Izzat (1968)

When I posted my ‘People with books’ list on World Book Day, I wrote that my favourite scene (in the context of the post) was the one from Izzat: Tanuja and Dharmendra, both holding books (he, Othello, she, The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin), standing in a fairly well-stocked library at her home, and discussing Othello. What more could a book lover like me want from a scene? Especially a scene starring two of my favourite actors.

To those readers who commented, saying that they should probably watch Izzat since it sounded tempting, I was quick to respond: it has been many, many years since I watched this film. My memories of it were very sketchy, with only a vague recollection of the basic plot.

So, for those who want to know what Izzat is all about, I put myself forward as the bali ka bakra. I have rewatched it, and I can safely assure you that despite presence of said library and said bibliophilic conversation (not to mention presence of dishy Dharmendra and gorgeous Tanuja), this is not—emphatically not—a film you want to watch. Unless you’re a Jayalalitha fan (this was her sole Hindi film). Or you love the Himalayas so much you will watch anything as long as there are plenty of snowcapped peaks and deodar woods and bubbling streams.

Izzat begins with Shekhar (a dark-skinned Dharmendra) giving a lecture to protesting fellow students at his college [no, they’re not protesting against Shekhar; what their grievances are, it’s unclear, but Shekhar is trying to—with some sanctimonious bhaashan-baazi—get them to calm down and listen]. Principal Sahib (Brahm Bhardwaj) is grateful to Shekhar for his help.

Later, leaving college (it’s the end of term and year and college life), Shekhar’s friends try to persuade him to come with them, but Shekhar refuses. He has to go back to his mother.

… but when Shekhar arrives at his home in Dipalpur, it is to find that Mum is dead. After much howling and mourning, Shekhar cremates her. Later, when he’s wandering about listlessly in church, Father Ibrahim (Manmohan Krishna) comes by to console Shekhar, and to tell him the truth about his, Shekhar’s, birth.

It turns out that Shekhar’s mother, Saanwli, was an Adivasi girl who had been seduced by the Thakur of Ramgarh, Thakur Pratap Singh (Balraj Sahni). Saanwli discovered that she was pregnant and pleaded with Thakur Pratap Singh to marry her. Not even in front of all his people, if he was so reluctant. Just a little pinch of sindoor in the parting of her hair, in front of the idol of the Adivasis’ goddess.

Thakur Pratap Singh was still dilly-dallying when one of his men, Manglu (Tiwari), also an Adivasi, turned up. Saanwali slipped away before Manglu could see her, but Manglu, seeing the Thakur at the temple, was very approving: nobody ever left the temple without being blessed by this devi. Look at Manglu himself; Manglu prayed that he should be able to marry the woman he loved, and now his wedding has been fixed with her!

And, oh, yes. Thakur Sahib is being summoned home. In connection with the fixing of his marriage.

And Thakur Sahib went off without a qualm, leaving a shattered Saanwli to go and attempt suicide. Fortunately for her, Father Ibrahim happened to see her, rescue her, take her home—and generally ensure that she stayed alive and well. [How he managed to keep her single motherhood a secret in a community of busybodies is a mystery which is conveniently skipped over].

By the end of this narrative, Shekhar is frothing at the mouth and vowing to have his revenge on the Thakur. He goes off, before Father Ibrahim can stop him, to the Thakur’s palace in Ramgarh.

While Father Ibrahim hurriedly accosts a local chela called Mahesh (Mehmood) and sends him off in Shekhar’s wake, Shekhar arrives at the palace—right in the middle of the birthday party of the Thakur’s daughter, Neelu (? No idea who this actress is). Everybody around treats Shekhar with affection (if they’re wealthy) or with deference (if they’re poor servants) and Neelu refers to him as Dilip Bhaiya. Shekhar is [no surprise, this] also badgered into a singing a song and takes advantage of the opportunity to indulge in some mud-slinging against wolves in sheep’s clothing.

As it turns out, Thakur Sahib is not present; he arrives late, and Shekhar manages to hide from him. Later, still thinking this is Dilip Bhaiya, Neelu sends Shekhar up to Dilip’s room, and follows soon after, to tuck him into bed and generally be bossy little sister. Which makes Shekhar tear up a bit, though stoic that he is, he doesn’t let Neelu see this.

