Apna Desh (1972)

I am feeling the love for Rajesh Khanna (especially paired with Mumtaz) here these days. Better late than never! Apna Desh is total paisa vasool, as well. It’s two distinctly different but equally good films for the price (and viewing time) of one! The first is a solid social drama about corruption with a bit of romance thrown in; the second a totally crack-tastic masala film complete with disguises, blackface, fabulous outfits and sets, and two of RD Burman’s (and Asha Bhosle’s) most glorious songs.

Seth Dharamdas (Om Prakash) is a high-ranking politician who presents a pious and charitable face to the world.

In reality, however, he is corrupt and greedy, always scheming to make more money off the backs of poor people. He is assisted in these nefarious endeavours by Sevaram (Kanhaiyalal), a shop owner who dilutes his grains with stones and milk with water; and Satyanarayan (Madan Puri), a contractor who uses too much sand in his cement, causing his buildings to collapse pretty quickly, crushing children and the like.

They are not above murdering an employee who threatens to turn them into the police, either, and have a corrupt doctor in their pay who will attribute death to “natural” causes.

We hate them!

Luckily there are still good guys in the world: honest Aakash (Rajesh Khanna) and his equally honest brother Dinanath (Manmohan Krishna). Dinanath works for Dharamdas, and is completely fooled by his public facade. He is married with two children, and Aakash lives with them too. Aakash works for the city municipality, where he refuses all attempts to bribe him.

One day he meets a coconut vendor named Chanda (Mumtaz). When he goes to pay her for his coconut, he realizes that his wallet has been stolen. She doesn’t believe him.

“Loafer” is another of those Hinglish terms that I love, by the way. He gives her his watch as security and promises to pay her the next day, but that night Chanda’s drunkard of a brother (Satyendra Kapoor) takes the watch and sells it to buy liquor. Horrified, Chanda works extra long hours doing yucky odd jobs to earn the money for a new watch. When she gives the money to Aakash, he buys her a sari instead and their romance begins.

At work, Aakash runs afoul of Satyanarayan when he helps some slum dwellers whom Satyanarayan wants to displace illegally for a new building site. Satyanarayan gets him fired. Aakash’s friend Shambhu (Jagdeep—have I mentioned that I love Jagdeep? I feel sure I must have…) quits and leaves alongside him.

An old schoolmaster who hasn’t been paid in 10 months is thrown out when he goes to Dharamdas to plead for his and the other teachers’ salaries. Aakash finds him dying on the road, and takes him to the hospital but it’s too late. Incensed, Aakash goes to Dinanath’s house and overhears the three partners plotting another scam to rip off the poor.

He rips into them, but when he gets home he finds his brother very angry with him. Dharamdas has called Dinanath to complain about Aakash’s behavior, and Dinanath—still believing that Dharamdas is a good man—demands that Aakash apologize. Aakash naturally refuses, and Dinanath throws him out of the house.

Chanda finds him sleeping on a bench and takes him home to the basti with her. The slum dwellers convince him to run for elected office on their behalf. He does so, and wins, and then goes on to win Dharamdas’ chairman’s seat from him. He and Chanda get engaged.

Good times!

But Dharamdas and his cronies aren’t down for long. Aakash’s honesty is not appreciated by other corrupt politicians and he quickly loses the chairmanship.

Then Dinanath discovers Dharamdas’ true nature. He takes a briefcase containing a large sum of money and a very valuable temple necklace (which Dharamdas has stolen because nothing is sacred to that man) in order to return it all to the rightful owners. He manages to hide the briefcase just before Dharamdas and his men catch him and take him prisoner.

When Aakash discovers that his brother is missing, he knows that Dharamdas is at the bottom of it. He comes up with an elaborate plot to bring down Dharamdas, Sevaram and Satyanarayan—using their greed as bait, and with the help of Shambhu and Chanda. Hindi films really do not get any more entertaining than this. I’ve gone way overboard with screen caps, but believe me—I edited.

Aakash poses as a wealthy, vaguely middle-eastern gold smuggler. Shambhu is his assistant Ali Baba, and Chanda is his wife Madame Popololita.

