I 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.
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.
Aya Aya – Lata Mangeshkar. Boring. Laxmi Chhaya dances well enough on screen.
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.
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.
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.
A few weeks back, with the good intention of ‘attacking’ my mountain of unironed clothes, I dragged the ironing board in front of the telly and channel-surfed to find something to watch while I attempted my Herculean task. I landed on this film; had it not been just when a beautiful song was on, I might not have stayed. I didn’t know how much of the movie I had missed but I stayed anyway.
There is no other word for it – the movie was EXECRABLE! So idiotic that I watched in fascination, wondering what twisted mind made it! The story seems have to be made up as they went along. Did Hindi films always show girls getting slapped by the ‘heros’ for the slightest things? And still the girls spreading flowers where his feet have passed and laying their heads there? Please!!! Did they actually think that ‘sacrificing’ one’s love and pushing her into another relationship is moral? Did films treat suicide as an honourable out? Did the audience find it funny when women were molested in the name of comedy? Did the hero who didn’t get the girl always have to die in some mish-mash idea of heroism?
In between all this, one has to cope with Dharmendra acting morose and with a false docility that Indian films often give the poor, Biswajit acting manly and macho but oh so badly, Kamini Kaushal pretending to be a Japanese woman and Jagdip an Arab..sorry, all this is not worth talking about. On the whole, just their attitude towards women churned my stomach. For God’s sake, don’t see this film!
On the positive side, my ironing got done as I transferred my wrath against the film makers to my arm!! Unfortunately the pile has grown again…
Do listen to the music by S.D.Burman set to the lyrics by Anand Bakshi. There are a couple of lovely tracks here.
Mehbooba Teri Tasveer – Mohammad Rafi. A dreamy, slow song, it is very well sung by Rafi.
Yeh Dil Diwana Hai – Lata Mangeshkar & Mohammad Rafi. The music is truly inspired. A slow pace, a beautiful melody and Rafi and Lata’s voice gentling you in all the places you didn’t know existed in your soul. Anand Bakshi has some nice lyrics here – बेचैन रहता है चुपके से कहता है मुझको धड़कने दो शोला भड़कने दो and also यादों में खो जाऊं जल्दी से सो जाऊं क्योंकी सांवरिया को सपनों में आना है ..lovely!!
Sach Kehti Yeh Duniya – Lata Mangeshkar. The title song could have been better.
O Mere Bairangi Bhanwara – Lata Mangeshkar. An unsual tune, with an other-world touch, I really liked it. Lata Mangeshkar at her best.
Mitwa Mere Saathi – Lata Mangeshkar. Shown in the movie as a bhajan, it is totally forgettable.
Tum Mujhse Door Chale Jana Na – Lata Mangeshkar. Lata’s sad solo has a haunting melody. A well loved song.
Pyaar Bhari Ek Baat Chali – Asha Bhonsle. Poor Asha got the quite the worst song in the album. Not for re-listening.
The first time I saw this film in 1985, it was already ten years old, a legend even then. What at impact it had! Sometimes, very rarely, different facets of a movie come together and magic happens because the movie becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Sholay is one such film.
Today I watched it 26 years after I saw it last. It still had tremendous impact. People who know my dislike of bloodshed would wonder at my statement about a film which has so much violence. Yes, I cringed in places and hid my eyes in quite a few others but in spite of that I say emphatically – if you haven’t watched it, do.
A Wild-West story Indian-style, it seems to be inspired by films such as the Magnificent Seven, except the odds are even worse, there are only two to defend the village. Yet the movie is 100% Bollywood Masala – there is a great mix of action, violence, tragedy, emotion, drama, comedy, love. Its a buddy movie, an action movie, a romance and a drama. And it has nice music too!
There are funny little cameo roles by Asrani, Jagdip and Keshto Mukherjee but its Dharm, Hema and Amitabh who provide the best comedy. Dharm is a natural, his performance in the water-tank suicide attempt scene had me in giggles. Amitabh is no less when he goes to speak on Dharm’s behalf to Hema’s aunt. Even though I am not a big Hema fan, I think she’s great here; she has a definite flair for comedy. Jaya’s performance is understated but excellent. I did not much like Sanjeev’s take of the avenging Thakur. His teeth-clenching to show anger in every other scene quite tired me. I would have a preferred a colder, more controlled performance. The supporting cast have done a commendable job.
