Immaan Dharam (1977)


I normally would not bother writing about this film since Beth and the PPCC have already covered it in their usual stellar and thorough fashion. But they mostly liked this, and I hated it. Part of the reason is that it was *almost* good. It should have been, could have been! It had a great cast and good songs! But even the goodness of Shashi+Amitabh is not adequate compensation for being smashed over the head with a sermon that I disagree with, especially when it’s done largely to compensate for the lack of a real script (by Salim-Javed, no less). “Clutch your [Bible, Quran, Gita, other] and trust in your blind faith!” it trumpets. Just the kind of pablum that a world overrun with corruption, greed and poverty needs, right?

This film is full of damaged people, both literally and figuratively. We have Mohan and Ahmed (Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan), who give false evidence in court (after swearing on their respective religious texts to tell the truth—nooooo!!!) in exchange for money. They are unfailingly kind to their neighbor’s blind daughter Shyamlee (Aparna Sen), though, so we know they aren’t all bad. Then there is Jenny Francis (Helen), a fallen-from-grace woman with a fatherless daughter and a yen for the bottle; and Balbir Singh (Utpal Dutt), an ex-army man with a fake leg that keeps flying off (not the only reason he’s my favorite character, but a very strong point in his favor).



Some of the actors are damaged by the people doing hair and makeup: Rekha is forced to wear orange self-tanner (I had no idea it even existed back in 1977!) as “blackface” to emphasize her status as a south Indian laborer, I guess.


Sanjeev Kumar, Amrish Puri, Prem Chopra and Om Shivpuri sport such terrible wigs that I can’t even listen to them, so fascinated am I by their faux hairlines.


In the case of Sanjeev Kumar, that is mostly a good thing. He plays Kabir, a character so irritating with his noble pomposity that I want to scream. No flaws! He is both devout and communal, absorbing knowledge from all religions and preferring none over another. This by itself is a message I have no problem with, but his endless sanctimonious preaching makes him impossible to like. Even his own father (Om Shivpuri) finds him annoying.


More on that later.

There is much to like, too, if only there had been a good script of some sort. Exhibit A: Shashi. At this point in the film my sister and I paused for a discussion about the beauty of Shashi, and how very handsome his father was, and I showed her some photos of the young Prithviraj.



We then spent some time comparing father and son—noses, mouths, chins and eyelashes—generally oohing and aahing, and it was a fine respite from all the sermonizing. I will add that the Shashi-Rekha pairing works nicely: they have a very fun song together, and some really sweet scenes, and his prettiness at least somewhat compensates for her unfortunate color.

Exhibit B: Amitabh. WHO’S YOUR DADDY??!!


He is so fine in this film, in a sleazy but lumberjack-ruggedly-sexy kind of way (it contrasts nicely with Shashi’s more aristocratic gorgeousness). He is also a good soul, who is kind to Helen even though she drinks, and to her little girl. He even rocks the multiple plaid shirts he’s put into.


Both of us = Exhibit C: Shashitabh, of course, in which the power of each is added together and then squared, and is thus exponentially even more magnificent than either one alone. I know this to be true, despite my mathematical disabilities. Beth and the PPCC concur, as most of us know, and are wonderfully eloquent on the subject of how great they are together in this film.

Speaking of disabilities, I mentioned that my favorite character is Balbir Singh, the ex-army major. In one of the few scenes containing a message I could actually cheer, he stands up during a charity benefit (hilariously called the Ex-Service Men’s Benevolence Night) and chastises the Bad Guys for thinking they have anything worth offering men like him who will even die for them. He then calls up all the service men present (on crutches and lacking limbs, most of them) to dance for the gathered do-gooders and prove their awesomeness. They dance up and down waving their crutches and empty sleeves—and it’s quite exhilarating. But then Balbir Singh’s leg flies off and he has to crawl across the floor to retrieve it. I think this is supposed to be poignant and touching, but my sister and I laugh and laugh.

Still, we love Balbir Singh and his feisty attitude.


At the end of the film when he’s helping Shashitabh and Rekha (yeah! she is fierce!) fight the Bad Guys, his prosthesis comes off again and he uses it as a weapon while hopping on one leg. Take that, anonymous henchman!


