No other Hindi film star, with the possible exception of the ruggedly handsome Vinod Khanna, would have fitted the bill better than the stylish, suave Feroz Khan and that too with the kind of intensity and sophistication he brought to the role in this curry western that featured at number 24 from among the top money spinners of the year. With adequate mellowed inputs both from “The Man With No Name”, “A Few Dollars More” (Clint Eastwood movies) – the pocket watch motive and the setting – and “The Magnificent Seven” it turned out to be a gripping drama despite hurried, lacklustre sexual/emotional interventions throughout unfolding of the drama and in keeping with the director’s style the song-and-dance routine done away in the early couple of reels, the narrative opening with the lone horse rider clad in a black poncho, Dilbar (Feroz Khan) landing up in the village where the dreaded dacoit, Janga (Ajit) axed an innocent guy, then disappearing after placing a shroud on the dead body and spitting at the cowardly crowd.
The ruthless murder of his father compels the village bumpkin Ramu (Paintal) to come to a township in search of his cousin Jaggu dada (Narendra Nath) to avenge the killing, and to take on the might of Janga he solicits the help of four of his differently skilled petty criminal friends, Danny (Danny Denzongappa), Salim (Ranjeet), Bhagu (Sudhir) and Ajit (Kunwar Ajit – Dharmendra’s cousin and Abhay Deol’s father) move in with him. Each of them is a master of his own unique peculiarity, or special art. On arriving in the village they almost instantly come face-to-face with Janga’s brother at the dancing girl Rani’s (Rehana Sultan) kotha that results in his arrest, provoking Janga to unleash violence on the village, and rescuing his brother from prison.
Despite initial apprehensions the five friends decide to settle down in the village, especially after Dilbar’s timely help while engaged in a feisty battle with the dacoit who has his own scores to settle with the dreaded dacoit kingpin who had killed his judge father in front in cold blood when he was young. The beautifully written Majrooh Sultanpuri, “Jeevan mein tu darna nahin” set to exquisite music by R.D. Burman and soulfully sung by Kishore Kumar comes through almost as a theme song though picturised on the Judge (Satyen Kappu in guest appearance) and re-rendered by his son, Dilbar for village kids. Although there is a short flashback, there is none about what led Rani to the kotha. The other two songs rendered by Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar hardly add to the musical track or the narrative.
The bloody scenes are suitably intercepted with two emotional tracks: Jaggu’s infatuation with the widowed Madhu (Madhu Chhanda) and the arrival of Danny’s love interest, Rita (Alka). Ultimately, the young men and the villagers unite with the lone ranger on the condition that they will let him deal alone with the common enemy, Janga whom he kills as ruthlessly as the latter had done to his father. And having achieved his mission, he rides away on his horse but this time with Rani in his lap.
Feroz Khan outshines all others despite the limited scope the 132-minute provides, Ajit does his ferocious act with required finesse, Ranjeet and Danny demonstrate promise, Kunwar Ajit shows glimpses of his rugged handsome cousin, the three women: Rehana Sultan, Madhu Chhanda and Alka have little to add. Director Narendra Bedi unduly usurps the credit for the story, the screenplay having been provided by Satish Bhatnagar who does a fair job in juxtaposing light as well as intense moments in appropriate proportions. Burman’s background score is purported to have been a straight lift from Ennio Moricone’s splendid job in “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” and for Feroz’s scrapping through the countryside from “A Few Dollars More”.
Genre: Action drama
Director: Narendra Bedi
Cast: Feroz Khan, Rehana Sultan, Danny Denzongpa, Ranjeet, Ajit, Paintal
Story: Narendra Bedi
Screenplay: Satish Bhatnagar
Music director: R.D. Burman
Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Box office status: 24th on the box office list in a year dominated by “Roti Kapda Aur Makaan”.
Trivia: The theme of “A Few Dollars More” used as background music and the storyline is a mixture of Hollywood blockbusters “Magnificent Seven” and the character in “The Man With No Name” (Feroz Khan’s nameless character).