The great showman of Indian cinema, Raj Kapoor had made a classic movie – Awara (1951) containing an interesting and meaningful discussion about Nature vs. Nurture issue and the conclusion drawn was that nurture is more important in shaping the personality of an individual than nature or the genes in his / her blood. I am in complete agreement with this conclusion. A child is like a lump of clay which is shaped by his / her nurture and the associated environment only in which he / she grows up. The role of his /her genes, if any, is minimal only.
Dharam Karam is the story of Shankar (Premnaath) who is a hoodlum and, therefore, better known as Shankar Dada. He is not at all happy with this form of his life and he wants his offspring to become a law-abiding, decent and honourable individual. He believes that it’s possible only by his nurturing in a suitable environment and not his home and the milieu he is in. Hence when his wife gives birth to a baby boy, he switches him with a simultaneously born kid who is the child of a renowned artist Ashok (Raj Kapoor). Now Shankar’s son Ranjeet (Narender Nath) grows up in Ashok’s home and Ashok’s son Dharam (Randhir Kapoor) grows up in a slum.
Now as per vision of the script-writer (Prayag Raj) and the director (Randhir Kapoor himself), genes prove to be stronger than fostering and environment. Thereby despite growing up in a defective environment, Dharam does not become a baddy and despite growing up in a desirable environment, i.e., Ashok’s home, Ranjeet takes the wrong path. Destiny brings all the characters of this story together and Shankar realizes his mistake in the climax when the children come to know who their real fathers are.
Dharam Karam is a damn interesting movie. The narrative maintains its momentum from the very beginning to the very finish. If this movie is watched for sheer entertainment only, it’s fine. However the thought propagated by it is dangerous. I don’t know how Raj Kapoor allowed his son to make a movie overturning the theme of his all time great classic Aawara. A child arriving on the Earth has no control over the surroundings in which he is born. And hence blaming the genes in his blood for his taking the wrong path in life, is a sheer injustice to him. In fact, it’s the quality of the nurture, the environment and the milieu which makes all the difference in development of his personality.
Technically the movie is superior and lives up to the repute of the R.K. Banner which is known as the first family of Bollywood. The screenplay is formula-based but able to maintain the curiosity of the spectator throughout. Writer Prayag Raj has written the dialogues also which are not great. Considering the mood of the movie and the script, better dialogues should have been written.
Randhir Kapoor was a good actor (at least in my opinion) but he was a better director who knew his job well. He has directed only three movies in his directorial career – 1. Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971), 2. Dharam Karam (1975) and 3. Henna (1991). And everyone of them has turned out to be a good movie. He has directed this movie also quite proficiently and extracted good performances from all the lead actors including himself as well as his legendary father. Rekha being his love interest in the movie didn’t have much to do though.
R.D. Burman’s music is admirable. It contains two gems in the voice of Mukesh – 1. Ek Din Bik Jaayega Maati Ke Mol (this classic song elaborates a great philosophy of life), 2. Tere Humsafar Geet Hain Tere (sung by Mukesh with Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar). Other songs are average.
I recommend Dharam Karam to all the entertainment-seekers but with my reservation about the theme of the movie. A seed may be good but if it does not get proper proper soil, water, manure and care; it cannot grow up into a stout tree. So much talent is wasted in India because the talented kids do not get the requisite nurture and desirable environment. They are the unfortunate buds which are not able to bloom into fragrant flowers and wither out before time.
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