Manoj Kumar, Hema Malini, Pran, Prem Nath, Prem Chopra, Aruna Irani, Kamini Kaushal, Murad, Yunus Parvez, Helen

In many ways 1975 can be, business-wise, called a watershed year with as many as 25 jubilee hits. And even though producer Sohanlal Kanwar is also credited with direction, “Sanyasi” (amongst the top five earners) has Manoj Kumar written on every frame, every scene in this somewhat different and unusual narrative, in the sense that scriptwriter Ram Kelkar not just follows a single-track narrative but adds many twists and turns, not only from one scene to the other but in the subplots as well, amply supported by Ved Rahi, who penned the dialogue.

Another unusual aspect is the fact that as many as six lyricists (Indivar, Hasrat Jaipuri, Verma Malik, M.G. Hashmat, Visheshwar Sharma and Vithalbhai Patel) had been deployed to pen the eight songs set to lilting music that contributed to the success of the film by Shankar Jaikishen — “Chal sanyasi mandir mein”, “Sun baal brahmachari”, “Bali umariya bhajan karon kaise”, “Yeh hai geeta ka gyan” (Mukesh-Lata), “Sham-e-furqat ka dhal gaya saya” (Lata-Prem Nath), “Choron ka maal chor kha gaya” (Mukesh-Suman Kalyanpur), “Jaise mera roop rangila” (Lata), and “Kya maar sakegi maut use” (Manna Dey). Made under the banner of Filmnagar, it had cinematography by Radhu Karmakar, editing by Nand Kumar, Sudhendu Roy’s art direction, costumes by Bhanu Athaiya, Mani Rabadi and five others.

Ram, a celibate, lives in a mansion with his mother, Renuka. A devout Hindu, he is always immersed in prayers and reading holy books, a well-wisher of the poor and the needy. Apart from being aloof from all worldly pleasures, he has also mastered the art of controlling his breathing. One of the conditions of inheriting the legacy is that he has to get married within a year of his grandfather’s death, failing which he would be deprived of all wealth. Enter two fugitives, Banwari/ Rakesh (Prem Chopra) and Girdhari/ Gopinath (Raj Mehra) as Renuka’s long-lost brother and nephew respectively. The two place an imposter, Champa (Hema Malini), as Aarti instead of the real one to entice Ram. They, along with several others, work for the ruthless, debauch, alcoholic and notorious dacoit, Mangal Singh alias Ishwar Baba (Prem Nath), at whose bidding Renuka wills her estate to Rakesh (now renamed Bharat) despite Shanti Baba’s (Pran) advice.

And the clash between good and evil continues in this otherwise routine story of dacoits masquerading as holy men. What is, however, different is the concept itself, and overall treatment. Also Haridwar and other fresh locales and song picturisations carry the unmistakable Manoj Kumar touch.

From the cast, Pran, as usual, excels through a restrained performance from amongst the huge cast, mostly as junior artists. Prem Nath overacts with a loud couldn’t-care-less performance; Prem Chopra goes through his role with disinterest written large on his face. Aruna Irani excels, though generally wasted in a miniscule role. Hema is her usual competent self, tantalisingly exuberant in dances.

Amongst the best scenes is the one that takes place between Shanti Baba and Ishwar Baba, the passive and the aggressive, in which the bad vanquishes the good. Manoj Kumar won a Filmfare nomination in the Best Actor category, which deservedly went to Sanjeev Kumar for his outstanding performance in “Aandhi”, and “Deewar” was named the best film. This was also the first film starring Hema Malini and Manoj Kumar together, who went on to do three more films in the next three years, ending with the latter’s last film as hero in ‘Kranti”, also produced and directed by him.