starring Shammi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Neetu Singh, Amjad Khan, Kader Khan, Indrani Mukherjee

Bollywood has always thrived on tried and tested formula, with different permutations and combinations. One of these is ‘good will sire good and bad will sire bad’. The underlying theme of Manmohan Desai’s films emphasised the fact that it is circumstances and destiny that govern an individual’s action — no one is born good or bad. Here the factor is emphasised through the actions of the two con sisters with whom the heroes eventually fall in love. This Manmohan Desai directorial venture for producer A.A. Nadiadwala was no different. And not surprisingly it grossed a whopping Rs.3,75,00,000 in its very first run, and was Desai’s third of four releases in the same year. It also brought Shammi Kapoor out of a self-imposed retirement as a character actor. It has seven Majrooh Sultanpuri lyrics set to music by the highest paid composers of the time, Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Produced under the banner of AG Films, it had a story idea by Mrs J.M. Desai expanded into a screenplay by Prayag Raj and K.K. Shukla while Kader Khan contributed the pedestrian dialogue.

A senior cop, Shamsher Singh (Shammi Kapoor) adopts the son of bandit Mangal Singh (Amjad Khan) because of a promise to the latter’s dying wife. Out of jail 20 years later, Mangal Singh is informed about his son. He pleads with the cop to return his son but the latter refuses. A misunderstanding leads the officer’s biological son, Kishen (Vinod Khanna), to believe he is the bandit’s son, and under his tutelage takes up a secret life of crime, while outwardly teaching the young in a school for the blind. Meanwhile, the adopted son, Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) becomes an officer of the law who one day learns about the criminal activities of Kishen and informs Shamsher, now Police Commissioner, about it. On the personal front, he falls in love with one of the pickpocket sisters — orphans Shabu (ShabanaAzmi) and Neetu (Neetu Singh) — who have an agenda of their own to settle scores with Mangal, now an international smuggler working for Supremo (Kader Khan) who operates from a submarine!

Like any other Desai outing, it is a paisa vasool fun story, complete with gags, gadgets, twists and turns that keep the audience glued to the action on the screen. As usual the heroines are there for song-and-dance to keep the romantic angle in place. Shabana tries her best to look convincing as a trickster running all over the Mumbai streets; Neetu is good as the bubbly, ebullient pickpocket; Vinod Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan play their roles with usual competence: the former shows a different side of his personality by under-playing a school teacher for the blind, while the latter excels through restraint and poise as a cop. Shammi Kapoor is impressive in patches, though the script provides limited scope; Kader Khan looks more a jester than an international gangster. Amjad Khan adds nothing to his standard oeuvre.

Some of Majrooh’s easy-on-the ear lyrics turn out to be hummable, though they could have been better tuned, especially ‘ Hum Premi Prem Karna Jane ’ (Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar), ‘ Aji Thairo Zara Dekho ’ (Asha Bhosle, Amit Kumar, Shailendra Singh, Aarti Mukherjee), and the qawwali ‘ Sambhal Jao Zara ’ (Lata and Usha Mangeshkar), though some more effort could have gone into picturising it.

Others, ‘ Sab Janta ka Hai ’ (Lata and Usha Mangshkar), ‘ Bandh Aankh se Dekh Tamasha Duniya ka ’ (Kishore and chorus), ‘ Aaiye Shauk se Kahiye ’ (Kishore-Asha), ‘ Jaate ho Jaane Jaana Akhri Salaam lete Jaana ’ (Asha-Amit-Aarti-Shailendra Singh) have been shot and placed routinely.

suresh kohli

The underlying theme of Desai’s films emphasised that it is circumstances and destiny that govern an individual’s action — no one is born good or bad.