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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Twin trouble (Ram aur Shyam)

Somewhere in the middle of Ram aur Shyam director Chanakya loses steam. That's my guess. For, what starts as a perfectly exciting family drama turns into a rambling and tedious potboiler. The film just goes on and on. So dragged is the denouement that when Anjana and Shanta get to garland their heroes, I kick myself up from semi-slumber to say, "Gosh, at last the deed is done!"
Pardon me, but I think this film could have been so much more entertaining if it had been sharper and tighter. A few inane scenes here and there could have been omitted and Dilip Kumar's sometimes forced comedy could be saved for a more favourable day...
Borrowed from Alexandre Dumas' The Corsican Brothers, Chanakya's 1967 comic drama is otherwise a colourful film. The colours, sometimes a bit garish, are a giveaway that the film is a Southern production. The makeup (Kumar also has a heavily rouged face), sets and costumes are all so overtly psychedelic. But, that's hardly a bother. For, give me a tolerable story and good songs, pretty dames and a swashbuckling hero and I will sit through anything. Provided I do not feel the length. Sadly here, I did. But then, who said every wish is always granted...
Dilip Kumar (in his first double role) plays Ram and Shyam who are separated at birth and grow up in different households. Ram is a timid man, scared of his overbearing brother-in-law and has no confidence in himself. He is almost a refugee in his own palace, living in constant trepidition and fear of Gajendra (Pran makes things so much more exciting with his scheming ways and wicked disposition!) because one loose move will bring whiplashes galore. The only sweet words of concern and love he receives are from his sister Sulakshana (Nirupa Roy is her usual weepy self) and niece Kuku (Baby Farida is hardly a baby!). Gajendra plots to kill Ram after usurping his sizeable property. Sensing his brother-in-law's sinister moves, Ram runs away from home.
Shyam is a stark opposite to Ram. He is a mischief-monger, driving his mother (Leela Mishra) up the wall with his naughty pranks. He is perenially fighting with Shanta (Mumtaz) for which he gets beaten by his mother. A farmer by profession, Shyam goes to the city to buy some agricultural products and is mistaken to be Ram by Anjana (the girl Ram is supposed to marry) and her father (Nazir Hussain). Anjana is awestruck to see the smart avatar of Ram (Shyam beats up some baddies to retrieve her stolen purse) and takes a liking to him. She wonders why Ram behaved in such a wierdly tensed fashion the other day when Anjana went to meet him at his mansion. We know why, don't we???
Ram on the other hand lands up in Shyam's village and is forced to admit that he is Shyam for fear of facing exorcism. He gets a new life with Shyam's mother who is extra attentive towards her son now and also falls in love with Shanta (but naturally!). With the twins exchanging places and positions, misunderstandings and mayhem ensue. But, when Shyam, mistaken for Ram, teaches Gajendra a lesson, kicking his butt and driving him to grovel for forgiveness, you have a reason for sitting up to cheer the chutzpah of Dilip Kumar, the versatile performer. He has good comic timing and great expressions. He is smart, quick and spontaneous. Though a tad old, he shows glimpses of his dashing persona in Kohinoor. He is stylish when he romances Anjana as Shyam and lovable (a bit funny) when he is prancing with Shanta in the verdant plains of the village. Dilip Kumar retains his power and magic...
The rest of the film deals with how the truth regarding the identity of Ram and Shyam comes to the fore and Gajendra is stripped of his odious plans and taught a lesson. And, yes, how Anjana and Shanta get to settle down with the men of their dreams.
I loved Pran in Ram aur Shyam. He is so mallicious as Gajendra. And, he looks really good with his pointed moustache. Avaricious to his bone, Pran is thoroughly convincing as the relentless villain as he beats up Ram brutally and at the next moment pretends to be his well wisher before Anjana and her father. If not for this lipsmackingly diabolical fiend, Ram aur Shyam would have been oh-so-boring!! And, looked even more lengthy!!!
Dilip Kumar shines in his dual role. On one hand he is the squirming Ram, always scared and tensed, on the other he is the dashing Shyam, who is clever and lovable. Two roles, exactly opposite to each other, portrayed immaculately by the veteran. Only if he looked as good as he did in Aan, a film released 15 years back...
Kumar gets to romance Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz (she looks so damn young beside him!). While Rehman is the stylish and sassy Anjana, Mumtaz is the simple village belle, Shanta. Both the women look lovely. Rehman always has a mature air about her. Her clothes, makeup and persona are very refined. Even when she prattles, she looks dignified. I love her red getup in Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salami lele. She is extremely fetching!
Mumtaz is a livewire in Ram aur Shyam. Metamorphosing from a prankster to Ram's sweetheart, she is bouncy and bubbly. A firebrand, she is a fiesty foil to Ram's milquetoasty nature... I love her in the song Balam tere pyar ki thandi aag mein jaltey. Especially when she jigs with mainto har gayi rey...
This song also happens to be my favourite from the film. Naushad's score turned out to be hardly extraordinary, I've to admit. Apart from Balam tere and Mein hu saqi tu hain sharabi, I don't think the other compositions are exemplary (with Naushad, something that's given). Yes, Aye hain bahaarein lekey is joyful, Aaj sakhiri mor piya ghar is teasing and Aaj ki raat is melodious, but that's about it.
One thing. I am very fond of Kanhaiyalal as a supporting actor. In Ram aur Shyam I found him wasted as the cheeky munim. Chanakya should have exploited the talent of his marvellous actor to spice things up. Anything to cut into the length of this long, long twin drama...


