Discussing the capital punishment in a mystery

Kanoon (1960) is an unique suspense thriller which is an all time classic from the black and white era of Hindi cinema. Can you imagine a Bollywood entertainer from the fifties and the sixties which is sans the regular ingredients of songs, romance and comedy ? No ? Please do see Kaanoon (law) which is devoid of songs, romance and comedy and yet it keeps you glued to the screen for two and a half hours. Its suspenseful drama is so gripping that the audience does not feel any need for any other Bollywood formulae in the narrative.

It discusses the relevance of the DEATH PENALTY or the CAPITAL PUNISHMENT too. The verdict of the moviemaker is that the death penalty should be done away with in toto. My own view is that let it be in the books of law, only to be awarded in the rarest of rare cases. It has its importance but considering the fact that once awarded, it cannot be reverted back even if it is known later that the verdict of the case was a faulty one; it should be awarded only selectively when the crime is quite heinous and there is little doubt in the accused’s being guilty. It should not be used as a weapon to seek revenge for the victim because it is not the job of the legal system to seek revenge.Kanoon-925008225-435994-2Judge Badri Prasad (Ashok Kumar) strongly opines that the capital punishment should be deleted from the book of Indian Penal Code because it is cruel and moreover it does not leave any scope to correct the faulty judgment in any case which is always likely because judgments are given on the basis of evidences and witnesses which might be misleading. The twist in the tale comes when a moneylender, Dhaniram (Om Prakash) who is after his borrower son, Vijay (Mehmood), is murdered. The interesting thing is that the judge’s would be son-in-law, Kailash (Rajendra Kumar) is the eye-witness to this murder and he is shocked to see that the murderer is the judge himself. Now when an innocent person, Kaalia (Nana Palsikar) is arrested and put under trial for this murder in the court of the same judge with Kailash being the defence lawyer, the mutual relations of the judge, Kailash and the judge’s daughter, Meena (Nanda) become tense and uneasy. In an unforgettable courtroom drama, Kailash accuses his would-be father-in-law to be the murderer and gets him arrested and put under trial for the murder. The truth is revealed in the end with the reiteration that death penalty should be considered redundant and deleted from the legal books.indexI had watched this movie in December 1989 on Doordarshan during my stay at Kolkata (then Calcutta) when the results of the generals elections of India were being announced. In those days, Hindi movies were telecast on Doordarshan in between the announcements of the election results to keep the audience glued to the screen. I watched it in the house of my friend Ajay Jain which was at 12, Lower Chitpur Road. Due to the piecemeal telecast in between the announcements of the results, the movie ended at about 3 a.m. However despite losing my sleep on that night, I had no regrets because of the entertainment that I had got from this movie.

This suspense thriller is so intriguing that it engrosses the viewer from the beginning to the end without any boredom. The viewer just forgets that there are no songs, no romance and no comedy served to him. He only keeps on watching, holding his breath and waiting for the suspense to be revealed. Legendary producer-director B.R. Chopra has directed this movie with such finesse that it is considered a twinkling diamond in the highly decorated crown worn by him.220px-Kanoon_film_posterThe performances are great. Ashok Kumar and Rajendra Kumar have delivered stunning performances in a neck-to-neck contest of excellence. Nanda, Jeevan, Mahmood, Manmohan Krishna, Shashikala, Nana Palsikar (won the award for the best supporting actor for this movie) and Om Prakash, all have done admirably.

As already said, there are no songs. However the background score is impressive and there is a beautiful ballet in the movie. Technically this black and white movie is perfect without any deficiencies. The characters are clad in stylish dresses, giving rise to new fashion trends.

On the flip side, the narrative loses its charm in the end after revelation of the suspense and the five minutes long lecture of Ashok Kumar on the irrelevance of the capital punishment bores. Anyway, this is not a big minus point because by then the movie is just about to end.

Some three decades back, a session judge, Justice Saanwar Mal Agarwal had awarded capital punishment in a dowry-murder case and became quite famous due to this verdict. I had read his interview given to the popular Hindi magazine – Sarita in which he had referred to this movie (seen by him in his youth when he was studying law) and asserted that the difference between reel courts and real courts is even bigger than the difference in the reel life and the real life. He’s right. The high voltage drama shown in the court in this movie is impossible to be witnessed in real courts. We can ignore this unreal portrayal of courts as the liberty taken by the narrator for the sake of entertaining the audience, i.e., us.index1Summing up, Kaanoon is an edge-of-the-seat classic suspense thriller as well as a gripping courtroom drama. No movie buff should miss it.

