Imtihan (1974)


Sigh. I so wanted to like this film. It’s based on To Sir With Lovewhich is one of my all-time favorite movies (Lulu! Sidney Poitier! sixties fashions!), and Vinod Khanna stars as an earnest college professor with Tanuja as his love interest. But alas, it threw away all its potential on a bad script: the characters were nothing but caricatures, and all plot opportunities for dramatic buildup and emotional involvement were squandered.

The greatness of To Sir With Love lies in the investment that the teacher made in his badly-behaved adolescent students, and the three-dimensional portrayals of the students and teacher which allowed the viewer to invest as well. The students in that film were from broken and poor homes, and had difficult lives; in this movie the students are in college, behave like third-graders, and the really bad ones are well-off. Plus, they are never developed beyond stereotypes. Instead of being a “new” kind of teacher who inspires his students, Vinod’s professor makes poor decisions and comes off as aloof. I will say that Vinod did his best with the material he was given—but he wasn’t given anything.

He plays Pramod Sharma, the son of a wealthy businessman (Murad) who disapproves of Pramod’s chosen career as a college history professor. The film opens as he travels to his new job accompanied by a nice song (which recurs throughout) called “Ruk Jaana Nahin.” He arrives to find an environment where things are run by a bully named Rakesh (Prithviraj) and a snobby beauty queen named Rita (Bindu), who is the daughter of the Chairman of the college.


The teachers are inept cowards who turn a blind eye to the goings-on and tolerate things like being pelted with tomatoes while they are trying to teach. Pramod is not so easily subverted, and on his first day in front of the class he humiliates Rakesh. This is pretty much the last time he does anything impressive in the film. He also attracts the admiration of Rita, who soon advances on him flirtatiously.


His tepid response does little to discourage her. And he lets her take his books to the hostel for him! This illustrates in large part of what made the movie fail for me: throughout the film, Pramod has numerous opportunities to engage with the students, to discipline them when necessary, and to teach them some life lessons—but fails miserably to do so. I mean, that was the whole point of To Sir With Love (not to go on and on about that film, but it is a useful contrast). Sidney Poitier’s character connects with his students as a figure of authority to be respected, but as one who cares for them as well. Pramod is just so passive at worst, and enabling at best.

At the hostel, he meets the college principal, Shastri (Abhi Bhattacharya) and his beautiful lame daughter Madhu (Tanuja). She is a strange, withdrawn girl, and Shastri tells Pramod that she fell down some stairs, breaking her hip, a while ago. This accident caused her to leave the college and stop the painting she had loved so much. When the principal shows Pramod the only painting he has that she didn’t destroy, she freaks out.


There is clearly more going on than meets the eye, which could be a great subplot—except that only a few scenes later, Pramod easily gets her to tell him that she fell upon discovering that the man she loved (an Indian Air Force officer) had just been killed in a plane crash. A little attention from Pramod, who gives her a new bunch of art materials, and she’s happily living her life and painting again. There’s nothing to involve yourself in, nothing (and no real chemistry between Vinod and Tanuja either).

Meanwhile, Rakesh (whose best point is that he favors extremely loudly patterned outfits) and his sidekicks (a hilariously be-wigged and facial-haired “hippie” with a bugle, and a geek who appears to be somewhat retarded) are wreaking their usual havoc. One of their bullied victims (whom they have forced to get drunk) finally tells Pramod what Rakesh really gets up to outside of class.


He searches Rakesh’s room and finds plenty of evidence of these activities; at this point you’d expect that Pramod—a professor at the college after all—would do something with this information. He doesn’t. He just lets it go. He does tell Rakesh eventually that he knows what’s going on, but that he’s not going to do anything for Rakesh’s parents’ sake. What? How is their son peddling LSD, liquor and nudie magazines going to benefit them?

By the way, the photographer who works with Rakesh on the nude girlie photos is Ranjeet! I love him, and I perk up whenever he’s onscreen (which sadly, isn’t often). This is as nude as the girls get:


Meanwhile, as Pramod and Madhu fall in love, Rita is becoming obsessed with him and jealous of Madhu. There is one hilarious sequence where Rita is serenaded by a group of boys at the hostel, who sing a medley of hit songs from other films. It’s very cute (and includes two of my favorite Rajesh Khanna songs).