Even later that night, Shekhar sneaks into Thakur Sahib’s room, with a view to exacting his revenge—or something. He knocks over a sword hanging on a wall, the resulting clang brings everybody racing, and Shekhar narrowly escapes detection by hiding. But this puts him off trying any more such  shenanigans, so the next morning, he leaves the Thakur’s home before anybody is up and about.

Two things happen.

One, Shekhar is accosted by an Adivasi female named Jhumki (Jayalalitha, dressed like no Adivasi woman I’ve ever seen in the Himalayas). Jhumki goes all out flirting with Shekhar, and only when she’s finished her singing does her chatter stop long enough for Shekhar to realize that Jhumki has mistaken him for another [with whom, fortunately, her love affair does not appear to be one-sided].

Second, Shekhar meets the object of Jhumki’s love: Dilip (also Dharmendra, minus the blackface). As Shekhar already knows—from his reception at the Thakur’s home, and from the photo he had seen hanging up in Dilip’s room— the scion of the Thakur is the spitting image, barring the complexion, of Shekhar himself. Shekhar is walking down the road when he runs into Dilip, and Dilip is pretty astounded to meet someone who’s an almost-replica of him. [Dilip is also not acute enough to wonder why this might be so; he’s probably grown up watching films like Hum Dono and imagines that it’s far too common for completely unrelated people to look and speak exactly the same way].

Several things now happen in quick succession. Shekhar, having realized that Jhumki is in love with Dilip (and Jhumki firmly believes that Dilip loves her too), jumps to the conclusion that Dilip—son of a no-good father that he is—is toying with the Adivasi girl and will discard her like an old shoe once he’s had his fun. As it is, Shekhar has realized, too, that Dilip is a bit of a wimp and will not stand up to his father.

So Shekhar decides to take it upon himself to ensure Dilip marries Jhumki. To do this, Shekhar must be on the spot; so he goes to meet Dilip, and Dilip—who’s hit it off with Shekhar from the start—writes him a letter of recommendation, that will get Shekhar a job with the Thakur’s estate office.

Then, the Thakur (who runs into Shekhar at the office, and is flummoxed but does not seem to make the obvious connection), gets on Dilip’s case: he must go and meet the girl with whom Thakur Sahib has fixed his match. Dilip, despite his spineless attitude, is devoted enough to Jhumki to balk at the thought of marrying another. He therefore approaches Shekhar with a request for a favour: will Shekhar, pretending to be Dilip, go and meet the girl? [This sounds to me like a bad idea, with all sorts of possible complications imminent, but neither of the two men seem to realize the inherent danger in it].

So Shekhar, pretending to be Dilip, arrives at the home of Deepa (a radiant Tanuja). Her parents (David and Lalita Pawar) are already approving (the Thakur’s wealth has ensured that), and a few brief conversations later, Shekhar and Deepa are in love too.

But where will this love go? Even though Shekhar soon confesses the truth to Deepa—that he isn’t Dilip, but Shekhar—is there any hope for them?

What I liked about this film:

This is going to be quick. Dharmendra and Tanuja from the eye candy aspect of it. Dharmendra’s acting, which is convincing as two very different men, the brooding and cynical half-Adivasi Shekhar and his privileged, cheerful, oblivious half-brother. And Yeh dil tum bin kahin lagta nahin.

What I didn’t like about it:

Oh, so much. The music (Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s) is nothing to write home about, barring Yeh dil tum bin kahin lagta nahin and—to some extent—Jaagi badan mein jwaala). There are, too, just far too many songs. When the songs aren’t good, that really comes in the way of appreciating the story.

… and, when the story isn’t well-written, the entire experience suffers. The problem with Izzat is that while its core premise is good, the way it plays out is predictable and melodramatic and with far too little attention being paid to character development and the development of relationships. How do Shekhar and Deepa fall in love? How does Shekhar’s anger at his illegitimate father turn into something different? What are the dynamics between the two brothers? Between the father and the son he hasn’t known about all these years? How do those dynamics change?