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Khaalsa has thousand hands

On several occasions, I have asserted that communication gap is the biggest enemy of all relationships. I reiterate that. Communication gap generates misunderstandings between two persons which, in due course of time, eat up the pleasant relationship between them. The relation of husband and wife is not only the closest in this world (if maintained properly) but also the most delicate one. If a husband and a wife put premium on their love-filled relationship, then they should consider communication gap a taboo. It’s the best thing to communicate and clarify the things, lest a scratch should develop into a canker.

Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak has penned a novel on this theme only. It’s Hazaar Haath (thousand hands) which was first published in 1998. This novel is a part of his most popular series – Vimal Series whose hero is a wanted criminal but a man of high conscience and moral values. His real name is Sardaar Surendra Singh Sohal (he is a Sikh) but he is known as Vimal in the series.

Decades back Surendra Mohan Pathak had penned an extremely popular novel – Painsath Laakh Ki Dakaiti (also published in English as The 65 Lakh Heist) which was the fourth novel of this series. In that novel, Vimal is forced by a hardcore criminal – Maayaram Baava to become his accomplice in looting Bhaarat Bank at Amritsar (Punjab). After the robbery, Maayaram kills all his accomplices excluding Vimal who saves his life from him and with the help of a callgirl – Neelam, catches him. He does not kill Maayaram due to Neelam’s request to spare his life and leaves him by breaking the bones of his hands and legs. While leaving he puts a tag on Maayaram’s body that whosoever approaches him, should surrender him to the police. In later novels of this series, Vimal goes daredevil against several gangsters and becomes a Robinhood type criminal, supporting the needy, the underdog and the innocent. After that venture, Neelam also starts leading a straight life and supports Vimal in many of his adventures. Eventually, they get married and are blessed with a son.

The story of Hazaar Haath (which is the twenty-ninth novel of this series) starts with the re-entry of Maayaram in this series who has certain photos and a marriage certificate evidencing that he’s Neelam’s husband. It is known that in his injured condition, he has got the help of a petty criminal – Haridutt Pant who has arranged for his medical treatment. After getting fully recovered, he has been on Vimal’s trail and now knows everything about his subsequent ventures and present life. Coming to know that Vimal is in Mumbai due to his present activities whereas Neelam is in Delhi, Maayaram approaches Neelam and blackmails her on the basis of the evidences of their so-called marriage. Neelam gets frightened and to save her marriage with Vimal, pays the demanded sums to Maayaram without conveying anything to Vimal. Nevertheless, Vimal comes to know of these developments through a well-wisher – Mubaarak Ali. He, then, weaves a large conspiracy around Maayaram, framing him in a false murder charge and gets those photos and marriage certificate from him. Finally, he talks to Neelam and comes to know of the truth behind those photos and marriage certificate. He, then, admonishes Neelam that their relationship is based on mutual trust and deep love and she should have told him everything immediately after getting approached by Maayaram for the first time. Neelam agrees and their marital bliss remains intact.

The title of the novel is as such because Vimal asserts that he is a Khaalsa (a pure person) and a Khaalsa is never alone. He has thousand hands (of like minded people) to support him and his cause. This word Khaalsa was coined by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikh community, deriving it from the word – Khaalis (pure). A person who is not sinful and remains always on the right path, was termed as Khaalsa by him. A Khaalsa is one who is not sinful, pure in his heart and is ever ready to sacrifice his life for the cause of whatever is good and just. Vimal is such type of a person only. Despite being a wanted criminal, he is a religious-minded, God-fearing person who has made opposition of organized crime as the mission of his life. He is always reciting couplets from Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs.

Due to Vimal’s encounters with the criminals, normally the novels of this series contain a lot of bloodshed. However Hazaar Haath is an exception. There is no bloodshed in the novel. A sensitive story has been told in the most impressive and interesting manner, conveying an exemplary message for the married couples. It’s completely a no-nonsense novel with nothing over the top.

The story of the novel moves on its track from the very first word and thereafter heads towards its desired finale without any digression. There is nothing superfluous in this compact novel whose narrative flows freely in an impressive language (Hindi) and the reader finds himself flowing with that, getting a satisfactory feeling when it is over. However, like Painsath Lakh Ki Dakaiti, this novel has also been published in English as Framed.

While conveying my warm wishes to the legendary Hindi author on his 79th birthday today (19th February), and reasserting my thought that communication gap is to be avoided at all costs if the persons value their mutual relationship, I quote Vimal’s dialog to Neelam in the ending scene of Hazaar Haath – ‘Pati-Patni Ka Sukh-Dukh Saanjha Hota Hai, Unmein Koi Dui Ka Bhed Nahin Hota’ (the pain as well as the joy of husband and wife is joint and there is no duality between them). It’s something which no married couple should ever forget.