But back to Rita’s obsession with Pramod. He doesn’t seem to get how dangerous this could be for him, and allows himself to get lured into a trap that she and Rakesh set for him. On a school trip to a temple which houses erotic statues, Rita makes her intentions pretty obvious.


I mean, if that’s not a red flag, then what is? Clueless Pramod allows her to draw him out of his room in the middle of the night. She takes him to the nearby woods, where she gets him in a compromising position and then screams for help. Rakesh and his hangers-on arrive and “save” her, and everyone accuses Pramod of rape.

What will happen next? Will Pramod be fired? Put in jail? What will this do to Madhu?

Who cares? I don’t. Besides the obvious flaws I’ve already gone through, Vinod’s gorgeousness is hidden behind his huge thick ugly glasses almost the whole time, and Tanuja is superfluous. The students all need to be smacked, hard, and the professors—including Pramod—should all be fired for incompetence. Now that might have been an entertaining film!

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37 Comments to “Imtihan (1974)”

  1. You had IDed him correctly- it IS Prithviraj playing the orange-vested bully. I think I enjoyed this movie for Bindu and all her shennigans + vinod and his HUGE glasses- he manages to look cute no matter what :D

  2. Hey, thanks Shweta, I’ll update my post accordingly ;-)

    Several people recommended this film to me, so I really was disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high b/c of the To Sir…thing, but it just got boring for me really quickly. I loved the fashions though, and all of Bindu’s patent leather knee-high go-go boots! She had them in seemingly EVERY color!

  3. Dang! The set-up sounded so good! Who wouldn’t want to see Vinod Khanna as an earnest yet studly teacher of some ill behaved teenagers from broken homes?!

    I’ll be skipping this one, I think… (although YAY for Ranjeet!)

  4. Yay Ranjeet indeed. If only he’d been onscreen a lot more. I liked Prithviraj who played Rakesh quite a bit, he was satisfyingly bullying and threatening. He just didn’t quite fit in here.

  5. I remembered this as a film I liked. Maybe because I saw it as a kid before I had seen ‘To Sir with Love’. But now yes, I think you are right. The Vinod Khanna – Tanuja angle was always very unsatisfying and pat. Though I liked the songs.

    As for the students being richies, poor students couldn’t get away with bad behaviour here. And I guess Hindi film ethics requires rich baddies, and moralistic preaching rather than any real engagement.

  6. oops i wrote 4 interesting comments but lost them accidentally when i pushed the submit comments button!

  7. I guess we have to bear in mind the motto “pls don’t raise memsaab’s expectations”! while recommending movies.

    it is well known that originals are always good and re-makes pale in comparison.

    Perhaps you didn’t have your “suspend your belief while watching bollywood movies” mode on.

    I think I liked this movie coz i saw it as a teenager mainly for VK and the songs. The medley of old film songs when Bindu walks in the campus i think was really good – if i can recollect the music is by LP. So the medley consisted of famous LP songs particularly apt for the situation. That made it very enjoyable.

    Having trouble submitting the comments. I hope they don’t appear too many times!

    • Anonymous: Sorry for your comment trouble, they went into spam as well. Not sure why (WordPress hiccuping?) but I’ve rescued them…

      I very often like the Hindi remakes of some of my favorite Hollywood films better…this was just badly executed (of course that is my opinion only, but I try to be honest in my assessments!). I would have liked this a lot more possibly had it been more “Bollywood.” I think the filmmaker wanted to make a “serious” film, but just forgot that a serious film still needs good characters, a script with some flow to it and something for the audience to invest in. I did love that medley you refer to, hadn’t gotten the L-P connection though; thanks for pointing it out! :-)

  8. Like Banno, I too first saw this when I was a kid – before I got around to seeing To Sir With Love. The latter’s in a different class altogether, but at the time, with Vinod Khanna onscreen (yes, even as a kid, I knew a good thing when I saw it!!), I rather liked this. But in retrospect (and having seen Imtihaan again a few years back, I have to admit it was way below standard.
    The music, though, is lovely – I also like Roz shaam aati thhi magar aisi na thhi.

  9. So this movie, despite being inspired from an outstanding movie, fails to build up steam. So bad. It just proves the Hindi saying that one needs “Akal” (brains) for even “nakal” (Copying). The makers of this movie were obviously poorly equipped to make a great movie out of such a promising story line.

    The only thing great in that case is the music of this movie (if listened to in isolation). Now I know why the VCD/DVDs of this movie are not readily available. Its songs “ruk jana nahin” and “roz shaam aati thi” are all that one need to watch in this movie.