All of which could have, if skillfully handled, have resulted in a sensitive, emotional film about relationships, about human nature and more.

Instead, what we have is a mess. Nothing is ever explored deeply enough to be either satisfying or convincing. Songs and an irritating comic side plot (involving Mehmood, Laxmi Chhaya and Mukri) take away huge chunks of time that would have been better devoted to the development of the central story.

The end, too, is weak: it comes too suddenly, too conveniently, to work.

And, the casting is basically one big waste of great talent. Balraj Sahni has very little to do except right at the end. Tanuja, so lovely and such a good actress too, is barely there. And why on earth would you cast the mother-in-law of all mothers-in-law, dear old Lalita Pawar herself, as the mother of a woman who falls in love with an illegitimate half-Adivasi if said mother is never shown being faced with the realization of who her prospective son-in-law is? If Deepa’s mother is only there to welcome Dilip/Shekhar into her home and reassure her husband that it doesn’t matter if their future son-in-law is dark (as long as he’s wealthy and khaandaani)—the role could’ve been played by just about any older actress. It didn’t need Lalita Pawar.

Give this one a miss.


26 thoughts on “Izzat (1968)

  1. The music (Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s) is nothing to write home about

    No mention of “Kya Miliye Aise Logon Se, Jinki Fitrat Chhupi Rahe”? I feel that’s not only the album’s standout song but also one of L-P’s best from the 60s.


      • I see. I like the song for its lyrics the most but the tune isn’t bad either.

        With disappointments like these, can’t you help but feel that you were watching something potentially more satisfying? Such as a cold war era submarine movie with two magnetic leads, perhaps (Hint, hint.)

        Btw, your tag for Balraj Sahni has been misspelt. Just FYI.


  2. I did see this film when it was first released and enjoyed it immensely. I was all of 8 years in age.
    Saw it again a couple of years ago on TV. Dusted off is spot on but I would yet advise viewers to see it.
    Jayalalitha in tribal dress is priceless. I won’t say anything more. RIP.


    • Thank you – glad you thought I was “spot on”! I suppose films which we saw when we were younger and more forgiving make us more inclined to be forgiving even now, when we see them with older and more discerning eyes. I know that if I’d watched Izzat for the very first time now, I would probably have detested it. I didn’t, not really (though I found it a complete waste of potential), and that perhaps has much to do with my (relatively rosy) childhood memories of it.


  3. Bali ka bakra indeed, Madhu. That was yeoman service in the interest of your readers – I hope some other poor souls are saved three hours of their life they will never get back! Unfortunately, I wish I’d read your review before watching this excrescence on one of my insomniac nights! :( Not even Dharmendra and Tanuja could salvage this for me.


    • Oh, dear, Anu! :-( I’m sorry you sat through this. Dharmendra and Tanuja – not to mention Balraj Sahni, some stunning scenery, and actually not a bad core premise: all so completely wasted. I kept wondering what this film would’ve been like in the hands of a really competent director, say someone like Bimal Roy or Hrishikesh Mukherjee…


  4. Thanks to your review, I watched Suhagan and thought it was pretty progressive. However, the end was real stupid!
    Teagarden got Izzat, I was thinking of other movies where Heroes or Heroines have worn dark makeup throughout the movie ( and not just to disguise themselves in a sticky situation). I could remember Jaya Bhaduri in Doosri Seeta, Rajendra Kumar in Gora aur Kala, Nutan in Sujata and Meena Kumari in a movie whose title I can’t remember. Any others?


    • Yes, Suhaagan was really let down by its end, which was so predictable (incidentally, have you seen the Mala Sinha starrer Mere Huzoor? Fairly painful and melodramatic movie throughout, but it had some interesting twists and turns, and the end was refreshingly unusual.

      Meena Kumari I can think of in blackface in two films, at least: Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein and Main Bhi Ladki Hoon. Then there’s Ashok Kumar in Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen, and if I remember correctly, Raj Kapoor in Jaagte Raho – a little darker than his usual self, I think. And one of Nargis’s two roles in Anhonee is darker than her half-sister. Can’t think of any others offhand.


