Listening to: Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971)

MGMDI was eager to watch this film for some time now. It had been described to me as a ‘great film’ by more than one person and it starred two handsome gentlemen I admired much as a young woman. The few songs I remembered from my childhood triggered a nice response too.

The two handsome men did not disappoint; I am in awe of their looks and presence. And the acting is not too bad either! The songs I remembered were pleasing enough though not outstanding. However, perhaps thanks to over-expectation, I was mildly disappointed in the film as a whole.

This is a theme which has been done more number of times than I can count. A village cowed by evil-doers, one or a few handful of men protecting and leading the village to self-sufficiency. Wasn’t the Seven Samurai just fantastic?  For Bollywood fans, this film is particularly interesting because it was a precursor to the super-hit Sholay. In fact, I was shocked to see how much Salim-Javed have ‘lifted’ from the screenplay by G.R.Kamath.

MGMD Sholay
The instigator of defence, Jayant with one hand missing The instigator of defence, Sanjeev with two  hands missing
One petty crook, Dharmendra, roped in to defend the village Two petty crooks, Dharmendra & Amitabh, roped in to defend the village
Dacoit leader played by Vinod Khanna is called Jabbar Singh Dacoit leader played by Amjad Khan is called Gabbar singh
Dharm falls for feisty village belle Asha Dharm falls for feisty village belle Hema
Jabbar stands his people in a row, questioning them, while loading one bullet in his gun. Gabbar does this and more in the memorable ‘Kitne Aadmi The’ scene.

Ajit (Dharm) is a petty crook invited by Major Jaswant Singh (Jayant) to help him farm and at the same time make a new life for himself. He doesn’t mention the dacoits who keep the village under their thumb. Ajit settles down after a few slips and enjoys a nice romance with village belle Anju (Asha). The dacoits under their leader Thakur Jabbar Singh (Vinod Khanna) make their presence felt. In this village where everyone is cowed and fearful, only Ajit is willing to stand up to them. Munnibhai (Laxmi Chhaya) is the dancing girl who is a spy for the dacoits but she falls for Ajit and becomes a double-agent. With the odds stacked so heavily against him, will Ajit manage to rid the village of their terror?

Dharmendra has done a decent job of his role; in any case, I was too charmed to be unbiased! Vinod Khanna is excellent, menacing with his red rimmed eyes which always stare elsewhere with manic intensity. What a handsome man he is to be sure!! Asha Parekh’s role doesn’t have much meat and she is not in good looks; her costumes are very very unflattering. I wish they had chosen another female lead. Laxmi Chhaya is competent and has two lovely song-and-dance sequences to impress us with. Supporting actors such as Jayant and Asit Sen are dependably good.

So why was I disappointed? It always comes down to bad screenplay. I cannot deal with with melodrama (a drunk Dharm sleeping it off in the lap of a mad Ma, a dying Jayant asking to be called Papa), depiction of the police as nincompoops, Dharm beating up Laxmi Chhaya, Asha walking into a dacoit-infested forest on her own (is she mad?!!) – the screenplay just annoys. And the moralistic lectures at the end grate.

There is some decent enough music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal with pedestrian lyrics by Anand Bakshi (spelt mysteriously as Baxi in the titles).

  • Sona Lai Ja Re – Lata Mangeshkar. A pleasant enough melody, but nothing extraordinary. Smile
  • Aya Aya – Lata Mangeshkar. Boring. Laxmi Chhaya dances well enough on screen. Sad smile
  • Kuch Kehta Hai Ye Sawan – Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi. I remember this song well from my childhood; it still sounds as pleasing as it did then. Lyrics are so-so but Rafi and Lata sound very good. Open-mouthed smile
  • Hai Sharmaoon – Lata Mangeshkar. Laxmi Chhaya gets to dance to this nice song made more memorable by the on-screen drama. The melody has a hint of sadness which I like.  Open-mouthed smile
  • Maar Diya Jai – Lata Mangeshkar. Why not Asha? I think she would have put even more verve into this song. Still, I remember and like it. Smile

To listen to the whole album, click here.

My selection today is Hai Sharmaoon, for Laxmi Chhaya’s dance and upper-lip adornment by the handsome male leads. Check out Vinod’s luxurious greying mouche and a more sedate one sported by Dharm!

2 Comments

Filed under Bollywood 70's Music, Lata Mangeshkar

2 responses to “Listening to: Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971)

  1. I agree it had very bad screen play. Sholay had better performance and Salim – Javad had a tight grip on the sreen play. That is why it became a cult movie.

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