Jeevan Mrityu (1970)

If you are entertained by a crackling great story, brisk direction which keeps things moving along, and a cast of stalwarts who give good performances, you will like this movie. The central theme explores the importance of honor over money—it’s hackneyed, and we are beaten over the head with it, but the plot is engrossing. Love, betrayal, vengeance…be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride. Get your hankies out!

Our story begins as Ashok Tandon (Dharmendra) is being released from prison, where he has served his sentence for stealing one million rupees from the bank where he was Manager.

Of course, he was framed, but hardly anyone believes him. He first discovers that his mother has died, crushed beneath the wheels of a truck.

Next, he finds that his fiancee Deepa (who had promised to care for his mother) has disappeared. Ashok’s trial lawyer, Barrister Amarnath, is now living in Deepa’s old house.

Ashok next runs into Sameer (Roopesh Kumar), a clerk who worked for him when he was the Bank Manager. Sameer always believed in his innocence, and has figured out who framed him. Three envious bank colleagues conspired against Ashok, and they also bribed his lawyer Amarnath to lose Ashok’s case. Despondent and disillusioned, Ashok decides to leave town and look up his best friend from college, Prem Prakash (Rajendranath).

To that end, he hops on a train, where he is robbed of his prison stipend while sleeping. The thief is killed when he jumps from the moving train. Since the stipend envelope has Ashok’s name on it, the police assume (and publicize) that Ashok is the dead man.

Then Ashok finds a briefcase full of money and important documents, which he returns to its owner Raja Ranvir Singh (Bipin Gupta). Ranvir Singh is impressed with his character.

He asks Ashok about himself, and Ashok tells him his story. This is done through a flashback…we meet Ashok as a college student facing his fellow student Deepa (Rakhee) in a debate about whether money is greater than honor.

Deepa takes the Republican…er…money’s side and of course Ashok argues for honor. Deepa and Ashok are sweethearts, planning to get married some day. They sing a very sweet song in anticipation of their life together, “Jhilmil Sitaron Ka Aangan Hoga.”

Deepa’s dream is to open a school, and after graduation Ashok gets a job in a bank. Due to his diligence and honesty, he is quickly promoted through the ranks until he becomes the Bank Manager. This does not go over well with his colleague Harish (Ajit), who has not been promoted because he doesn’t work hard and has a bad attitude. He is egged on by his friends Ramakant (Krishan Dhawan) and Jagat (Kanhaiyalal).

They frame Ashok for the theft of one million rupees, and bribe Amarnath the lawyer (Ramesh Deo) to lose the case. He is hilariously avaricious, a caricature of greed (remember: greed bad, honor good):

Ashok is duly convicted, and sentenced. Deepa promises that she’ll wait for him, and take care of his mother.

Back in the present, Ranvir Singh offers to help Ashok retrieve his honor. In Bombay, the four bad guys (I’ll call them HARJ for short) read about Ashok’s death in the newspaper, and are gleeful.

Ranvir Singh gives Ashok a job managing his Bombay office, where Prem Prakash already works. Since Ashok is “dead” in the eyes of the world, it’s fairly simple for him to disguise himself as Bikram Singh:

I think Bikram Singh is hot!

Prem has no idea who Bikram Singh really is, and I’m not sure why Ashok doesn’t tell him, but he carries on the charade. He plants stories about his arrival in the papers to excite the interest of other wealthy businessmen (especially HARJ). He also asks Prem to find the former Managing Director of the bank (and his mentor), Mr. Rai (who was disgraced after the theft, because the bank went kaput and a bunch of people lost their life savings), and to hire a detective to track down Deepa.

Prem finds out that Mr. Rai (Jairaj) is living with his daughter in his home, which is now mortgaged to Jagat. Because of illness he has not been able to repay Jagat and faces losing everything. Bikram befriends HARJ and they soon feel comfortable borrowing money from him to invest in the stock market, which a holy man has told them to do (Ashok in yet another disguise). He also buys Rai’s mortgage from Jagat, and returns the house to him. He’s well on his way to ruining HARJ when the private detective finally finds Deepa.

She is living in a small town, where she has followed her dream and built a school. Bikram goes to see her; she is wearing white and he probes to find out why:

She tells him that she’s a widow, but refuses to say anything about her late husband. In fact, she’s pretty rude to him throughout (to be fair, he does ask a lot of personal questions and she doesn’t know him from a bar of soap). He offers her a donation and she turns it down flat.