His hospitality is lavish, and served up by girls in ballet dresses and Mary-Jane shoes.

He is an “international figure”…

as illustrated by all those telephones. And pretty much everything in his house is made of gold.

But not this sublime lamp with a “hidden” camera:

Madame Popololita is a Zsa Zsa Gabor-esque beauty:

We are all treated to one of RD Burman’s best songs ever, “Duniya Mein Logo Ko”:

Aakash and Popololita stage a breakup scene to further entrap Dharamdas. Her firangi Hindi accent is even more hilarious than mine (hers is also purposeful, unlike mine).

She seduces Dharamdas with another fabulous song, “Aaja O Mere Raja” while Shambhu keeps watch (now in blackface posing as her servant):

He steps in when necessary.

I could go on and on, but really you need to see this movie. Pictures alone cannot capture the true essence of its insanity.

Yup, I pretty much love Rajesh Khanna now.

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43 Comments to “Apna Desh (1972)”

  1. That second to last picture almost gave me a heart attack! :-P

  2. I heart Mumtaz–I’ve gotta see this one. Thanks Memsaab! (And, um, what in the holy heck *is* going on in that second to last pic?)

  3. It’s a full-on liplock between Jagdeep and Om Prakash (you can’t see Mumtaz behind them—in the film, OP thinks he is kissing her, but Jagdeep steps in to “save” Mumtaz as she ducks away). I couldn’t believe my eyes! but it was quite hilarious. I think they all had a lot of fun with it.

  4. Bollywood GAAYS! I was falling on the floor laughing when i saw this and now i feel happy that there is some gay element movies now! and that too in the seventies and Bollywood!

  5. This is kind of an interesting site, although a lot of the links there don’t work any more:

    http://media.opencultures.net/queer/

    :-)

  6. rofl- for my all dislike of Rajesh, this movie definitely seems worthwhile- plus I have a huge need to see Om Prakash play this out. Mumtaz is looking SO amazing!

  7. Rajesh is absolutely hilarious in this film (once it goes into crazy mode). I don’t think of him as a particularly funny person, but he really seemed to have a good time doing this one. Mumtaz is awesome :-) and of course so is Om Prakash, bad wig and all.

  8. Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz had a good thing going on screen (don’t know about off screen). I absolutely adore Mumtaz, and I think when I was a kid, I would have willingly traded my mom for her.

    Just saw Jagdeep as a young boy in ‘Aar Paar’, when he hadn’t started doing his trademark Jagdeep act. I must see the film for the kiss.

    Have you seen ‘Loafer’ with Dharmendra and Mumtaz.

  9. I’ve read interviews with Dimple Kapadia where she says that Rajesh should have married Mumtaz because she knew how to handle him :-) Sigh. I don’t think her marriage worked out that well either. But who knows?

    I didn’t know Jagdeep was in Aar Paar!? Will need to rewatch it.

    And I’ve seen Loafer about five times, it’s a fave (love the music and she has fab outfits!)…

  10. Another of my Jagdeep favourites – and it has Mumtaz too, which makes it even better! – is Ek Naari Ek Brahmachari. Good fun, and Mumtaz is at her feisty best. I adore the woman, she’s wonderful!

  11. I need more Jagdeep in my life. Recommendations gratefully accepted :-)

  12. You know what’s the best part about your reviews? It reminds me of all the crazy little things that I’d forgotten about all the crazy masala movies. I don’t know how I go months (years even!) without remembering Duniya mein – that is a song that DEMANDS to be remembered!

  13. :-) Riiiiiiitaaaaaaaaaa!

  14. Memsaab,

    I haven’t seen anything with Mumtaz or Rajesh yet…this sounds like a fun way to start!

    I’ve really only begun to enter the world of 70s Bollywood…but I love the screencaps from yours and others’ sites! The hairstyles, clothes, atmosphere looks like masala madness but tons of fun! By the way, I didn’t mind the abundant screencaps at all…as far as I’m concerned, pile ’em on!:)

    P.S. And the “loafer” thing reminded me of another Hinglish word–“wastrel”….gotta love em, right?

