BLAST FROM THE PAST Starring Dev Anand, Sharda, Tarla Mehta, Radhakrishan, Hiralal, S K Prem, Madhu Apte
Dedicated to character-artiste, Radhakrishan, this 55 Dev Anand starrer opposite his most uninspiring 27 co-star in the then career span of 14 years not only was one of the biggest disappointments, and a total box office washout, even though he had put in one of his better performances.
Once questioned about his choice of leading ladies, he nonchalantly observed, “It did not matter to me who the leading lady was, whenever a producer asked me about a preference, I told him take any one. They are all good.”
It had seven Kaifi Azmi songs: “Aao yaron aao pyaro dekho” (Mohammed Rafi-Asha Bhosle); “Chali ye fauj hamari and Thumak thumak chali hai” – the only hummable composition early on in the film (Mohammed Rafi); “Haath pasare raste raste” (Geeta Dutt-Sudha Malhotra); “Na tel aur na baati” (Manna Dey), “Pagli hawa jane re” (Asha Bhosle), “Batoongi kya karoongi kya” (Mohammed Rafi-Geeta Dutt) set to not really hummable tunes by S D Burman who during this phase had, for some reasons favoured Rafi over Kishore Kumar.
It was a well-intended message-laden story with a weak, confused screenplay attempting to cash on Anand’s newly formed stardom. Mangal (S K Prem), who has taken a loan from a local moneylender for the college education of his younger brother, Prakash, lives a hand-to-mouth existence with his pales wife Laxmi (Tarla). A devout man, Mangal’s biggest problem is his libido.
The condition is so bad that he has to sell the crib for his sixth child to buy a blanket, and lack of medicine and proper leads to his wife’s death.
This results in the educated Prakash with a modernist outlook and a reformist attitude, confronting his brother with hard truths of life – children are no boons from the heaven. Calling Prakash an iconoclast, he orders him out of the house.
This severely affects Prakash and Sandhya’s (Sharda, from South) love life; her father, the small time trader, Gangu Teli (Radhakrishan) stalls their marriage plans. Prakash loses his cool when he finds his nephews and nieces begging, takes up a job in an adjoining printing press that promotes family planning and other social issues, and with the advance arranges food and clothes for the kin, using Sandhya as the go-between.
After Mangal loses his job he requests Gangu to take him to the temple priest, Sanatan (Hiralal) with a request for advance, who while pleading helplessness appeals to the assembly to help him with whatever they can spare. This invokes Mangal’s conscience, being reduced to beggary, and he rushes home. The touching climax, however, fails to redeem the narrative and save it from disaster.
Performance-wise, Dev Anand looked suave and in his element while Sharda too inadequate and ill at ease in a role that demanded a better histrionic display.
S K Prem runs through a difficult role poker faced, Tarla Mehta had limited scope, as did Hiralal in an uncharacteristic role while Radhakrishan showed his class in a badly authored role.
Produced under the banner of Raj Kala, produced and directed by Raj Rishi (who had earlier directed the hero in Dushman and Sharabi), from a story and screenplay by Dhruva Chatterjee, dialogue by Umesh Mathur, art direction by S N Kulkarni and uninspiring camerawork by G Kale (even use of animation in the picturisation of the song Chali yeh fauj hamari fails to infuse any life in the narrative further marred by indifferent editing by R V Shrikhanda.