Phaansi (1978)


Although I could not finish watching this DVD myself [begin rant: thanks to Shemaroo’s incredibly poor quality control—about half the DVDs that I get which are manufactured by Shemaroo don’t play all the way through, and I am so done with them! end rant] it had so much going for it that I’m going to write about it anyway. Shashi at his most delicious! Pran at his coolest! Heartbreak and romance and thrills!

Maybe one of my all-knowing readers can enlighten me as to the ending (although I can probably guess).

It inspired in me a name for this type of film: dacoit-drama. Get it? Daku-drama? Okay, sorry. But up until it dissolved into random pixels it was a highly entertaining movie.

It begins with a stern lecture on patriotism and the bravery and sacrifices of those who give their lives for their country contrasted with the behavior of men who cause riots and destruction. Dacoit Himmat Singh (Pran) has given up his life of crime and turned himself in to the authorities.


But men such as Tilak Singh (Ranjeet) and his gang are still out there: the true enemies of the country.


It’s very thrilling stuff, and Gemma goes crazy barking at all the horses—especially when they take off after a train. The stunts in this film are really good, planned by Shetty (who also plays Tilak’s right hand man Bhima).

Tilak and his men have planned to loot a wedding party traveling on this train. Unfortunately, they haven’t banked on another traveller, Raju (Shashi Kapoor). Raju is a police officer, and he single-handedly thwarts the attack and kills two of Tilak’s men in the process, badly wounding a third.


Raju is on his way to his village to attend his sister’s wedding. He meets his friend Abdul (Asrani) at the station and they set off for Raju’s home. On the way, they run into a group of village girls.


One of them is Chhaya (Sulakshana Pandit); she and Raju have been sweethearts for a long time. The local moneylender Lala (Jeevan) has hopes of marrying Chhaya himself but she has no use for him. Raju reaches home where his father, retired Police Inspector Mahendra Pratap Singh (Iftekhar) and his mother (Urmila Bhatt) and sister Radha (Aarti) greet him happily.

In the meantime, Tilak Singh needs his wounded man to stay alive and identify the man who has killed his men and stopped him from robbing the train. He drags the badly injured man from pillar to post, but he not unsurprisingly dies before he’s able to identify anybody.

Raju in his courtship of Chhaya goes a little too far and compromises her honor (by showing up at an all-girls’ function!); her father (DK Sapru) decides Raju’s punishment.


Jealous Lala the moneylender is in cahoots with Tilak Singh, and when news of Raju’s bravery gets out he tells Tilak Singh where to find Raju. The next day Raju goes with Abdul and his mother to meet Radha’s bridegroom and finalize wedding arrangements. While they are gone, Tilak rides into the village to take his revenge.

Mahendra Singh comes out of the house, and confronts them; he refuses to tell them where Raju is, and they kill him. When Radha comes running out to try and save her father (every other villager is cowering behind locked doors) she is set upon by Tilak’s men too and commits suicide to save herself from dishonor. Raju and his Ma arrive home to a dreadful sight.



It’s heartwrenching. The villagers tell him that Tilak Singh is the culprit. After the funeral, Raju’s kindly superior warns him not to take the law into his own hands. Raju tells him not to send a special force of men since that will only chase Tilak Singh to another area. He says he will handle it himself. I have to say here that it’s never clear to me (at least as far as I got) whether Raju is trying to stay within the parameters of the law or not. Very ambiguous! Maybe that’s the point though. Anyway, his mother gives him her blessings.


Abdul wants to go with him, but Raju tells him to stay and look after his mother. Poor Chhaya is also distressed and worried, but off he goes on his own. He soon runs into Lala, who gives him false information about where Tilak might be found and then scurries off to tell Tilak where to find Raju.

He tells Tilak’s man Sheru (Sudhir), who thinks he can handle Raju by himself. After a short—but tense—altercation of gunfire, Sheru is dead. Raju takes his body to the local police station and says he tried to “arrest him alive.”


Early encounter killing justification? When Tilak Singh finds out about Sheru’s death, he is livid. He rides back into the village, where he threatens Raju’s mother. None of the villagers will come to her aid except Abdul and Chhaya—who takes a rifle up to the rooftop of her house. Her father forces her to put it down and come inside. Luckily, someone else comes to Raju’s mother’s rescue: the reformed dacoit Himmat Singh.


Pran is awesome in this film. Absolutely kick-ass and cool. Also, Ranjeet makes a great dacoit. I love his gold tooth, his hoop earrings, the sideburns and his lopsided ponytail. He’s satisfyingly menacing, but kind of hot too. I feel a little guilty about that.


Anyway, Himmat manages to convince Tilak Singh to leave Raju’s mother unharmed, although before he leaves Tilak does threaten the rest of the village with harm if they come to Raju’s aid in any way. Himmat Singh has been relocated by the police and given a farm in the village, where he wants to live in peace.

