I watched this film in the hopes of seeing some Dharmendra-Tanuja magic, but sadly Tanuja didn’t have much to do. However, Dharmendra had a double role, so: two of him! Never a bad thing, although it didn’t much help the movie, which was cliched and ham-fisted to begin with and descended into over-acting and melodrama by the end. The basic theme has to do with class division; Dharmendra plays both the legitimate and the illegitimate sons of a Thakur who has an extramarital affair with a tribal girl.
The only difference in appearance between the two sons is somewhat hilariously (but increasingly tiresomely) delineated by their skin color, the legitimate son naturally being fair and his lower caste half-brother dark. For some reason, Dharmendra gets darker and darker as the film goes on too, so that by the end he looks like he has been roasted on a spit.
The film starts with Shekhar, the illegitimate son, returning home from college to find his mother dead.
Before dying, she asked the village priest (Manmohan Krishna) to tell Shekhar about his father, Thakur Pratap Singh (Balraj Sahni) from Ramgarh. The Thakur had refused to marry her even though she was pregnant because her status was too low. Shekhar vows to avenge his mother’s ill-treatment and sets off for Ramgarh. Father Ibrahim, worried that something bad will happen, sends Shekhar’s friend Mahesh (Mehmood) after him.
Shekhar arrives at the Thakur’s mansion in Ramgarh only to be greeted as “Bhaiyya!” by the Thakur’s daughter Neelu (Sunita), whose birthday party is in full swing. She is momentarily confused by the darkness of his skin color. I am confused by her confusion because he doesn’t really look that dark (yet).
Everyone else agrees with Neelu, although they attribute it to being his party fancy-dress. This point is hammered home with the force of a heavy blunt object.
At Neelu’s request, he sings a bitter song about hypocrisy while the guests do a happy little cha-cha-cha, which in the hands of a good filmmaker may have been a nice touch of irony, but here is just amusingly incongruous. Afterwards, she asks for his brotherly blessings and he clasps her to his heaving bosom. This is followed by scenes of a dilemma as Shekar thinks about the ramifications of his vengeful plan while his father’s portrait and awesomely kitschy statues flash before his eyes: must.take.revenge..must…not….let….sisterly….love…..stop…must…..uhhhh…
The next day he meets Dilip, his lookalike brother, who is astonished, but only for a minute. He gives Shekhar a recommendation letter to take to the estate manager.
On his way to see the estate manager, Shekhar runs into a pretty tribal girl named Jhumki (Jayalalitha) who sings and dances around him. She’s upset when he says he doesn’t know her.
The estate manager greets him obsequiously but is a little puzzled too.
Shekhar clears up the misunderstanding, and the estate manager hires him and sends him off to the Thakur’s guest house to settle in. Meanwhile, Shekhar’s friend Mahesh has finally made it to Ramgarh, and he goes right past the guard at the gate of the Pratap Singh’s mansion.
The Thakur wants Dilip to go and see a girl he’s picked out for him to marry. Dilip doesn’t want to; he’s actually in love with the tribal girl Jhumki and wants to marry her, but sadly—although he’s as fair as a sack of flour—he has no courage to stand up to his autocratic father.
When Mahesh mistakes him for Shekhar (noting how white he has gotten), it gives Dilip an idea. He asks Shekhar if he will go and visit the girl and her family, posing as him. After all, there’s nothing his father can do if they don’t like him.
Shekhar feels bad at the thought of deceiving a decent girl until it occurs to him that ruining Dilip’s arranged marriage will be an excellent way to avenge himself on the Thakur. It will have a certain symmetry.
Of course, what he hasn’t counted on is that he’ll find the girl, Deepa (Tanuja), absolutely lovely. She’s intelligent, beautiful, and well-read. Shekhar picks up her copy of Shakespeare’s plays and discusses it with her.
Another big oops: she likes him too! She says gently that appearance is nothing compared to virtues, and that she’s very pleased to find that he’s not just the shallow son of a rich man. He shouldn’t worry about the color of his skin.
Uh-oh. If he stops worrying about his skin color, what will the film do for a script? Back in Ramgarh, Dilip continues to romance Jhumki, and Mahesh strikes up a romance with one of the Thakur’s housemaids, Gangi (Laxmi Chhaya). This is naturally the Comic Side Plot, since another servant played by Mukri is in love with her too.
Mahesh also accidentally spills the revenge beans to the Thakur since Father Ibrahim failed to give him any details on who exactly Shekhar was going after. In Shekhar’s absence, Dilip has rubbed coal on his face and hands and then pretended to do work at the office (much like I do, except for the coal part). When his office staff inform Pratap Singh that a Dilip lookalike has come to work at the estate, Pratap Singh starts to put the pieces together.
Shekhar and Deepa’s attraction is blossoming.
How can this possibly go wrong? Can Shekhar confess the truth to her? Will she still love him? What about Jhumki and the real Dilip? Can society accept their relationship? Has the Thakur figured out that he has another son? What will he do?
To find out, and to see Dharmendra turning orange, watch Izzat if you must. Or, ask me and spare yourself the wasting of two and a half hours you will never get back (after all, I watch crappy movies so that you don’t have to).
Edited to add: I didn’t realize there would be so much interest in Jayalalitha’s presence, but there are a lot of comments below referring to her. The songs are growing on me, although they were overshadowed by the badness of the film. Laxmikant-Pyarelal composed the music and the eminent Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the lyrics, and fortunately they were subtitled too! Here are two screen caps of Jayalalitha’s two songs (she is a lovely dancer).