His films would begin with the alphabet ‘A’ but that was not a ticket to success in a world where many factors contribute to make cinema look good. For J. Om Prakash, film making was a passion, turning a director with “Aap Ki Kasam”, starring Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz, after having produced some hits like “Aas Ka Panchi” (1961), “Ayee Milan Ki Bela” (1964) and “Aaye Din Bahar Ke” (1966). He was to bring Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen in that 1975 classic political drama, “Aandhi”, supposed to have been inspired by the life of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. His first three movies were marked by a fine cast and music. “Aandhi” ranks among Sanjeev Kumar’s best, not to forget the compelling performance of Suchitra Sen with some unforgettable music by R.D. Burman.
By the time Om Prakash conjured up “Apnapan”, the state of Indian cinema was in a process of transition. Rajesh Khanna’s charm was on decline and Amitabh Bachchan occupied the top slot. The emphasis was on movies that had violence and music had taken a back seat. For Om Prakash, to have invested in Jeetendra, Reena Roy and Sulakshana Pandit, must have been a bold decision. The trio certainly was not an inspiring recipe for classy stuff. But then they came together to give Om Prakash a hit. He could count “Aasha”, with Reena Roy as the central character, as a hit in subsequent years but Om Prakash was clearly out of sync with what the audience demanded.
Jeetendra and Sulakshana formed a mature pair. So did Reena Roy and Jeetendra. This was a movie with music as its weakest link and a story that was hardly going to captivate. But surprisingly the film appealed to the fans much to the delight of those involved in its making. “Aadmi Musafir Hai” was an exceptional song even as the rest were eminently forgettable. There was little to rave about this movie in terms of quality but intriguingly it made an impression on the fans to qualify as a hit.
“Apnapan” drives home the pain that separation brings to a married couple. Anil (Jeetendra) and Kamini (Reena Roy) fail to give direction to their life. The husband demands attention and the wife looks to indulge in materialistic comforts of the world. In the process they drift apart and the mother leaves her one-year-old son Prakash (Master Bittu) and walks out of Anil’s life.
Looking to re-establish his career, Anil moves to Bombay. Prakash is left in the care of a boarding school while Anil encounters Radhika (Sulakshana) and finds his love. They marry but it is before Anil reveals his past. Radhika accepts Prakash as her son and transforms Anil’s life with her caring nature.
Circumstances bring Radhika in association with Kamini during a trip to Srinagar. Predictably the mother discovers her son, now a six year old, and pangs of separation and leading a sad life with an ageing and rich husband shatter Kamini’s pride. It is too late for redemption of her marriage and she accepts things in the spirit. Within, Kamini is a changed woman but Anil has moved on, happily married to Radhika, who is a doting mother to Prakash.
There is a very special appearance by Sanjeev Kumar as a doctor afflicted with cancer. His part is not essential to the story line but his cameo stands out. The credit of doing justice to the role goes to Reena Roy. She lives the role of a woman who goes astray in search of worldly comforts and then comes to grief on encountering her son and being repeatedly reprimanded by her husband Kishan Agarwal (Iftikhar).
The director manages to get the best out of Reena Roy. Known to be Jeetendra and Shatrughan Sinha’s leading lady, she accepted a variety of roles in her career and here she gives a decent account of her prowess without having to indulge in dance numbers. She was forced to share space with Sulakshana but there was never any doubt about her presence on the screen. Reena Roy was a few notches above Jeetendra and Sulakshana in this movie.
For Sulakshana, this was an opportunity to showcase her acting skills after featuring in two hits – “Uljhan” and “Hera Pheri”. She was caught in a battle to establish herself and paid the price for not sticking to her original love, singing. The widespread appreciation in 1975 for “Tu Hi Saagar Hai Tu Hi Kinara” from “Sankalp” was a deserving honour but she failed to grow against some stiff competition in the industry. One thought she was at her best in the duet with Bhupinder Singh – “Boliye Surili Boliyaan” from “Grihpravesh” (1979) – sung with a touch of melody but she was lost in the maze of glamour and make-believe world of cinema.
“Apnapan” is about a simple tale, measured performances and a decent climax where the mother leaves her son in the custody of another ‘mother’, the maturity of the issue leaving a mark on the audience.
Genre: Social drama
Director: J. Om Prakash
Cast: Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Reena Roy, Sulakshana Pandit, Aruna Irani, Iftekhar, Pinchoo Kapoor, Sudhir Dalvi
Written by: Kishore Sahu
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Box office status: Hit
Trivia: Reena Roy refused to accept the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award on the ground that she was female lead and not supporting actress. The film also won Filmfare Best Lyricist Award.