adulterers will have a freer rein, and finally subverted when a plane crash involving the doctor shocks Amitabh and Rekha and leads to them reuniting with their spouses.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played with. Rekha apparently entered an Arranged Marriage, while Amitabh felt forced by circumstance to marry someone he saw as a sister. But at the same time, their spouses are portrayed as decent, well-intentioned people who are hurt by the adultery.
- Give the Baby a Father: what Amitabh does when he realizes that Jaya is pregnant out of wedlock by his late brother.
- Real-Life Relative: see below.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: an unusual example. Jaya and Amitabh were husband and wife in real life, but he had been allegedly having an affair with Rekha, and the tabloids were getting increasingly hyped up about it. Jaya is reputed to have pushed for the three of them to make Silsila together as a kind of Refuge in Audacity plan to shut the tabloids down.
- Sad Bollywood Wedding: Amitabh's and Jaya's wedding is overshadowed by Shashi's recent death.
- Sad Clown: the doctor shows signs of this, since his reaction to the business between his wife and his patient's husband is to continue to make wisecracks. Fridge Horror sets in when you realize that his jokes earlier in the film are possibly his way of coping with the tragedies he sees at work, and the fact that his wife wasn't that into him even before her former boyfriend showed up.
- Someone to Remember Him By: played straight with Jaya's pregnancy by Shashi, then subverted by her miscarriage.
- Super Doc: Jaya's doctor acts as a trauma surgeon, general practitioner, and gynecologist at different points in the plot.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Amitabh gets this from some of the supporting characters, and Rekha gets this from Jaya.
- Your Cheating Heart: the main plot.