  5. I saw this movie with my Mom when I had barely got consciousness in this world and so I had vivid memories of this movie(By the way I did see this movie again recently to revive my old memories). Because of my childhood experience, I’m quite emotionally attached to this movie and its songs like “kya miliye” & “Ye dil tum bin”. I feel that Laxmikant-Pyarelal with Rafi & Lata did a very great job in crafting melodious music and I love each and every song of this movie. I love Dharmendra too in this movie for his effortless acting.


    • I agree, Dharmendra’s acting is good here – and yes, seemingly effortless as two very different men. I had pleasant childhood memories of this film too. As I mentioned to someone else, if it hadn’t been for those memories, I probably would’ve disliked this film a lot more than I did.


  6. Hi,

    Your review was nice. But I have a confession to make. You see I am little biased
    towards old Hindi movies. It may be that I do not like a movie fully or found it boring, lengthy etc., but I always try to find something good or positive to justify this bias and fondness.

    I saw this one about a decade back maybe, so my memory maybe vague.
    The best thing I liked was Tanuja’s Deepa. Deepa is shown to be more assertive and confident in her love for Shekhar. If I am right, Deepa in fact doesn’t wait for answers and goes straight up to meet Shekhar and convinces him to come out of his complexes or whatever issues he has.

    And the other one is Manglu. You know because it was a different character for Tiwari saab, as till then I only saw him as a villain in movies. But Manglu was different, and he appeared to be heartbroken as I gathered it was with Saanwli he loved and I think it’s only Manglu who smells something fishy about Shekhar. At that time I thought his unfinished love story should have been more developed.

    And I like “Jaagi Badan Mein Jwala” because of it’s choreography and rhythm.

    Besides that I don’t remember much, but yes Balraj Sahani appeared to be a little disinterested. As for Daivd & Lalita Pawar- all I can think is they made what is nowadays called a Cameo.


    • Ah, well. To each his or her own. It’s not as if I’m not ‘biased towards old Hindi movies’ (if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have maintained a blog for ten years which pretty much focuses on old Hindi movies), but I think that even back then, there were plenty of movies which failed to live up to what one could have expected of them.

      The Manglu point you raise is good, and so is the Deepa point, but my contention with Deepa is that there’s so little about her and her relationship with Shekhar (or even just about every relationship in the film, as I’ve mentioned), that I came away feeling very dissatisfied. It looks lovely, a couple of the songs are good, but there was great potential here (also given the good cast) for a fine movie about relationships…. squandered.


      • I think I get it now, about the point in you review.
        It happens with many movies or T.V. shows. They start with a great premise or context and seem to have a lot of potential. But when they do not utilise that potential we as viewers are disappointed. We want to like it but cannot.
        Am I close?


        • Absolutely right. That’s what I mean. As a writer, I can see many, many flaws in the characterizations here. Basically, they’ve tried to put in a lot of masala in the way of comic side plot, songs, etc, and in the process – because, naturally, there is only so much time in a film – they’ve missed out on really developing the relationships between characters. This could’ve been a great film, but they’ve missed that opportunity.


  7. Just came back after a 3 week trip so obviously have missed out on a lot of good posts here on your blog Madhu. I happened to be in your city but didn’t have any time and the heat just made it difficult to think going out..

    This movie, like you and many other who have commented, gets on the radar for the famous melody “yeh Dil Tum Bin” and stunning Dharam-Tanuja duo. For many years, I refused to believe it was not a Madan Mohan creation because it has all those characteristics… The singers, the haunting melody and the exquisite parts Lata got to sing..Anyway, it looks like this movie doesn’t seem to have much to expect from. Thank you for saving me yet another three hours.. :)


    • Yes, the heat here has been horrible! I don’t blame you for not wanting to go out. We have only just got back from a brief trip to Goa, and even those few days away have made us feel suffocated and a bit ill now in the NCR.

      Yes, Izzat is best avoided. Such a disappointment of a movie! :-(


  8. We had seen this movie at Indore shortly after it was released. Swapna was a little over two years old-and indeed agreed that the song ” Yeh dil tum bin lagta nahin …” was the best . For quite some time afterwards she would mournfully wail “… hum kaa kalen “,over and over !


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