Starring Ashok Kumar, Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Sanjeev Kumar, Dina Pathak, Baby Sarika

A classic film in its own right for Rajinder Singh Bedi's profound dialogue, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's deft direction and Dharmendra's sterling performance before he got caught in the web of the ‘he man' image. The weak points — mediocre lyrics and lacklustre music.

The film opens with Sanjeev Kumar's voiceover describing the plight of the mythical Satyakamjabala who takes on his mother's name because of his questionable fatherhood. While the drama begins in 1946, the narrative actually takes place in post-Independence India.

When Satyapriya's (Dharmendra) mother dies in childbirth, and his father becomes a sanyasi, he is raised in an ashram by his grandfather, Satyadarshan Acharya (Ashok Kumar), a staunch nationalist and a Sanskrit scholar.

While studying Engineering he befriends class-fellow Narendra Sharma (Sanjeev Kumar) but they part ways at the end of their studies. Satyapriya finds a job in United Paper Mill in a princely state soon after Independence, but is disillusioned when repeatedly asked to compromise his ideals.

While struggling between his ideals and conscience he meets Ranjana (Sharmila Tagore), daughter of a prostitute, who is pregnant after a criminal assault. Satyapriya marries the hapless girl, and soon a son, Kabul (Baby Sarika) is born.

‘Making adjustments'

Satyapriya's uncompromising stance and his grandfather's refusal to accept his family compels him to move from one town to another, from one job to another because of his unwillingness to compromise his honesty. Destiny lands him a job where he has to work under Narendra's supervision. Unlike Satyapriya, Narendra has learnt the hard way that to succeed and survive one has to make adjustments.

The guilt of failure, more than compromise, becomes Satyapriya's driving force of life until he succumbs to cancer. Coupled also with the guilt that he had failed to be Ranjana's saviour, because even though he had married her, he hadn't got over the fact of her victimisation. He tries to redeem himself, in the dying moments of the film, by signing a sanction letter.

Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee for producer Sher Jung Singh Punchhe, from a story by Narayan Sanyal with screenplay by Bimal Dutta, the film had lyrics by Kaifi Azmi, music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal (only three songs, “Abhi kya sunoge”, “Do din ki zindagi” (Lata solos) and the Kishore, Mahendra Kapoor duet “Zindagi hai kya bolo”) and cinematography by Jayant Pathare.

The 175-minute saga ends with the arrival of Satyadarshan, who shedding his prejudices takes the widow and her child in his fold as they take long strides towards the ashram. But not before the touching scene where Kabul asks Ranjana why he cannot perform the last rites of his father, and she reveals the truth about his illegitimacy.

Among the highlights of the film are the scenes between Naren and Sat, made more profound by Bedi's tongue-in-cheek dialogue (an important component of the film), because Dharmendra has an unnaturally restrained performance which came naturally to Sanjeev as his later evolution as an actor shows. The expressions of the younger actor (Sanjeev had just done about 10-12 films with limited exposure), especially when he reacts to Dharmendra's dialogue “Compromise hi corruption ka doosra naam hai”, stood out.

For his dialogue, Rajinder Singh Bedi got the Filmfare Award in 1971.