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Hera Pheri (1976)

SURESH KOHLI
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Amitabh Bachchan, Saira Banu, Vinod Khanna, Sulakshana Pandit, Shreeram Lagoo, Asrani, Goga Kapoor, Mac Mohan, Padma Khanna

Appears disinterested in his roleShreeram LagooTHE HINDU ARCHIVES
Appears disinterested in his roleShreeram LagooTHE HINDU ARCHIVES

The Bollywood grapevine had it that director Prakash Mehra, who co-produced the film with producer Satyendra Pal Chowdhry, wanted to cast the dashing relative newcomer Feroz Khan with Amitabh Bachchan in this crime-and-intrigue drama, but because the former refused to work on Sundays, he was replaced with the popular and ruggedly handsome Vinod Khanna.

It was also rumoured that when approached, Khanna only agreed when the producers acquiesced to his demand of not only equal footage with Amitabh Bachchan, but also a remuneration that was a lakh of rupees higher than Bachchan’s 1.5 lakhs.

This was first of the six films in which the two leading stars of the day worked together, the others being B.R. Chopra’s Zameer (1975); Manmohan Desai directed Parvarish and Amar Akbar Anthony (‘77); Prakash Mehra’s Muqaddar ka Sikandar (‘78); and Raakesh Kumar’s Khoon Pasina (’77) — in a span of two-and-a-half years.

Vinod received the Filmfare nomination for the Best Supporting Actor that eventually went to Shreeram Lagoo (who had also starred in the film) for Gharonda . Vijay Kaul’s taut script, tossing up surprises all through the film suitably backed by a somewhat beyond-the-ordinary dialogue by Satish Bhatnagar (imagine the main heroine appearing mid-way through the narrative), was coupled with good action scenes (comical relief through fight sequences), tight editing by K.H. Mayekar and simple cinematography by the redoubtable N. Satyen. Anjaan and Indivar’s hummable lyrics were set to music by Kalyanji Anandji.

The two leading ladies, Saira Banu (playing Kiran Singh) opposite Bachchan and Sulakshna Pandit (playing Asha), opposite Khanna have little to do, especially the latter. However, Saira looks effervescent, stunning in a limited role, and performs well. Pandit is passable.

Khanna is his usual competent self, and rises to the occasion frame-by-frame against the more versatile Bachchan who provides yet another dimension of drunkenness that he first demonstrated in Do Anjane the same year.

Pinchoo Kapoor is okay, as also the subsidiary cast. Unfortunately, Asrani is wasted. Shriram Lagoo as the Police Commissioner runs through his role disinterestedly. Stunts are limited to a bare minimum, though fights and fisticuffs are in abundance.

There is little scope for romance, and it has been sensibly kept that way to keep the narrative engaging. However, all the songs, rendered by Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Mahendra Kapoor and Asha Bhosle are hummable, especially the latter’s naughty one picturised on Padma Khanna in the casino sequence.

On the surface, there is nothing fresh in the basic plot line. It is deft handling by the director that saves the day. The narration opens with two conmen, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and Ajay (Vinod Khanna) who, though friends, put up a mock fight inside an Irani hotel to fool others. The scene then shifts to a casino, where Ajay again successfully cons the opponent through card sharping. The breakup between friends takes place when Vijay discovers that Ajay’s long lost father named PK, now masquerading as Seth Ghanshyam Das, the crime kingpin, is actually his own dad’s killer. Ajay ostensibly sides with his father until he discovers the truth, and surprises even Vijay with his actions towards the extended climax.

SURESH KOHLI

Saira looks stunning in a limited role, and performs well.

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