  15. So many words for badmash! :-) This is a good one to start with…I saw it a long time ago and had sort of forgotten how delicious it is. Chock full of goodness!

  16. Memsaab—can’t tell you how good it feels to be vindicated. The context you ask? A few of us RK fans have been writing anguished posts about how a section of the bollywood viewing blogosphere and their commenters seem to have got their knives into anything to do with RK, almost to the point where if you’re not eviscerating him, you’re not part of this cool fraternity. In any event, someone picked up on your “Roti” analysis in our forum and opined that you appeared open-minded, hence the feeling of vindication on reading through your past few posts on RK and his fillums.

    Without meaning to hijack your comments space with too much justification on why RK deserves a fair viewing—after all we are mostly talking mainstream Hindi films and not the parallel (“art”) cinema in Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, etc. just so everyone knows what to expect….with RK, it was primarily the romantic hero in various guises but in a milieu that is unthinkable today—the middleclass which is so refreshing for some of us of like ilk. He is much beyond the standard “mannerisms” that everyone seems to have so much of a beef with—incidentally which “star” (not “actor”) in standard bollywood fare is without his trademark mannerisms whether it is the current favorite SRK and his “tildes”, the Big B and “hain?”, etc. etc. Which star hasn’t hammed it every now and then? As someone put it (http://www.anothersubcontinent.com/forums):“I think all this acting-shacting is overrated. Why do stars have to change themselves (i.e. act) to fit a story? In India we mould the stories to fit the star. We go to theaters to SEE THE STAR not some story nobody cares about.” To a quite an extent this is true for the typical starry vehicle, witness SRK’s “OSO” and “Main Hoon Na” in recent times. RK is no different in those films that don’t pretend to be anything other than mainstream.

    The films that RK made from 1967 to 1974 were, in the main, pretty good not only because of the box office hysteria post 1969 with the release of “Aradhana” and then “Do Raaste” but also, in the context of mainstream Hindi films, it was entertaining cinema. Especially, if you’re a bit of a sucker for the “love story” types—he could do romance alright! We desi girls didn’t give a fig if he was a little too well-fed and wasn’t the typical beefcake that graces our screens now, more’s the pity—what he had in spades was that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that made the women of the 70s write him letters in blood!

    Since you’re quite a fan of the RK-Mumu pairing, am wondering if you’ve given some of the RK-Sharmila ones a try? The chemistry is quite different—with Mumu it’s mainly playful, happy love, with La Tagore, there’s sizzle and pathos in equal doses and a “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” take in the offbeat “Aavishkar” which has RK in a role playing against type.

    Also, try “Khamoshi” (with Waheeda Rahman in arguably one of her best performances), “Baharon ke Sapne” “Safar” “Daag” (very M&B 2nd part with a bit of “The Mayor of Casterbridge” thrown in), “Ittefaq”, “Andaz” (he had a scene-stealing 30 minutes, but Salim-Javed, the script duo, were clearly suffering from an Aradhana hang-up), “Namak Haram” (that old one of how AB stole the film is just not true, watch it, he had the Beckett role, one of my RK forum friends has a fantastic analysis on Richard Burton and RK), “Kudrat” (a Chetan Anand directed gem despite RK playing to the gallery in parts), “Rajput” (directed by Goldie Anand, flawed but very good in parts).

    From amongst his later films, there are a couple of really interesting ones where he totally plays against type and does brilliantly—they’re not mainstream though. One is “Naukri” (with Raj Kapoor directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee), the other is the even less known “Shatru”. And of course, don’t miss what is considered one of the best examples of film noir in Hindi cinema, “Red Rose”.

    Sorry to have taken up so much space Memsaab but couldn’t resist making the pitch! Happy viewing!