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Whose progress ? Whose nation ?

In the beginning of this movie, the cover page of a book written by a character of this movie (Dr. Ahmedi) is shown and the title of the book reads as – Kiski Pragati ? Kiska Desh ? (Whose progress ? Whose nation ?). And that’s what this movie is all about. So many development projects have come and are coming being termed as the ladder to the progress of the nation. But the question is – what do we mean by nation ? Hence the related second question is – whose progress is it going to be ? If this nation does not belong to the poor and the underdog, then whom do these things purport to bring prosperity to ? Aren’t most of these so-called development projects nothing but conspiracies to deprive the commonfolk of whatever little possessed by them and pour further wealth into the already brimming coffers of those occupying key positions in the government and the administration of this ‘great’ country ?

Quite naturally, there are several activists also visible who oppose such projects. Definitely all such activists are not having genuine intentions behind their opposition. The opposition of some of them may be motivated and they may be having their own axes to grind. However, it’s the duty of the victims (or would-be victims) to identify their genuine well-wishers among them and lobby behind them. And such people do take a risk of their own life as well. The powerful ones having vested interest in such projects will definitely like to eliminate the opposing ones. Shanghai (2012) tells the story of one such elimination only.

A social activist – Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) is opposing a development project – IBP which is likely to dislodge the lower class people of the concerned town – Bhaarat Nagar. When he is going ahead with his mission in the company of his ex-student and admirer – Shaalini (Kalki Koechlin), a truck tramples him. The truck driver is caught but the conspiracy behind this so-called mishap is deep whose strings lead to some very powerful and high profile people in the government. An enquiry commission is set up to look into this mishap due to which Dr. Ahmedi is fighting for his life in the hospital now. This single member commission is headed by an IAS officer Krishnan (Abhay Deol) who comes to know of some evidences linked to this apparently a mishap but actually an attempted murder through a videographer – Joginder (Emraan Haashmi). Some more murders take place which are of expendable people involved in or knowing about the murder conspiracy chalked out at a very high level. However Krishnan with, his wit and conviction, is though not able to reveal the truth before the world or stop the project from materializing but at least able to prevent the conspirators from enjoying the fruit of their conspiracy.A few years ago, there was a slogan – India Shining given by the then ruling coalition (coupled with the slogan of Feelgood) in its bid to return to power but it did not click with the masses who refused to get carried away by such slogans which apparently tried to hide the ugly face of the so-called shining India. Rulers may change, the system remains and still the ruling politicians try to do a Raj Kapoor in Sapno Ka Saudagar (1968) who used to sell dreams to the people. People buy dreams sold by these politicians through their hard-earned, yet little resources and get ultimately trampled alongwith those dreams by the sellers themselves. This is what Dibakar Banerjee shows in Shanghai which seems to have been christened as such because the propagators of the IBP project are publicizing to convert Bhaarat Nagar of India into Shanghai of China. In the climax also, when the stage for the ouster of the chief minister (Supriya Pathak) has been set, her secretary Kaul (Farooq Sheikh) complains to Krishnan (Abhay Deol) –‘Ye CM PM Ban Sakti Thi. Hum Cheen Se Aage Nikal Sakte Thay’ (this chief minister had the potential of becoming the prime minister of India. Under her, we would have surpassed China). This also furnishes a ground to justify the movie’s title.In 2010, I watched Love, Sex aur Dhokha on the recommendation of esteemed cine-reviewer – Aruna T. (moviezombie) but after watching, was compelled to inform her that the movie was too crude. Now after watching Shanghai, I can say that crudeness is Dibakar Banerjee’s style of filmmaking. He cans all kinds of refinement and smoothness and presents the things before the audience as they actually are. He does not try to do a Prakash Jha also who despite showing crude reality in movies like Gangaajal and Apaharan, inserted some smoothness in the narratives through the idealist heroes. Shanghai does not try to refine anything. The ugly face of India is bared before you. It’s up to you whether you have the courage to make eye contact with it. The bureaucratic style of the Indian government as well as the prevailing official systems and procedures have been portrayed on the screen as it is alongwith the activities of the so-called political workers. Hooliganism and bullying is the order of the day in our country because there is no dearth of unemployed youths willing to play hooligans and bullies for the political parties for some bucks. Nobody gives a damn for what is right and what is wrong. The only thing that matters is what fetches money to own pockets. Despite the declaration of adapting a very old  novel – Z by a Greek author  – Vassilis Vassilikos, the movie is actually a mirror for the contemporary India.