Also awesome: when the blind Shyamlee is almost raped, passersby actually come to her rescue! And she is not reviled—she even gets engaged! (Only to sanctimonious Kabir, but still. Baby steps!) Amitabh beats up her would-be rapist, Garga—who is an almost unrecognizable Shetty (in the hundredth bad wig of the film). I do not believe I have ever seen Shetty with hair.


And the songs by Laxmikant-Pyarelal have a lot of charm, especially the anthem-like “Kuncham Kuncham” and the cute Shashitabh duet “Hum Jhooth Bolte Hain.”



All these things are awesome enough that if only the film had had a meaningful message—or was even just pure fun-time masala—it would have been really good.


These great ingredients are squandered on a product which has nothing to it except: “WORSHIP GOD WORSHIP GOD WORSHIP GOD OMG KABIR IS GOD!”


The idea that redemption of any kind can only be found through “organized” religion is too much for this atheist-agnostic (translation: spineless atheist) to tolerate. There is absolutely no alternative offered. Although I did giggle when I saw this:


My friend Joey Cat once told me that when he was a choirboy, he would kill time during church services thinking up things that “INRI” might stand for (it decorates the top of many crosses). His favorite (and mine) was “I’m Nailed Right In.” (Sorry.) (Okay, not really.)

But the imagery (holy books, crosses, domed mosques, temples, etc.) and the preaching is so relentless and so over-the-top that it becomes just plain exasperating. There is nothing else to the story, just: embrace your religion…embrace it! EMBRACE IT! Communalism is even done to death. The script had no subtlety, no balance, no real ideas, almost nothing I could even agree with (and very little *intentional* humor to leaven all that earnestness with either). I expect more from Salim-Javed, I really do.

When Helen dies (as she always does when she has an actual role, so I don’t consider this a spoiler):


the doctor asks for Amitabh’s signature authorizing an autopsy. He gives a long speech about how fraught with difficulties her life was, and how her body should now be left in peace—to which I can only say: Aaarggghhh! People! Autopsy=evidence=the way to put the criminals who killed her behind bars!

Maybe it was all more a commentary on how little faith the filmmakers had in the mechanisms by which a just society is managed. I can see that when one has no trust left in law or government one might turn to religion (although I wouldn’t). But this film made no attempt to address social issues beyond bringing up the usual black marketing cliches—and they seemed just an after-thought. The single-minded insistence that one must adhere to a religious faith is just…pointless, and having it shouted at you for three hours is torture—especially when it’s wasting the talents of the A Team.


Manmohan Desai probably could have done something entertaining with it, but I guess he wasn’t asked. Too bad.

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52 Comments to “Immaan Dharam (1977)”

  1. Rekha did not use self tanner for that look. This is her original look. Really. Until she discovered a lightener in Singapore apparently and really went into the science of makeup full time for herself. She re-engineered her look on her own. In fact, in the film industry she is considered a real expert on makeup and makeup artists have left her alone to do her own makeup for her whole film career.

    • She’s really ORANGE? Her face was noticeably a different color than the rest of her. I think she had to have makeup on.

      • I see what you mean after re-looking at the screen shot. I just remember her being very dark and pudgy in her early films until Silsila or just before that. My guess is she is dark and they used regular makeup on her for a ruddy complexion but instead got orange and didn’t care.
        There are some early Rekha shots on YouTube. Very different. I remember seeing this movie in a theatre because there was a local guy who brought a movie on reels once a week. This was one of them. I liked it then.
        The innocence of youth I guess.

        • I like the way she looked in her “younger” films (Rampur Ka Lakshman, eg)…but she did remake herself in a very elegant way. She was just so *cute* as a pudgy dark teen :-)

          And others have liked this too, I just did not :-)

    • Perhaps Rekha had naturally dark skin, but in this film, she had certainly been made darker using make-up. She’s definitely not displaying blackface though (I find that term misused quite often), she’s just acting out as someone of another ethnic group/caste I believe without any intended discrimination.

      I could see why someone (atheist or not) would become frustrated at the religious aspects of this film – it does seem a lot religious translated into English. I absolutely don’t mind these religious statements and undertones so as long it doesn’t limit the developments within the film – putting the problems in God’s “hand” is a beautiful thing but I would like to see more action from the characters without completely relying on faith to do the job and solve all the problems.

