The decade starting 1970 was a game changer in Bollywood with the reign of the triumvirate of Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor drawing to a close. In came a freckled young man, Rajesh Khanna, and redefined the word 'star' in Hindi cinema with unprecedented fan following. Soon after came Amitabh Bachchan and our cinema was never the same.
By the time ‘Warrant’ was released in 1975, Dev Anand, then on the wrong side of 50, was working mainly in films produced under his banner, Navketan and his own direction. It was a rarity that he worked for an outside production house (NP Films) and director, in this case Pramod Chakravorty, (who had given hits like ‘Tumse Achha Kaun Hai’, ‘Love in Tokyo’ and ‘Ziddi’). He was probably attracted by the story, penned by Sachin Bhoumick (who also wrote the screenplay; dialogues by Vrajendra Gaur do add spunk to the proceedings) and the genre, thriller/action/musical, although it was certainly not his forte. Or maybe it was the changing diktat of the box office which made him take up the challenge.
The film starts with a jail break, planned and executed by hardened criminals in central jail. The misdemeanour is about to bear fruit, but as the prisoners reach the main gate of the jail, they are confronted by the fearless jailer, Arun Mehra (Dev Anand) who exhorts them to retreat to the barracks. While most of them relent, a small group led by Jaggu (Joginder) tries to break free after trying to knock off Mehra. But fate has something else in store. Dinesh (Satish Kaul), a death row inmate, intervenes in the melee to save Mehra in the nick of time, earning the opprobrium of Jaggu and his cohorts. Meanwhile, reinforcements, led by Inspector General Mehra (Pran, as Dev Anand’s father) arrive and the father praises his son for the exemplary act of bravery.
Thereon, an indebted jailer firmly believes in the innocence of Dinesh and vows to prove his innocence and save him from the gallows. In an act of bravado, he facilitates Dinesh’s escape from prison, earning the wrath of the police force, led by the IG and underworld don (Ajit) who has his own reasons to keep the truth under wraps. In his endeavour to unravel the truth, the jailer has to earn the trust of Rita Verma (Zeenat Aman) who is on her mission seeking revenge for Professor Ashok Verma’s death, for which she holds Dinesh, and the jailer guilty. The story unravels to an interesting denouement, which is better seen than written about.
Despite his trademark histrionics, Anand fails to recreate magic, paired against the petite, but much younger Zeenat Aman. The surreal aura of ‘Tere Ghar Ke Saamne’ (with Nutan), ‘Guide ’ (with Waheeda Rehman), ‘Hum Dono ’ (Nanda and Sadhna) and many more was missing. Although he dons different looks in the film – to escape the dragnet closing in on him – the mannerisms, which vowed the audience over decades, remain the same and give a feeling of déjà vu.
There can be no denying the fact that the legion of fans which Anand had, remained loyal to him, and were ever ready to watch his films. This can probably be the only justification why Warrant , pitted against super hits like ‘Sholay’, ‘Deewar’, ‘Pratigya’and ‘Prem Kahani’ was the ninth highest grosser of 1975.
It is rather surprising that despite the redoubtable V.K. Murthy wielding the camera, cinematography of the film is lacklustre. The use of lighting, for which Murthy is celebrated, leaves a lot to be desired. The less than average art direction of Shanti Dass can be a plausible reason. The editing, by Narendra Arora, is slick and gives suitable momentum to the proceedings, and is a redeeming feature of ‘Warrant’.
So was RD Burman’s music, who deserves kudos for composing music that is eclectic, and offers variety. While “ Rook rook jana o jaana humse do baate karke chali jaana ” (sung by Kishore Kumar) has Western beats, “ Ladi nazariya ladi ”, is inspired by a Punjabi number and “ Sun bhai barati ” (Kishore Kumar) has a desi tadka to it. Lyrics of the songs showcase Anand Bakshi’s acumen to mould his pen as per demands of the scene.
Zeenat Aman, who was discovered by Anand just a few years earlier in the iconic ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’, looks straitjacketed and stifled with the chutzpah missing. Even in song and dance sequences she doesn’t look riveting, despite having set the screen on fire many a times with her oomph (perhaps a shortcoming of the chorographer Suresh Bhatt). The vital chemistry between a leading man and lady is sorely missing- the pairing decidedly looks out of place.
The strong support cast, led by Pran, and including Ajit, Sulochana, Dara Singh, Jankidass and Sujit Kumar is dependable as ever. And now a true “blast from the past” as the action coordinator of the film is Veeru Devgun, father of ‘Singham’ Ajay Devgn.
Director: Pramod Chakravorty
Cast: Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman, Pran, Dara Singh,Ajit, Satish Kaul, Lalita Pawar, Jagdish Raj, Joginder, Madan Puri, Sujit Kumar, Viju Khote
Story and screenplay: Sachin Bhowmick
Dialogues: Vrajendra Gaur
Music director: R.D. Burman
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
Box office status: Hit
Trivia: Pran who acted as Dev Anand's father was only three years older to the latter