Still this movie is not perfect or 100% honest. I term it as 90% honest as there is some contamination in the honesty of the filmmaker. The revelation shown in the climax is not reliable because the apex level politicians never allow themselves to be caught in some tape / CD. There are many layers between them and the real executors of their plans which never allow them to directly come into picture in such a way that some concrete evidence is left for anybody else to see / hear. Besides, the way Krishnan blackmails the lieutenant of the chief minister – Kaul (Farooq Sheikh) to toe his line and also involves the coalition partner in his mission, is too simplified to be true. And his denying to go abroad on promotion is also too far-fetched as well as the other things that appear on the screen in written form when the movie has ended. This slipperiness of the director has not allowed the movie to become an outstanding movie.

With its tight editing and realistic cinematography and art-direction, the movie is technically impressive. The narrative of the movie does not need any songs. Still songs are there out of which only – Bhaarat Maata Ki Jai impresses.I have always been an admirer of Emraan Haashmi since his debut movie – Footpath (2003) but the Bollywood filmmakers made him typed for the roles with a definite flavour. In a different role, he has got an opportunity to show his mettle and he has done it with finesse. Kalki Koechlin is a good actress but she has also been typecast to play a certain kind of roles only. Shanghai is another example of her typecasting. The supporting cast has done exceedingly well including Supriya Pathak and Farooq Sheikh who have come together after three decades (last time, they had come together in Baazaar – 1982). Farooq Sheikh has done something like his Jee Mantri Ji act (a TV serial that had come many years back, portraying Farooq as a minister). Prosenjit has impressed in the low-footage role of Dr. Ahmedi which is the base of the complete story. The show-stealer is Abhay Deol whose underplay is simply outstanding. He is a highly talented, yet low profile actor who can never act bad. Despite being a script-based movie without any undue weightage for any character, Abhay draws attention as the well-educated and sincere bureaucrat.Shanghai is a high-tension drama sans entertainment (though some humour has been inserted through Farooq Sheikh’s facial expressions in the climax scene). It hits hard instead of entertaining the viewer. Hence, little wonder, it had flopped on the box office. It bares the ugly, true face of ‘progressing’ India on the screen. Will you be interested in seeing it when you have already seen enough of it off the screen ?

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Pygmalion and His Fair Lady

Pygmalion is a legendary Greek character. As per Ovid’s narrative poem – Metamorphoses, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with the idol of a woman he had carved out of ivory. Taking an inspiration from the character of that sculptor, renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote a play titled as Pygmalion in 1912 which was a sarcastic commentary on the British society and culture as prevailing in that period. In that play, Professor Henry Higgins enters into a bet with a friend of his that he can turn a bedraggled girl from the lower strata of the society into such a well-cultured girl wearing a veneer of gentility that she will pass for a duchess at a party hosted by an ambassador. And he actually succeeds in doing so by turning a flower girl – Eliza Doolittle into a well-mannered lady who by all means appears to belong to aristocracy and therefore acceptable in the so-called high society and thus wins the bet. But this girl is a flesh and blood human-being and not a lifeless idol as made by Pygmalion. She has a heart filled with womanly feelings. Can she be discarded now and thrown back to the class that she was initially picked from ?

Inspired by this play, a movie was made in Hollywood. This movie is My Fair Lady (1964) starring Rex Harrison in the role of Professor Henry Higgins and Audrey Hepburn in the role of Eliza Doolittle. This highly acclaimed movie won 8 Oscar awards and many other different awards as well. Producer Amit Khanna and director Basu Chatterjee made the Indianized version of this story taking Dev Anand and Tina Munim in lead roles. This Hindi movie is Manpasand (1980).

Manpasand (favourite / pet) is the story of two Mumbai (then Bombay) based close friends who are bachelors and active in the line of music – Prataap (Dev Anand) and Kaashinaath (Girish Karnaad). Prataap happens to enter into a bet with Kaashinaath that he can turn a poor, uneducated and uncultured girl into a polished and graceful one as well as a skilled singer within just a timespan of six months. Kaashinaath agrees under the same bet that if Prataap is able to do so, he will marry that girl unconditionally and without any hitch. Prataap picks up a girl Kamli (Tina Munim) for this purpose whom he happens to come across in a local train when he finds her selling Datoons (indigenous tooth-brushes made of margosa branches). Kamli’s good-for-nothing father (Mehmood) is kept at bay by these two gentlemen by paying money to him and Kamli is brought to Prataap’s home. Now both the friends become Kamli’s teachers. Prataap is acerbic and authoritarian in his approach whereas Kaashinaath is soft-spoken and gentle in his dealings with her. She learns classical music (covering singing and playing lute) from Prataap. From Kaashinaath, she learns etiquette, correct way of talking and cultured behaviour.

