Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Parveen Babi, Rehman, Farida Jalal, Pran

It was a period when the stalwarts of Hindi cinema had begun to fade. They were losing their appeal to a young generation of actors who were willing to experiment. Filmmakers were keen to innovate and most experiments did impact the audience and earned unstinted praise. Acceptance for movies with different plots was encouraging.

Times were changing for many. Veterans like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar were facing stiff competition. Stars like Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Shashi Kapoor, Feroz Khan were around, but just about. There was demand for performers like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, even as Hema Malini, Sharmila Tagore, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Jaya Bhaduri commanded a following, some for their acting skills and some for their looks.

But Pran, who passed away recently, was unaffected by the winds of change. He remained as sought after as the main protagonists of the movie. His special appearances were announced much in advance and were received with acclaim. When Salim-Javed, among the most successful story writers of all time, penned the plot for this film, they clearly had a special place for a compelling character called Michael D’Souza with Pran to play it. He was outstanding as always and contributed to the popularity of the film which had Amitabh Bachchan in the role of a helpless soul.

The story had its share of romance, intrigue and entertainment. Bachchan plays Ravi Khanna, a travel agent who looks after his mother, brother and a physically challenged sister (Farida Jalal). He has Neelu (Parveen Babi) as the ladylove but his life is turned upside down when regular attacks of headache are diagnosed as brain tumour.

Police investigations for a murder lead the detectives to the doors of the travel agent. Driven against the wall and worried about his family’s future, Ravi Khanna conspires to create evidence against himself for a murder he has not committed. The ransom money of five lakh is the temptation for him, and also the fact that his incurable tumour is set to consume him in six months.

Convicted and imprisoned for the murder of Surendra Sinha (Rehman), the beleaguered hero is miraculously treated for the tumour. The film revolves around Ravi Khanna till the point he manages to escape from jail. He must gather evidence to prove his innocence, and Salim-Javed now introduce a lively character, Michael D’Souza, who dominates the remainder of the film. Michael is a kind hearted and happy-go-lucky thief. Learning of Ravi’s plight, he pledges to help him nab the real culprit. On a rainy night, Michael grabs a costly ring from the driver of a car, unmindful of the fact that it belongs to a dead man. His endeavour to indentify the murderer later takes Michael to Surendra Sinha’s house. He runs into the murderer and sets up a meeting point to settle the issue. The climax is well-constructed with Michael managing to solve the mystery but not without paying a heavy price.

From the time he makes an appearance with the Kishore Kumar number “Apun to Saheba”, Pran livens up the narration. Bachchan manages to give a restrained performance, so do the perennial cops of Hindi cinema, Iftikhar and Jagdish Raj; Mac Mohan is enjoyable as a pawn dealer, especially when he utters “Mikeel, Mikeel”, but it is Pran who is the runaway winner with his inimitable style. Pran won a Filmfare nomination, sadly not the award, but this stands out as one of his best accomplishments as a character actor.

Two Kishore songs, “Aadmi Jo Kehta Hai” and “Dekh Sakta Hoon Main”, also contributed to make this Ravi Tandon-directed film a hit. For the audience and critics, Pran, more than anyone, rode above the rest. “Majboor”, a high point in this brilliant actor’s career, pertinently highlighted his amazing repertoire.