    Great review, as always.

  10. I too, remember liking this a lot. Like Banno and Dustedoff, I saw it as a kid and loved Vinod+Tanuja (yup, even as a kid I could identify eye candy!) and the lovely songs but have never had a chance to rewatch. I loved To Sir With Love, too – the book as well as the movie. But thats another movie I watched looooong ago and can only remember my blinding love for Sidney Poitier, now!

  11. Yes, a few of the songs of these last two films you have reviewed are gems; but I hope you now see why hindi films made me into an “angry young teen”! Just couldn’t stand the cliches and cheap moralising and what nots.
    As my father felt the same, we were pretty much the only family I knew that went to watch only a very few select films, and from your recent blogs memsaab, I didn’t miss much!

  12. I think, Banno, dustedoff, bollyviewer and I shared the same childhood.
    I also loved Vinod Khanna in this movie, glasses (after all he is a professor! ;-D) and all. Found Tanuja gorgeous. Loved “ruk jana nahin” and “roz shaam aati thi” .
    Only our adult life parted ways, since I never saw “To Sir with Love”.

    BTW I loved the scene in the end, where Tanuja follows Vinod. I think I cried!

  13. I love how emotional Hindi films can be—and I guess I would have preferred even OTT emotion here. It just didn’t have any depth, there was no reason to engage with any of the characters. They were too pat, the situations were too cliched…it just didn’t work for me.

    Bindu was convincing as a student with a hopeless crush on Vinod, but she couldn’t carry it all by herself…

    The songs were pretty though!

  14. Hmm…I, too, loved “To Sir with Love” (I just adore Sidney Potier) so perhaps I would have the same reaction. If I can find this to rent at my local Indian store, fine. Otherwise will think twice thanks to your review!

  15. yeah….I would watch To Sir With Love again instead :) or find the songs from this on YouTube and watch them.

  16. LOL at ‘looking at these statues, I feel tickled’. How clueless could he be? I love ‘To Sir with Love’ SO MUCH – much as I adore Mr Khanna (and much as I usually like Hindi films about college – especially when there’s a hot teacher), I think I might have to give this one a miss. Shame about the squandered potential.

  17. I almost fell off my chair at that one! He was pretty clueless throughout. It is a pity, could have been really good in the right hands with a good script…

  18. I remember being one of the persons recommending this movie to you, so blame it partly on me. :-)

    When I saw this movie way back in the 1970s (as a young boy), I liked it a lot. Apart from Ruk jaana nahin and Roz shaam aati thi, what appealed to me was that it was about school/college life, quite different from the routine stories of Hindi movies at that time.

    Have not seen “To Sir..” so cannot compare but if this is a remake, I am sure it has been “adapted” to Indian audiences. And they need spoilt brats from rich families in colleges, a respectable professor adopting a Gandhian approach to addressing difficult situations. This sits well (at least it did in that generation) with the Indian public.

    It has been a while since I last saw this movie – from what I remember, Bindu was the stand-out character in the movie. I remember her role very clearly, the others sort of fade away. I don’t think Tanuja had much of a role.

    One good thing has come out of this – for me. ;-)

    I now have to watch “To Sir…”.

  19. No blame! :-) I always appreciate recommendations even if I end up not liking the film. Had I seen it as a teenager in India I might have liked it too—and Bindu was the high point of the film, so you remember that correctly! And To Sir…is a good film to remake, it just should have been done better. Do see it and let me know what you think!

  20. I posted about this because I was semi-rec’ed this film as “nice romantic film with Vinod”, I watched about an hour and a half of it was decided NO, not very nice romantic film, cheesy and boring and trite somehow. Still not sure if I’ll ever get through it. I suppose I’ll have to try it again sometime. Maybe hit fast-forward a lot and just oggle at Vinod. Sigh.

  21. Trite is a good word for it…and I’d rather watch Vinod in any number of his other films than watch this ever again! :-)

  22. One trivia on this… The title song… “rukh jana nahin.. tu kabhi haar ke”… is very similar to the song from Amir Garib (Dev)… “Main aya hoon”… BTW, this is the one i watched when it aired on Door Darshan.. I had to cringe when Bindu did her number… Mom and Grandma were seated on my either end… I must have been in 6th grade..