      • I don’t mind religion in a film—Manmohan Desai’s are chock full of it—but this was like attending some fire-and-brimstone sermon delivered by a fundamentalist—though communal!—loony tune. There was so much potential for some good stories within this that just went by the wayside in favor of flashing crosses and the Quran and the Gita around.

  2. Clutch your [Bible, Quran, Gita, other] and trust in your blind faith!” ” – you mean you havent seen this happening in EVERY masala film?!

    I tend to compare this one with Deewar (probably because its the last Shashitabh film I saw before this) where I found the message a whole lot more nauseating (no matter how badly society behaves with you, if you violate that same society’s rules, your own family is justified in forsaking, nay, annihilating you!). Since atheism is not really a real-life option in most of India even today, this one isnt quite as bad as Deewar. Of course, my liking it could also be due to the fact that none of the preaching is done by Shashi’s character, for once, and that his scenery-chewing is very, very restrained here!

    • But Deewar had more SUBSTANCE in general, I think. It had messageS, even if they sucked. This was a one-note song (and for me, a sour note too :-) (I saw Deewar a long time ago and haven’t rewatched it so I may be wrong—will have to revisit it I guess).

      I don’t object so much to the lack of an atheist or agnostic option, but that there’s NOTHING ELSE to the story. Kabir and his preaching, and everyone falling to their knees around him is really really dull and gets old very quickly. It took me three days to get through this, because I could only tolerate it for less than an hour each time I sat down with it.

      Shashi and Amitabh are very very fine in this. It is a crime in itself that they are so wasted :-)

    • Immaan Dharam is one of the crappiest movies that Amitabh in his
      pomp(peak) starred in. Funny about the heavy duty sermonizing – Javed Akhtar has made no bones about the fact that he is an agnostic/atheist
      and Salimsaab is so secular that he ended up marrying a Hindu AND a
      christian. :) :)

      So respectfully disagree with bollviewer about the “message” of
      Deewar. The “message” you have read in the movie is not one that
      most fans will see. Deewar is a sincere heart-felt examination of one man’s quest to “make” it and whether the ends (especially given the circumstances from which he arises) justify his means or not. A true classic.

      • Okay so now I will have to watch Deewar again.

        :-) I was surprised at Salim-Javed too—did not think them to be religiously dogmatic either (and of course they are not). What were they thinking (or smoking, or otherwise ingesting? maybe just MONEY).

  3. What, no Aparna Sen or Utpal Dutt screencap (besides his flying leg, ofcourse)?? I think it’s the Bengali in me that’s disappointed =(

    • Utpal is in the last screen shot (the sikh—you can’t see his wooden leg for once). And there wasn’t much to say about Shyamlee—she was sort of a cipher, unfortunately. Like most of the promising stories in this that could have been developed, hers wasn’t.

      She was lovely though!


    I must rewatch this. I totally missed Shetty and somehow do not remember Utpal Dutt’s role AT ALL, which is clearly criminal given how awesome it is.

    Very eloquent statement of Shashi, Amitabh, and Shashi + Amitabh glory. :)

    • Shetty did not look like Shetty, when I did finally recognize him I stilll had to check the credits to make sure he was in it :-)

      And Balbir Singh was the only one to say anything sensible in this film (except Rekha’s brother Govinda when he stopped work on the building site, and then he even reneged) so he was hard for me not to remember. And the leg, my god, the leg! Hilarious.

      If it weren’t for the sorry state of the script this could have been the best Shashitabh EVER. What a sad, tragic, waste.

  5. This one had too much religion even for me. I wasn’t impressed by it, though probably for slightly different reasons; and I do rewatch the songs frequently.

  6. Stage make-up has always been available in a variety of shades, both to match a range of complexions, and to fake skin color for those playing parts of different ethnicities. Suntan# 8, or whatever the part seems to call for. Rekha overblended her orange pancake, or the film stock faded to this unflattering shade.

  7. Okay, I got lost somewhere in this… who is the Kabir to whom the Helen character gets engaged? (which, by the way, is an interesting name, since the sage-poet Kabir was famous for not adhering to any particular religion); was this Kabir of the same bent of mind?

