Blast From The Past Friday Review

Aakhri Dao (1975)

Javed Akhtar

Javed Akhtar  

The best of storytellers can sometimes lose the plot. Indian cinema has seen the rise and fall of many script-writers who fell from grace after reaching the zenith. But few reached the heights that Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar did, giving their fans one hit after another, helping some actors reap a rich harvest.

The reputation of a script writer is made on the strength of his ability to create characters. In modern cinema, no actor/character

made a bigger impact than Gabbar Singh from Sholay. It confirmed the status of Salim-Javed as writers of immense value to the producers. They ensured the script played the dominant role and wove their characters to add to the value.

If films like Deewar and Sholay became a rage, the credit largely went to Salim-Javed. Every little character had a significant part in the narrative. It did not matter how much space you earned on the screen. What clicked was the character's contribution to maintain the pace of the movie.

1975 was a landmark year in Indian cinema. The cinegoers were flooded with hits and super hits like Aandhi, Amanush,

Chhoti Si Baat, Chupke Chupke, Deewar, Dharam Karam, Geet Gaata Chal, Jai Santoshi Maa, Mausam, Mili and, of course, Sholay. There was room for Shyam Benegal's classic Nishant, which dealt with sexual exploitation of women, as well.

Amidst all these diverse subjects, came A. Salaam’s “Aakhri Dao”. Salim-Javed lent their name to the little-known film which hit the screens when they were at their peak with blockbusters like “Zanjeer”, “Deewar” and “Yaadon Ki Baraa”t behind them. “Aakhri Dao” was not their most forgettable offering. There was Rajesh Khanna-starrer “Zamaana” as well that sank without trace. However, “Aakhri Dao”, based on the novel of the same name by renowned Hindi littérateur Bhagwati Charan Verma, managed to do some good business. Over the years, Verma’s works were adapted by many screenwriters but posterity would rate “Chitralekha” as the best adaptation of Verma’s literary genius. In “Aakhri Dao” , he seeks to explain the moral decline of middle-class man through the power of money. And, perhaps, it is this thought that man is controlled by his economic conditions that hooked Salim-Javed to the novel. Not to forget the charm of following a character who seems to have redeemed himself, getting sucked into the world of crime all over again for the greater good.

However, it didn’t turn out to be a layered script as expected from the duo. In fact, for Salim-Javed fans it would be hard to accept they could script a mediocre screenplay like “Aakhri Dao”. It also proves that filmmaking is a collaborative effort. With the advantage of hindsight, some analysts often claim the kind of taut and explosive scripts Salim-Javed wrote, any filmmaker with a basic understanding of the medium would have delivered. It is when you watch an “Akhri Dao” that you realise the value of a Ramesh Sippy and a Manmohan Desai.

Coming to nuts and bolts, there was little merit in the producers picking Jeetendra and Saira Banu for the lead roles. She was a misfit as the Reema, daughter of a rich estate owner, played by Satyen Kappu.

The estate owner is in need of a manager to run the affairs and Ravi (Jeetendra) lands the job as only a Hindi film hero can – needs no credential to convince his employer.

Ravi has a background. He is seeking refuge from a crime he has not committed. He possesses a remarkable quality. He can open any lock. All he needs is a hairpin. The good soul that he is, Ravi is conned into cracking a safe where Robert (Danny Dengzongpa) and Julie (Padma Khanna) murder the safe owner and frame Ravi for the crime.

On the run, Ravi stumbles upon the job and settles down to lead a peaceful life with Reena warming up to him as time progresses.

But the past returns as Robert and Julie blackmail him and compel Ravi to open another safe. Of course, he accomplishes the job with a flourish but the predictable climax leads to Ravi being absolved of the murder charge.

Jeetendra shares space with Danny, the good-looking negative character with Padma Khanna as his partner. But Saira Banu is a sore presence, looking to play the Rajkumari of Junglee, her debut film in 1961. She is not convincing. So is Ranjeet, the one-dimensional villain of Hindi cinema.

Danny strikes a lively pose, saving grace actually. Even the bankable Laxmikant Pyarelal could not tune into a lively experience. But the biggest disappointment is the pair of Salim and Javed. Even the best can sometimes look so mediocre. This was a perfect example.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 3:43:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Aakhri-Dao-1975/article16667488.ece

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