  23. Imitihan was shot in Barnes School, Devlali near Nasik. Vinod Khanna, Arshad Warsi, Arjun Rampal, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis and Bhumika Chawla have all studied in Barnes School. Barnes School is the largest boarding school in west India established in 1925.

  24. (Late to this game as usual.)

    Hmmm. HMMMM. Veracious just told me about this and sent me a picture of Vinod in glasses, so naturally I am intrigued. I too am a sucker for school movies (though somehow have never seen To Sir with Love, perhaps because of the song), but I suppose I can consider myself sufficiently warned away. Maybe you could send me some of Bindu’s boots, though :)

  25. Hi there! Thank you very much for this review. I watched To sir, with love when I was a kid (I liked it a lot then) but I wasn’t even sure what the title was. While watching Imtihan recently, I thought it really reminded me of one of those western films on highschool made in the 60s but I wasn’t sure which one. Probably that’s because of all those changes that make Imtihan not really that similar to To sir, with love. To sir, with love was to me more of a story of the fight a teacher puts up to reform his students and Imtihan more about how mistrust (of the higher-ups) and the false accusations of students can destroy a teacher’s career and reputation. So to me the basis is the same, but the accents are distibuted differently. Not comparing the films might have made you like Imtihan more than you did (but I do agree, that To sir, with love is a much better film overall). As to me, I found the plot quite unusual for a 70s Bollywood movie, so it piqued my interest. I also liked Vinod (I prayed for him to take of the fugly glasses, though xD) and Ruk Jaana Nahin (it makes me teary-eyed) every time, I listen to it. The song medley was very cute as well and the ending itself quite moving. However, the Vinod – Tanuja romance was a wasted opportunity, and some of Bindu’s crazy dance performances were just creepy xD So not a brilliant film, but I did enjoy a few things about it.

    • I think the message veered off-track in this because it’s a poorly made film, not because it was meant to purposefully :D…the changes which were made were thoughtless and stemmed from a lack of true understanding of what made To Sir With Love work. I don’t mind “remakes” which go astray just because they go astray—I don’t think I would have liked this even had I not ever seen To Sir With Love. It’s just a bad movie…although it does try hard.

      Thanks for your comment (am so with you on the fugly glasses!) :)

      • I sort of hoped they knew, what they were doing… but maybe not :) I guess, I was pleasantly surprised with the quite bold for their time themes and this made me quite forgiving, towards the film’s deficiencies (and yes, there are many). Yeah, probably the “trying hard” does describe it best :)

  26. While i a lot of mention in this blog is a comparision of “Imtihaan” with “To Sir with love”, i would like to draw attention to another old era American film called “Blackboard Jungle” which deals with the same subject. I saw this move yesterday and must say i found to be excellent.It portrays a very realistic portrayal on the subject of juvenile delinquency.I would even consider this under-rated film better than “To sir with love”

    I liked Glenn Ford’s acting as the calm and composed teacher who tries to get through to his violent and criminal minded students.Glenn Ford was a brilliant actor and what i would call “A real American hero”.It was unfortunate that he was under-rated as an actor and didn’t get his due.

  27. Imtihaan bombed at the back office, this was one of the last few movies of Tanuja as a heroine before she switched to character roles from 1978 onwards. If you visit Deolali near Nashik. do visit the school. I guess it has remained the same. I did not know Vinod Khanna studied here.

    Around 1974 there was another movie starring Feroz Khan, Asha Parekh and Akbar that revolved around a similar theme. I guess “To Sir with Love” must have been a movie in the 70’S that inspired Bollywood film makers to make movies on it

    • Wrong – Imithan was a super hit movie for VK and Tanuja. Tanjua only switched on to character roles on a re-run of her career in the 80s after her marriage to shomu mukerjee collapsed. Her character roles began with Masoom (1983 – in a short role)

    • Yes, that Feroz/Asha movie was Anjaan Raahen. It is known for the Mukesh song “mujhe nahin poochhni tumse beeti baatein”.


    Tanuja’s first character role began in 1979. See the link above ! It was Swarag Narak.

  29. Thanks for the full information .Imtihaan is one of the best classic movie bollywood ever made on the life of a teacher

  30. Sorry! Not a good one. Frankly I didn’t like to sir with love that much either. This one just got boring . The songs are good but a little preachy like the movie. I guess I only like VD to kick ass and write names down!

  31. very handsome and tallented actor i can never forget always live my memoryes

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