The day comes when Kamli performs before a large audience and wins lots of accolades. From every angle, now she looks an elite lady and nobody present in the event is able to make even the wildest guess as to what she has been originally. Quite naturally, Prataap has won the bet against Kaashinaath and Kaashinaath too, being very happy at the development, is having no issues regarding marrying Kamli. However in the euphoria of their success, they completely forget the hard work and toil invested by Kamli in her transformation. Prataap disregards Kamli’s feelings also. A disheartened Kamli leaves his house and moves out of his life. Later Kaashinaath feels that Prataap has unknowingly fallen in love with Kamli. He releases Prataap from the bet and asks him to accept Kamli and her sentiments for him. However Kamli has already left. The story concludes on a happy note.

When a filmmaker borrows (or lifts) a great plot / theme from some foreign source to make a movie with characters and milieu of the country he belongs to, he should understand that a great responsibility has come down on his shoulders. Doing justice to great plots is no easy thing. It demands a lot of effort, care and patience. Plus casting is also a significant factor. For great stories, the casting should be done after investing a lot of thought, else the results can be disastrous. The maker and the director of Manpasand seem to have faltered in this regard. This movie is not a disaster or a crap. It does not live up to the expectation or come anywhere near to My Fair Lady all the same.The script-writer could not prepare a very interesting script. In the ending reels, the movie becomes heavy with sentiments. However the seasoned director Basu Chatterjee has not allowed the movie to go too much awry and ensured that the movie is able to be considered at least an above average one. Bangla movie – Ogo Bodhu Sundari (1981) starring Uttam Kumar and Moushumi Chatterjee in lead roles and directed by Salil Dutta is a much superior adaptation of the same story.

Technical and production value aspects are okay. The movie is not very long, nevertheless its length is felt to the audience due to the overdose of emotion.

Music director Rajesh Roshan has prepared average compositions for most of the songs. Two songs are Indianized versions of the English songs composed by Frederick Loewe viz. Hothon Pe Geet Jaage is based on the tune of ‘I could have danced all night’ and Rehne Ko Ek Ghar Hoga is based on the tune of ‘Wouln’t it be loverly’. Other than these songs, Charu Chandra Ki Chanchal Chitvan only appears okay. Rest all the songs are passable, Kishore Kumar’s song – Manmaani Se Hargiz Na Daro is humorous though. Amit Khanna’s lyrics are good.

Dev Anand and Tina Munim are completely miscast in the lead roles. The faulty casting is one of the reasons which has let this movie down. Only the renowned Indian author, playwright, actor and theatre personality – Girish Karnaad has done full justice to the role of Kaashinaath. Mehmood and others are routine.

As said earlier, Manpasand is a lost opportunity because a great plot could not be converted into an admirable movie. However since this movie is not a bad movie either, I recommend it to those who like emotion-soaked dramas. Evergreen hero Dev Anand was fading out fast at the time of making of this movie which can be considered as one of his last movies which are worth a mention. Hence his (huge) fan-following also can give it a dekko.

