I love a good daku-drama, and Dara Singh makes one very satisfyingly manly dacoit (I mean, he is the guy who later carved “MARD” into his infant son’s chest). This film is surprisingly serious much of the time though, with an unexpected (at least to me) ending; it’s not his usual lighthearted type of stunt film although there is plenty of delicious fun to be had nonetheless. Director Mohammed Hussain has long been one of my more prolific and dependable favorites, having delivered the crazy likes of Faulad, Shikari, Main Hoon Aladdin, CID 909, Teesra Kaun, and on and on). For the cast he has roped in his usual stalwarts, including Helen as heroine and perpetually belligerent Shyam Kumar in a Prince Valiant wig. And of course, being a “B-movie” it has beautiful music too, with lively dances from the gorgeous Bela Bose, Madhumati and Rani, among others.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Thakur Pratap Singh (Amar) is a callous and arrogant man who drives his loyal servant Mangu (Jayant) to vengeance after he murders Mangu’s young son Nandu, shoving him against a stone pillar that cracks his little head open. (I’m skipping the scene where a gorgeous tiger is hunted down and shot because I prefer to forget about it, not that it’s worse than this.) Pratap Singh is not in the least sorry, either.
I’m right there with Mangu: conceal it? REALLY? Expecting someone to cover up his own child’s murder is a bit much, even from a man as loyal as Mangu.
Mangu spares the Thakur’s life, although he could easily have killed him, and takes to a life of banditry as Thakur Mangu Singh. He does maintain some of his former moral standards, however, allowing his men to burn and pillage but forbidding the rape and kidnapping of women (and distributing his spoils to the poor). Then one day the fair comes to town, a portent of dire consequences as well we know. I love the rickety rides operated by men instead of machinery, and am thrilled to see a Bela Bose song and dance.
Thakur Pratap Singh enjoys her dancing too, along with his own two young sons Jaichand and Prithvi; but as he drives home with his tired out boys that afternoon, Mangu seizes his opportunity. He snatches away younger son Jai at gunpoint, trading a son for a son, and takes him back to his hideout and his men.
As he gives a speech about the wealthy being worse dacoits than they are, exhorting them to steal from the rich and give to the poor, Daku Psychiatrist Balwant (Habib) busies himself with brainwashing young Jai.
Mangu changes Jai’s name to Thakur Jernail Singh, and he is brought up by the gang who teach him to shoot with deadly accuracy and to wrestle of course. I am so happy to see barrel-chested Shyam Kumar as fellow dacoit Shyam Singh, who is envious of Jernail Singh’s accomplishments and status as Mangu’s son. Meanwhile, Prithvi grows up to become a police officer (Sheikh Mukhtar) at his father’s urging: Pratap Singh has never given up hope of finding long-lost son Jai.
Prithvi is a talented police officer, and the local Police Superintendent (Madan Puri) assigns him the task of hunting down Mangu and Jernail Singh. The Superintendent has a beautiful daughter named Bina (Helen), who is introduced one day in the manner of just about all Dara heroines: he rescues
a stunt man wearing a head scarf her from her runaway horse.
Unlike most heroines he keeps from certain death, or at least broken bones, Bina is immediately smitten by her savior. He is wary of giving her any personal particulars, especially after she tells him who her father is. But they arrange to meet the next day and Jernail rides off to his next appointment, with a kotha dancer named Rajeshwari (Indira Billi). Rajeshwari is in love with Jernail, and doesn’t seem to notice that his responses are very lukewarm indeed. He uses her to get inside information about activities in the town which might be ripe for raiding.
The wedding procession includes Prithvi, dressed as a member of the band (another trope). When the dacoits attack the police spring into action, and by spring into action I mean fire off their weapons without hitting anything at point-blank range. Shyam Singh escapes with the screaming bride in tow, while Mangu ends up at his sister’s (Ratnamala) house. We discover that Pratap Singh had also long ago killed his sister’s husband, which begs the question of why he had remained loyal to him afterwards and not expected more tragedy? Khair.
Jernail Singh follows Shyam Singh in order to the rescue the kidnapped bride from him and his heavily armed men, and after some requisite fighting does so with the aid of conveniently marked boxes of gunpowder.
Mangu and Jernail are worried that there’s a plant inside their gang feeding information to Prithvi, who has become quite a thorn in their sides. They decide to set a trap for him by sending someone to invite him to a theater presentation (excuse for a song!), during which Jernail searches his home. I am not clear what he is searching for, but generally it seems to be an excuse for Jernail to unknowingly confront his real father.
And things at the theater don’t go well either: a suspicious Prithvi makes sure of that!
Mangu has been wounded and taken into custody.
Can Jernail Singh rescue his father? Will Prithvi be able to get the whereabouts of his brother out of Mangu? Will Bina still love Jernail when she discovers who he really is? What will tawaif Rajeshwari do when she discovers his romance with Bina? Will he and Prithvi ever figure out that they are brothers, or are they on a collision course that will end in tragedy? And most of all, will our barrel-chested Prince Valiant succeed in his quest for revenge?
Watch Thakur Jernail Singh to find out! And also for the songs and dances which really are fun, the horses—I really missed Gemma watching this, she would have been barking her head off—and the plot twists and turns still to come. Be prepared to be surprised! My only issue with the film is that Dara’s voice seems to have been dubbed by somebody else, and it’s not a voice that suits him.
But that’s a minor quibble compared to all the Goodness. Convoluted subtitles reign (and I am so very grateful for them):
and I never, ever, ever get tired of Shyam Singh, who fortunately never, ever, ever gives up even when he’s clearly out of his league.
It’s another winner from Mohammed Hussain and Dara Singh.