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Haath ki Safai (1974)

suresh kohli
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starring Vinod Khanna, Randhir Kapoor, Hema Malini, Simi Garewal, Ranjeet, Satyen Kappu

A poster of Haath ki Safai
A poster of Haath ki Safai

He was more dashing and debonair than many of the other heroes of his times yet, paradoxically, he made his screen debut as a villain in the Sunil Dutt-directed Man ka Meet . But it did not long take him long to attain his deserved position as a leading actor in the 1970s, beginning with Gulzar’s “Mere Apne”, in particular — before suddenly abandoning all the adulation to become Rajneesh’s gardener in the U.S., returning years later to successfully regain his place amongst the mortal Bollywood stars. And although he has worked in nearly 150 films both as a leading man and a character artiste, it was only in this Prakash Mehra-directed film that Vinod Khanna won his first and only Filmfare trophy, albeit as Best Supporting Actor.

It is a familiar lost-and-found melodrama involving two brothers separated when young: One short tempered, easy-to-be lured younger one, Raj (Randhir Kapoor, later Raju Tardeo) and the senior peace-loving, honesty-personified Shankar (Vinod Khanna, later also Kumar saheb).

While the younger grown up turns out to be street-smart pickpocket, the older one is a sophisticated boss of a crime conglomerate. Their paths cross when Shankar manages to outsmart Raju and takes charge of the runaway ostensibly rich girl Kamini (Hema Malini) with whom it was also a love-at-first sight. She runs away from the marriage mandap, leaving bad man Ranjeet (Ranjeet) who married her for her supposed fortune — flaunting which her uncle had been borrowing money from him.

Although Randhir Kapoor was the bigger hero, the suave Vinod Khanna stole the show. Ranjeet did his standard act with a fair amount of flourish that the script provided; Satyen Kappu’s was the usual act.

Shankar is married to the tall, graceful Roma (Simi Garewal) who thinks her husband is the finest man on earth. While escaping from Shankar’s henchmen, Kamini unknowingly takes refuge in Shankar’s house, and recognising Shankar from his photograph divulges his truth to a pregnant Roma who after an altercation with her husband goes to the railway track to commit suicide, but not before gifting her favourite shawl to a beggar who gets crushed under a speeding train, giving the impression that it was Roma whose body had been lifted in an unrecognisable form. In reality she is saved by Raju, who also gives her refuge in his chawl where she eventually gives birth to a baby. In contrast, a loony, repentant, reformed Shankar takes up cudgels with Ranjeet by not only keeping Kamini in his palatial house but by refusing to fulfil his commitment. While Shankar agrees to indulge in his last act of crime, Raju overhearing the conversation, and to take revenge for all his humiliation, informs the police.

Only a few of the songs by music directors Kalyanji-Anandji, with lyrics by Gulshan Bawra, were memorable, like ‘Wada karle sajana’ (Lata Mangeshkar-Mohammed Rafi) superbly choreographed by the team of Kamal and Satyanarayan and beautifully picturised in the vintage Kashmir landscape on Vinod and Simi, who also gives a sterling performance while Hema Malini goes twinkle-footed in ‘Tu kya jaane o bewafa (Lata Mangeshkar) and ‘Peene wale to peeneka bahana chahiye (Kishore-Hema). There is also the brisk, pacy ‘Hum ko mohabbat ho gayi hai’ (Lata-Kishore) and “Ooperwale teri duniya mein” (Mahendra Kapoor).

This was an early Salim-Javed script, weak and patchy, and scenes were blatantly lifted from old hits. Much of the dialogue is uninspired. Still, the film was a hit. Produced by I.A. Nadiadwala, the film had art direction by Melendra Shetty, fights by S. Azim, superb cinematography by Sachin Majumdar, competent editing by R.D. Mahalik.

It was later remade in Telugu as Manushulu Chesina Dongalu (1976).

suresh kohli

Although Randhir Kapoor was the bigger hero, the suave Vinod Khanna stole the show.


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