Ashok Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Vinod Khanna, Saira Bano, Bharati, Pran, Om Prakash, Madan Puri
Though officially only his second directorial venture after the big grosser “Upkar”, in 1967, which won the producer-director-actor Manoj Kumar multiple awards (he had supposedly ghost-written and directed-producer Kewal P. Kashyap’s “Shaheed” credited to S. Rama Sharma) “Purab Aur Paschim” has come to be regarded the best packaged, path-breaking and trendsetting patriotic film in independent India.
Set in the 1960s when a section of the Western urban youth revolted and found solace in what came to be known as the ‘hippie’ cult, carrying along a generation of uprooted migrant youth, “Purab aur Paschim” has been regarded by many, including the filmmaker himself, as the precursor of later day attempts like “Des Pardes”, “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayege”, “Swades”, “London Dreams”, etc. Though not without mainstream clichés, the somewhat long narrative is gripping, the loose ends filled with palpable lyrics and melodious music except when it moves towards a predictable climax.
Bharat (Manoj Kumar) arrives in London for higher studies firmly believing that it was advancement in science and technology that made the occident superior. He finds a home in the posh house of Sharma (Madan Puri) who had been a class-fellow of his freedom fighter father who had been killed because of Harnam’s (Pran) betrayal, leaving behind wife Ganga (Kamini Kaushal) and daughter Gopi (Bharati) and rewarded with a passage to England. Sharma is frustrated by the lifestyle of his wife Rita (Shammi), blond-haired mini-skirted, cigarette smoking, and pub-crawling daughter, Preeti (Saira Bano), son Shankar (Rajendranath) who has become a ‘hippie’.
At a reception when Harnam is ridiculing India and its poverty, Bharat bursts into a song “Zero hi diya mere bharat ne, mere bharat ne” and he’s clapped by the gathering while the former walks out. Heaving cleavages and bare legs have been used liberally in contrast to Sharma indulging in nostalgia and prompting Bharat to inculcate the Indian mysticism, values and ethics that begin to affect Preeti and Shankar. Follows the song, “Hai preet jahan ki reet sada main geet wahan ke gata hoon, bharat ka rehne wala ho bharat ki baat sonata hoon.”
Preeti has another suitor in Omkar (Prem Chopra), Harnam’s wicked, wayward son who must wed her by means fair or foul. Semi-reformed she comes to rural India with Bharat, visiting temples, paddy fields, watching song-and-dance. Harnam arrives on the scene to woo her back. His father, saffron-clad Guruji (Ashok Kumar) recognises him immediately, and tries to reunite her with the family even though he is being hailed a traitor by others. It is time for Gopi married the suitor (Vinod Khanna), though she’s in love with Bharat. Omkar also arrives on the scene, and while trying to kidnap Preeti shoots his own grandfather. Bharat arrives, and it is time for some more philosophy.
Competent performances by the main cast, including Saira Bano were a major asset though Vinod Khanna was totally wasted. The film’s songs, set to melodious music by the Kalyanji-Anandji duo, were rendered by Mahindra Kapoor, except one “Koi Jab tumhara hirday tod de” sung by Mukesh, the duet “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (Asha Bhosle-Mahendra Kapoor); Mahendra Kapoor also teaming up with Shyama Chittar and Brij Bhushan for “Purva suhani aayee re” and “Raghupati raghava rajaram” (MK-Manhar Udhas). Based on a story by Shashi Goswami, Manoj Kumar has directed the film in a style uniquely his own. Cinematographer V.N. Reddy’s exquisite camera movements supporting the director’s framing of scenes and shots, especially angular ones that the director had seemed to fancy, the wide-angle London outdoors, choreographing and picturisation of “Zero hi diya mere bharat ne” with slow character movements on a revolving stage set was a delight to watch, not only in this but in almost all the songs.
Made under the banner of Vishal International Productions, it ranks 38th amongst the big box office hits but did not get the director any awards.