Azaad (1978)


If Dharmendra playing Zorro and rescuing pretty young things isn’t your thing, how about these options? Dharmendra chasing down a train! Dharmendra swinging through trees like Tarzan! Dharmendra taming wild horses! Dharmendra wrestling tigers! Dharmendra saving a man in chains from a burning building! Dharmendra saving the honor of women everywhere! Dharmendra impersonating a holy man! Dharmendra romancing the Dream Girl! Dharmendra escaping the Loony Bin of Death!

I was inspired to get a second copy of this film (a copy with subtitles) by Banno and I’m so very very glad I did. I am sure you will understand the attraction once you read her description of the action. Beth did, and Todd too—so watch out for what I am sure will be their superb analyses of this masala masterpiece as well. It’s a fun story that moves along at a brisk pace embellished with oodles of cracktastic detail.

Ashok (Dharmendra) is a man with a beautiful white horse (oh how I love Indian horses) named Raju. The first song in fact is a heartfelt Sholay-style paean to Raju (“Raju Chale Raju”). Substitute a white horse and a La-Z-Boy-inspired saddle for Amitabh and the motorcycle and you’ve got “Yeh Dosti.”


Raju is smart as well as beautiful. Together the two of them roam the countryside getting involved in other people’s quarrels. Ashok’s bhabhi Sarla (Sulochana) wants him to stop getting into fights. But what’s he supposed to do when he runs into the spoiled Princess Seema of Raigadh (Hema Malini) setting fire to a field of crops so that she can paint it?


He shouts at her and she has him arrested. To pacify Sarla, who is like a mother to him, Ashok decides to go off in search of a job. He heads off to Raigadh where Sarla’s cousin Ramesh Sharma (Keshto Mukherjee) lives with his sister Rekha (Shoma Anand). Sarla thinks Ramesh can help get Ashok a job; Ashok discovers that he’s a drunk (being Keshto Mukherjee and all) who works at Raigadh Palace.

There, Ashok is destined to see Princess Seema again. She’s fencing with Thakur Ajit Singh (Ajit).


I love the palace decor:


Despite their antagonism, Seema gives Ashok a job in the local distillery. Raigadh seems to be a one-company town:


Everything is owned by Seema, but managed by Ajit Singh and his son Prem (Prem Chopra). Prem is a bullying coward whom Ajit plans to marry off to Seema for her wealth. The next 45 minutes or so of the film covers Seema and Ashok playing mean tricks on each other, then falling in love, while Prem whines and Ajit pretends that he’s happy with Ashok’s presence. There is an amazing tiger fight, although I worry about the tiger’s welfare—he is not acting when Ashok lassoes him with a rope and bucket.


We also meet Seema’s father, Thakur Ranjeet Singh (Om Shivpuri) whom Ajit has locked up in an old stone pile of a building. Ajit has convinced everyone including Seema that Ranjeet Singh is mad—but the truth is that he keeps Ranjeet Singh drugged and in chains as part of his plot to take over the estate. For the first time ever I feel my heart breaking for Om Shivpuri (connected in my head forever to awful Mr. Oberoi from Disco Dancer)!


Ajit and Seema’s Diwanji (Jankidas) are also cheating Seema out of profits and using her businesses as a front for smuggling. Seema has promoted Ashok to manager of her fish packing plant, and is spending more time there herself.


A customer named Mr. John (Pinchoo Kapoor) supplies Ajit with the powerful drug used on Ranjeet Singh in return for hashish. On the day that his sister Rekha’s marriage is to be fixed, Ramesh—working overtime to finish Mr. John’s consignment—finds a packet of the drug when he drops the block of ice encasing it. He is plied with alcohol and then murdered by Ajit—whose office conceals the completely insane death-trap lair that Banno described, and which we see in much more detail later.


Nooooooo! Despite his alcoholic tendencies, Ramesh was a nice guy and I am sad. Needless to say, Rekha and Ashok worry about his disappearance. Rekha goes to the plant to enquire about him, and Prem gets a look at her. On the pretence of taking her to see his father, he takes her to the old palace where Ranjeet Singh is held prisoner, and attempts to rape her. As she tries to fight him off a fire is accidentally started; as the building burns she is suddenly aided by Ranjeet Singh, who gets his shackles around Prem’s neck!


She runs! Weakened by his confinement and the drugs, though, he can’t hold onto Prem for long and Prem escapes, leaving Ranjeet Singh to die in the conflagration. Word that the old building is on fire quickly spreads, and Seema arrives with Ashok, who enters the flames and saves her father. It’s edge of the seat thrilling!


