Pratiggya (1975)

A little Dharmendra withdrawal prompted me to watch this film yesterday. It has a massive Sholay hangover, except it’s mostly a comedy: sort of a Keystone Cops meets Sholay and vomits up Pratiggya. Nevertheless, it’s good fun and had me laughing on more than one occasion. Johnny Walker, Jagdeep and Keshto Mukherjee display their comedic skills as cowardly villagers, Dharmendra plays a hard-drinking, illiterate truck-driver-turned-cop, and Hema a sharpshooting, tart-tongued village belle.

Ajit Singh (Dharmendra) is transporting a merchant and his goods to their destination one night, when he learns that his mother is dying. Abandoning his customer at a truck stop, he rushes home, where his mother confesses to him that she is not his real mother.

His real family—father Devendra Singh, mother and two older siblings—were murdered by the dacoit Bharat (Ajit) in revenge for Bharat’s brother’s hanging at the hands of Devendra Singh, who was a Superintendent of Police. Bharat is a fan of Tonto and the Lone Ranger (okay, I made that up).

The maidservant escaped with the baby—Ajit—and brought him up as her own. Ajit promises her that he will return to his home village to seek revenge and she dies.

Unfortunately the man whose goods he has inadvertently run off with has filed a police complaint, and Ajit’s friends arrive to tell him that the police are looking for him. He jumps into his truck and speeds off.

The next morning he is woken up by a two villagers out hunting: a mute accompanied by a pretty girl (Hema Malini).

He asks for directions to Dinapur, the village where Bharat Daku hangs out. The girl immediately assumes that he wants to join the bandits, and gives him a piece of her mind. She refuses to tell him where Dinapur is and they have a little argument before she and the mute drive off in their caravan. As they go through town they see a man distributing wanted posters and recognize a description of Ajit, but keep going.

Luckily after catching a glimpse of himself in the river, Ajit has sought out a barber and gotten a haircut and a shave. He gets directions to Dinapur and sets off. On the way, he comes across a fierce battle as a bunch of dacoits attack a police convoy. When the smoke clears and the bandits have escaped, only the Inspector is left alive, and he is badly wounded.

He has managed to save a truck from being looted; it is filled with machine guns and hand grenades. He tells Ajit that he and his men were on their way to set up a police station in Dinapur so that they could nab Bharat Daku. He gives Ajit responsibility for the weapons and the truck and dies.

In Dinapur we meet the local hooch-seller, a scoundrel named Thekedhar (Johnny Walker), and his assistant Kaana (Jagdeep). Their (unlicensed) liquor den is filled with local men talking about the shoot-out until Thekedhar spots a police truck rolling into town. They scatter.

Ajit has transformed himself!—sort of. To Thekedhar’s relief, he asks for a bottle of booze and proceeds to down it. Ajit asks about Bharat and Thekedhar tells Ajit that he lives in the forest, although his niece Radha lives in the village. She’s beautiful, a bit of a do-gooder and hates her uncle—and hangs around with a mute guy.

Then Ajit tells him that he will put the police station right here next to the liquor store. Horrified at the thought of what that will do to his business, Thekedhar makes a huge mistake.

I just love the rainbow assortment of liquor bottles. Anyway, Ajit overhears him and ties him and Kaana up as an example to the other villagers; then he passes out.

He is awakened the next morning by the same girl—whom he now knows is Radha, Bharat’s niece, and her friend Bhiku the mute. Radha is thrilled to see what he’s done with the unscrupulous Thekedhar.

She tells Ajit that Bhiku’s tongue was cut out by Bharat after he filed a complaint with the police (Bharat and his men had abducted his wife). She acknowledges that Bharat is her uncle, but says that her father had not followed that path; in fact, he was the informant who turned in his brother to Devendra Singh. Ajit asks Bhiku if he will join him and Bhiku happily accepts.

Radha has a visitor when she reaches home: her brother.

He is a member of Bharat’s gang. Radha confirms the Inspector’s presence in the town. Meanwhile, some of the villagers have rescued Thekedhar and Kaana, and Ajit puts them to work setting up the police chowki. Kaana asks Ajit if he can be a policeman too, but the other villagers want nothing to do with it. Especially vocal in his opposition is the town drunk, Chandi (Keshto Mukherjee).

