Blast from the Past Friday Review

Paraya Dhan (1971)

Rajendra Bhatia’s “Paraya Dhan” cemented Hema Malini’s screen image Photo Hindu Photo Archives   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

If ever a proof was required of the appropriateness of Hema Malini being labelled as the ultimate ‘Dream Girl’ it is available abundantly in the Rajendra Bhatia-directed “Paraya Dhan”, released barely three years after her flop debut (in which she was cast with the Raj Kapoor). In “Paraya Dhan” she looks as fresh as the pristine brooks of Kulu-Manali where the film was shot extensively (credit to cinematographer KH Kapadia for breathtaking visuals). Her amazing grace, nimbleness and glow on the face make her screen presence matchless.

The film had several factors going in its favour –– Bhatia’s commendable direction; Nand Kumar’s editing lending it adequate pace with hardly a dull or boring moment; Bansi Chandragupta’s art direction which was ahead of its times and exudes finesse.

The story by Sudhendhu Roy is not run of the mill. It has a novel structure to it, around which Ved Rahi is able to weave an interesting screenplay of situations and characters. The only drawback in the entire story is the unnecessary introduction of Om Prakash for some comic relief (cast as a good for nothing Gangaram, whose only vocation is to read newspaper clippings to village folks in the chaupal). With barely three scenes to his credit, it is a total waste of his stature and talent.

Usually, no credit was given to the stunt director, until recently, when the level of action sequences has improved exponentially over the 70s and 80s. In “Paraya Dhan”, the contribution of Shetty, the stunt composer (father of Rohit Shetty who despite his brawn was beaten black and blue by the hero), cannot be understated, especially in the bamboo stick martial games Hema Malini plays with her school friends. Even the dénouement, with a reasonable amount of action, is suitably choreographed.

The film has a superb music score, composed by the maverick top-notch composer RD Burman to lyrics penned by Anand Bakshi. The songs raise the film’s commercial value by several notches including –– “Aao Jhoomein Gaayein” (Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar), “Aaj Unse Pehli Mulaqat Hogi” (Kishore Kumar), “Holi Re Holi” (Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey).

As for the story, it starts with a group of brigands led by Hiralal (Ajit) looting the car of a Delhi-based wealthy man, Jwala Sahay (Abhi Bhattacharya). In the ensuing gun battle between the police and the brigands, Sahay’s wife gets killed, leaving her small daughter and plenty of jewellery in the hands of Govindram, a henchman of Hiralal. Balraj Sahni who essayed Hiralal’s role shines changing his personality several times in the approximately two hour-long film. He is a different man as a bandit, then as a caring and toiling father of a girl and finally the village patriarch in search for a suitable groom for his daughter.

Swayed by the plea in the eyes of Sahay’s wife, Govindram escapes with the toddler (Rajini) and settles in Kulu-Manali rearing her as his own daughter without ever disclosing her of the past.

The twist in the film takes place when Rajini’s wedding is finalised with Shankar (Rakesh Roshan), son of a landowner Hiralal, who escapes from the prison threatening to spill the beans on Rajini and wanting the hidden booty. In the ensuing melee, Govindram is murdered, leading a devastated Rajini to believe that Hiralal is her long lost uncle. Finally, truth dawns, leading to a dénouement in which Rajini comes face to face with her biological father, Sahay. After Hiralal is killed, she requests her father to keep the Govindram’s past a secret to which he readily agrees.

There is only one jarring note in the film. Twice, Hema Malini is shown swimming which was totally unnecessary as these scenes neither add any depth to the story nor do they take it any forward. And if they were for titillation, then they were way behind Raj Kapoor’s proclivity for skin display.

Genre: Social drama

Director: Rajendra Bhatia

Cast: Hema Malini, Rakesh Roshan, Balraj Sahni, Jayshree T, Abhi Bhattacharya, Achala Sachdev, Ajit, Om Prakash

Story: Sudhendu Roy

Screenplay: Ved Rahi

Dialogue: S. Khalil

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Music: R.D. Burman

Box office status: Hit

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 12:27:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/paraya-dhan-1971/article8504926.ece

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