He’s not left in peace for long; a villager whose daughter is getting married asks Himmat Singh for help. Another dacoit, Panna Singh (Dev Kumar), has threatened to kidnap her if he isn’t paid Rs 20,000. Reluctantly, Himmat intervenes and manages to karate chop Panna with his awesome knife-like hands.


Everybody, together: “PRAN!” Raju in the meantime is still living out in the bush, hunting for Tilak and his men. He encounters them one day and manages to shoot a couple of men (he’s a much better shot than they are) but loses his bullet belt and runs out of ammunition. Tilak Singh shoots him in the arm but he manages to escape.

He goes to see Chhaya and asks her to take the bullet out. It’s meltingly romantic; though in pain, he tries to put her at her ease by teasing her about missing him. She cuts the bullet out with what looks like a butter knife and we are treated to lots of Shashi facial contortions. When it’s out, though, he’s back to teasing her.


She tells him about Himmat Singh saving his mother, and he goes to see the old dacoit. Himmat talks to him about how he wants to reform the dacoits—not kill them, not imprison them.


He agrees to help Raju, though, by giving him a good hiding place in a cave only he knows about, and by providing him with food and water. He also tells Raju that Bhairav Singh (Ram Mohan), one of Tilak’s men, has a penchant for courtesans and often visits one (Aruna Irani) in particular.

When Raju arrives at her house, she is wearing the necklace that the dacoits stole from Radha—the necklace that Raju had given her as a wedding gift. When Raju tells her about it, she takes it off and gives it to him; he charms her completely by giving it back to her.


Moved that such a beautiful man would call her sister, she agrees to help him. During her dance performance (the music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, by the way, is very very nice throughout), Bhairav arrives. Much dishum-dishum ensues, ending with Bhairav’s arrest at the hands of Raju.

Oh, how angry this makes Tilak Singh!


Chhaya’s father is not pleased with Raju either. He tells him that it’s time to stop chasing dacoits and settle down in happily wedded bliss with Chhaya; Raju says that he can’t settle down with her until Tilak Singh and his gang are finished. Poor Chhaya! Her father breaks the engagement and Raju leaves. Lala hears about this and hurries to ask for Chhaya’s hand himself. Her father is outraged (at least he has one good point) and boots Lala out of the house.

Tilak has figured out that Himmat is probably helping Raju stay hidden (the villagers after all, are too cowardly). He burns down Himmat’s house with him in it, but Himmat is rescued by Chhaya who cares for his injuries. He tells Chhaya where Raju is hiding, and she takes food to him. Unfortunately, she also runs into Lala, who guesses what she’s up to.


He tells her that unless she comes to “see” him that night, he will tell Tilak Singh where Raju is.

What will she do? Can she give up her honor to save Raju? Will he ever be able to marry her? Will Tilak Singh and his gang be caught? Will they be killed, imprisoned or reformed?

Well, your guess is as good as mine, because this is where the DVD bailed. Thanks, Shemaroo. I’m not sending any more of my hard-earned pennies your way! If any of you, dear readers, can tell me how it ends I will be ever so grateful!

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28 Comments to “Phaansi (1978)”

  1. Lots of movies are ruined by their endings anyway, so maybe you should be grateful ;-)
    PC x

  2. Possibly. But this was really suspenseful, and I HATE to be left hanging! I’m really fed up. I’ve had too many damaged DVDs lately, and they are always Shemaroo disks. They should change their name to Shame-on-you.

    Grrr :( *pouts*


    Sorry. It’s desperate times over at the PPCC. We overspent our pic bandwidth and we have no new Shashi movies (well, except for Sindoor and Waqt… but they don’t count, we need MASALA!).

    OK, going to read the review now.

  4. I thought of you the whole time I watched this, ppcc. You would LOVE IT. Full of squishy dil, Shashi’s curls blowing in the wind, and he looks so manly with his rifle going after the gang all by himself…And PRAN! Pran is so great in this. It could have been a contender as a favorite IF ONLY I COULD SEE THE WHOLE THING *weeps*

    Perhaps you could have the video uncle test it for you before you buy it, although in my experience when one is bad they all are (this one doesn’t show any visible signs of damage, no scratches, dirt, nothing. It just stops)…

  5. OK, read it. Knife-like hands! Butter knife! LOL.

    Arrghhh, I really want to see this. Shashi in his prime and a karate-ing Pran?! With music by L-P?!!! ARGHHHHH! I am positively green with envy, ending or no ending.

  6. LOL :-) He would stiffen his hands and then chop the bejesus out of the bad guy. Hilarious. And yes, Sulakshana dug around with that blunt knife in Shashi’s arm for a while.

    If you manage to see the end, you must fill me in :-)

  7. Sigh, I love Pran.

    That blunt knife better have been rusty. That would have been even more bad-ass.

  8. (sorry for being a spammer today)

    And why is Jeevan so fey?!