Then the dacoits attack Dinapur to get at Ajit. He (accidentally) successfully fights them off using some of his hand grenades:

I am worried that they are using real people and horses for the action:

It’s a little TOO realistic!

As the bandits flee, the villagers go wild with glee and sign up for the force in droves. An old blind man stumbles forward asking about one of the dead dacoits. He is Shivkaka (Nazir Hussain), who was Devendra Singh’s right-hand man and the only other survivor of that terrible night when Ajit’s family was massacred. When Ajit realizes who Shivkaka is, he reminds us all why he’s there.

One villager remains loyal to Bharat Daku, however. Chandi tells him how all the villagers are joining the Inspector.

Bharat (who hasn’t changed his Tonto look in 25 years) tells him to sign up for the police to act as his spy, and vows to drive the police from Dinapur.

Meanwhile, the real police in a nearby city are wondering why they haven’t heard from their man, and they send a havaldar to enquire. Ajit manages to send him off satisfied, but how long can an illiterate truck driver pretend to be an educated Police Inspector? How can he train his new recruits when he himself has no idea what he’s doing?

Will Chandi’s spying sabotage all their efforts? Will Ajit be arrested for theft? Or will they manage to drive the dacoits away from their village?

Watch Pratiggya to find out. Despite a few lapses into maudlin sentiment and scenery-chewing, it is a good solid comedy and an opportunity to see some legendary comedians of Hindi cinema at work.

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12 Comments to “Pratiggya (1975)”

  1. Teehee at the actomactic machi gun! Gotta get me one of those. :-) You’re right about the explosion involving the horse and rider, though… eeeewww.

  2. Yes, the way he said it was really funny (it’s not a subtitle error for once!)…very cute film, except for the exploding horses :-(

  3. Thanks for this review, it looks good! And yes, according to your screen capture, that horse scene is suspiciously realistic. I wonder what the international statute of limitations is on animal cruelty. I bet the stunt man was also harmed. I doubt there is one, but maybe this is just what we need to have some reason to infiltrate the Bollywood scene! Quick, I’ll go get my law degree! You too memsaab and we’re off to India! SOmeone coukld make a movie about it! “memsaab aur Sita” I don’t even kill spiders, so this particular scene would be hard to take, but now I will know it’s coming and be able to look away. I am not Jain enough to let mosquitos and centipedes earn dispensation from death, but am working on that.

  4. To be perfectly honest, I am not even Jain enough to really worry about the stunt men; I only truly worried about the horses.

  5. lols- willfully misunderstanding- if he is seeking revenge from those dogs, i wonder if he is seeking any from cats :)

    was that really a horse tho? thats really scary :O

  6. If I thought they really used actual horses in those scenes I would have to stop watching Hindi films. THEN what would I do with all my time?

    So—I prefer to believe that they were just a really really realistic fake horses and excellent special effects. It would not surprise me to learn that some actual horses (and stunt men) were injured in the making of this film, though!

  7. umm.. since I’m not liking to thinking that this movie really exploded horses for “reality’s sake”; I’m thinking at least for practical purposes the producers wouldn’t have done it. It probably takes more $$$ to buy a horse than to just rent it.. so they probably rented horses for the action scenes, and therefore they didn’t kill it, or the owner would have killed them!!!

    *phew* who says money is the root of all evil? sometimes money saves the day.. or, ahem.. horses!!

  8. Yay for $-
    i guess all the money saved went on Hema looking so good- some should also have been spent in getting poor Ajit a better wig- i really love that man :D

  9. “A little Dharmendra withdrawal”!!! Does Shammi know about the other guy in your life? He is going to be heartbroken….

  10. Hmmm. If I thought Shammi would care, I would quit Dharmendra cold turkey.

    Luckily, I don’t think he will! :-)

  11. oh come-on, nothing about the song that immortalized Dharmendra, as a true ‘son of the soil’, and I am putting my fingers up to make the gesture for the quotations as I’m typing it. ;-)

  12. Dharmendra was at his best in this one. Full of vigour and his expressions could tell that revenge is his destiny. Ajit was monstrously wonderful and all the village buffoons were simply hilarious and humane. But this one was not a big hit. A few years before its release Dharmendra’s Jugnu was a supehit but was a mediocre entertainment. Some filmmakers have all the luck.

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