Hurt, he realizes that she didn’t take care of his mother as promised because she couldn’t wait for him, and married someone else. He thinks to himself:

“Nahiiiin!” I cry. But he doesn’t listen to me, and sets off on a path of vengeance against Deepa too.

Oh, oh, oh. The pain, the sorrow; but also the joy when he gets Jagat behind bars first, and then ruins Amarnath financially.

But Harish and Ramakant are now suspicious. Will he manage to wreak havoc in their lives anyway? What will he do to poor Deepa? Whom did she marry? Will she and Prem ever get to know Bikram’s real identity? Will he get his izzat back? Watch Jeevan Mrityu to find out. And seriously, keep the Kleenex handy.

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32 Comments to “Jeevan Mrityu (1970)”

  1. This looks yummy! (Plus Ramesh Deo…! Ramesh Deo + Large pile of money = awesome.)

    I find that I don’t mind being beaten over the head with a moral – especially if Dharmendra is doing the beating. Honor > Money is one of the reasons I love the films from this era.

    PS Bikram Singh looks a bit like Akki in his “Singh is Kinng” avatar.

  2. It’s very yummy. Dharmendra is yummy both as Ashok and Bikram (and I’m not a fan of beards, generally)…

    I don’t mind being clubbed with the moral either, as long as I agree with it :-)

  3. Dharmendra is lookin’ hot–whoo hoo! Also, you gotta love Rakhee’s beehive. Sweeeet.

  4. They are both SO GORGEOUS. They may be my new favorite pair. Sigh.

  5. Its weird how they don’t look so weird as they should (like Rakhee’s Puff: thats what they were called in India at the time), cos all this fashion is back…
    hmmm. Jhil mil is such a nice song.

    I remember once in the 80s Sanjay Khan was asked in a BBC interview, what were the themes of the 800 odd Indian films made every year,
    SK: “Lost and found!”

  6. I notice that the imprisonment is always “rigorous” in these movies. But when the criminals emerge looking like Dharmendra does in that shot, prison seems like some sort of very manly spa.

  7. Ha ha! a very manly spa, indeed.

    Yes, his imprisonment seemed to consist mostly of him rigorously furrowing his brow in angst as he contemplated the loss of his honor.

  8. We seem to be watching movies in tandem – I saw Dilli ka Thug the day after you posted your review, and I saw Jeevan Mrityu on Sunday. Good, wholesome entertainer – and both Dharmendra and Rakhee look so gorgeous! This was Rakhee’s first Hindi film, apparently…

  9. Love this movie. Dharmendra made such a great sardar and Rakhee was soooooo pretty. Did a short post on it recently, tracing its similarities to my favorite Alexandre Dumas classic The Count of Monte Cristo. The similarities always make me think of the lovely “Jhil mil sitaaron ka” as a harbinger of doomed love, though!

  10. Great minds, madhu! :-) Did Rakhee act in other regional cinema before Hindi films?

    Bollyviewer, I was trying to remember where I’d seen this film mentioned recently. Of course it was your blog :-)

  11. Yes, Rakhee did act in regional cinema – two Bengali movies in the late 60’s. Unlike Sharmila Tagore, though, I think she ended up being primarily a Hindi film actress. Interestingly enough, Rakhee and Sharmila acted in a Bengali adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d, in 2003. I’d like to see that! – with subtitles, of course, since my Bengali’s very rudimentary. :-)

  12. Ooh! I’d like to see that too—Rakhee and Sharmila together, in 2003! Do you know what the title of the film is?

  13. That would be Shubho Mahurat I guess :) .It’s directed by Rituparno Gosh .

  14. Thanks, Bala! I will look for it.

  15. Rakhee and Sharmila Tagore also acted in a Yash Chopra movie years ago – “Daag” – Rajesh Khanna was the hero.

    It had some good songs.

  16. Yup. that’s it. I must look out for it….

  17. This isn’t the right place but:

    O.K so I watched ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ last night! The first 45 Mins are painful, but the movie got much better very quickly and by the end I’d smiled so much my jaw actually hurt! Waiting for your review! The songs were even more awesome in the Movie Theatre.

  18. I’ve been reading the reviews and they are almost all positive. I might have to wait until it comes out on DVD though. It does look like my kind of movie!

  19. I have seen it in Bengali Version with same name too where the great actor Uttam Kumar played the role of Ashok and glamorous Supriya played Deepa’s role.Really a good movie to watch.

