Starring Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha, Rehman, Naaz, Kanhaiyalal, Anwar Husain, Abhi Bhattacharya

Accompanied by the theme song “Aate hai log jaate hai log”, rendered largely with a mouth-organ tune, the orphan boy Manav (Dharmendra) who had been adopted in his childhood by a Catholic priest, Father Francis (Abhi Bhattacharya), returns home to a dreamy little hill resort Taran Devi after completing his Masters, only to discover that his mentor has died a year earlier. With nothing to look forward to, and a bag full of books on the essence of life, he sets off to Bombay. Overhearing his conversation with a porter about the precious cargo, the small-time criminal, Gopichand (Shatrughan Sinha), also jumps onto the bogey — only to jump out of the running train with the cargo while Manav gives him chase. Thus begins the tale of triumph of good over evil for the next two-and-a-half hour Sachin Bhowmick melodrama.

The early ‘70s indisputably belonged to Bollywood’s he-man Dharmendra, despite the lurking shadows and the rising fortunes of archrival-to-be Amitabh Bachchan (who, incidentally has a precisely two-minute appearance as his old friend Anand). Almost every film he acted in during this phase turned into a goldmine for the producer. So if the present flick ranked 4th top grosser of the year, it certainly was a heavenly blessing for both producer Premji and director Dulal Guha. The narrative though degenerates into the standard Bollywood melodrama: a rich businessman with a past, Mr Gupta’s (Rehman) beautiful daughter, Kaajal (Hema Malini) falling head-over-heels, after standard hiccups, in love with Manav who unwittingly gets involved in the Shayamal (Ravindra Kapoor doing a Rajendranath).

Moving on two standard parallel terrains, after various trials and tribulations, the honest Manav (now sharing the roof) walks all over the Mumbai streets in search of a job, and Gopi estranged from his wife, Kalyani (Naaz) and son gets to lose an arm for refusing to participate in a bank heist planned by his former employer, Montosardar (Anwar Husain). Manav, who is now employed with his ladylove’s father, Mr Gupta, with a secret deal of breaking away from her, bargains for a job for Gopi as gatekeeper in Hercules Milk Foods. Another twist has Gupta making a trip to Delhi and Simla with the daughter. Straddling the snows in the hill resort, predictably, Kaajal is reunited with Manav playing the familiar theme tune.

What, perhaps, gave teeth to the narrative despite standard gags, fights, face-offs was the director Dulal Guha’s control over both the actors and the material, helped considerably by frame-to-frame editing by Bimal Roy. Cinematographer M. Rajeevan’s skilful wielding, swift angular camera movements, shifting focus helped cover up the lapses in art direction. Choreography by Saroj Khan was lacklustre.

Performance-wise Shatrughan Sinha was the indisputable scene-stealer, essaying a character that had to move on the edges — from loud overacts (hallmark of his later years’ success) to subdued and comical. In his 78th outing in a career spanning less than a decade, Dharmendra goes through his role with finesse while Hema hardly gets any footage to really perform.

Kanhiya Lal as Ghadi Babu is wasted. Satyen Kappu, Tiwari have just about a scene each. Abhi Bhattacharya (but for the flashback title song) is passable and Rehman comes through with the standard, competent demeanour and, therefore, performance. Laxmikant Pyarelal’s skilful composition of Anand Bakshi lyrics does add a fillip to the narrative, especially “Kaise jeete hai bhala”.