This time we review three films starting with the letter J. I have to admit that seeing these films wasn’t always enjoyable; reviewing them is much more fun.
I started seeing Shakti Samanta’s Jane Anjane (1971) with modest expectations, and yet the film disappointed me considerably.
As the credit lines rolled, Kishore Kumar was singing the title song in that wonderful husky voice. This was clearly a late insert because Kishore Kumar had suddenly stormed the charts after Aradhana etc.
Now for the kahaani. Sulochana leaves her infant in front of the temple and is off to commit suicide. Her lover had died, leaving behind this nishani. So what else could she do?
She’s rescued, presumed to be unmarried, and ends up marrying the good man who saved her. The marriage leads to the birth of an exceptionally handsome boy, who grows up to become Vinod Khanna (VK).
What happens to the infant dropped off in the mandir? Well, he’s picked up by Lalita Pawar (LP), who has a childless marriage with a chhota smuggling don Jayant. This infant grows and grows till he becomes a fat Shammi Kapoor (SK).
Everything thereafter happens exactly as it does in Hindi movies. SK is initially a charming bad boy helping out his baap. Then he meets the lovely Leena Chandavarkar (LC) in unusual circumstances. She’s all set to dance but the singer is missing! No problem, says SK. He puts on a fake beard and sings the film’s best song. Inevitably, LC and SK fall in love, hug hard and sing songs about blue eyes.
By now VK is a cop, hot on SK’s heels. VK is engaged to LC, but LC dumps him for SK (strange choice!). VK takes his rejection with equanimity but warns LC that she’s in love with a bad man. So, LC says she’ll make the bad SK good. And succeeds!
It all ends happily in court: SK and VK are revealed to be brothers. The judge, who’s LC’s baap, delivers a mild two-year sentence to his future son-in-law. Only LP dies in collateral damage.
While SJ’s music isn’t too bad, it’s a pale shadow of what the duo achieved in the 1950s and 1960s. In part because actually it’s all Shankar now. This is confirmed with Sharda singing the second title song. I guess she didn’t sing too badly, but I wasn’t listening … just gazing at Helen dancing!
All I remember about Jeevan Mrityu (1970) is a lovely Rafi-Lata duet, and film posters of Dharmendra as a sardar.
It is a longish film ( 2h 40 min) but manages to hold your attention. The plot is sufficiently detailed, and all the pieces are eventually stitched up rather well.
Dharmendra (D) is a good, principled young man who gets a job in a private bank and soon rises to be its manager. Raakhee (R), making her debut, looks fetching and winsome. D and R are classmates in college, participate in a really tame class debate, and inevitably fall in love.
But dark clouds loom across the horizon. D is framed in a Rs 10 lakh heist, masterminded by Ajit and his gang, and sent off to jail for 7 years. When he returns free his beloved mother is dead, his bank has collapsed and R has disappeared. D himself also kind of disappears. His jail allowance envelope is robbed in a train, and the robber, while trying to escape the train, falls off and dies. Because of the name on the envelope, it is D who is presumed dead.
With the help of a kind and rich man, D returns as a sardar, with a beard and turban, and skilfully manages to vanquish everyone in Ajit’s gang and regain R’s love. The plot is thick with intrigue and R gets prettier with every frame.
But this is D’s film. There were many shades in his portrayal and D excelled in every hue. What D has achieved in his long career is mind-boggling.
There’s essentially only one song in Jeevan Mrityu, and LP’s background music too seems loud and lacking in nuance. Satyen Bose, however, directs well. As is often the case, a good Bengali film often precedes a Hindi film – in this case Uttam-Supriya’s 1967 Jiban Mrityu.
Julie (1975) is tedious, painful and forgettable. I can’t understand why it won so many awards.
So there’s this lovely young girl Lakshmi (L), who walks across railway lines in a tiny skirt, to give her father Om Prakash (OP), who’s an engine driver, his lunchbox. He kisses her endlessly to thank her, she kisses back, he then takes a swig of whisky, and soon has the engine chugging out.
Short skirts, plenty of kisses, whisky at high noon … you get the drift of course. These are Anglo-Indians, and they don’t ‘belong’ because they are trying to create their England in dear old India.
L’s mother, Nadira (N), isn’t even hiding her preference. Her dream is to return to dear old Blighty and then truly start living. Even in her small railwayman’s house she’s living it up: daaru, cigarettes, guitars and the company of lecherous men who ogle at her, fantasizing the possible, especially because her old man OP is an acknowledged alcoholic.
The ogling is much worse when the younger L enters the room with a “Hi, uncles!”. Their gaze is disgusting. It isn’t just #MeToo. It is #MeTooRightNow.
Wisely L doesn’t linger. Neither does her little sister, Sridevi, who’s already showing signs of becoming a beautiful swan. Sometimes, when OP is less drunk, there are the rare moments of togetherness when the heart beats with hope (if you have clicked on the video link, see how well the young Sridevi is dancing).
But life is otherwise difficult with little joy. OP buys a car to usher in the happy times but the car can’t go beyond a furlong. Rajendranath is a shopkeeper who happily runs a loan account in the hope of taking more liberties with L. But she’s too smart for him. Then there’s Jalal Agha, a fellow Anglo-Indian, who gives L a daily ride to college on his bicycle. She says thanks, but no thanks if you think I’m going to fall in love with you.
Eventually she would fall in love with the insipid Vikram (V). It all starts when they dim the lights at a midnight Christmas party, and Rita Bhaduri, V’s sister, and L’s friend, sings beautifully. Soon the affair gallops forward. They’re necking, hugging and prancing under every tree and on every beach. Inevitably L gets pregnant while V pushes off to Calcutta.
It now gets even more painful. N is shocked, and furious, that L went out with a Hindu boy and not one of “our own”. So, L is dropped off at some aunty’s distant house. Fortunately, before leaving, L manages to tell V’s sister that she’s soon going to become an aunt.
OP can’t live with all this grief and shame and drinks himself to death. When L has her baby, the little one is deposited in an orphanage even though L cries, pleads, screams and beseeches N to let her have her baby. No, N says firmly, Anglo-Indian pride is at stake.
Finally dear old Utpal Dutt (oh, how we miss him!) has to intervene. Dutt is V’s father, the chief railway engineer, and a clever and considerate soul. On days when his wife isn’t supposed to enter the kitchen (and certainly not go to Sabarimala!) he cheerfully chops onions and prepares a good meal.
So, when his bitiya tells him that his beta V is the root cause of L’s pregnancy he plants a resounding slap on the son’s cheek. Then he despatches a special railway coach to bring his grandson home, and finally marries off V to L in front of the marriage registrar.
All it needed was a slap, and soon all is well. N even abandons her plan to leave by the afternoon flight to London, and stays on to cuddle her grandson.
Rajesh Roshan’s music confirmed that he had inherited some of old man Roshan’s best genes. One painful aspect of seeing old films is to realize that most of the actors are no more. Utpal Dutt, Om Prakash and Nadira are all gone, but sadly so too are Rita Bhaduri and the wondrous Sridevi.