  17. Hi Suhan, There’s no limit on space so write away! :-) I have noticed that it’s very hard to find Rajesh Khanna fans, but they must be out there! I went to the forum link you posted and the first thread I saw was on the “tight slap” and it’s so interesting! I’ll go back and visit more soon…

    I think my initial resistance to RK was that he displaced my beloved Shammi and I am nothing if not blindly loyal to Shammi :-D I saw Aradhana and Aavishkar early on in my filmi-watching career, and I remember that Aavishkar was very good (and, in retrospect, quite unusual for its time). I am not a big Sharmila fan though so it didn’t help his case (I don’t even like her paired with Shammi)…possibly it’s just that my preferences lean towards the playful which is why I love Mumtaz—I love her in anything, paired with anybody, somewhat like Rani Mukherjee today. I also love a sense of humor, and RK sometimes seemed very humorless, but the first glimpse I got of him being funny was Bawarchi, which is a great film. And then of course he’s great in Anand as well, Amitabh was such a good serious counterpoint to him in that.

    Anyway, I am very happy to be aboard the Rajesh Khanna bandwagon and I appreciate your suggestions above and will track those I haven’t seen down! And rewatch some of the others I saw (maybe I’ll give Sharmila-Rajesh another try).

  18. Thank you for yet another brilliant review :)

    This site is really addictive!

  19. Thanks Eliza! Welcome back :-)

  20. RK and funny—you’re spot on with “Bawarchi” and “Anand”. Also:

    • “Saacha Jhutha” with your favorite Mumtaz;
    • “The Train” despite Nanda which has this sensational song and dance routine “Gulabi aankhen jo maine dekhi”—the most ‘active’ sequence I’ve ever seen him in, no wonder he never danced much!
    • “Maryada” with Mala Sinha;
    • “Joroo Ka Ghulam with Nanda again;
    • “Dil Daulat Duniya”—great stuff from Ashok Kumar and Om Prakash and a swoon worthy number with Sadhana;
    • His special appearance in “Anurag”;
    • “Chhaila Babu” with Zeenat Aman, it was just full-on masala;
    • “Aanchal” with Rekha in a total village setting—as far away as you can get from the K-Jo type NRI mansions of today;
    • “Aaj Ka MLA: Ram Avtar”.

  21. Ooh, thanks Suhan :-) I love The Train actually, and also Saacha Jhutha. I loved him with Zeenat in Ajanabee so must see Chhaila Babu esp. if it’s full-on masala :-) I have Joroo Ka Ghulam coming in my next Nehaflix order (should be arriving tomorrow! it’s always like Christmas on a Nehaflix package day!) *scribbles madly for next order must-haves*

  22. I have Joru ka Ghulam pencilled in for this weekend… seeing it after years, and looking forward to it! I think you’ll like it – great fun! But one of my favourite RK-Nanda starrers is Ittefaq. Very different! I believe it was made in some 28 days or so, to fill in the time while shooting for Aadmi aur Insaan was put on hold because Saira Banu had broken her leg. Amazing movie.

  23. This is one of my all time favourite movies…..and the Duniya Mein song is one that is very often belted out in our house.Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    Here are a few more suggestions of Rajesh Khanna’s movies
    Aap Ki Kasam with Mumu (beautiful songs)
    Amar Prem with Sharmila (watch it for the songs/music)
    Kati Patang with Asha Parekh

    Just realised these are all his serious movies….will try and think of some of his lighter ones.

  24. Madhu you need to start a blog of your own :-) I have Ittefaq, and remember liking it very much. It is very different for Hindi films. Thanks for the trivia re: Aadmi Aur Insaan and a 28-day shoot!

    Annie, thanks so much for the recommendations…I saw Aap Ki Kasam a long time ago…in fact most of the Rajesh Khanna movies I have I saw ages ago—got them after seeing Disco Dancer, because he was the best thing in it (I mean, out of the very few good things as opposed to all the awesome badness). But he somehow didn’t make any further impression until recently, so I need to revisit all of his films in my possession :-) I did rewatch Kati Patang recently and wrote about it here. My copy of Amar Prem sadly does not have subtitles :-( Pet peeve!

    Plus, I need to get some new ones based on the lists here!

