Starring Dev Anand, Pran, Hema Malini, Premnath
He was an eternal romantic. Dev Anand’s mannerisms left one generation swooning and another wistful. You grew old but he simply refused to. Among his early heroines were Suraiya and Kamini Kaushal. Some of them graduated to play elderly roles but Dev Anand continued to act the hero against much, much younger stars like Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim. He slipped into his roles effortlessly. The gambler in “Gambler” could so convincingly be an army officer in “Hum Dono”. The con artist from “Guide” could also be a reveller in “Fantoosh”, a flamboyant photographer in “Heera Panna” or a doting brother in “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”.
Dev Anand’s versatility lay in his desire to experiment. He was audacious in picking his themes, always staying in touch with the times. His boundless energy made him a favourite of his leading ladies and, of course, the youth looked at him as the guiding force. His wardrobe was a fashion statement, his disarming smile an infectious influence and his films a medium of great entertainment. “Johny Mera Naam” hit the screens the same year as “Prem Pujari” but they were so strikingly different. In “Prem Pujari”, he played an escapist who comes to terms with his duties later. In “Johny Mera Naam”, he takes the bull by its horns as a cop. The year 1970 was the beginning of a decade that was to give Indian cinema an amazing thrust. The films came in a wide range to suit the interests of all sections. Romance remained paramount but crime thrillers and offbeat subjects dominated the world of Hindi cinema. It was hardly surprising that Dev Anand chose to take the lead with “Johny Mera Naam”, a huge hit with catchy scores from Kalyanji-Anandji and one of the raunchiest numbers ever with bold lyrics and a bolder dance by Padma Khanna.
The movie, a thriller all the way, had the stamp of quality from director Vijay ‘Goldie’ Anand. He and Dev Anand had begun their association with “Nau Do Gyarah” in 1957 and went a long way to give Indian cinema classics like “Guide”, “Kala Bazaar” and “Tere Ghar Ke Samne”. “Goldie was a great asset and I was completely relaxed with him behind the camera. We complemented each other,” wrote Dev Anand in his memoir.
“Johny Mera Naam” had everything that would constitute a hit. It had music and the story to keep you enthralled and some fine acting. Dev Anand is Mohan and Pran is Sohan. Both brothers are good at boxing. Their policeman father is murdered at the behest of a criminal Ranjit (Premnath). Sohan kills the murderer and escapes in the boot of a car, only to grow up as a criminal himself. Mohan is now a CID officer on the trail of an international smuggler.
Mohan is a charismatic character. He assumes the identity of Johny, a petty thief, and wins his way to Rekha (Hema Malini) through Heera, a gangster. The pursuit takes Mohan and Rekha to some exotic locales in Nepal. Goldie leaves his mark with innovative shots and very imaginative creation of songs and dance sequences. “O Mere Raja” is filmed in Nalanda, where Dev Anand, during the shooting, came into contact with political leader Jayaprakash Narayan.
Dev Anand remembered him as a “white kurta-pyjama clad simple-looking man with a generous and benign smile. Of course, the Loknayak had only a fleeting experience of the filmmaking but left a deep impression on the politically active Dev Anand.
Hema Malini, in her first movie opposite Dev Anand, was stunningly pretty. Dev Anand was amazingly dapper too. Hema Malini is at her best when romancing with the hero especially in ‘Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi Hame Pyaar Karle’, a song where the Dev Anand keeps popping up from countless windows in a rest house. Mohan and Rekha fall in love and the latter reveals she is looking for her missing father, Rai Sahab Bhupinder Singh, who has been kept imprisoned by Ranjit.
The criminal is exposed by Mohan and Sohan, the long-lost brothers who discover each other through a boxing bout in a well-constructed scene by Goldie.
It all ends well with the brothers united, daughter and father too. For the teenagers of those times, however, the standout act of “Johny Mera Naam” will always be the Padma Khanna sizzler ‘Husn Ke Lakh Rang’, with the actress doing justice to one of the most sensuous songs by Asha Bhosle.