“Zakhmee”, released in 1975, was at the cusp of a momentous year in Bollywood, a reference point with which the history of Hindi cinema would be classified – the pre and post-“Sholay” period. To the credit of producer Tahir Hussain (Aamir Khan’s father), the film, despite facing competition from a string of big movies – “Sholay”, “Deewar”, “Pratigya”, “Chupke-Chupke”, “Prem Kahani”, “Julie” and many more – managed to hold its own, and did reasonable business at the box-office. For this Hussain used the formula concocted by his successful elder sibling, Nasir Hussain – an array of bankable stars, good music, and fast paced story with a potpourri of crime, suspense, romance and drama thrown in. Of course, Nasir Hussain’s muse, Asha Parkeh featured in the lead role.
The story and screenplay, penned by Humayun Mirza, revolves around three brothers – Anand (Sunil Dutt), Amar (Rakesh Roshan) and Pawan (Tariq, another constant in several films from the Hussain stable). Just when Anand is to tie the knot with Asha, news of his business partner being murdered comes through, leading to his incarceration. A devastated Anand goes into a self-imposed shell, reinforcing his culpability in the crime.
However, his siblings, convinced of their brother’s innocence, embark on a mission to prove it, and secure his release. Boisterous and ebullient, but inexperienced, they devise a series of ill-timed plans to achieve their goal, first by trying to bribe Justice Ganguly (seasoned veteran Iftekhar) and then kidnapping his hyper daughter, Nisha (Reena Roy), which becomes more of a vacation for the three youngsters, infused with bonhomie and songs, rather than being a serious attempt at coercion.
In prison, a reticent and self-flagellating Anand is hounded by another inmate, Dilawar (Yunus Pervez). Anand shows restraint, even when falsely implicated by Dilawar for using drugs . Intervention by another inmate, Johnny (Johnny Walker), saves Anand, but an incensed Dilawar showers his ire on a beleaguered Johnny. Finally, Anand’s self-control gives way, and he duels with Dilawar, pinning him down. This emboldens Anand to prove his innocence, but for that he has to come out of the prison, for which he seeks Dilawar’s assistance.
On making his escape, he heads for his house, suffused in colours of Holi, to escape detection by the police and his adversaries led by Tiger (Imtiaz), who have taken Asha and Tina (Baby Pinky – Anand’s kid sister) hostage in their own house. The trail leads him to his employee, Janakidass, whose betrayal at the hands of Tiger had landed Anand in prison. Hereon, the three brothers and Nisha go on a roller coaster of actions getting the head of a big smuggling syndicate, Chief (Kamal Kapoor), who is Tiger’s boss, caught in the web of law enforcement agencies.
Sunil Dutt is expressive and shows restraint and gravitas as the falsely implicated murderer. His screen presence is compelling and he brings a level of empathy to his character. Asha Parekh’s scope for histrionics is limited. She still, manages to command eyeballs for her portrayal, although saddled with hackneyed dialogues (penned by Madan Joshi). Rakesh Roshan is good as the concerned and cheery younger brother, in a character which had ample scope for going over the top (although he does show a tendency to overact and being too loud at times). Tariq, who acted only in films made by the family, passes muster as the effervescent youngest brother. However, a round of huge applause needs to be reserved for Reena Roy, for her portrayal of a cherubic, new age girl, donning western outfits – swinging wildly to beats of the song, “Nothing is impossible”, she displays remarkable verve and chutzpah. The support cast of Yunus Pervez, Imtiaz, Johnny Walker and Helen, amongst others, is as good as they get them.
Sadly, it is in the writing department, particularly the screenplay, that the film suffers a near fatal blow – with lapses in pace, and diversions from the main plot, which, besides making work of the editor (Madhu Sinha) difficult, are boring for the viewer. A case in point is introduction of two unnecessary characters in the narrative – Shirin (Pilloo J) and Rustam (Agha). Equally tacky is the cinematography of Munir Khan and art direction of Shiv Shankar. This, perhaps, had something to do with the inexperience of the film’s director, Raja Thakur, for whom “Zakhmee” was the only Hindi film he directed. A few weeks after the film’s release, he passed away, aged just 51.
“Zakhmee”, however, was to prove a suitable pad for Bappi Lahri to make his mark as a much sought after and successful music composer in Bollywood (his handful of films before “Zakhmee” had hardly won him any laurels). Each of the numbers, including, “Jalta hai jiya mera bheegi bheegi raaton mein” (Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle), “Zakhmee diloon ka badla chukane” (Kishore Kumar) and “Aao tumhne chand pe le jaaein”, was a super hit. Lahri’s command over his technique can be gauged from the fact that each song was of a different genre. In one of them, “Nothing is impossible” one can discern Lahri’s respect for R.D.Burman’s style of compositions. He was helped by the neat lyrics of Gauhar Kanpuri.
Director: Raja Thakur
Cast: Sunil Dutt, Asha Parekh, Rakesh Roshan, Reena Roy, Tariq, Helen, Johnny Walker, Imtiaz, Yunus Parvez, Jankidass, Iktekar, Agha
Story and screenplay: Humayun Mirza
Dialogue: Madan Joshi
Music director: Bappi Lahiri
Lyricist: Gauhar Kanpuri
Box office status: Above average