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Ek Se Badhkar Ek (1976)

suresh kohli
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starring Ashok Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Navin Nischol, Deven Verma, Helen, Anwar Husain, Padma Khanna, David, Ifteeqar, Manmohan

Considering its somewhat predictable storyline, this star-studded lost-and-found crime drama turned out to be among the major hits of the year. Based on a script by K.K. Shukla with dialogue by Ramesh Pant, this Brij Sadanah film relies more on Raaj Kumar’s stylised and Ashok Kumar’s naturalness than the kind of histrionics the filmmaker displayed in some of his other productions like “ Victoria No. 203 ”, “ Yakeen ”, “ Prof Pyarelal ”, “ Bombay 405 Miles ”, “ Chori Mera Kaam ”, amongst others.

The narrative begins with two teenager brothers sitting outside a temple talking food and the elder one putting a Ganesh-chain round the neck. That’s the last of this identity. The elder one is blackmailed by a criminal on the run, holding the younger one to ransom, demanding a bag to be reached to the end of the street. The boy is nabbed by the cops though he manages to free himself and grows up to be ace-criminal Shankar (Raaj Kumar). Threatening revenge the younger one escapes and grows up to be ACP Rajesh (Navin Nischol). His mother (Purnima), without a plausible explanation, also adopts Shankar.

JK is the kingpin of crime with an unseen No. 2. Shankar has an eye on JK’s operations, outwitting the gangster’s activities by first looting and then selling the stuff back to him. During excavations a dazzling priceless piece of diamond belonging to the mythological era is found which ACP Rajesh takes charge of, and that ultimately is put on display. Enters No. 2, alias Raja (Ashok Kumar) as Rekha’s (Sharmila Tagore) long lost father after her mother’s murder.

Raja bluffs Rajesh and Rekha into believing he had stolen the original diamond, replacing it with a fake (another suspension-of-belief act or cinematic licence so common in the ’70s). He indicates willingness to replace the fake with the original with their help, which results in a grinding act that’s captured by a hidden camera resulting in the ACP’s arrest that he averts with the help of his blundering assistant, Larkuram (Deven Verma). Raja throws the diamond into the ocean but when he steps into his boat after retrieving it, he finds Shankar waiting for him. Further fisticuffs and fight ensue, including some awesome action sequences involving Raaj Kumar.

It is total suspension-of-belief, coupled with gaudy wigs, misplaced song-and-dance situations — except Helen’s lusty display in the title song (rendered by Runa Laila), and the qawwali competition featuring Padma Khanna. None of the Verma Malik’s male numbers set to music by Kalyanji-Anandji sparkle. Surya Kumar’s choreography, especially the song-dance number with Sharmila and rendered by Asha Bhosle, leaves something to be desired, but Shetty’s action stands out.

Acting-wise, Sharmila seems misused in a non-performing role; Helen sparkles; Deven Verma is excellent; Ashok Kumar as usual provides a competent performance and Raaj Kumar fails to add anything to his brand of acting.

suresh kohli

Based on a script by K.K. Shukla with dialogue by Ramesh Pant, this Brij Sadanah film relies more on Raaj Kumar’s stylised acting

and Ashok Kumar’s naturalness than the kind of histrionics

the filmmaker displayed in some of his other productions…

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