    • Yes, Kabir was Sanjeev’s character as pacifist says below—so his name makes sense (and thanks for that tidbit of info, I will store it away somewhere)…Helen’s character gets engaged to Amitabh.

  8. Kabir is Sanjeev Kumar, dustedoff. :-)

    I think instead of losing something in translation the English seems to have added something to the dialogues which I can only call – annoying, seeing your reaction ;-)
    It didn’t sound that way in hindi, at least to me.

    There were *other* things that annoyed me. Couldn’t someone get up and give him back the leg??!!

    • My sister had an equal dislike for the endless preaching and religious symbolism (and I don’t think she would call herself an atheist, either)…so it wasn’t just me.

      Re: the leg…Kabir gets up from the audience and takes a drum and keeps the rhythm going while Balbir crawls across the stage. I think the reason for it was to hammer home (the script liked to hammer things home) Balbir’s point that these military men could take care of themselves and didn’t need the charity of corrupt and greedy men trying to cleanse their sins. Dignity and self-sufficiency etc. etc. A nice enough message, clumsily handled. Which was better than a stupid message clumsily handled, like the rest of the film.

  9. I don’t have fond memories of this “Immaan Dharam” either. Tiresome is the word that comes to mind when I think of the film.

    Perhaps I was just born on the wrong side of the bed, but I tend to dislike movies that preach communal harmony. They all seem to be made by Captain Obvious. We have the grand Problem Statement – all the strife in the world is caused by people not getting along, followed by the incredibly insightful Solution – people should just get along! Aaaggghhh! :-(

    • LOL!!!! You have summed it all up PERFECTLY :-D And this one went on to say: “and people you can all get along if you only find religion!”

      Captain Obvious! *falls off chair laughing*

  10. Immaan Dharam, hmm, this is the film where Shashitabh staged a concert for Aparna Sen’s character, right? If so, I found that an unbelievably nice, but at the same time terribly cruel, thing to do.

    And Shetty with hair!? The menacing stare in that screenshot gave it away for me. Nothing like a well choreographed Amitabh-Shetty fight scene, that’s for sure.

    As far as communal harmony goes, the only film I recall enjoying being beaten over the head with the concept is Desh Premee. Then again it’s probably just because of Shammi Kapoor, Premnath, Uttam Kumar and Parikshit Sahni; they made a great combo in that film, should’ve had their own spinoff!

    • Everyone who had good intentions in this movie was misguided, I think. That’s one of the things I hated (just like Amitabh’s character refusing to allow an autopsy on Helen’s). I couldn’t find anything really to agree with, no matter how “good” the person was supposed to be.

      I loved Desh Premee too :) Loved loved loved it.

  11. Those days this was a popular message, today it isn’t popular among many :-O
    I think there is good *logic* behind these kinds of films. We see how a lack of it can lead to tragedies.
    Better such crap than …say … Kambakht Ishq etc :-D

    Yes there were many annoying things in the film as in most films.

    • I guess for me it’s not so much the message, as that I was completely bashed over the head with it and it was the only panacea offered…well, okay, and I have to completely disagree that a lack of religion itself leads to tragedy. I had to disagree with almost everything the film had to say.

      People’s deeds lead to tragedy, or not. :-) Haven’t seen Kambakht Ishq yet :-))

  12. >I have to completely disagree that a lack of religion itself leads to tragedy.

    Not at all. :-)
    I don’t believe in that either.

    I am agreeing with the premise in the film that when different religions do exist in a society, then there should be communal harmony and people should *get along*.

    The film is after all addressing the Indian scene where I don’t see it becoming a land of atheists in either the near or the distant future. And the only logical way is – to get along with each other. :-)

    • Ah I see what you mean. Yes. If ever a land of atheists does spring up, someone please tell me. I would like to live there :-) But I won’t take this film with me.

      Am rewatching Deewaar now—OMG.

  13. Darn! I kind of got my hopes up after seeing the bit about the spurious injections. Nothing I like better than a good old-fashioned spurious injection (a la Zanjeer).

  14. Hey — getting beaten with crosses and Qurans and Gitas is what happens to the vampires and other demonic beings in a Ramsey Brothers film! Maybe watching this movie would help me identify with their plight.