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Expensive B Grade Masaala

Abbas Mustan are considered the Alfred Hitchcock of Indian cinema. Their disciple Dinkar Kapur decided to direct a movie independently and he made the script from the leftovers of the movies of his gurus for that purpose. The suspense thriller thus coming into existence is Yeh Kaisi Mohabbat (2002) which stars Govinda’s nephew (sister’s son) – Krishna (now he is known as Krushna Abhishek) in lead role.Yeh Kaisi Mohabbat (what kind of a love is it?) is the story of Vicky (Krishna) who wants to  lead an affluent life by trapping some rich girl in his love and thereby marrying her. Soon he is able to do so with Tina (Deeksha). However when he comes into contact with a wealthy person Rahul Thakraal (Sharad Kapoor) and gets the assignment of spying his wife, he’s shocked to find that Rahul’s wife is Tina only. But the truth is something else. Rahul’s wife is actually Priya (Viveka Babaji) who gets murdered and the police goes after Vicky considering him only the murderer. The real murderer is unmasked in the end.Director Dinkar Kapur alongwith the screenplay writer Y.N. Kapoor succeeded in preparing the script of this murder mystery by assembling various scenes like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and generously used the finances of the producer Ashok Kotwani by shooting on foreign locations. However this and exposing the physic of the heroine is not sufficient to make a quality suspense thriller. Dinkar Kapur has made an expensive movie which, due to his poor sense of filmmaking, could not rise above a B grade masaala flick.The suspense is intriguing no doubt which keeps the viewer guessing about the real murderer till the climax and that’s the first and the foremost ingredient of a good mystery. However the casting and the treatment of the plot is certainly B grade and does not render an air of an excellent suspense-thriller. Frankly, I don’t think that there should be any gradation of movies because a movie is either good or bad but the public responds to the movies by perceiving them as such only. And that’s the tragedy of this movie.The movie is an entertaining mystery nonetheless which contains a good dose of romance also. Good performance by Krishna in the lead role has helped the script and the direction. Among the other cast members – Mukesh Rishi has done admiringly as the investigating police officer whereas Sharad Kapoor, Deepak Tijori etc. are also well in place. Johny Lever has left no stone unturned in boring the audience by his stale comedy. Heroine Deeksha has exposed more, acted less (perhaps that’s what the director wanted her to do). Late Viveka Babaji who was a well known model, could not do much in this the only acting job done in her life.Technically and production value wise, the movie is up to the mark. Sandeep Chowta has composed music quite reasonably in at least two songs – Akeli Hai Raat and Lafda Hai.All in all, I can say that Dinkar Kapur has been only partially successful in imitating his gurus, i.e., Abbas Mustan. However this so-called B grade movie is an interesting murder mystery which can be recommended as a one time watch to at least those who are fond of the movies of this genre.

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Seedhi-Saadi Boli Meri Seedha-Saada Kaam …

Childlike innocent and trusting (as well as trustworthy) simpletons may be losers in real life but since they are heart-conquerors, the stories told on the silver-screen portray them as winners in the worldly life too which is seldom true. Raj Kapoor has been the immortal simpleton of Bollywood cinema whose performance in simpleton-type roles left indelible imprint on the hearts of his admirers. Today I am reviewing a more than four decades old entertaining movie whose hero is a simpleton. However this role has not been played by Raj Kapoor but his son – Randhir Kapoor. This movie is Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972).

Based on the hackneyed ‘lost and found’ formula of Bollywood movies, the story of Raampur Ka Lakshman (Lakshman of Raampur) starts with the separation of the members of a family containing two brothers – Ram and Lakshman and their parents. The hero of this movie is the younger brother – Lakshman (Randhir Kapoor) who happens to be with his father who migrates from the city to a village – Raampur and starts working and living with his benevolent friend who has a son – Prakash (Ramesh Deo). Upon growing-up, Prakash moves to the city to earn a living whereas Lakshman continues to live with his father only, winning hearts of the people with his simpleton type personality and mannerisms as well as his benevolent approach. Lakshman misses his lost mother and elder brother – Ram very much being unaware of the fact that his brother was taken away by a criminal after his separation from the family.

When there is no letter from Prakash or any information about him for more than two months, the fathers of Lakshman and Prakash get worried about him. Lakshman consoles them and moves to the city, assuring them that he will locate Prakash in the city and bring him back to the village. In the city, on one hand, Lakshman happens to come across Rekha (Rekha), the daughter of the mayor of the city, as well as his mother (Sulochana) who works in her house; on the other, he is shocked to know that Prakash has been arrested by the police under the charge of a murder and now being tried in the court. Prakash tells Lakshman that he is innocent. Now Lakshman starts searching the real murderer to get Prakash released. A sophisticated criminal – Kumar (Shatrughan Sinha) seems to be associated with the murder. Lakshman crosses paths with Kumar on a number of times not just on account of his quest for the murderer but also the fact that Kumar is his rival for the love of Rekha. As you can guess, after several interesting incidents, Lakshman is able to get Prakash exonerated by exposing the real murderer. The broken family also gets reunited with Lakshman having both of his parents now but not his lost brother – Ram. Why ? The ending scene answers this question in a touching as well as philosophical manner.This screenplay of this story has been written quite skillfully and presented also very well on the screen by the director – Manmohan Desai who was a master in making masaala flicks. The movie is very entertaining. Lakshman’s innocent gestures, talks and activities prove to be heart-winning on one hand whereas the frequent twists and turns in the narrative keep the spectator hooked on the other. It is a complete Paisa Vasool (value for money) movie. The murder mystery is not great because it remains more or less known to the audience as to who is going to turn out as the real murderer. Still the narrative keeps the audience glued to the screen because the entertainment value of the movie is not on account of the murder mystery but on account of the character of Lakshman and his gimmicks. Optimal doses of parent-child affection, sentiments, romance, action and comedy are also there for the audience.