Dharmendra and Amitabh carry the film with their contrasting styles. But I give the award to the superbly evil Amjad; he is just unbelievably good. His eyes, his dialogue delivery, his smile – everything is as evil as can be!
There are, of course, holes in the script. Why don’t they organise better defences? Why spend so much time drinking and romancing instead of keeping lookouts? Why would Hema plan to meet Dharm in so lonely a place when they know they are surrounded by villains? Is it still important to capture the enemy alive when one’s life is in danger? Why do they attack the enemy with so little smarts and so much emotion? And isn’t the idea of a handless Sanjeev beating up Amjad quite ridiculous? And really, does it have to be SO long? There are many whys but we shall ignore them because its still a good film.
R.D.Burman weaves his magic wand for the music with good lyrics by Anand Bakshi.
Yeh Dosti – Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey. This is THE buddy song of that era. Is the sidecar a metaphor for friendship?
Holi Ke Din – Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar. There are better Holi songs but its not too bad.
Mehbooba – R.D. The song is so famous that it is difficult to make an unbiased judgement. Helens gyrations and RDs gruff voice made an impression the first time I saw it, and it still remains startlingly good. I don’t have the qualification to critique RD of all people, but sometimes the voice seemed to be getting ahead of the beat..it disturbed me, so no dil.
Koi Haseena – Kishore Kumar. This always make me smile; the song suits Dharm so very well! The picturisation is very amusing too.
Haan Jab Tak Hai Jan – Lata Mangeshkar. Hema’s big dance number is very good, Lata does a good job.
The memory of this song has haunted me for 38 years now. Every now and then my brain will trawl through its old and ill-used cells and savour the pleasure of Rafi’s voice with the beauty of Dharmendra’s presence. Yet, I have never seen this film. My memories are fuelled merely by viewings of the song clip on television during the seventies.
So today, when I sat to watch the film, it was rather exciting! Seeing movies from the seventies is rather distracting though. I kept trying to assimilate the interesting wardrobe choices of the leads : Pants with large brown checks! Grey shiny suit with extra large black lapels! Tiny red skirt with tinier hot pants! Black long dress with a weird overcoaty thing! If I am not distracted by wardrobe, its by Dharm’s disarming English accent : sa-late->slate, un-cull->uncle and the like. Must say though that Dharmendra looks heart stoppingly handsome and Mumtaz quite luscious to match!
On the whole its a good time-pass. If one doesn’t look for meaning or anything deep, it’s enjoyable enough.
The music is by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and the lyrics by Anand Bakshi, both worthy of respect.
Kahan hai woh diwana – Asha Bhonsle. Padma Khanna gyrates well but I don’t see this rather plaintive song for a cabaret number.
Motiyon ki lari who main – Asha Bhonsle. This time it is Mumu who gyrates in a short red skirt. I remembered this song well though, so a smile for the sake of nostalgia.
Aaj Mausam Bada Beiman Hai – Mohammed Rafi. Unbelievably good. Impossibly good. Wonderfully good. I just melt when Rafi croons
ऐ मेरे यार ऐ हुस्न वाले | दिल किया मैंने तेरे हवाले || तेरे मर्जी पे अब बात ठैरी | जीने दे चाहे तू मार डाले || तेरे हाथों में अब मेरी जान है ||
Rafi is the absolute king of this type of singing and can never be replaced, absolutely never!
Teri Ishq Mein – Lata Mangeshkar. A beautiful song and Lata is in great voice. Mumu looks good too!
Duniya mein tera hai bada naam – Mahendra Kapoor. Very proficiently sung but not to my taste.
Koi Shehri Babu – Asha Bhonsle. Mumtaz is in her element with songs like this. A good dancer indeed! The song is lovely too and Asha does justice to it. Nowadays marriage songs are almost always group dances with intricate steps. This feels so different!
You can listen to the whole album here. But for today, my choice is a no-choice.
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