  20. Hmmm…that would be fun to watch. I’ll see if I can find it (with subtitles :-)

  21. I just watched this last night and I loved it! Rakhee and Dharam made such a lovely couple – this was the first film I’d seen with both of them in the lead roles. Rakhee was SO adorable in this, and it’s hard to believe that this was her first Hindi film – she did such a great job. I agree with you about Bikram Singh – hot. It was really cool to see Dharmendra in different costumes and trying on different voices (the latter with limited success, but bless him for trying); I think he must’ve had fun with this one. And ‘Jhil mil sitaaron ka aangan hoga’ is just so sweet. Been humming it all morning. Thanks for the recommendation.

  22. I’m glad you saw it :-) You will love Blackmail with the two of them as well, Rakhee is just beautiful and it’s soooooo romantic…

  23. Last week, saw ‘Jeevan Mrityu’. It starts off quite well but later becomes a tired vengeance tale. My sister and I had seen it back in Mumbai with a cousin who was in Navy and therefore, could ‘procure’ tickets for this very successful film. I remember it ran for a long time at ‘Alankar’, Bombay . The film, from the very beginning, was screened only at 11:00am everyday and ran for months!

    I remember, I was not impressed by Rakhi then. This second screening could not change that impression. I was disappointed in Ajit. He hadn’t found his ‘ishtyle’ at that time (1970)! Kanhaiyalal was good like he always is. Kishan Dhawan had a small role. Ramesh Deo tried applying his theatre skills but did not come across too well. Fortunately, Rajendra Nath was restrained! It was good to see Jairaj! Bipin Gupta, as always, was sincere! Don’t know who she was, but the girl who portrayed Jairaj’s daughter was both good looking and a good actress.

    Dharmendra’s sikh was elegant. He was extremely good as the Gujarati jhaveri.

    ‘Jhilmil sitaron ka..’ was fine but ‘zamaane me aji aise kai..’ is my all time favourite. Lata, for once, has ‘acted’ well with her voice. Anand Bakshi lyrics and Laxmi-Pyare music are simply terrific! Also, the two shareef badmash – Ajit and Kanhaiyalal – have done some delicious over-gesturing while listening to this song.

    As I have said before, you are doing a great job with the blog!

  24. “Dharmendra’s sikh was elegant. He was extremely good as the Gujarati jhaveri.”

    Yeah, Dharm is a good actor. He’s good looking so it is easy to miss that.
    Now that I am in India, I am seeing a lot of Dharm and Rajesh Khanna. They are everywhere on satellite TV as I flip the channels. I didn’t actually like this movie as much as I did Roti and Mela which I’ve also seen in the last few days. The saving grace is Dharm during his bhadralok days (i.e. before he became a full-fledged action star in the B grade movies of the 80s). Rakhee looks like a apsara. So yes, I was glued to the TV set, but mostly for the eye-candy that it provided.

  25. The only reason I remember this long-ago seen movie is Ramesh Deo’s anguish upon losing his shirt and his sanity on the Lamington Jute shares business. The expressions he displays are simply priceless.

  26. I loved this movie. It is a vast improvement of the Bengali version (also called Jeevan Mrityu). It has a nice Count of Monte Cristo feel to it… with a better ending!

  27. Came here to see whether this movie made you draw a parallel with The Count of Monte Cristo and found that bollyviewer and Swati also had the same idea. Yes, definitely a better ending than the novel, but then Mercedes didn’t wait around for Edmond, did she?
    As with the novel, I kept wondering how the hero didn’t get caught – but then, all reason and logic must be suspended in order to truly enjoy a film.

  28. well, memsaab there is no need for dharm to star in the bengali version of jeevan mrityu cos it stars uttam kumar-the greatest star of bengali celluloid..and uttam kumar is no way less than dharm.infact,he is better..as far as which version is better,you know swatiji’s opinion,but it is not necessary that everyone has the same opinion as swatiji.

  29. I think Uttam Kumar acted in this film far better than Dharamji and this film is one of the hit films .I have seen both the films and Uttam Kumar’s acting was incomperable.Did Swatiji see film pari in bengali casting Dharamji?He was unable to speak a simple word in Bengali.No one could understand what he said.So no need for him to star bengali version of any film and no need to get engaged in controversy specially when Uttam Kumar starred the film.He is a legend of Bengali cinema.

  30. Whats so great about Rakhi?

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