    • Ha ha ha!!!!! You make an excellent point, and perhaps that is the best excuse for this movie’s existence that can be given—it’s here to drive away vampires and demons!

  15. Oh, thanks so much Greta for reviewing this.
    This review brings back so many memories now.
    I remember seeing this movie as a teenager and the only memory that remained with me all these years was that opening song “hum jhoot bolte hain maante hain”.
    That song stuck in my head all these years for one main reason – the text “hum jhoot bolte hain maante hain, log jhoot bolte hain maante nahin” can be interpreted in two ways.
    Either “when we tell lies, people believe us” or, another interpretation, “we admit we do tell lies”.
    The former is more plausible considering they have just given false testimony in court (if I remember right).
    On the other hand, they are good boys and the latter could also be a valid line of thought.
    Not sure which one the subtitles went with (would love to know !) but my brother and I used to argue for hours about which was the more likely interpretation.
    My friends would join in – never has a Hindi song been so much discussed by a bunch of young boys (well it was a distraction from our cricket and football for sure :-) ).

    Anyway, as your review unfolded in front of me, I got very nostalgic – the story also began coming back to me. Aparna Sen, Utpal Dutt, Sanjeev Kumar. I now remember this movie quite well.
    I clearly now remember Sanjeev’s scenes of pontification. :-)
    Not that I cared too much at that time about any of this – I was so used to it at that time. Every other movie would be about communal harmony – it was the industry’s way to try to convey a social message very relevant for the times (we used to have not infrequent Hindu-Muslim riots in India in those days).
    Of course the other reason for producers choosing this line was to get the audience of all communities into the cinema halls. :-)

    I am sure if I see this movie today I will not be able to stomach this “religion being thrust down your throat” message but at that time, catchy songs and Shashi-Amitabh were more fun than anything else.
    I remember thoroughly enjoying Shashi-Amitabh in this movie. If I am not mistaken Sanjeev’s character appears only after a while.

    The nostalgia today is immense – I have immediately checked out all the Imaan Dharam songs on youtube.
    Especially “hum jhoot bolte hain” (oh, what a catchy song this sounds even today – and Shashi in particular is amazing).
    And “kunchum kunchum” – this is the other song that had immediate recall for me when I saw it mentioned here.
    When I saw the song today, I liked it a lot – much more than I had liked it then.

    But that was probably because I did not like Rekha much in those days – my opinion of her changed only after Ghar (1978).

    Thanks once again for the review. I know I am going to be singing “hum jhoot bolte hain” a lot in the next few days and will be checking out the video too. :-)

    • Raja, I am afraid I think your friends are right – the song is a philosophy about lying and is told by professional liers. – we admit we tell lies, but others don’t admit they tell lies. Makes a lot of sense in the context of the movie too.

      Another interpretation, the one I understood is sheer idealism. “We admit we tell lies, but we refuse to believe other people tell lies”.

      Your interpretation makes no sense for two reasons. Firstly “hum jooth bolte hain mante hain” in hindi grammar can have a implied “hum” (we admit) before “mante” but no freaking way can have a implied “log” (other people believe) there unless you explicitly put it there. :) And that is what your interpretation requires. Secondly it makes sense! We tell lies, people believe. Other people lie, people don’t believe? Why could they sing that when everyone knows lots of l lies are believed? :)

      • And as heroes, they need to justify why they lie. So the song HAS to
        be a moral justification of why they lie.

      • I see your point. I don’t entirely agree with you – these guys have just given false testimony which has been accepted in court.
        So the alternative interpretation also holds ground – a bit of bragging “when we tell lies, we get believed, when others tell lies, they don’t get believed” (i.e we are successful liars) :-).
        It does not matter. In fact I see a valid point in both interpretations.

        What impresses me most is that this still evokes enough interest in me (and apparently in others too) to discuss it. :-)
        As teenagers then, We used to argue over “lbw” in cricket, “off-side” in football – and this song. :-)

        Come to think of it, the future of the country was not exactly in particularly responsible hands. ;-)

        • I think it’s marvelous that as teenagers you discussed such highbrow things as different interpretations of the philosophical meaning of film lyrics.

          We talked about boys and clothes (boys talked about girls and sports) :-)

          There is India Shining, indeed :-D

        • Aha! Now I see how your interpretation makes sense!