  9. I’m glad to see that you’re still alive! Good question re: Jeevan. He was very very fey in this, although he’s always got a touch of it. I have no idea why though :-)

  10. Ohhhh how i love shashi in daku movies! I hate Shemaroo, and i also hate buying $20 other type copies that would be anything better than shemaroo! But i think i caught this on TV one time, and wondered what kinda copy they had as the TV tuned out as well! Shashi and Sulakshana always made a nice couple, though i do think aruna should have been a proper vamp and seduced shashi but she fell for him because he called her “bahen”
    NOO! Pran always has the best knife pointed hands,and has the best stunt man in the daku movies!

  11. I rushed to check my copy of the movie (its an Eagle VCD) after reading your review! Havent seen the movie yet, and dont want it to bail out on me in the last few minutes!! From a quick fast forward through the end, I am relieved to note that my copy seems to work right through to the end. Was trying hard not to figure out what happens, so all I can tell you is that there is a great deal of fighting and it ends happily-ever-after. Can let you know more, after I watch it, if you’re still curious then…

  12. I feel your pain, Memsaab! I have a Sharmila Tagore film from T-Series that I will never know the climax of due to the DVD stopping before the movie is over!!!!

    How do these companies let this happen!

  13. If we’re busy swapping stories of failed DVDs, I have no idea how Zanjeer actually ends since it stops right when Amitabh and Pran get together to start the dennouement.

  14. Oh, how frustrating is that. I haven’t seen the film, so can’t oblige. I like the word ‘daku-drama’.

    Impressive list of gang-men. Ranjit is so evil. I used to hate him as a kid.

  15. Shashi Kapoor’s multicoloured jacket in that screen cap with Asrani in it is really QUITE eye-popping! So typical 70’s.

  16. Just finished watching. This movie has more twist and turns than a jalebi! Found the part after Lala’s blackmail the most interesting part of the movie.


    Chhaya goes to Lala’s house with a knife in her hands and murder in her heart but is speedily disarmed by him. Her izzat is saved by Abdul who is then followed on his way to Raju’s hiding place by Lala and Jagjit. Abdul gets stabbed but doesnt die until he speaks his requisite dying lines. Then Raju decides to stop imitating the lone ranger and calls in the troops. Himmat manages to convince all of Tilak’s gang to surrender to the police by showing them their families (Tilak appears to be the only one without a family!) and his marvelous oratory. Only Bhima stays with Tilak who decides to blow up his former associates and lays down enough dynamite near the place their *surrender ceremony* is to be. Just as he is about to blow up the dynamite, Raju shows up to stop him and Bhima shows up with a gun to Chhaya’s head to stop Raju. There is a lot of fighting with Raju and Himmat getting the upper hand when a second gang of dacoits shows up! There is yet more fighting. Everybody participates (including Abdul’s horse – that was the awesomest part) and in the free-for-all, Tilak manages to hang himself!

  17. Wow! Thank you for this review and thanks to bollyviewer for the ending.

  18. bollyviewer: oh thank you. I will look for the Eagle version, I truly loved this film (even though I hate jalebi)

    Mike: I know, it infuriates me. Also causes me to be much less against pirating!

    ppcc: The humanity!!!!!!!!!!!! They always crap out right when the going gets good too. Bah!

    Banno: Heh :-) Maybe if I’d seen him as a kid I would have hated him too, but as an adult I just find him hot. What does that say about me, I wonder :-)

    dustedoff: yes, I thought of Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors when I saw that one!

    Eliza: you are welcome as always!

  19. Those karate comments make me wonder… have you seen “Dharam Veer” (more men in skirts)? Pran wields a samurai sword there, so do apne Dharam praaji. :D

    I wonder how so many police officers spend time out of uniform (in civvies) in the movies. Then again, Raju would be under cover, wouldn’t he?

  20. I love Dharam Veer :-) (it’s on here somewhere)…higher ranking officers don’t wear uniforms I guess, just like the US. Pran was always a renegade with mad skills :-)

  21. That pic of Iftekhar almost broke my heart (I know its only a pic from only a movie, but..!) Also love that screen cap w/ Shashi and Aruna- he sounds sweet even in a screencap!

  22. I know! It was heartbreaking, absolutely awful. And then when he realizes that he hasn’t seen his sister either and that she is also dead, I die too! Soooo sad :-(

    Aruna’s never been one of my faves, but she looks gorgeous in this.

  23. my late brother FRANCIS JOHN QUADROS was associated with this film PHAANSI, he was a Manager for EASTERN FILMS.

  24. Uncle Francis was a great person, he was a very good friend my dad, may his soul rest in peace.

  25. My dad & Uncle Francis were good friends, may his soul rest in peace.

  26. Francis was my student, at St. Ignatius high School Jacob Circle Mumbai (Bombay)

  27. I hate Shemaroo too, specially after a perfectly wonderful viewing of ‘Devdas’ with Dhanno got ruined in the middle of the film. We were so disoriented that evening. And yes, it happens with a lot of their DVDs.

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