When Rekha tells Ashok what Prem has done to her, he goes to Prem’s house and drags him out. A locket given to him by Sarla, with her picture and her husband’s in it, falls to the floor. Ajit Singh finds it, and recognizes the photo of Ashok’s policeman brother. He flashes back to meeting the Inspector, who had discovered his smuggling and confronted Ranjeet Singh one day.


Ajit Singh—the real culprit, of course—killed Ashok’s brother, and took Ranjeet Singh prisoner. Meanwhile, Ranjeet Singh is telling Seema what had really happened as well.


Seema, realizing the magnitude of Ajit Singh’s crimes, tells her father she’ll get help from Ashok.

But meanwhile, Ajit Singh has called Ashok to his secret-lair-concealing office on the pretext of returning his locket—and has sent him into the Loony Bin of Death.


Stuffed bears with bottles of Vat 69! Music box figurines! Ashok recognizes Ramesh’s topi hanging from the spiky ceiling decoration (which is functional as well), and watches as it falls into a bubbling pit of fire and acid.


Just to be sure he doesn’t escape, Ajit sends in his killer golden lab (they are so renowned for their vicious natures) to help finish him off. For once I don’t have to worry about the dog’s welfare, since it’s clearly a stuffed animal.


As insurance, Ajit has also kidnapped Rekha and Sarla (who had come for a simple visit with family) and is menacing them (along with Seema’s father) with death by Toaster Oven!


Is there any end to the craziness of Ajit and Prem’s lair? (no) Can Ashok escape the killer labrador retriever? Can he save his sister, his bhabhi, and Ranjeet Singh? What will happen to Seema? For all the answers and more, watch Azaad—you’ll be so glad you did. It’s chock full of goodness!

And smokin’ hot Garam Dharam.


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37 Comments to “Azaad (1978)”

  1. O wow! This certainly seems brimming over with masala goodness. And I just realised that Rajshri has it. Yippeeee!!! One movie I can watch without feeling guilty about the money that went on the DVD. :->

  2. Holy cow, how have I missed this must-see movie!

  3. I didn’t have the will or the energy to go into much detail, esp. about the romancing part, but it is all good. I have seen a LOT of Dharmendra films, but this one never really crossed my radar (although I did own a copy w/o subs—one of my best suppliers is a huge Dharmendra fan) until Banno wrote about it. Thank goodness she did!

  4. This is the 1st movie I’ve heard of that has poor Keshto die off! Im heartbroken!
    But I will add this to my list, thanks. My husband is travelling to India soon, and I was wondering if you could reccommend similar insane movies? I am compiling a list which currently features Ajit, Vijay Anand and spy movies, but I am looking for more spy and surreal 50s-70s movies to add to it.

  5. I know others will chime in, but make sure you have Jugnu! Aankhen and Night In London are fun too…any Raj Khosla will entertain…I will have to think more about this.

  6. I have to admit, I was pretty bored through the first 75% or so of this, but the final 25% more than made up for it. That lair is truly fab (and will probably be the focus of my post). Memsaab has convinced me to watch the movie again and pay closer attention (we were chatting during the initial viewing) – and clearly I will need to screencap the living daylights out of it!

    That poor tiger. That was not a good scene, not at all.

  7. I still feel anxious on that poor tiger’s behalf. But I really liked it a lot on second viewing—without you distracting me the story made sense and I felt very involved with the characters. Poor Om Shivpuri! Poor Rekha! Poor KESHTO, nahiiiiiiin!!!!

    And that’s what makes a movie good to me. When I care. And I cared, oh yes, I cared.

    Beth, maybe it was my chatter that bored you, not the fillum ;-)

  8. I’ve never even heard of night in london- it sounds fun! and im running over to check out raj khosla’s movies…do say if u think of more- thanks!

  9. My eyes need fixing. In that screencap next to the one with the lab, I read the subtitle as “Your toe dies a dog’s death”. Well, maybe that was all the killer lab was capable of wrenching off… lol.

    But seriously, from your description (I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen Azaad yet), I can feel a distinct sense of deja vu. White horse, beautiful and smart? Sounds like 1930’s John Wayne and Duke. Painting while the place burnt? Quo Vadis.

  10. Death by Toaster Grill! Oh my word… I shall expire from the rolling around and laughing till my sides ache. You are so funny memsaab!

    The awsomeness of the Lair is most excellent…. hehehehehe.