    • I believe the subtitles went with the first interpretation (we tell lies and people believe them).

      I would imagine that the intent of the lyricist was for both interpretations to count! How fabulous that the same lyrics could be interpreted in both those ways when both interpretations are so apt :) Thank you for sharing that with me, too (MUST LEARN HINDI)…

      The songs were great and Shashi-Amitabh too, if Sanjeev had been toned down a bit and other stories (the building site, Aparna Sen’s storyline, MORE BALBIR SINGH) brought forward and fleshed out more, it would have been a wonderful film.

      That’s what made it so disappointing, and made me want to throw things at the screen.

  16. The text “hum jhoot bolte hain maante hain, log jhoot bolte hain maante nahin” can be interpreted in two ways.
    Either “when we tell lies, people believe us” or, another interpretation, “we admit we do tell lies, when others tell lies they do not admit it”.

  17. Apparently Kabir of this film is representing the missing link (that is, Christianity) amongst the four dominant religions in India. As the two protagonists and ‘the man with wooden leg’ seemingly encompass the other three. Sanjeev Kumar was good in the full-fledged Christian role in Devta (1978). I think these two Muslim storywriters are not so totally pious and innocent: why had it to be a Sikh character crawling on the stage to pick his leg – no fun intended, really?

    memsaab: “If ever a land of atheists does spring up, someone please tell me. I would like to live there :-) But I won’t take this film with me.”

    To my knowledge, China is officially atheist. Moving!

  18. this film was a big flop tht time in 1977

    when amitabh and shashi were a big team and the film also had shashi kapoor

    btw this is the first time perhaps amitabh is paired opp helen and shashi opp rekha in an amitabh film?

  19. IMAAN DHARAM happened in last week of DEC 1976/first week of JAN1977,as to of my best of my rememberence,this was three hero release after AUG 1975 release,SHOLAY,pre publicity of the film was such,that for first four weeks after the release,there was no place to set foot inside cinema hall,but in fifth week the movie fell flat like thud,to Industry itself this was a shock,unheard nowdays that a flop movie had four week housefull run,as in those days movies use to run for fifteen,twenty five,fifty week run,this one was directed by first time director DESH MUKERJEE(art director)and the only other movie he directed was AATANK something on lines of JAWS which began in1980,but could not be released uptill 1997(that too partialy)and that was not crdited to him,disheartned he soon died afterwards.THOUGH THIS MOVIE WAS not as bad as reviews of those days,but something was amiss.IF one watches in blocks(meaning each portion independently one will find nothing wrong,infact three performances of the movie were highlights,Utpal da,Helen aunty,and our own Rekha aunty,and mind you this was one and half year(Mar/April1978)GHAR which was another milestone in her career.This movie also remineds of another movie of1993 ROOP KI RANI CHORAN KA RAAJA which could have cult crime thriller was marred/killed by the producer himself,with mindless irrelvant songs which happens after each ten minutes,just to promote some certain heroien of movie in procces killed whole movie.This was much better,even todays generation can watch movie once,at least this one had sensebilties,Though this was first major flop in terms of box office for writter duo respected SALIM/JAVED,but success/faliures are part of life.RAVINDER MINHAS,JALANDHAR CITY,PANJAB,

  20. Salim-Javed were at the top of their game when they wrote Immaan Dharam. With mega hits like Yaadon Ki Baraat, Zanjeer, Deewar & Sholay to their credit, the Immaan Dharam script was much sought after. Every Bollywood producer worth his salt was vying for it. It was one of the few ‘bound’ scripts – complete screenplay with dialogues – that were available at the time. Unusual, since Bollywood then largely relied on the make-it-as-you-go-along formula. Finally, it was veteran producer Premji who bagged it at a then unheard of price. Premji had earlier produced another Salim-Javed script – Majboor. That film was a moderate success. Immaan Dharam, expected to be nothing short of a blockbuster (what with Bollywood’s foremost writers & top stars being involved), came unstuck at the box office & was a washout.

  21. Immaan Dharam was offered to Manmohan Desai initially…. its a complicated tale… bottomline – he walked out of the narration. The film was eventually made by Desh Mukherji who till then had been an art director.

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