I was initially undecided about whether I should expend any energy on writing a review for this film. It wasn’t great—not even good, really. On the other hand, it wasn’t a pain to sit through and offered no unintentional hilarity of the Leader brand. Instead, it was a meandering, sometimes pointless film with little development of characters and indifferent screenplay.
Why then this review? Simply because this was the first film of a charmingly gawkish youth who went on to become one of Hindi cinema’s biggest stars—and one of my favourite actors.
Panchu (Balraj Sahni) is a card sharp who is almost constantly broke (something tells me his skills as a card sharp need honing). He sleeps on the pavement beside his two bosom buddies, Choti (Mohan Choti) and Ashok (Dharmendra, billed in his debut as Dharmender). Choti sells newspapers and brings any unsold papers for them to use as a mattress. Ashok spends his day atop stilts, selling Cavanders cigarettes.
One day, peeking into a stationary bus, Ashok makes friends with Sonu Mangeshkar (Kumkum), who’s got into trouble for travelling without a ticket. Ashok takes her under his wing and by the end of their brief walk down the street (Sonu having been forced off the bus by the conductor), they’re good friends. Sonu invites him over for breakfast the next day.
Panchu and Choti are delighted at their friend’s blossoming romance and decide to help him along by procuring a suit for him. Panchu bribes a local laundrywallah to ‘lend’ them a suit so Ashok can look smart for his date.
What Sonu’s omitted to mention is that the address she’s given him is that of the house where she’s employed as a maid. And Ashok, who comes in through the back door, doesn’t realise it until the daughter of the house barges into the kitchen and catches him stuffing his face with jam sandwiches.
While Ashok and Sonu’s romance is getting off to a rocky start thanks to all this deception, Panchu is having problems of his own—of a monetary nature. He hasn’t paid the school fees of his little brother Shiri (B Anoop, billed as a `child discovery’) for the past two months. Panchu’s very protective of Shiri and insists that Shiri study so he can grow up to be a `big man’. (Maybe emulating Ashok on his stilts will be useful?)
Now Shiri’s teacher (Jankidas) is getting nasty about the unpaid fees and has threatened to expel Shiri if the money isn’t paid up.
Shiri is offering up fervent prayers, begging God for the money, when the local hooker Prema (Usha Kiron) overhears him. She’s very fond of Shiri, so gives him the money, telling him it’s a loan.
But Panchu, when he discovers where Shiri has obtained the money, grabs it and flings it back in Prema’s face. He has no use for this tainted money, he says. Prema, to his surprise, is sassy and not at all cowed by him. Panchu is nonplussed, but other than shoving the money into her hand, can’t think of anything to do.
Shiri therefore gets thrown out of school. Fortunately, he meets up with an ex-classmate, who now works during the day hawking odds and ends on the local trains, and studies in the night school. This seems like a worthwhile way to make ends meet, so Shiri, at his friend’s invitation, and with some help from him, joins the trade too.
And so the film meanders on. Ashok and Sonu are soon deeply in love, and a well-timed win of Rs 500 in the lottery allows our friends, along with Sonu, to buy snazzy clothes and dine out in a smart restaurant. This being the sort of film it is, there’s a silly digression here when the restaurant’s `imported’ dancer Yolanda doesn’t turn up, so the manager asks Sonu and gang to act as substitutes. The song and dance that follows is good, but does little to take the story further.
Panchu falls foul of a bunch of thugs who decide that it’s time they deprived Panchu of the Rs 100 that he’s saved up (out of that 500) for Shiri to buy new clothes and return to school. The men wheedle him into a few games of cards (poker? not sure), and also get him drunk. Before he knows what’s happened, Panchu’s lost his Rs 100.
He doesn’t lose his sang froid, however, and goes careening about the street singing Haan gunaah kiya hai. He’s soon arrested for disturbing the peace and is dragged off to the lockup at the police station.
A distraught Shiri goes to Prema for help, and she pays for Panchu to be bailed out.
Once he’s back in circulation, Panchu thanks Ashok and Choti, who’re quick to disillusion him: they didn’t get him out, Prema did. And Panchu should be thanking her well and proper.
So Panchu goes, reluctantly, to thank Prema, and ends up being enchanted by her sweetness.
Meanwhile, one day, Ashok comes to the rescue of Shiri when he’s being clobbered by the neighbourhood boys. Ashok punches a goon who’s encouraging the boys to thrash Shiri—and is noticed by a passing man (Hari Shivdasani), who owns a gymnasium and sponsors boxers. He’s very impressed with Ashok and offers to make a boxer out of him.
(This man, by the way, is the master of the household where Sonu works, but oddly enough, the film doesn’t use this coincidence to greater effect). Ashok mulls over the idea, then accepts.
Ashok is pleasantly surprised when he discovers the perks of the job. The boss gives him an advance on his earnings, plus a posh three-room flat, where all of them move in and begin to live happily ever after. Panchu has by now married Prema, and has turned over a new leaf: he doesn’t cheat at cards anymore and has become a respectable chowkidar. Everything’s homey and happy; all that’s needed is for Ashok to get hitched to Sonu.
But Sonu’s received a telegram that her father, in Goa, is ill. She sets off on the boat to Goa, and the Indian public transport system being what it is, the boat capsizes with all hands on deck.
Ashok is inconsolable, and from then on the film goes into a downward spiral like few I’ve seen before.
What I liked about this film:
The music, by Kalyanji-Anandji (assisted by Laxmikant-Pyarelal). The mournful Mujhko is raat ki tanhaayi mein aawaaz na do is arguably the best, but there are others, lesser-known but fine songs, as well.
