Contrary to what the subtitles might have you think, Patanga is not actually a movie about archaeologists or people with a skeleton fetish.
What it is all about, though, I still don't know. My DVD stopped working at almost exactly the halfway point, leaving me stranded in the midst of familial problems, melodrama, deception, and young hearts torn asunder. I'm assuming these difficulties get resolved by the end, but I have no idea how.
The internet is no help either, since there is a dearth of online information regarding this film. In fact, before buying the DVD I hadn't even been able to figure out what year the movie was released. Eros Entertainment listed it as a 1971 film, Nehaflix had a 1949 date, and Music India Movies said it was from 1960. Induna added to the confusion by suggesting that Shashi might have been in films called Patanga in both 1949 and 1971. Meanwhile, the pictures of Shashi from the DVD jackets seemed to place the film in the mid to late 1960s.
I ended up buying the DVD sold by Eros, which is never a good idea. (In fact, I bought two copies, both of which had the exact same problem.) This DVD is released by Samrat International, a company I haven't heard of before and have a very bad opinion of now. Oddly, the DVD jacket does not look like the picture shown on the Eros website but is instead the one shown on the Music India Movies site. The picture Eros advertised appears to be the same DVD jacket advertised on Nehaflix, which is purportedly the Music India version. It would be helpful if Indian DVD sellers would actually show the version of the movie they're going to sell you, but maybe I'm asking too much. I'd settle for them just selling DVDs that worked.
As for the actual date of the film, the certificate at the beginning verifies that it was in fact released in 1971.
Scenes in which Shashi looks more like this than this suggest that filming took place over several years, which explains the general 1960s look and the 1971 release date.
The film also includes an early appearance of that favorite 1970s plot element, the child lost at a fair who spends the next two decades on the streets as a petty crook.
A youtube search indicates that a film named Patanga was in fact released in 1949 as well. However, it strains credulity to think that not only Shashi but also Vimi, Ajit, and Rajendra Nath appeared in both the 1949 and the 1971 films. My guess is that at some point someone got confused and added the cast list from the 1971 film to the 1949 list. This error appears not only on Induna's site but on IMDB as well.
Although Nehaflix also uses the 1949 date, the cast list on Nehaflix appears to be exclusively from the 1971 film. Hopefully this means that Nehaflix carries the 1971 film, since it would be nice to finish it and get some resolution.
But until then, I suppose the plot will have to remain a mystery.