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Updated: June 24, 2010 21:19 IST

Leader (1964)

Deepak Mahaan
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A poster of the film.
A poster of the film.

STARRING Dilip Kumar, Vyjayantimala, Motilal, Jayant, Nasir Hussain

Anyone watching “Leader” for the first time wouldn't be wrong to conclude that the editor lost his scissors while editing the film! Or perhaps, the editor (S. Chandiwale) went haywire because he wasn't given any script to which he could adhere to. Frankly, none of the two inferences would be too far off the mark since the film is inordinately long and on many occasions, it seems as if several scenes have been stitched together without any co-relation to the story. But despite regular meanderings into absurdities, it is an incontrovertible truth that “Leader” is an enjoyable entertainer due to its magnetic comic menu served with a feast of memorable music.

Though the story penned by Dilip Kumar is let down by a pathetic screenplay, some wonderful dialogues by Harish Mehra and brisk speed of action makes it an endurable fare for all ages. While credits show Ram Mukherjee as the director, several sources reveal the film was largely directed by the thespian himself when he felt it was floundering due to a poorly defined script. Whatever the truth, the fact remains that “Leader” exhibits splendid flair for slapstick and Dilip's comic timing is a treat to watch and learn for budding artistes.

Dilip Kumar accepted the film during the period when doctors advised him against acting in any more tragedies since tragic roles and several personal life calamities had begun to sap his emotional energies. And so to save himself from a possible nervous breakdown, the great actor turned to comedies in a big way thus paving the way for films like “Leader”, “Kohinoor” and “Ram Aur Shyam”. If he excelled in romantic tragedies, he was equally at ease in light-hearted revelry, rewriting acting textbooks with his dexterous repertoire. Scenes where he teases his girlfriend on phone, indulges in inept sword fighting or lurches in drunken stupor are all time favourite scenes of Hindi cinegoers.

Outstanding histrionics

What made the film even more enjoyable was the equally spirited response of doe-eyed Vyjayantimala, oozing oodles of impish charm in every frame. The pair carried the film on their shoulders, giving abundant joy and mirth to audiences with their outstanding histrionics. Their interactions make the film worth going miles to watch and it is certain that without their resolute shoulders, “Leader” would have surely ended in a catastrophic disaster as Motilal, Jayant and Nasir Hussain have little to do on screen.

The story revolves round a law graduate-cum-tabloid editor Vijay (Dilip Kumar), who falls in love with Princess Sunita (Vyjayantimala) in the midst of a general election. But before they can seal their romance with parental approval, Vijay is accused of murder of a prominent political leader, seen as he is with a gun beside the dead body. After a series of adventures, the couple manages to expose a dreaded criminal-politician nexus thereby saving themselves and the national elections in the process!

Babasaheb's slick camerawork adds to the glamour quotient and since it was in Cinemascope, it seems the exuberance made the makers include several irrelevant shots into the story. Like on so many occasions, music by Naushad in Shakeel Badayuni's company, adds to attraction of the film. Mohammed Rafi's “Mujhe Duniyawalon Sharabi Na Samjho”, “Hamee Se Mohabbat” and “Apni Azaadi Ko Hum” are already part of music folklore, while his duets “Tere Husn Ki Kya Tareef Karun”, “Ek Shahenshah Ne” (with Lata) and “Daiyya Re Daiyya” and “Aaj Kal Shauke Deedar Hai” (with Asha) bring perennial joy. Departing from his usual style, Naushad's chart busting compositions are delightfully frothy and suit the situations and comic tempo of the film.

How one wishes, if only the “tail” had been reduced in size, “Leader” would have been a heady tale, though it never fails to entertain at any stage!

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