I haven’t seen many Raaj Kumar films, a deficiency which I hope to correct this year. I chose to start with this film for several reasons: I already owned it, Hema Malini stars opposite him, Pran is in it, and it also stars Sanjay Dutt, Amrish Puri, and another object of my curiosity, Farha Naaz (Tabu’s older sister). Okay, so essentially my choice mostly came down to one thing: the cast, the cast, the cast. And the cast, the cast, the cast in the end is what made it such an enjoyable film.
The story is a relatively simple “good versus evil” fairytale, revolving around the rivalry of two Muslim landowners ruling a wild and hilly region: Rehmat Khan (Raaj Kumar)—a devout and good man; and Shahbaaz Khan (Amrish Puri)—a…well, it’s Amrish Puri. (I also love the Urdu-based language of Muslim-dominated films—the words are just so beautiful: begum, ammijaan, adaab, khuda hafiz…)
Amrish Puri, as we all know, made an entire career out of using his marble-like eyes and gravelly voice to scare the bejesus out of people.
This role is no exception, and he brings a strange sort of creepy sexual tension to it as well. He lusts after a renowned beauty named Shamajaan (Hema Malini) and the film begins as he kidnaps her (she has fainted) after killing her father.
At Rehmat Khan’s house (Rehmat himself is away on a short business trip) one of his young proteges, Hashim (Sanjay Dutt), is learning the art of fighting from a master named Rustom (Pran). This involves a lot of unbelievable leaping about with the aid of camera tricks and some silliness where Rushtom pokes Hashim with his fingers, paralyzing him—but it’s really fun, because it’s Sanju and Pran!
Meanwhile, Shahbaaz is instructing a prostitute named Aminabai (Alka Nupur) to “teach [Shama] the things I like and return her to me.” Shudder!!! Luckily Shama has more fighting spirit than anyone expects, and she escapes from the brothel and runs to a nearby shrine, where she decides to kill herself. She is stopped by Rehmat Khan’s mother Ammijaan (Dina Pathak), who sends for Rustom when she hears of Shama’s trouble.
Outside the shrine, Hashim overhears Shahbaaz’s men talking about recapturing Shama when she comes out. He knows (and so do we) that they are Shahbaaz’s men because they sport the same pointy facial hair that Shahbaaz himself does.
Hashim practices his fighting skills on Shahbaaz’s men while Rustom cheers him along (and helps out where necessary), and Ammijaan escapes with Shama to Rehmat Khan’s house. Shama is given shelter there; she listens as Ammijaan complains about the sad lack of a bahu and grandchildren in her home. Rehmat comes home just in time to celebrate Eid with his family. Shama performs a song for the assembled crowd, and music-loving Rehmat is impressed. The song is beautiful and lots of fun—“Mohabbat Ibadat Hai.” (Kalyanji Anandji composed the music, and Prakash Mehra, who directed, also wrote the lyrics.) When he gets a look at her, Rehmat is also smitten.
Shahbaaz, in his fury at Shama’s escaping him, spreads the rumor far and wide that she is a prostitute. When she hears about this, Shama unwisely decides to plead her innocence to her community and goes to her home, where she is resolutely shunned by everyone—and where Shahbaaz and his men show up (surprise!).
Her defiance doesn’t sit well with him (surprise!) and her uncle is murdered when he comes to her defence (surprise!). She is most fortunate in that Rehmat Khan arrives in the nick of time to prevent her being kidnapped again. He gives Shahbaaz a good thrashing and is on the point of killing him when the call to prayer rings out. Although Rehmat’s friend Abu Bhai (Suresh Oberoi) counsels him against it, Rehmat lets Shahbaaz go.
Abu has a beautiful sister named Reshma (Farha). He wants to get her married since he is away a lot and he fears for her safety.
(Suresh in this awful wig reminds me of Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.) Anyway, Reshma doesn’t want to get married to just anybody: she is pining for her lost childhood love Hashim (it’s not clear to me how they lost each other when they live in the same neighborhood, basically, but never mind). But Abu is right to worry about her, because Shamsheer (Vijayendra Ghatge) has joined forces with Shahbaaz. With the help of Shahbaaz’s men, he attempts to kidnap Reshma. She manages to escape (the women in this film are pretty plucky, a big plus in its favor!) but Abu is killed. Reshma seeks refuge at Rehmat Khan’s house, where she is joyfully reunited with her beloved Hashim.
Rehmat Khan and Shama have fallen deeply in love, but Ammijaan has heard the rumors about Shama and she no longer approves of her, although she doesn’t go so far as to kick her out (yet). This makes Shama very unhappy, of course, but Rehmat tells her to have courage. He sees Reshma and Hashim together one day, and realizes that they love each other and vows to get them married too.
But on Rehmat’s birthday, Shama is not invited to his birthday party by Ammijaan. Rehmat asks her to come anyway, and she does so without Ammijaan seeing—or so they think. The old woman has sharp eyes, though, and she does see—and understands—everything.
She decides that Rehmat must get married—to Reshma; and she sends family friend Panditji (Om Prakash) to request that Shama leave their house and to break the news of his arranged wedding to her.
Shama does not want to come between her love and his ma, and so leaves the house with nothing but the musical instrument Rehmat Khan had gifted her on his birthday.
What will happen now? Can she avoid Shahbaaz Khan? Will Rehmat Khan agree to marry Reshma to please his beloved ma? What about Hashim and Reshma’s love—and Shamsheer, who is still determined to have Reshma for himself?
If you enjoy a good story, you will enjoy this: it’s well done, with a great cast of characters and a lovely ambiance. The songs are very nice, and the two love stories—one between an older couple, and one between a younger pair—and the over-the-top villainy will give most people something for their money. I thoroughly enjoyed it, anyway. And Raaj Kumar was quite charismatic: my New Year’s vow to see more of him seems to be a good one!