Patthar Aur Payal (1974)

Here we have another formulaic daku-drama, by which I mean I loved it. So many throbbing neck veins (Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Ajit)! So many ferocious eyeball-to-eyeball staredowns! So many lines spat out through clenched jaws—and Prem Chopra nowhere in sight! So many manly men named Singh!

It is chock-full of Man Candy; pretty, pretty horses; the usual assortment of terrible wigs that do nobody any favors; men in hoop earrings; and that love which passeth all understanding—the unconditional bhai-bhai rishtaa. Hema Malini provides the Woman Candy and is the feisty catalyst for the eventual showdown between brothers and rivals. Plus, wonderful music from Kalyanji Anandji, including some funked-up title music!

Thakur Ajit Singh (Ajit) leads a gang of dacoits with the help of his right-hand man Sarju (Vinod Khanna) and younger brother Ranjeet (Dharmendra). As children, Ajit and Ranjeet lost their parents and their home at the hands of a greedy man named Vijay Narayan Singh (Rajan Haksar) and his associates; Ajit has now killed off each associate one by one.

He sends off Sarju to threaten Vijay Narayan Singh, who insults Sarju (and Ajit, by proxy). Sarju reports this indignity back to Ajit and Ranjeet, and Ajit launches intensely into their backstory, obviously not for the first time.

Dharmendra is burdened in this movie by a spiky-mullet wig which causes him to resemble one of the Bay City Rollers.

As Sarju and Ranjeet pretend to listen to Ajit, DSP Varma (Iftekhar) briefs his men for an upcoming confrontation with the dacoits in front of—not a map! Nothing so mundane will do!—an actual miniature model of the surrounding countryside (not to scale). (Actually I made that last bit up, it might very well be made to scale.)

Apparently, they also have an informant inside Ajit’s band of thugs.

Varma places his men at strategic points around Faridpur (Thakur Vijay Narayan Singh’s town) so that once the dacoits try to return to their hills they will be cut off. In the meantime, Ajit and company arrive at the Thakur’s house—which used to be his—and terrorize him, although they let him go after stealing all his wife’s jewelry because she begs them nicely and also I think because then they can torment him later.

I personally think that Ajit and Ranjeet’s ruined-fort dwelling is much nicer than the house they have been robbed of; certainly it is more tastefully decorated and at least the plants there are real and glossy and not covered in dust that maybe I can’t see but I know is there.

Ranjeet is given the loot to take home and rides off by himself. Ajit and Sarju ride another way with the rest of the dacoits and are soon surrounded by the police. We discover that the traitor inside the gang is none other than Sarju’s brother Mahavir (Ram Mohan). After a ferocious gun battle, some of Ajit’s men are killed and some escape, including Sarju. Ajit himself is shot in the arm and manages to escape on foot, with police dogs chasing him.

Ranjeet is waiting back at their den, and when he is told of the attack he rides off immediately to find his brother. Somehow Ajit has managed to evade the police and all their dogs, and Ranjeet finds him. Slinging his big brother over his shoulders, he flags down a passing motorist and I have to laugh at her disdainful—and not at all apprehensive—look when she sees them.

I guess if she wasn’t frightened looking in her mirror that morning, she isn’t easily scared. She gives the boys a ride; Ranjeet thanks her politely, and when, around the bend, the police stop her to ask about them, she doesn’t give them away.

While Ajit recovers from his gunshot wound, the gang figure out (since he hasn’t returned) that Mahavir is the traitor, and they track him down.

Ajit shoots him in the back as he runs, with Sarju looking on impassively and only showing signs of grief after the rest of the men have moved off.

Now we are introduced to the CSP Shankar (Rajendranath), which I normally would spend no time on but he is eventually integrated into the plot so I will say this: Shankar is the eccentric and unloved only-surviving-son of a wealthy radish grower. He stumbles upon the dacoits, who take him prisoner and send his father a ransom letter, which is ignored (as Shankar himself predicts).

The town of Ramgadh is having their annual fair, and everyone is attending in their finest jewelry and with money in their pockets to spend. Ajit sends his gang out to loot them, led by Sarju (Ajit’s gunshot wound is still healing). The girl who gave Ranjeet a ride in her jeep is sitting on the sidelines, obviously one of the more elite members of society, until the dancers cajole her into joining them for “Aiso Paapi Sawan Aayo”.

The dance is interrupted by the arrival of the dacoits and much shooting and screaming and scuffling ensues. The girl escapes into her house, but is followed by Sarju. She defies him, which is a bad call on her part because instead of taking her jewelry and leaving, he decides that she is worth more than the jewelry. He attempts to rape her but is stopped by Ranjeet: they have very different moral values.