The highlight of Raampur Ka Lakshman is the performance of Randhir Kapoor in the title role. He has nowhere copied his legendary father and developed his own style. His dialog – Sab Raamji Ki Maaya Hai gets repeated throughout the movie (till the very end) but nowhere vexes. Such movies furnish a reason to understand why Randhir Kapoor was quite a popular hero of the seventies. The thing which is not understandable is his abrupt vanishing from the screen during the eighties. It’s his marvellous performance as Lakshman which has made this movie a winner all the way. He has delivered amazing performance on the title track – Raampur Ka Baasi Hoon Main Lakshman Mera Naam for which credit should be given to the choreographer also. Prior to Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha had made a popular pair with Randhir Kapoor only during the seventies with an admirable on-screen chemistry between them. Herself alongwith Shatrughan Sinha and all others has done satisfactorily.

Technically, this formula-studded movie is up to the mark with the length also being in order. Music by R.D. Burman contains hummable (and hence popular) compositions viz. the title track, Goom Hai Kisi Ke Pyaar Mein Dil Subah-o-Shaam, Pyaar Ka Samay Kam Hai Jahaan, Kaahe Apno Ke Kaam Nahin Aaye, Albela Re Ruk Jaana, Saanvla Rang Hai Mera etc. Among these Pyaar Ka Samay Kam Hai Jahaan, Ladte Hain Log Kaise Wahaan is a song which echoes my thoughts (when the time to love is insufficient, how are the people able to spare time for fighting ?). The meaningful lyrics of these songs have been written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

Raampur Ka Lakshman was a commercial hit which gave a boost to the career of Randhir Kapoor whose birthday falls on today (15th February). It’s a treat for his admirers and bears good repeat value. If you want a wholesome entertainment, then please do watch this movie and sing with its simpleton hero – Raampur Ka Baasi Hoon Main Lakshman Mera Naam, Seedhi-Saadi Boli Meri Seedha-Saada Kaam

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Another door opens when one is shut on your face

It’s a philosophical statement given in many books, stories and articles that in a man’s life when one door is closed, another one opens for him. Hindi novelist – Surendra Mohan Pathak’s thriller novel which contains a mystery of a couple of murders too, underscores this statement only in a very impressive and sentimental manner. This novel is Aage Bhi Maut Peechhe Bhi Maut (death in front also, death in back also).The novel tells the story of Harish Mehta, an intelligent young man and his relationship with Durgadaas, a sophisticated gangster who plays the role of the kingmaker for certain politicians. The story is set up in a fictitious city – Vishalgarh which Durgadaas considers himself as the uncrowned king of. He does not hold any political position or any official post, yet his rulings and orders supersede the govt. orders and the authority of the govt. officials as well as the ministers. He controls the awarding of the govt. contracts and keeps the strings of several puppets in his hands who have to dance to his tunes. He arranges deaths of the people unwanted for him without colouring his own hands by their blood. Everybody in Vishalgarh knows that he is responsible for many crimes and unlawful activities but there’s never any evidence against him. A high profile reporter of a newspaper – Daily Express, Vinod Puri keeps a watch on his activities and remains willing to expose him before the law but the thing is that even the local police behave like his slave.

Harish Mehta is the hero of this novel whose father was an honest building inspector in the local corporation and got killed by opposing a corrupt builder – Prakashdev Khanna who was constructing a school building by usage of poor quality materials. Prakashdev Khanna was considered Durgadaas’ man and Harish was told by his neighbour Vinod Puri that the real culprit behind his father’s death was none other than Durgadaas. Then a law-student – Harish was in love with a girl – Deepa and she was also of the opinion that held by Vinod Puri. Her love was the only source of solace in Harish’s life now as he was all alone after his father’s death. However she only gave him the biggest setback of his life by refusing to marry him and opting to marry Pramod Khanna, the son of Prakashdev Khanna. Harish visited the venue of her marriage after drinking heavily, with an intention to create a filmy scene there but upon reaching there better sense prevailed upon him and he did nothing except congratulating Deepa and Pramod. On his way back, he happened to meet Durgadaas who was drinking liquor alone, sitting separately from all the other guests gracing the occasion. Harish (being under heavy intoxication himself) bluntly accused him of masterminding his father’s murder. Durgadaas listened to that and denied of doing any such thing. Then he shared drink with Harish and listened to the tale of his heartbreak also. He felt that Harish was very talented and offered him to join him. Harish did not grab that opportunity immediately but after two years, when as a law-graduate, he could not find any job, he joined Durgadaas only and in no time, became his right hand. Earlier Durgadaas had his henchman – Gogiya as his most trusted lieutenant but now Harish has replaced him. Durgadaas seeks Harish’s consultation only in different matters now and the position of Gogiya has gone down in his empire.

