Great Indian thinker and diplomat – Chaanakya’s words of wisdom are – ‘Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first’. It’s a hard hitting truth. Years back, my senior in C.A. course had advised me – ‘Shed your trait of being simple and candour and be shrewd. Shrewdness is a must to progress in any career.’ If only I could follow his advice ! The characteristic of being simple and straight cost me a lot in my life the way it cost the hero of the movie I am going to review. This movie is Imaan (1974).
Imaan (honesty / conscience) begins with a court scene in which the hero of this movie – Maadho (Sanjeev Kumar) is tried for the charge of stealing medicines from a shop. He had stolen those costly medicines because he needed them to save his mother’s life and he did not have enough money to buy them. He got caught and put under trial on one hand whereas his mother also passed away in the absence of proper treatment on the other. The public prosecutor highlights this fact that Maadho’s brother Laakhan has been a jailbird in the past and hence despite this being Maadho’s first crime, his case is not to be dealt with any lenience on the part of the law. Maadho himself agrees for any punishment under the law, telling the judge that he has lost his faith in goodness and life values and come to understand that being poor is the biggest crime.
The kind-hearted and benevolent judge (Krishnakaant) feels that if this young man who is actually not a criminal, is not helped at this moment, after completing his due jail sentence under the law, may turn into a real criminal, losing his faith in the morals for good. He awards Maadho 3 months’ imprisonment which is the minimum punishment prescribed by the law for the crime (stealing) committed by him. However simultaneously, he seeks the cooperation of the welfare officer of the jail (Shivraaj) for rehabilitation of Maadho post the completion of his sentence. The welfare officer arranges a retail shop in a distant village for Maadho to enable him to earn an honest living. However he tells Maadho that he has to follow the principles of honesty, conscience and benevolence in his work. Maadho who is originally a nice, benevolent and ethical person, agrees to that and vows to follow these principles not only in his shopkeeping work but also in his life.
The real story of this movie takes off from here. Maadho reaches the village and takes possession of the shop. He keeps an assistant (Johnny Walker) and starts his shop, following the principles of honesty, conscience and benevolence with utmost sincerity. Now his competitors in the village frame conspiracies to sabotage his business. Plus gradually his kind-heartedness and benevolence also go against him. He is not able to recover his dues from those whom he had sold the goods on credit. Not only the selfish people of the village take undue advantage of his simplicity and benevolence but also demonstrate their ungratefulness in many ways. His competitors are happy because his honestly run business is getting ruined with their businesses containing different kinds of foul play prospering at the cost of his loss. Despite getting the love of a village girl Imli (Leena Chandavarkar), Maadho becomes more and more disheartened as days pass by. One day the conspiracy of his competitors culminates in an arrest warrant against him but he runs away from the cops and disappears from the scene with the help of his sweetheart Imli. Nobody pays two hoots for his escape. His shop is now closed.
Shortly thereafter, his brother Laakhan (Sanjeev Kumar again) appears on the scene, taking over the shop and running the same in a manner utterly different from that of Maadho. He proves to be a strong-armer for one and all. Not only he adopts all the dishonest practices in his business but also bullies those who owe money to the shop and realizes all the arrears. He hits business of his competitors of his shops hard by masterminding a conspiracy and force them to come to his shelter only. Maadho also visits the village occasionally and hears from the bullied ones about the activities of Laakhan. When most of the villagers fall sick due to using adulterated oil sold from Laakhan’s shop, Maadho only helps them only to see their ungratefulness again. However Laakhan shows his anger towards Maadho and the situation takes such a turn that he is arrested and tried for Maadho’s murder. How much is the truth under this charge ? Only Laakhan knows it. Just like the beginning, this movie ends also with a court scene only.
A dialog of Heroine (2012) declares -‘Either you manipulate others or get ready to be manipulated by others’. This is the reality of life shown in Imaan. Straightness, benevolence and honesty are termed virtues but the society is ever ready to trample their followers. The hoodlums have no fear whereas the nice become soft targets. Why did Maadho suffer ? Just because he trusted people and did not bully them when they turned their back on him after seeking advantage of his kindness ? And why did the same people bow before Laakhan and follow his dictates ? Because of his muscle power and bullying tactics ? Might is right ? Straightness, kindness and honesty aren’t ? A person following these ideals ends up as a loser in life. And after losing the tangible benefits and his due from life, finally he loses his faith in them too. Who is responsible for it ? Is ‘Honesty is the best policy’ meant for books only ? In the climax, a question is put up to the judge in the courtroom that the way there is a punishment in the law books for killing a human-being, is there no punishment for killing the humanity in him ?
The movie poses these questions but unfortunately does not answer them. Perhaps the answers are not outside. They have to be searched within by the sufferer. I have been a sufferer in my own career and life in general when the people whom I trusted (like Maadho) proved to be chameleons, resorting to all kinds of lies for the sake of petty benefits and pulling me down. It took me years to lose my faith in these ideals of life. Fortunately, despite seeing a lot of ungratefulness of the people at large, I have stuck to the virtue of gratitude, for in my view, being ungrateful is the biggest sin. However the painful reality is that ungratefulness is spread like anything in all the nooks and corners of the social environment. I saw it in my life. Maadho saw it in his story told in the movie. Being too good itself is something bad. Maadho and Jitendra Mathur learnt it the hard way.
This movie is the cellular adaptation of a story by Hermann Sudermann. It’s a regular Bollywood movie studded with the usual entertainment formulae of romance, comedy, action, suspense etc. and is able to maintain the viewer’s interest till the very end. Set in a rural milieu, technically this movie is up to the mark. R.D. Burman’s musical score is not great though. One thing of this movie that I have liked very much is that the credits have been displayed in Hindi, not in English.
Performance wise talking, only Sanjeev Kumar stands out in the lead role. All others are routine.
As stated in the beginning of this review, the woodcutter’s axe always strikes the straight trees first. Hence the moral of the story is – ‘Despite being nice, kind and honest; a person should not be too simple to allow the manipulators to take him / her for a ride or seek undue advantage of him / her’. As per the Indian mythology, the lunar eclipse takes place because of a demon – Raahu’s swallowing the moon but it happens only when the moon is round or symmetrical. Using this metaphor, the legendary poet – Goswami Tulsidas has asserted – ‘Tedh Jaani Sanka Sab Kaahu, Vakra Chandrama Grase Na Raahu’ (if you appear to be a trickster, all remain apprehensive of you the way the demon – Raahu abstains from swallowing the moon when it is askew).
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