Since Rajesh Khanna passed away last month, I have wanted to review one of his films but have been deliberately procrastinating. I think perhaps I am having trouble coming to terms with his death. He represents an era in the Hindi film world which is personally meaningful to me. Through his films I passed from childhood to my early teenage years, learnt to appreciate filmi music and became more aware of the world in general. A coming of age as it were. With his passing away a bit of my world has passed away too. The sand castle of my life has already been assaulted as the tides have started coming in; this is one more step towards its destruction.
So when my husband picked up Sachaa Jhootha as our late night watch yesterday, I did have a few moments of reluctance. Surprisingly, I have never seen this film before! On the whole it was not a bad film; the first half was well-scripted and brisk but the director somewhat lost control of the plot in the second half.
Bhola (Rajesh Khanna) is a dirt-poor young man from a village. He lives with his disabled sister under the cruel treatment of his step-mother. Uneducated but with some musical skills, he decides to go to the city to earn a living. Good hearted but extremely naive, I could not find this character as appealing as the film makers wanted it to be.
Ranjit (also Rajesh Khanna) is a rich diamond merchant by day and a jewel-thief by night, a leader of his own gang. He is clever and cunning but ruthless, not stopping at even murder. Thankfully there is no background story to wring sympathy for him. Bhola and Ranjit look, as you can well guess, exactly alike. And no, they are not long lost twins, thank God!
When Bhola comes into town, he gets mistaken for Ranjit at a costume party. Ranjit, who is in disguise, sees this and immediately thinks of all the opportunities this presents. He cons Bhola into training to be his double. His in-house moll Ruby (a meaty role for Faryal) is Bhola’s trainer.
The police have suspicions that Ranjit is the jewel thief but have no proof; they make elaborate plans to trap him. The plot is devised by Inspector Pradhan (a very dashing young Vinod Khanna). Another officer, Rita (a gorgeous Mumtaz), is to act as the lure to catch Ranjit who has an eye for a pretty lady.
What follows is typical Bollywood fare of the 70’s. There are uses of unspecified chemicals by the thieves – a truth serum and some kind of stunning mixture. There are police bugs and inefficient snipers. There is a clunky recording device. There is a sword fight. And best of all, there is a really clever dog chasing a car, two cars chasing the same dog, and the dog finding its way to the court to identify the bad man in the climax!!
Rajesh Khanna is adequate as Bhola but quite good as Ranjit. His representation of innocence and naiveté borders on imbecilic which I quite object to. His dancing has always been abysmal and surely he could have done better with his wardrobe choice? Red trousers with a bright red shirt, a bottle-green suit..honestly!! However he does know how to deliver dialogue and has his signature charm. And as Ranjit, he does ‘cold-hearted’ very well. This role won him a Filmfare award.
Mumtaz is not at all convincing as a police officer. But in her role within her role to attract Ranjit she just has to look pretty and she does that and how! This film was one of her stepping stones from being a supporting actress to a lead one, and she looks tentative at all times.
Vinod Khanna too seems somewhat amateurish at times but so very handsome that I didn’t much care! Again, this was before he started playing lead parts and his skills are obviously raw. The supporting cast members do reasonably well.
The music by Kalyanji-Anandji is not of uniform quality. There are two good songs but the others left me cold. The lyrics are by Indivar, Gulshan Bawra, and Qamar Jalabadi.
Meri Pyari Behaniya – Kishore Kumar. The song which was to be played in thousands of baraats (marriage processions) in the future has a slightly melancholic air. Normally the baraat songs are cheerful and the bidai songs are sad, but this is a strange mixture of two emotions! Well tuned and well sung, I am unable to judge its true merit as it is overly familiar!
Dil Ko Dekho Chehra Na Dekho – Kishore Kumar. Rajesh cannot dance but Kishore can certainly sing! The melody is not too bad but somehow doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Duniya Mein Pyar Ki – Asha Bhonsle. A totally pedestrian tune warmed up slightly by Mumu’s wriggles. I am sorry to say that even her dancing at places is stiff and unconvincing. Don’t bother listening.
Yunhi Tum Mujhse Baat – Mohammad Rafi & Lata Mangeshkar. This superb gem is a surprise in the otherwise middling album. Kishore Kumar was in his ascendency at this time yet it is Rafi who strikes a chord with this song. Melodious and beautifully sung.
O Kehdo Kehdo – Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar. Another rather pedestrian song, I can’t recall this song ever playing in the radio. Did it? But this is at least well sung.
My song choice for the day is evident I guess. Enjoy !!