(The message that Ranjeet is a “nice” man and different from normal dacoits has by now been pounded into our skulls over and over again.) Ranjeet beats the crap out of Sarju, which is totally against the dacoit code as well (“Thou shalt not make thy leader bleed from a head wound!”). The girl—whose name is Asha—thanks Ranjeet grudgingly and then launches into a lecture on the error of his ways.

Back in their ruins, Sarju uses the execution of his own brother Mahavir as leverage to force Ajit into letting him whip Ranjeet for insubordination (rules is rules!). Unable to watch, Ajit slips out and—apparently not content with incapacitation in one arm only—uses the hand of the other to put out a lighted torch.

Ranjeet submits to Ajit’s command, but is not happy that Sarju’s character and deeds are not called into question. But brothers who love each other so deeply can’t remain angry for long, and they are soon reconciled. To celebrate, Ajit hires a dancer (Rani) to perform for his men; Ranjeet realizes that he is picturing Asha dancing instead. It must be love!

I know what I love: Ranjeet’s phulkari shawl. Want!

But things will never be the same again. Sarju is now fixated on Asha, determined to have her at any cost, and Ranjeet overhears him plotting to kidnap her. He sweeps in to save her in the nick of time and they escape in a thrilling horseback ride which culminates in a wooden horse carrying strapped-on dummies being tossed into a river.

Ranjeet takes Asha to her father, Shiv Narayan Singh (DK Sapru), in Delhi. Ranjeet plans to return home, but Asha pleads with him to stay and not return to that sinful life. Her worried father had contacted Varma when she disappeared from the village, and he comes to visit. She denies that Ranjeet is the man who brought her home, but Varma is suspicious nonetheless. He surrounds the city with a police dragnet. Meanwhile, Ranjeet has met up with Shankar (whom I guess was let go when his father failed to respond to the ransom demand) and they are now bosom buddies.

When Asha goes to meet Ranjeet in the evening, Varma has her followed (a smart policeman! Wah!). I am thrilled when they flee into a shopping center: I smell makeover! About time too!

Hooray! I am not sorry to see that wig go (even though hair continuity issues follow), and Dharmendra’s stint as a Bay City Roller with it.

I may have to change my views on Varma’s intelligence since he fails to recognize the “new” Ranjeet. Shankar cleverly comes up with a star-crossed lovers tale to explain the new guy’s presence and Varma accepts it. Asha takes “Mr. Kumar” home with her, where her father is throwing a party. He doesn’t recognize Ranjeet either, but Ranjeet recognizes another party-goer: his purana dushman Vijay Narayan Singh!

Back in Ajit’s fold, rebellion is brewing. As Ranjeet’s absence continues, Sarju wants Ajit to mark Ranjeet for death because of betrayal just as he did Mahavir. It’s also clear that Sarju wants to take Ajit’s place as Thakur—and the men are all backing him.

Will Vijay Narayan Singh recognize the cleaned-up Ranjeet (and is Shekhar played by Joginder, as imdb says)? Will Ranjeet find a way to avenge himself and his brother? Will Ranjeet return to his dacoit ways? What will happen to Ajit if Sarju takes over the gang?

There is still plenty of plot left, believe me, and a Jayshree T cabaret dance in The Egyptian Room (set or actual location? Anybody know?). And hideous 1970s fashions and set decorations (in that avocado green and orange palette so beloved of the era).

As I said, this is fairly standard dacoit-drama territory with plenty of over-acting and high testosterone levels. But the music, the pace and the eye candy (and occasional horrors) keep it from getting boring. That is pretty much all I need most days to make me happy!

Well that and a wig-free Dharam.

31 Comments to “Patthar Aur Payal (1974)”

  1. Fun reading your review – did not see the film but your writing captures the spirit of films of those times spot on. Dharm does look better without the wig :) He is the only actor I ever hero worshiped and it was on the basis of only one film – ‘Satyakam’. Of his dishum dishum films I like Pratigya amongst others.

  2. Are you sure that is a wig? Maybe they just combed his hair forward…

    • I am pretty sure it’s a wig, mostly you can tell by the way it sits on the back of his neck. I could be wrong, but in his “clean-cut” persona (except for a few scenes which were clearly shot after the rest of it was done, he even looks older) he has pretty short hair, which would have been impossible to comb forward like that.

      In any case, he looks like a manic little pixie in his dacoit avatar.

  3. Memsaab, I have seen this movie a couple of times, but missed the climax part. Still I always felt that HM is not at all worth fighting for between two handsome men. I think this movie is special only for the LION Ajit in a benevolent role and such filial bonding between him and GARAM DHARAM.
    Very amused by your remarks on Dharam’s wig and his musical dialogues “I-I-I JUST CAN’T WAIT…” Double thanks for introducing the Bay City Rollers. Though I think if Dharam and the troop were brought together, he would have rolled his eyes in real-daaku style and barked “YEH BACHCHON KI HAIR STYLE NAHIN HAIN!”(This is not a hair style for toddlers.)
    Finally, that shawl looks rather old- posssibly fiftieth hand-down. There are far colorful ones that have been sported by Dev Anand, Memsaab.

