In 2012, two Bollywood movies had hit the screen under the name of spy-thriller – Agent Vinod and Ek Tha Tiger. Though I found those movies as entertaining flicks, I felt that they made a mockery of the term spy-movie. In my view, both those movies are a display of pump and show and focussed on lavishness only instead of telling what spying is all about. The real agents of RAW (Research & Analysis Wing, the Indian intelligence agency) must be laughing at the minds of the makers of these movies after watching them. Today I am reviewing an old Hindi movie which was a blockbuster of its time and can be termed as a genuine spy movie. It’s Ankhen (1968).Aankhen (eyes) starts with the activities of the enemies of the nation (India) who are not only involved in smuggling of arms but also conspiring to put the entire nation on fire by instigating communal tension. Major Deewaanchand Mehra (Nazir Hussain), a former associate of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose has formed a civilian group to counter the activities of such traitors. When one young member of this group who has hitherto working as an undercover agent in the gang of the traitors, is killed due to betrayal of his own brother, Major Mehra decides to send his son – Sunil (Dharmendra) to Beirut (Lebanon) where the illegal consignments of arms are supposed to be coming from.
Sunil is received in Beirut by the members of the group who are already working there including Meenakshi (Mala Sinha) whom he had come across a few years back during his training in Japan. She had fallen for his charms but had not got any reciprocation from him. Now the movie runs very fast on the spy track with checks and checkmates, blows and counter blows and the breathtaking activities of the villains on one hand and the Indian spies on their trail on the other. A significant member of the gang (Lalita Pawar) is sent to Major Mehra’s home, posing herself as the aunt of his son-in-law after his grandson has been kidnapped by the gang. She blackmails the daughter of Major Mehra and the mother of the kidnapped kid – (Kumkum) and thus manages to live in that house and obtain vital information regarding the activities of the spy group in order to pass it to her bosses. In the end, as expected, the traitor gang is eliminated, the kidnapped kid gets released and Sunil accepts the love of Meenakshi.True to its title, the movie underscores that the spies and the intelligence agencies are the eyes of a sovereign nation, keeping a vigil on the borders as well as inside the country plus on the activities going on abroad which are against the interests of the nation. The title track which is a Ghazal highlights this fact through various Shers (stanzas), the last one being Us Mulk Ki Sarhad Ko Koi Chhoo Nahin Sakta, Jis Mulk Ki Sarhad Ki Nigahbaan Hain Aankhen (none can touch the border of that nation whose border is watched by the ‘eyes’).
Writer-producer-director of this movie – Ramanand Sagar (who later became very famous by making the popular TV serial – Raamayan) has made a brilliant spy-thriller. Both the screenplay and the direction are highly admirable and the director has extracted sincere performances from the entire cast of the movie. Hence this movie mocks neither the spies nor those whom they are up against (like the contemporary movies referred to in the beginning of this review). Instead it presents the activities of both the sides in a smoothed manner (diluting the realistic approach a bit so as to present the story in an entertaining manner). Most of the characters appear to be real and not caricaturesque. The filmmaker has given ample attention and significance to almost all the supporting characters and none has been marginalized. The result of this approach has proved to be very positive for the movie.How emotions like love are used to further the mission at hand has been shown quite emphatically. Besides, how information is sent to the person whom it is meant for, hiding it from the others; has been depicted in an amazing manner which is to be appreciated in the light of this fact that at the time of the making of this movie, the technology was not very advanced. Make-up used for disguise by certain characters is not of good quality but let’s bear in mind that it’s a Bollywood movie and the director couldn’t afford the audience not to identify the real character. The use of facemask shown in this movie is more impressive than in technologically superior modern movies like – Don 2 (2011) and Badla (2019).
If something is missing in this movie, it’s boredom. It is highly entertaining right from the very first frame to very last frame. The viewer gets engrossed in the narrative right from the beginning and keeps on watching holding his breath. Doses of regular entertainment in the form of songs are there but except the most popular song of this movie – Milti Hai Zindagi Mein Mohabbat Kabhi Kabhi, all the songs are situational and they facilitate the proceedings only. Dharmendra and Mala Sinha made a lovely pair but the director has kept the romantic aspect under check by showing Sunil as indifferent towards the feelings of Meenakshi.Dharmendra has always been a natural performer and he has done superbly with his dashing looks being able to knock the young females out at any moment. Mala Sinha is very charming and has evolved good on-screen chemistry with Dharmendra. Nazir Hussain in his real life also was an associate of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (prior to becoming an actor in free India) and he has done full justice to the role of a staunch patriot who is an ex-associate of Netaji. The complete supporting cast has performed with near perfection. Comedians like Mehmood and Dhumal are in the profound roles of the cohorts of Sunil and Meenakshi and they have not allowed their comedian image to overpower the requirement of the script. In fact, almost everyone in this film (including Kumkum, Sujit Kumar, Jeevan, Madan Puri, Lalita Pawar etc.) has delivered a very restrained (and hence believable) performance.
Ramanand Sagar, with not-so-advanced technology in his time, has made a movie which boasts of technical excellence. Everything including the foreign locations of Lebanon and Japan is praiseworthy in this regard. The movie is almost three hours long but considering the script spread on a large canvas with a plethora of characters, the length is not that high. And the grip of the narrative remains so tight on the spectator through the duration, that he / she hardly feels that the movie is relatively long.
Music composed by Ravi with the beautiful lyrics of Saahir is memorable. The most popular song is definitely Milti Hai Zindagi Mein Mohabbat Kabhi Kabhi (sung by Lata Mangeshkar). Very few listeners might have noticed that this lyric is actually a Ghazal. Another Ghazal is the title track – Har Taraha Ke Jazbaat Ka Ailaan Hain Aankhen whose every Sher (stanza) is a pearl coming out of the bivalve of the mind of the great Shaayar – Saahir Ludhiyanvi. Tujhko Rakkhe Raam Tujhko Allah Rakkhe (Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle), Gairon Pe Karam Apno Pe Sitam (Lata), Loot Ja Yahi Din Hain Kisi Pe Loot Ja (Kamal Barot, Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar) and a devotional song – Meri Sun Le Araj Banwaari Re (Lata) are the other songs and every one of them is a treat for the ears of music lovers.Aankhen was a huge commercial hit of its time and proved to be a box office success later on too whenever re-released (many times). With the danger reappearing on the borders of India, I wholeheartedly recommend this patriotic spy-thriller to all and sundry.
This review is my tribute to veteran actress Kumkum who has passed away today itself.
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