Balraj Sahni, Dharmendra and Mohan Choti. I especially like the few scenes where Panchu, Choti and Ashok appear together on the footpath, poverty-stricken but not particularly perturbed about it. Balraj Sahni and Dharmendra, in particular, are good together—a sign of things to come? They went on to co-star in a number of other films, as colleagues (Haqeeqat), brothers (Shaadi), even father and son (Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, Izzat).
What I didn’t like:
The utter pointlessness of most of the film. The bulk of the film consists of episodes in the lives of the main characters, and that too episodes which do little to either help the story move ahead, or make the characters more interesting. The characters are too stilted (yes, even those who aren’t Ashok!) and the story’s really pretty boring. Almost as if someone drew up a list of characters—three footpath-dwelling friends, one hooker, one maid, one local goon and one wealthy boxing fanatic. Four lyricists and four composers were then asked to create eight songs. Lastly, someone was asked to weave these songs together, with one or more of the main characters in each.
Why?! Dharmendra deserved a better launching pad.
being Dharmendras’ first film is enough reason to watch this, thank God didn’t taint his career and he mnaged to shake off the mediocrity of this film. i shouted a big ‘ahhhhh’ at my computer at the point when the boat capsized, transport in bollywood is indeed very dodgy…Lol
bollywooddeewana: Yes, even though the film was really pretty mediocre, it’s worth a watch just for being historic. Dharmendra, even though he’s thin and a little awkward, is handsome and a pleasure to watch!
Still, it’s better to start off in something so-so, and graduate to so much better (Bandini, for example, is just 3 years later) than to be a one-film wonder.
Goodness! Dharmendra looks pretty gawky. Who’d have believed how handsome he’d grow in just a couple of years! I did not realise Balraj Sahni was in this – and in such an unusual guise too. I saw the DVD for this in my local store, last weekend. But some instinct stopped me from buying it. Lucky me! Now I can watch the songs on youtube and come read your post for the rest. :-D
What happens once the boat capsizes? Does Sonu get amnesia? Or just doesnt die and leave poor Ashok crying (in Mukesh’s voice, no less – the guy must be seriously depressed!). No wait, I remember a song from the film on Chitrahaar where Kum Kum is hobbling on crutches. I am curious to know what happens, now.
Yes, Dharmendra does look skinny and very awkward here. But he filled out and began looking so gorgeous soon enough, he can be forgiven this one! (Frankly, though, he doesn’t look much better in his second film, Shola aur Shabnam, either).
Don’t buy the DVD – it’s not worth it.
Okay, spoiler coming up:
Sonu is saved by some fishermen, but because it’s been immersed in water so long, one foot of hers becomes a little lame. I didn’t know that could happen.
Anyway, because she’s `crippled’, she feels she can’t go back to Ashok and stays on with her father. Meanwhile, Ashok’s boss gets mad at him when he refuses to fight and tells him to get out of the house, and return Rs 200 he had borrowed to give to Sonu for her Goa trip.
Everybody rushes about trying to collect the 200 bucks. Panchu tries to con a woman (Tuntun), not realising that she’s very canny and that one of her sons is a cop. He gets arrested, and Shiri, trying to hawk stuff on a train, falls off and is badly hurt, so has to be hospitalised. Now they’re even worse off, so a desperate Ashok goes to the boss and says he’ll fight, just so he can get money to pay off all their debts.
Thankfully, Sonu’s father persuades her to return to Ashok, so she comes back just in time to bolster up his spirits in the boxing ring, and everything ends happily.
Gosh! Talk about depressing. I wonder why some films are so poorly written. This one doesnt seem to be written by any writers that I know of but sometimes great writers write the silliest of scripts, too! I wonder why writers always have off days when writing for films. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to the 50s and 60s, just to give scriptwriters some pointers on what not to do!!! ;-) They had great actors, the best of poets and musicians (no writer of today gets those kind of songs!) – all they had to do was write the right scripts.
*OK, getting off my soapbox, now!*
Depressing, and more than that – irritating. All of this action is packed into the last half-hour of the film. I forgot to mention that the local goon – the guy who’d cheated Panchu out of the 100 bucks earlier – also kidnaps Sonu, whom then Panchu has to end up rescuing. And till then, for about 2 hours, the film had been meandering about going nowhere in particular.
I don’t mind films where little happens in the way of high drama (Do Bigha Zameen, Anokhi Raat, Sujata), but then these films have excellent characterisation… poor Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere falls flat on that count too.
wow, what a film!
dharmendra looks so handsome!
have to rush!
have a flight to bomba ytomorrow morning and have to pack up and things!
thanks for the review!
Hey, thanks for reading, Harvey. Bon voyage and have a good time in Bombay!
Don’t know why Dharmendra was not recognised at the movie premiere. He sneaked out and caught a local train back home (is what I’ve read somewhere).
Does that mean he had his good looks when the movie was released? :-)
Name me one 60s film in which Dharmendra didn’t have his good looks! ;-)
I dunno if Dharmendra could have had a better launching pad, but he could do with posts dedicated to him. Compare him with Rajendra and Manoj Kumar and he is definitely the most overlooked stars of the industry from that 60s era. he is known for Sholay, Yaadon ki Baaraat and later as he-man. when he has done better work than those. Blogosphere also has sort of overlooked him all these years, even his wife got a post on another blog but not him? :(.
I have reviewed several of Dharmendra’s films on this blog. :-) And done a ten songs post. I agree that he’s really good, far better than the others you’ve mentioned. Yes, too, to him being unfairly associated only with the he-man roles: he was certainly far more versatile and a far better actor than that kutte main tera khoon pee jaaoonga image of his.