    • You have no idea how hard “This is not a hairstyle for toddlers!” made me laugh. I can’t wait to work that into a conversation!!! LOL. And you are welcome for the Bay City Rollers. I can’t get “Saturday Night” out of my head now, serves me right.

      Yes, the shawl looks old—which is why I love it so. It’s beautiful :)

  4. Ness and I want to start a project devoted to the pairing of Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna. Every time I see them together, they are excellent (Burning Train, Rajput, Mera Gaon Mera Desh). How did they strike you as a pair here?

    The theme music is FABULOUS! Wow! And I think we will have to add that Egyptian column to our locations project – it’s in Maha Badmash too, isn’t it (the club where we first meet Vinod?

    • Hey Beth, I accidentally found Maha Badmash for a dollar at a store nearby during my lunch time stroll! I remembered your post and snapped it up. I now want to watch mahabadmash for VK and Neetu and The Burning Train for Dharam and VK!

  5. Oh! Totally DIFFERENT Egyptian column in Maha Badmaash: Hell, let’s find ’em both!

    • It could be that they were just sets…and bits and pieces of Egyptian stuff just made the rounds…but I do see that theme a lot.

      Dharam and Vinod hated each other in this. Mostly they postured and shouted and glared at one another. I like them better in the films you’ve named above. And yes—the theme music is great :)

  6. Oh, that Jayshree T. dance “Kaun Hoon Main” was something else – I haven’t seen the movie, but I stumbled upon this dance a few years ago, and I think the dance alone should make the movie more than worthwhile. I commented on it (and then talked a little about it with Sitaji) back in the early days of my own blog, here:

    Believe it or not, I was also thinking of recommending this song in comments to your 70s B-Funk post, but I thought, maybe it’s too Latin-jazz and not funky enough? But certainly visually funky enough!

    I’ll have to check out this movie some time for the Dharmendra wig also. Of course, I loved the Bay City Rollers reference. :)

    • Jayshree really sizzled in it :) And the background (male) dancers do too, lol! My mystery ruffled shirt guy is in it (sans ruffled shirt) although Oscar seems to be missing.

      The title music was really great for this one, I need to find it somewhere!

  7. Waah, what eye candy the screen shots are !

    In those days, I regarded such movies are B grade stuff, not worthy of being watched by “classy” audience like me. :D

    Now, by reading all these reviews, I have become a perfect convert to this kind of movies. I too have learnt the art to laugh at the over the top dramatic stuff portrayed in such movies.

    And you are right, Kalyanji Anandji composed some awesome music in 1970s in most movies, including title

    I wil listen to these songs and music after I go home.

  8. Oh, it looks really good. True, what do you need except awesome 70s eye-candy most days?

    Thank God they threw a wooden horse into the river. :)

    • It requires nothing of you but a little tolerance for overacting and an appreciation of the aesthetics :)

      And yes, I was very pleased by the obvious fake-ness of the horse. In another scene a horse was shot rather too realistically for my liking, but I’m trying to not think about it. I have to believe that the horses were too valuable to treat so casually.

  9. Over the last few years I’ve been revisiting movies that I’d seen as a schoolboy. Since I love daaku movies, I visited this one too.eela) I thought the story was reasonable (nothing great!) but the daaku elements were good fun. And Ajit of course is always a welcome sight for me.

    Btw, I think Kabeela (the Feroz-Rekha movie) also had very similar story elements.

  10. Hema Malini looks lovely in the first still. :D

  11. ROTFL!!!!!
    Have still to recover from it. thanks!

  12. @Memsaab – enjoyable review as always. Call them whatever Daku-dramas or curry westerns, such films can be watchable with generous helpings of color and (eye) candy. For some reason, dacoit (daku) stories were a rage in the early 70s. One remembers a very popular comic series called Inspector Azad that was carried by leading Indian newspapers and magazines. This Azad was forever battling notorious dakus and had a huge fan following. The stories featuring Azad were no less riveting than a Hindi film drama. By some accounts, Raj Kapoor (no less) was inspired to make a movie on this character starring Dharamendra and Vinod Khanna, and had invited the creator of this series for discussions. However, he is supposed to have shelved this in favor of Bobby.

  13. Memsaab
    You forgot to mention the great ‘Shetty’ and Dharmendra’s “janta hai main kaun hu” fight scene with him.

  14. Wow!!
    It was really a nice article about Bollywood movie,
    I like their hairstyles If I was born at that time I would definitely do this hairstyle.

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