Starring: Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman, Mumtaz

“Hare Rama Hare Krishna” (HRHK) was a landmark movie. It dealt with some burning issues in a subtle manner, a trademark of Dev Anand, a crafty actor-director with an amazing ability to reach out to the young generation. Those were critical times, the early 1970s, when society was undergoing changes, the churning encompassing all, rich and poor, old and youth, boys and girls. Hippie culture had made inroads and the drug culture had grown into a huge menace. It was so fashionable to wear jeans but there were hardly any available in shops. Youngsters would befriend foreign tourists and pick up second-hand jeans, the worn-out and faded ones a hit with students. Against this background arrived HRHK. It gave Zeenat Aman a platform that transformed her into a star overnight as she swung to Asha Bhosle’s iconic “Dum maro dum”, the twang of the guitar, air filled with smoke and a pretty lass puffing away (pot as it was referred to) came to signify the hippie culture that Dev saab so creatively wanted to expose. And he did it in style with a movie that became a super hit.

HRHK was about Zeenat Aman, a melancholic daughter and sister, disenchanted with the world and looking for solace amidst the dark world of drugs and alcohol. A Miss Asia and perfectly suited for the role, she made a lasting impression with her performance in the film. There were some uncomfortable moments for Zeenat in front of the camera but she emerged with the Filmfare Award for her portrayal of Jasbir/Janice, a troubled girl, unwanted at home but ‘happy’ with strangers.

The story idea was born out of a chance encounter Dev saab had with a girl at a bar in Kathmandu. She narrated her story, which laid the foundation for the making of HRHK, a subject that he described in his autobiography as a “movie that represents a new world phenomenon, the young, reckless people.” Young and reckless was how the jean-clad and pot-smoking youth had come to be signified in a still-growing but conservative Indian society.

Dev saab was keen that Mumtaz played his sister’s role in HRHK but she declined, preferring the romantic lady. His first meeting with Zeenat, at a party hosted by filmmaker Amarjeet, was momentous. As Zeenat smoked and displayed a “devil-may-care attitude” in the presence of Dev saab, he was convinced she would be his “sister”. A star was born as Zeenat slipped into the role with the finesse of a seasoned actor.

Shot extensively in Nepal, HRHK had some fabulous music, marked by “Dum maro dum”, which literally came to be known as the youth anthem of the times. It grew into a national rage and Zeenat basked in its glory to land many offers. As Dev saab wrote, Zeenat was comfortable in the company of the “real” hippies, who played their role so well in different shots in HRHK, living their self when swinging and dancing, with Zeenat as the cheerleader.

HRHK highlighted the disillusioned and much-misunderstood youth, the ills of drugs, the pain of broken marriages and the impact on the children. Zeenat plays Jasbir/Janice, fleeing from home in Canada and a workaholic father, seeking refuge amidst hippie friends in Kathmandu. Dev saab is her long-lost brother Prashant, based in India. Mumtaz plays Shanti, a local girl who falls in love with Prashant. The brother tracks down his sister in Kathmandu but she makes the final decision by ending her life. Probably Dev saab could not reach a perfect climax for the movie and this was the best way out for Jasbir-turned-Janice.

“Dum maro dum” and “Kya khushi kya gham” sung by Asha and Usha Iyer were instant hits with the youth even as “Kanchi re kanchi re”, “Dekho o diwano” and “Phoolon ka taron ka” showed the versatility of composer R.D. Burman. He was the vibrant force behind the success of HRHK with his enchanting stuff. Asha and he combined to give a memorable score that had the audience swinging in theatres, giving Zeenat a cult image, her goggles, attire and mannerism so prominently aped by young girls around the country.

No movie captured the attention of the youth as HRHK. Zeenat was 19; Dev Anand a worldly-wise 48. They came together to create a landmark offering and it was hardly a surprise when Dev saab confessed later that he had “fallen in love” with Zeenat. He was not alone. Thousands of young hearts shared his sentiments! Many from that generation, and, from the present too, still swing and dance when “Dum maro dum” wafts in the air.