  25. Another RK movie to add to your list is “Janta Hawaldar” with yogita bali (Mithun’s wife in real life).

    RK plays a poor honest guy i think – some good songs

    pls do watch Amar Prem and Safar – RK and Sharmila Tagore were a hit screen pair.

  26. Memsaab:
    Its interesting to note that you were a Shammi Kapur fan and that was the reason for you to initially resist RK. This kind of honest confession is rare in the community of RK fans who still consider him a big force to reckon with and feel that Amitabh Bachhan is a fake and undeserving star.
    But I personally feel that every actor has done some wonderful movies by which they can be immediately related to and shall be remembered forever in the herats of cine goers like : Shammi with Junglee, RK with Anand, Anitabh with Zanjeer/Deewar etc.
    No body can remain at the top forever.
    But your reviews definitely show that it is free from any bisadness or ill feelings.
    Pl. keep up the good work.

  27. Thanks for your recommendations Anonymous :-)

    Ajay, my love for Shammi transcends all boundaries of reason :-) But yes, of course there is room for all! If everyone were the same, and liked the same things life would be so boring. Thanks for reading and please keep coming back!

  28. Memsaab,One another thing that I observed while watching Apna Desh and that is Rajesh Khanna had done some good action scenes in his silver jubilee hit film.

  29. Great movie – an all out entertainer

  30. Memsaab,
    Have you watched reviewed Bawarchi starring Rajesh yet?..Must see how the typical superstar also did this meaningful, lovable film directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee devoid of music and glamour maybe, but certainly not clean fun and entertainment values..

  31. How did I miss this review !! It is one movie that I actually watched as a kid when this movie was first released in 1972. And as a kid, this movie was indeed totally paisa wasool for me. One enjoys a movie the best when one is a kid. And I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie when I watched it.

  32. Manmohan krishan always plays soft heart man in hindi and punjabi movies. Last week I saw movie Nai duniya nai log starring Reena roy and danny.I was surprise to see mammohan krishan love making sceen with Nadira in that movie.

  33. The sister in law of rajesh khanna is credited to be one mukkamala-and yhe piv shows her to be a lady! but in imdb the same credits belong to the gentleman known as Krishna Murthy Mukkamala. He was an actor and director, known for Palle Paduchu (1954), Navagraha Pooja Mahima (1964) and Aggi Pidugu (1964). He died in 1987. Pl.illuminate.

  34. What a hilarious review LOL! I had heard the songs but never knew about this movie -this sure sounds fun. I have to get a copy of “Apna Desh” myself!

  35. Memsaab, Rajesh Kanna is way better actor than many other including Bacchan. Rajesh Khanna was a true actor. He can emote with his eyes, a gesture, just by being. Unfortunately like many before and after him, he burned many bridges and was considered difficult to work with. 80s Dhishum Dishum movies did not help him much.

    .I once a read quote from one of filmy people in mid 80s- “He is lie a 1000 Rupee note- Real, valued but has lost its value; no one in market will buy it”. I believe I read it around the time movie Dhanwan ( with Reena Roy and Rakesh Rosan) came back.

    It is sad how people talk about him being a great actor after his death while he was alive he was largely ignored.

    • In my opinion it isn’t a competition. Amitabh is a very good actor, so is Rajesh—both of them have done their share of bad movies, but both are talented.

      I think he preferred being ignored as he got older :)

  36. Rajesh has never been due credit as an actor despite excellent performances. He had the guts to act in heroine centric films – aradhana, kati patang, amar prem, choti bahu, asha jyoti etc., – and still hold his own.

    His films were meant for family viewing which sadly went kaput once amitabh took over.

  37. Totally agree with you. It is an excellent social issues story with a great thumbnail sketch on the how? of corruption anywhere. And there is the over the top theatrical business sewn into the story. There is a bit of everything. And really there is nothing quite like it. It is one of the best of the older pre early 1990s Bollywood films. Great that you feature it in your blog. Also, the comments and replies you receive are excellent and show such a wealth of knowledge about many Bollywood films.

  38. Memsaab,

    Why don’t you reviews more movies of RK? They are such a delight to read.

    Hope you consider my suggestion.

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