Feeling thwarted by my truncated Phaansi experience, I embarked on another dacoit saga. These films have the added bonus (for me) of engaging Gemma’s attention too (the horses); she goes absolutely nuts which is entertaining by itself. It also makes her very pleased with herself, and how can that be bad? She’s defending me against those big bad animals!
Plus, this movie is directed by Raj Khosla—one of my favorite directors—and it stars Vinod Khanna and Kabir Bedi as deadly adversaries who find redemption through their love for the same girl (the absolutely stunning Moushumi Chatterjee). One more thing about the horses: Vinod’s is a white one named Dara, and Kabir’s is a black one named Toofan. Heh.
Thakur Bahadur Singh (Dev Kumar) is convicted in court (by Judge Murad of course!) of murder and sentenced to death. His conviction has been secured by the testimony of Pandit Tulsiram (Kabir Bedi), and Bahadur Singh’s pregnant wife (Nirupa Roy) vows that her unborn son will avenge his father’s death at the hands of Tulsiram.
Luckily for her, she does give birth to a son; she brings him up in an atmosphere of hatred (how can that possibly go wrong?) and teaches him to be a crack shot. When he is old enough, she calls her husband’s old gang of dacoits and hands him over to lead them. They welcome Lakhan (Vinod Khanna) with open arms.
Of course his first order of business is to track down Pandit Tulsiram and kill him. It doesn’t take long—he and his men encounter Tulsiram walking alone and unarmed, and Lakhan shoots him in cold blood as old Tulsiram cries his own son’s name: “Roopa!”
Roopa (Kabir Bedi—now that is a son who really does look just like his father!) comes to warn Lakhan’s mother that he will be taking his own revenge.
She is defiant, but she tells Lakhan later to be careful of Roopa: something about him scared her. He laughs it off. His next trip is to a local brothel, where two sisters dance and entertain. The younger one is still *only* a dancer, but Lakhan’s attention goes to her and despite her older sister’s protests and entreaties, he abducts her and rapes her.
Even his own men don’t approve of this, but Lakhan’s arrogance knows no bounds. A few days later he rapes the daughter of one of his mother’s friends. When news of all this reaches his mother, she is horrified.
Meanwhile, Roopa has joined a group of dacoits led by Amritlal (Jagdish Raj), who forces him to shoot a police informant as proof of his loyalty. Roopa does so, knowing that this act makes him as much an outcast of society as the others, including Lakhan.
When Amritlal is killed during an encounter with Lakhan’s band, Roopa takes over as their new leader too. Another dacoit challenges him for leadership, but in contrast to Lakhan’s habits of shooting unarmed men and raping helpless girls, Roopa fights the other man without a weapon, although his opponent has a knife. He wins the respect of his men—also in sharp contrast to Lakhan.
A fairly unobtrusive comic side plot is introduced in the form of an ammunition-wala named Rambharosa (Bhagwan), who sells arms to both Lakhan and Roopa’s gangs and is worried that his divided loyalties might get him in trouble—as he tells his wife Lajwanti (Tun Tun). I’m always so happy to see her!
Roopa enlists the help of the two nautch girls to try and trap Lakhan, but misses his chance to kill him. Lakhan is suspicious of the younger girl and kills her. Lakhan’s mother reads about it, and is even more upset. When Lakhan goes to see her, she angrily repudiates him but he points out what the rest of us could see all along.
It’s a very powerful scene and Vinod is awesome. You can see the pain behind his words, although he is angry: instead of teaching him to read and write, he says, she taught him to shoot. He leaves her standing speechless and rides off. On the way back to their hideout, one of his men spots Roopa and shoots him in the leg. Lakhan angrily knocks the man off his horse: Roopa is his target! He takes off after his wounded enemy.
Roopa manages to make his way to a large cornfield, and hides among the tall stalks. He’s spotted by a beautiful and carefree village girl named Sona (Moushumi Chatterjee), and he asks her for help.
She takes him to a small hut where grain is stored and then intercepts Lakhan, who is hot on Roopa’s trail, and diverts him away from the hut. Lakhan is impressed by her beauty and innocent charm and he leaves, taking Roopa’s abandoned horse with him. Over the next few days, Sona brings food for Roopa. I see a new list of daku-drama characteristics being born, as he asks her to help him remove the bullet from his leg.
His facial contortions are *almost* as good as Shashi’s! Meanwhile, Lakhan can’t stop thinking about Sona, and he dresses up as a holy man and ventures into her village to talk to her. She doesn’t appear to recognize him as the dacoit, and he returns to speak with her on a very risky daily basis.
Roopa comes looking for Sona again after he’s recovered, too. He wants to give her a gold necklace as thanks for her help, but she refuses it thinking that he stole it. He tells her that it belongs to his mother, a respected and honorable woman. She asks if he comes from a good family and he says yes, and that he was in the army planning on a career as an officer. She asks why he left that to become a dacoit.
He doesn’t tell her, but his eyes fill with tears and he says he wishes he had met her earlier. It’s so sad! Oh the waste! The humanity!
On a festival day, both Lakhan and Roopa come in disguise to the village. They each watch Sona sing, completely smitten. The songs in this film are very nice, by the way, courtesy of Laxmikant Pyarelal. That night Roopa sneaks up on Lakhan and his men as they sleep. He doesn’t manage to kill Lakhan although he does steal Lakhan’s horse (his own, stolen by Lakhan earlier, is chained up). Lakhan’s uncle chides him for losing concentration because of Sona—deadly for a dacoit.
Both men are about to get their hearts broken, though: Sona is already in love, with a village boy named Bhola (Ritesh). They each see her frolicking (and singing) with him one afternoon. I don’t really understand it, he’s a total pudding-face and she could have Vinod! or Kabir! but it’s not my decision.
But Lakhan’s uncle—tired of Lakhan mooning around—kidnaps Sona, bringing her to the dacoits’ hideout. Lakhan is furious and chastises his men, telling them not to even look at her. He takes Sona back unharmed to her village. When they arrive there, the police are present in droves, but Lakhan starts down the path to go in. Sona stops him; she doesn’t want the police to capture him.
She convinces him that her parents love her and will have faith in her and he needn’t risk his life.
But do they?
Her father is KN Singh! He is furious with her for lying to the police, and the police don’t believe her anyway. Her to-be husband Bhola has no faith in her either, and his father breaks their engagement.
Can Lakhan make things right without getting caught by the police? Or by Roopa? Can Sona get Bhola back? Why does she want to? It boggles my mind. I simply can’t suspend disbelief that much.
I really enjoyed this movie, though. Vinod Khanna and Kabir Bedi’s performances are really wonderful and the story is compelling. And where has Moushumi Chatterjee been all my life? I don’t think I’ve seen her before, at least not this young. She’s gorgeous. The film is beautifully shot, too, with all the Khosla trademark windows and frames and odd viewing angles.
I’m on a daku-drama roll!