The novel starts with the death of the mayor of the city – Kailashnaath whose car has fallen into the Sona river (a fictitious river flowing through this fictitious city). Kailashnaath was known to be anti-Durgadaas and quite naturally, people were suspecting Durgadaas only for being on the back of that mishap. Harish being the PRO and the spokesman of Durgadaas, tackles the different agencies involved in this case – viz. the police, the press and Shaamnaath, the representative of the chief minister of the state. However the very young wife of Durgadaas (many years younger to him) – Hema is in his flat when Gogiya visits him to convey the message of Durgadaas to him in this regard. Durgadaas trusts Harish very much but Harish has entered into an illicit relationship with his young wife for which he sometimes feels guilty also within heart. Hema hides herself in the bathroom when Gogiya suddenly reaches there but he happens to see her clothes lying outside and is able to understand immediately that Harish is having an affair with their boss’ wife.

Shaamnaath has been specially sent by the chief minister to look into the death of the mayor of the city. However Shaamnaath who is a womanizer, himself gets murdered mysteriously after a few days when he is all set to be appointed as the head of the inquiry commission to deeply investigate that tragedy. His wife – Kaanta is the prime suspect in the eyes of the police who want to make her a scapegoat to save the skin of Durgadaas in this regard. Finding herself to be in several troubles and completely lonely with almost everybody appearing to be against her, Kaanta seeks Harish’s help, trusting him despite his being the lieutenant of the person who wants herself to be trapped in the murder of her husband. Harish is originally a good man from inside and not at all happy with his association with the crime empire of Durgadaas. He saves Kaanta from all the troubles including the talon of a licentious petty criminal – Amarnaath. Now he is willing to start his life afresh with Kaanta, leaving the crime world of Durgadaas forever. However it’s never easy to get out of such quagmire. Moreover, Gogiya exposes his affair with Hema to Durgadaas. The novel ends on a tragic note but after revealing the suspense regarding the killer of Kailashnath and Shaamnaath.

The biggest plus point of this very interesting sentimental thriller is the highlighting of this fact that when a person finds a door as being shut on his face, he should not get disheartened and instead, keep himself alert to see another door that might have simultaneously opened for him. The loss of Deepa’s love and getting an opportunity to rise in life by working for Durgadaas happen simultaneously in the life of Harish. And he himself is amazed to see that he is working as the right hand of the person he used to hate like anything, considering him as responsible for his father’s death. Moreover the same person trusts him like his real son but he has an affair with his wife only. Such strange and contradictory things do happen in real life because truth is stranger than fiction. And since every moment of life is able to spring up a surprise, the best and the most practical life-philosophy is – ‘ACCEPT THE LIFE AS IT UNFOLDS’ (I follow the same only).

Written in the lucid and spellbinding style which the author (Surendra Mohan Pathak) is famous for, this small novel is a treat to read. The whodunit factor has not been stressed very much but it remains there only to render a shock to the reader in the climax. The aspect pertaining to the suspense regarding the perpetrators of the high profile murders has been kept in low profile by the author whereas the emotional aspect of the story has been given more footage and attention. Still it’s the mystery aspect only which enthralls the reader in the ending pages because the revelation of the mystery is something that could not be easily guessed by the reader.

The novel contains less number of pages and the canvas of the story is also not vast. However it makes an engrossing reading right from the very first scene to the very last scene with nothing superfluous appearing in-between. The dialogues between different characters are witty and impressive. Durgadaas’ firm belief that things like faithfulness and dedication cannot be bought by money and his abundant trust on Harish does not allow him to be considered as a typical villain. The author has paid ample attention to the evolution of the principal characters which emerge in live form out of the pages of the novel. The reader gets a feeling of seeing them with own eyes and hearing them with own ears.

The title of this novel is related to the tragic ending of the novel because the path of crime is such that anybody treading it is bound to find death at both the ends of it – death in front of him as well as death at the back of him. And it’s a small consolation for such a person that he himself doesn’t commit any crime because aiding and abetting a crime is a misdeed of equal gravity. However this is how people like Harish play hide and seek with their own conscience. Attempts are made to deceive oneself but is it really possible ?

If you can read Hindi and are interested in an emotion-soaked suspense thriller, this compact novel is the perfect choice for you.

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