Starring Rakesh Roshan, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Iftekhar, Aruna Irani

The history of Bollywood is littered with stories of many an entertainer who sparkled ever so briefly, before being consumed by the blaze of arc lights and consigned to the dustbin of anonymity. On the other hand, there are those, who used the key to longevity with wisdom, and despite facing abject failure at times, survived, and spawned dynasties, which rule the roost for decades on end.

If one were to trace the career of the main cast and crew of “Khel Khel Mein” (KKM), released in 1975, their optimum use ofreinventing themselves with different roles at strategic times of their lives would come forth. One example would be now producer-director Rakesh Roshan, son of eminent music composer Roshan, who played one of the leads in “KKM” and was dubbed as a non-actor fit for second leads or roles in woman-centric films. A proof of his reinventing himself could be the recently released “Krishh 3”, featuring popular actor and his son Hrithik Roshan, of which he was the producer-director .

A major factor behind the success of “KKM” was the casting of Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, one of the most successful on-screen couples who showcased a fabulous chemistry, and also acting styles that complemented each other to near perfection. No wonder that decades after they became a hit pair with films like “Kabhie Kabhie”, Rishi and Neetu have still made their mark on the marquee together in recent films like “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” and “Besharaam”.

The story of “KKM”, directed by Ravi Tandon, was an adaption of the English novel “Good Children Don’t Kill” written by Louis Thomas. It revolved around the life of three college students — Ajay (Rishi Kapoor fresh after the stupendous success of his debut film, “Bobby” just two years earlier), Vikram (Rakesh Roshan) and Nisha (a plump and somewhat gawky Neetu Singh, who perhaps looks much better now.)

The first hour of the two-hour-19-minutes flick was about the pranks played by the group wherein Ajay, on joining college, was ragged by Vikram, a self-styled king of the institution. After the initial rivalry and a canteen fight, the two became friends, and Ajay was integrated into the group. Eventually, love blossomed between Ajay and Nisha.

The story took a turn when the three came across a parsimonious Ghanshaymdass Johri (Jankidass). To teach him a lesson, they decided to play a prank on him, through a fake extortion letter. On receiving the letter, a petrified Johri threw a wad of notes in the dustbin of a post office, from where the three collected it. Therein ensued a debate — on what to do with the money. While Ajay and Nisha strongly favoured that it should be returned forthwith, and they accept their mistake and seek an apology from Johri for their misdemeanour, Vikram wanted to keep the moolah. After persistent demands from his buddies, Vikram assured them that he would return it, but only the next day.

However, the next day, a frolicking Ajay and Nisha found to their horror that Johri had been murdered in the night. They realised that they were fast becoming a part of a trap, even as they were stalked by a stranger dressed in an overcoat and donning a hat (Dev Kumar). The two decided to spill the beans before the police, but in the intervening period they found the college don (a brilliant Satyen Kapoo) reading an epiphany to a dead Vikram.

They made a frantic bid to destroy the typewriter on which the incriminating letter was typed, and which had been taken from Nisha by Vikram with the promise to have it destroyed. But arms of the law caught up when Inspector Bhupendra Singh (an impeccable Ifteqar) accosted them and sought information about Vikram. To find the truth, Ajay and Nisha planned to confront a cabaret dancer, Sherry (Aruna Irani), whom they came to know, was in a relationship with Vikram. But she too got killed. With the blame of three murders on their head, Ajay and Nisha found themselves cornered.

From thereon, the story took a further twist, as Inspector Bhupender, Ajay and the stalker came face to face and the truth unfolded. It emerged that Sherry was two-timing Vikram against Black Cobra, a dreaded criminal, who had cast a spell of terror on the residents of the town. It was to avenge this double-crossing that both Vikram and Sherry were eliminated by him. Moreover, Black Cobra knew about the prank letter sent by the three friends to Johri and to put the blame on them, assaulted him with the idea of robbing him, but killed him in the ensuing melee.

So who was Black Cobra? Who was with the law and who was against it? These formed the denouement.

It must be credited to Rakesh Roshan that he gave a performance that was very good, if not excellent. He rebuffed his critics with his act, which had shades of grey in it, with consummate ease, thereby giving a much-acclaimed Rishi Kapoor a run for his money. Rishi and Neetu were effortless as ever though.

Music, composed by R.D. Burman to lyrics by Gulshan Bawra, lifted the film by several notches. Each of the songs, including “Ek Main Aur Ek Tu” and “Khullam Khullam Pyar Karenge”, was a chartbuster. The songs were improved by the choreography of PL Raj where Rishi Kapoor demonstrated his ample dancing acumen. The action sequences by stunt master Veeru Devgan were in keeping with the times.

However, the film faltered on three aspects — art direction, by Karekar, which was tacky to say the least; the dialogues by Kader Khan (who had just about made his entry into Hindi films) were lacklustre; and sound recording was amateurish and jarring at times. There were certain tracks in the screenplay that were left half baked — the blossoming of love between the college don and the warden of the girl’s hostel, Mrs. D’Costa (Lalita Pawar) being one of them, which surely inspired such liaisons in the later-day films.