    I see why they called him Garam Dharam!

    When I mentioned to someone who was in the thick of things in Bollywood in that era… how impressed I was with Abhay Deol, she immediatly had this to say.

    “Delectable Deol, Kiran?? U shld have met his uncle Garam Dharam during his prime. Now that’s delectable. ”

    And yes, I am still wiping the drool off my chin about the Abhayster!

  11. There is an older version of Azaad that I faintly remember having watched on DD. It stars Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari. Dilip Kumar was in a similar get up as Dharamendra. I think it is one of the few light comedy type roles that Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari had done.Has a few nice songs too…

  12. I remember reading a letter’s to the editor in a film mag which goes like this ” An Evening in Paris” , “Love in Tokyo”, “Night in London” – followed by “Delivery in Rome”?

    I cracked up! thought of sharing this hilarious piece on reading ur recommendation of Night in London to Shweta.

    I too think of getting a collection of hindi movies on my visits to India. Invariably i am too busy visiting places, relatives and friends – so forget most of the time. This is a good reminder for me to get more fillums on my next visit.

    Good post on Azad memsaab – maybe just what i need after SCDM! LoL

  13. Death by toaster oven was hillarious!

    This is not the type of film I would like to watch on my own (and none of my friends or family are interested in Indian films) so I’ll stay away but reading your review, as always, is a treat :)

  14. shweta: It’s oodles of fun. Lots of crazy running around. And Helen! One of my favorite Raj Khosla films is Anita—I found a copy of it with good subs so ignore my cranky review of it. Do avoid Woh Kaun Thi though, it was BAD (well IMO anyway). If you can find Reporter Raju, that’s a good one too! :) And also Feroz Khan’s Apradh, of course.

    dusted off: White horse, and later a brown one—both beautiful, and smart! Me and Gemma love us Hindi films with major horse characters.

    AKNYC: I was laughing as the Toaster Ovens moved in on them. All I could think was that being pressed to death by a hot grill like a panini sandwich could NOT be a good way to go.

    And Dharmendra is (as Jaya Bachchan famously said recently) a Greek God of handsomeness. Just beautiful. Abhay looks a lot like him although he is cuter than he is handsome (but he’ll probably grow into handsome as he gets older).

    bluelotus: Do you remember the name of it? I fear that the Dilip-Meena combo would kill me if I got the wrong one!

    Anonymous: LOL LOL LOL @ “Delivery in Rome”!!!!

    Eliza: You don’t know what you are missing :-) Well, maybe you do.

  15. The Dilip-Meena movie is also called Azaad

  16. I have Apradh and Raju- but it gives me a good idea- will just imdb Feroz, and see what other maddnesses he perpetrated :D

  17. NOOOOO your chatter is always of the utmost quality!

    And now I’m remembering the bear suit in the woods and laughing and laughing and laughing.

  18. Sy: Thanks :) I’ll look for it.

    shweta: He did perpetrate a lot of madness, just beware because some of it was also just utter garbage!

    Beth: Heh :-) Even second time around the bear suit was still a total WTF moment. High-larious!

  19. us indians do like Woh Kaun Thi esp for the songs. I guess one must have to tolerate Manoj Kumar for songs as well as some good movies like Anita.


  20. So you did it! That Loony Bin of Death is magnificient. Aww, I must see this again!

  21. And Abhay looks nowhere near Dharam in his hey-days. He’s cute, and immensely likeable, but Dharam is sheer, sheer, good looks. And charm, and smile. Not even Hrithik matches up.

  22. As Sy wrote the older version is also called Azaad, I believe Dilip Kumar won the Filmfare award for his performance.

  23. Greta: completely going off-topic.

    there’s this blog I follow called the delhiwalla blogspot and here is his filmi-related post from a few days ago..

  24. I remember this film from way back in 91. My family friends rented it from the Indian video store and never returned it. I just recently watched a film called Nishabd with Amitabh Bachchan. It had a Lolita/Poison Ivy vibe. You might want to check it out. Excellent review here. My father was a huge fan of Dharmendra. Actually, Hema Malini as well. He told me that he was so choked when she died in Dharmatma that he didn’t want to watch the film anymore. Funny guy.