  1. I did not know that this was adapted from a Dumas novel. Must find it! :D Though he has a way of turning even the most swashbuckling of stories very very melancholy in the end. So maybe I should stick to Seeta Aur Geeta. This is not my favorite adaptation of the story, mostly because I have never felt the "magic" of Dilip Kumar, not even when he was young and handsome. So ageing Dilip K naturally loses out to bubbly Hema!

  2. @Bollyviewer: Yes, bubbly Hema is anyday better than ageing dilip Kumar. Couple that with the very handsome Dharmendra and the talent of Sanjeev Kumar. The comedy in Seeta aur Geeta is anyday better than this one. And you have the obese Manorama as the wicked Chachi. That one is long too but it is do entertaining that you don't feel tired.
    But, Dilip Kumar is not that bad ya in his earlier fun films. Try him sometime :)

  3. I have tried young and handsome B/W Dilip K - often enough to know that of the big 3 in the 50s and 60s, Dev Anand is the only one who appeals to me.

  4. Dilip Kumar's acting is good, but I'll be utterly superficial and admit that I like my heroes to look good too - and yes, Bollyviewer, Dev Anand wins! He may not have been as fine an actor as Dilip Kumar, but he was very easy on the eyes. I'd prefer a Dev Anand in CID even over a Dilip Kumar in Aan.:-)

  5. @Bollyviewer: Okay point taken. But don'y you like Dilip Kumar in Kohinoor?? I think he was quite cute!! But Dev Anand is any day more charming, I agree!!

  6. @Dustedoff: Her I feel Dilip Kumar was trying a bit too hard. Gone was the spontaneity of his earlier comedies. Dev Anand is great. But my heart lies with Shammi Kapoor, always and forever :)

  7. @All of you: Surprisingly, none of you have mentioned Raj Kapoor while talking of the heroes of the 50s. Dev Anand is better looking, Dilip Kumar is a better actor but RK's smoldering sensuality and latent sex appeal can't be ignored. What sayest?

  8. @Netdhaba: I was waiting for this. You cannot ignore Raj Kapoor. Especially not after you have seen Awara, Shree 420 and Chori Chori. His sex appeal and his creative mind cannot be ignored. I agree with you totally!! :)

  9. I didn't take much to this film, i remeMber feeling strained and tired towards the ending i was tempted to fast forward and yes Pran was a highlight but even he couldn't save the film from being tedious after a while

  10. @Bollywooddeewana: Yes, even Pran, with his mallicious manouevres, couldn't save the film. I fell asleep towards the end and was woken up by my mother-in-law when it ended. Surely could have been tighter, smarter and sharper!

  11. "But don't you like Dilip Kumar in Kohinoor" - not much! I liked him better in Azaad, but am not about to become a fan any time soon.

  12. @Bollyviewer: Well, then I must see Azaad. I have bought Aan, coz I've heard good things about it, too. Yes, I cannot become his Kumar's fan. For, my favourite will always be Shammi Kapoor!!

  13. I think actors should act around their age...I guess same goes for Aamir Khan too in 3 Idiots...they might be the best of the lot but everybody has his day. I don't remember too much about the movie, was a kid when I watched it but yes Pran was tremendous...Sad that a good man like him had to play such outrightly wicked character :P

  14. @Jude: Pran was awesome as the wicked man. I don't think he would be half as great if he played a good man. But, that's my view! And, he was indeed a good man... no wonder his devious characterisations on screen remain so memorable. Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  15. Hi Sharmi,
    Well, I must say I admire your courage to have gone through the job of reviewing this! I watched it recently too, and like you, found it almost boring, had to kick myself to remain interested! Even Waheeda Rehman wasn't exploited as she could be! And poor Dilip, he's known better directors!
    Anyway, thanks for the pleasant read!

  16. @Yves: You know, interestingly when I saw this film as a young girl I liked it and thought it was funny. But, now my feelings for this one has changed radically. It was tedious and the fun was too forced. I've seen Dilip and Waheeda in better fun films. Only respite was the wicked Pran. Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  17. OMG....there are so many reviews to read here. Am starting from the oldest. I had read till here last time I visited your blog.
    I had seen this film as a kid and quite liked it, but after I saw Seeta Aur Geeta , I quite forgot this. Though I am very fond of Dilip Kumar, this is not one of my favourites. I would prefer Kohinoor any day to this.

  18. @Sunheriyaadein: Thank God you are back...I so missed you. I was almost going to comment on your latest post and ask you why are missing for so long from blogosphere. But, now that you are here I am really happy :)
    Yes, after Seeta aur Geeta, you will not even consider Ram aur Shyam. Old Dilip Kumar hardly enthralls. I love him in his earlier swashbuckling roles...The movie is quite tedious too.
    Awaiting your views on my latest posts :)
    Welcome back Archana :)

  19. Thank you so much!!! :-)
    Have been very very busy of late. Finally work's getting back to normal. So hopefully I will get to watch more movies now.

  20. @Sunheriyaadein: Yes, and write more reviews! Will be looking forward to that :)