In the late 60s and early 70s, Bollywood witnessed a surge of new talent, who were to dominate the silver screen for decades to come. For male actors, this was in no small measure due to the pinnacle achieved by the formidable trio of Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, a vantage point from where change in their profile as leading heroes was inevitable.
Amongst this new breed of actors were Rakhee and Rakesh Roshan, the lead pair of “Aankhon Aankhon Mein” (AAM) , directed by Raghunath Jhalani and produced by J. Om Prakash, who went on to become father-in-law of Rakesh Roshan and maternal grandfather of the current heart throb, Hrithik Roshan. Although the lead pair impresses with their freshness, counterbalanced by the experience of seasoned players, including Tarun Bose, Raj Mehra, Krishan Dhawan and Achala Sachdev, Jhalani fails to prevent his actors from overacting at crucial points. This propensity to overact was aggravated by some really time-tested dialogues, penned by Ahsan Rizvi, which were quite in vogue in those days, but may seem utterly ludicrous to the current generation of movie buffs.
Also, Jhalani could have been more careful while handling Roshan and Rakhee — both novices — lest they did not go over the top. Especially in the case of Rakhee, whose performance and looks fluctuate from being stupendously radiant to being utterly mediocre. The consistency that was to become her hall mark in the coming years, as films like “Kabhie Kabhie”, “Daag” and “Tapasya” fell in her kitty, was missing in AAM. As for Roshan, he was average, especially as comparisons with the reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna become inevitable.
Ironically , AAM also bears the stamp associated with several films made during this period — of interspersing political and socialist snippets into the narrative, in the garb of regular dialogue. Thus, we have not so subtle references to nationalization of banks and insurance, besides family planning. A major part of the film’s story revolves around the benefits of constructing a hydro-electric dam, which will lead to submergence of entire village clusters and displacement of the associated populace, and destruction of their way of life — may be as a tribute to the Nehruvian ideals and to the temples of Modern India.
Undoubtedly, the strongest feature of the film is its pulsating music, composed by the maestro duo of Shankar-Jaikishen. Each of the songs — written by Hasrat Jaipuri and Verma Malik — is a gem, and adds to the pace of the film, with the pride of place going to the title track, “Aankhon Aankhon Mein”sung with verve and panache by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle.
The story and screenplay by Sachin Bhowmick do not provide anything new in terms of content. The basic premise of the story can be tracked to several earlier films, including Manoj Kumar’s “Upkaar”, although the setting may change from rural to urban or vice-versa. AAM, falling essentially in the genre of a romantic family drama, is about a wealthy and illustrious businessman, Kulwant Rai and his second wife, Shobha (Achala Sachdev) who dote on their elder son Rakesh (Rakesh Roshan). In fact Shobha loves Rakesh more than her real son, Naresh (Pankaj), who, encouraged by his maternal uncle is heavily into debauchery. Initially she stands by Rakesh as a rock, but after a slew of false accusations by Naresh, she expresses her displeasure, after which Rakesh leaves home to seek employment at a distant hydro-electric project.
Here, he is confronted by Parvati (Rakhee), daughter of the village Thakur (Pran) as reliable and natural as ever; holding a hookah in one hand and adjusting a full length shawl, carelessly slung over his shoulder, with the other. The hairdo of Pran could have been subtler as the large wig looks ludicrous and is not required to enhance or prop the performance of someone of Pran’s stature. An infuriated Parvati asks Rakesh to immediately leave site of the dam, but when the benefits are explained to her, she acquiesces and predictably the two fall in love. Thereon, Parvati is able to convince Thakur to allow Rakesh to proceed with the construction.
But there is a further twist in the tale, as Parvati’s long lost rich, city based grandfather turns up at Thakur’s door to claim custody. Yes! Parvati is not Thakur’s real daughter but he had reared her as his own kin after her parents met their end due to flash floods. From here, the dénouement is reached after a few predictable twists and turns, with some action sequences (including Dara Singh in a cameo), a remorseful Naresh, a disgraced maternal uncle, a doting mother and a happily united couple.
As was the case in those days, characters were distinctly characterised into straitjackets like the hero (an epitome of virtue), the heroine (demure and beautiful), the villain (nasty), the vamp (cunning) and the comedian (mainly a buffoon). In AAM, V. Gopal and Tun Tun (to a lesser extent) are there to provide comic relief. However, the screen time given to V.Gopal is far too much, especially when the comedy in some scenes is limited to his antics with his donkey. The blame needs to be apportioned to Pratap Dave also, who wielded the scissors, as he could easily have pruned the running time of the film by half an hour.
Post Script: Unfortunately, both Jaikishen and Tarun Bose died before the film was released.
Genre: Family drama
Director: Raghunath Jhalani
Cast: Rakesh Roshan, Rakhee Gulzar, Pran, Achala Sachdev, Tarun Bose, Dara Singh, Tun Tun, Jayshree T, V. Gopal
Dialogue: Ahsan Rizvi
Story and Screenplay: Sachin Bhowmick
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri and Verma Malik
Box office status: Hit