  25. Anonymous: Woh Kaun Thi’s songs are nice, but I’ll just listen to them rather than sit through the film again! ;-)

    Banno: Thanks to you, another masala gem :-) I owe you one! Agree that Dharam is one of the most magnificent men to ever walk the earth. But if you see him in his films from the early 60s he is very boyish—he didn’t get to be really handsome until he was a little older.

    bluelotus: I’ll look for it, thanks! I always am happy to see Dilip and Meena in happier roles.

    bawa: I love his photos, thanks for the link :-)

    R Singh: LOL @ never returned it! I might not have either. Def. can watch it again. Nishabd is the film with Jiah Khan, right? I will see it one of these days, although I am so tired of the older man-teenaged girl thing. It’s just kind of “ewwww” to me. I felt kind of the same about Dharmatma as your dad did! although I did think it was an excellent film. Hema’s death was v.v. sad though.

  26. Yeah Jiah Khan, I never knew she was that well known. Where do you know her from? Ghajini? I still have to see that. I promised myself I’d watch Memento first and I finally did. Now it’s on to Ghajini. Hema Malini’s death was sad, but I really felt bad for Farida Jalal because well if you watch her films from the 90’s, she’s such a sweetheart. I wish she was my grandmother. Oh yes, I’m R. Singh. I just decided to go with my real name from now on.

  27. I like Ramneek better, what a fun name! I read the B’wood gossip even if I don’t watch every single new movie that’s released…so I remember when Nishabd came out she got a lot of publicity, being AB’s heroine and all :)

  28. So my eventual home now includes:

    Azaad’s loony bin of death
    Geeta Mera Naam’s suds-filled dance club
    Shaan’s crocodile pit
    Shikar’s light-up dance floor
    International Crook’s basement full of nylon filament yarn

    and, of course, Helen, as every home should be equipped with a Helen.

  29. or Dharmendra. Equipped with a Dharmendra.

    That is actually a great idea for a post: construct your dream home from bits and pieces of Hindi movies!

  30. why cant u upload such movies in torrent……so that we can download and watch it later

    • Because that’s not anything I want to do, that’s why! There are plenty of torrent sites on the web already if you want to join them, and most of these films are pretty readily available to buy (and very inexpensive) as well.

  31. Wow.. very entertainin review.. even I just looove Dharmendra… a greek God. Have u seen his films ‘ Aye din bahar ke’ n ‘ Aya sawan jhoom ke’? He just looks yummy in those.. I dint find their names in the list 4 alphabet ‘A’ (since m goin alphabetically :-)). Also I love Sunny and hv u watched ‘Arjun’??

  32. Thanks for filling in all the bits I missed. I must have seen parts of the movie 10 times over when I was in India but you know, I kept missing the same important bits. The death by masala is so incredible–just my sort of thing. I didn’t like chunky Hema so much but Dharam more than made up for it.

    About Raju, he’s a Mewari horse. You can always tell by looking at the ears–they point inward. India is not known for it’s horses, they had to constantly import new stock and thats what they traded their spices, silks and jewels for.

    Have you seen Aadmi aur Insaan? I love love love Mumtaz, Dharam and Feroze and they are in it together. I haven’t seen it. and am hoping you will review it.

  33. I think of them as “Rajasthani” horses since the first ones I saw were at the Pushkar Camel Fair. They aren’t found anywhere else, and seem to have a lot of Arabian blood—just so elegant and little…I love them. I know nothing about horses but these are such beautiful animals.

    I have seen Aye Din Bahar Ke, Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke and Aadmi Aur Insaan…just haven’t written about them since I saw them before I started the blog. Would have to rewatch them to write them up again. Maybe one of these days!!! Have not seen Sunny’s Arjun though.

    • Arjun is a wonderful movie with content and good performance by Sunny. It had contemprory story for dat period, dealing with issues faced by youth! I think its must watch.. also Damini, starring Rishi Kapoor, Meenakshi and Sunny- in small but significant role…

  34. Have yet to watch this movie, do remember a memorable trailer, right after Interval, but I forget which movie I was watching then. Shoma Anand, the moonh-boli behen, resembled Hema a lot then – I bet you’ve seen `Barood,’ her debut with Rishi Kapoor, with a very special appearance by Dharam-Hema as a Sardar wed to a South Indian.
    Love all the songs in this movie – especially Raju Chal Raju and Hema looked dazzling in `Main hoon teri prem diwani,’ I thought.

  35. OMG … What a movie! Full on entertainment and establishing Dharmendra as The Heman of bollywood! That bottles crashing climax, wow! it was so thrilling!😊👌💕😍❤️
    I think, it’s not a single dull moment movie!
    Watch it definitely if you have not seen it yet! You will appreciate hard work of yesteryears team in making such movies! Misding such movies now .

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