Starring Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Amitabh Bachchan, Sapru, Agha, Sajjan, Bhagwan, Murad, Master Raju
This Alankar Chitra crime drama was written by Gulzar with screenplay by Madhusudan Kalekar and scenario by Partho Mukherjee, while Akhil Kumar and Khayaae worked as dialogue directors/supervisors (at times appropriate, thoughtful and power-packed). K.H Kapadia’s cinematography combined with Babu Lavade’s editing, while Rajinder Krishen’s lyrics were set to music by Kalyanji-Anandji. The duo selected Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar for the duet “Mein pyaasa tu sawan”, which was also rendered individually. Other songs were “Yeh zindagi kya hai yadoon ki baraat” (Mukesh) and “Dekho bhangra yeh dil jaani” (Usha Mangeshkar-Asha Bhosle), picturised on Jayshree T and Leena Das. Dances by Suresh Bhatt and Surya Kumar and fights by Aziz Bhai — both well executed — are other credits. Director-producer Shankar Mukherjee and the Alankar Chitra banner had earlier made films only with Dev Anand as the hero.
The narrative begins with a poorly executed rape attempt by Tarun Kumar (Rajan Haksar), resulting in the murder of his secretary, Meeta (Anupama). There is a courtroom scene in which the culprit is absolved of all charges after the arguments of the defence lawyer (Sapru). This enrages the girl’s painter-brother Rajesh (Amitabh Bachchan), who kills the offender after a fight despite pacification attempts by the mother (Sulochana). As chance would have it, the crime is committed near the residence of Inspector Sanjay (Sanjeev Kumar), where the hunted guy eventually takes refuge, and forces his wife (Sharmila Tagore) to remove the bullet from his arm, taking their son as hostage.
On his return, Sanjay wants to take on the fugitive but both his wife and servant Sher Singh (Agha) advise restraint. Meanwhile, an equation builds between the child Bobby (Master Raju) and the fugitive who is persuaded to sing a song to put him off to sleep, which is the same that his mother sang for him. Mala is alarmed when she hears it because it was one she and Rajesh sang together in the past. She moves up the stairs and he opens the door with her uttering the last words.
This was the third time in the same year that Bachchan died on screen. Despite five men collaborating, the script left a lot to be desired and had it not been for brilliant performances by the three lead actors, may not have even recovered its cost, thanks equally to inapt direction, except for imaginative song picturisation, especially the duet “Mein pyaasa tum sawan” in the earlier part.
Sharmila is brilliant enacting a woman caught up in the web of her feelings for two men; Sanjeev Kumar, the volcano of talent that he was, lives his role. Amongst many, two sequences stand out underling his class: when he is face to face with his wife’s painting in the fugitive’s house, and the flashback sequence imagining intimacy between lovers; Sapru is impressive as defence counsel in a brief role; Agha as domestic help Sher Singh, Sajjan as inspector Pande, Murad as Police Commissioner, Bhagwan as constable are wasted.
It seems the original script was reworked considerably to provide more footage to Bachchan who, post “Deewar” and “Sholay”, had gone up the stardom ladder considerably. But he does full justice with his restrained and simmering act, drawing the audience’s sympathy.
What saves the film is, at times, crisp editing that keeps the viewer on the edge. For instance, when a bond is developing between the murderer and the hostage child, making the former sing a lullaby; or the scenes in which the inspector and murderer face off, the tension mounting from shot to shot as the two try to achieve a compromise.
A tame climax weakens the narrative.