It was both the RIP Feroze Khan messages on my mobile, and the excellent review of Oonche Log by Memsaab that set me off to hunt down the movie. And what a treat that was.
Major Chandrakant (Ashok Kumar) is a retired major who was wounded in a war and has lost his sight. He has led a disciplined life and has his own moral standards. He cannot bear anyone deviating from them, and his punishment is usually 3 strokes of a whip. He has two sons. The older one, Shrikant (Raj Kumar) is an upright police officer who does not hesitate to rebuke his father if he finds him breaking the law. The younger one, Rajnikant or Rajjo (Feroze Khan) is a student and leads a life given to pleasure. Shrikant senses this and is distaurbed about it, but his love for his younger brother makes him sheild his misdemeanors.
Rajjo is carrying on with a classmate of his Bimla (K R Vijaya), they even holiday in Kodaikanal. This has repercussions when Bimla finds herself pregnant. She asks Rajjo to marry her as he promised. Rajjo is too chicken to broach the subject with his father and tries to brush off Bimla. Shrikant comes of know of the issue and shields his younger brother from the wrath of his father, but insists that Rajjo do the right thing, i.e. marry the poor girl he knocked up. Alas, Rajjo is not as Ooncha (great) as the rest of his family and finds his cowardly ways landing him in a spot he cannot get out of. It even comes close to ruining the integrity of his father and brother.
Of course all I have given here is the kernel of the story. The movie is fleshed out so beautifully, is so beautifully plotted that there are no loose ends. When there was mention of Rajjo's engagement, I wondered why should there be talk of this when the older son was yet unmarried. Right then I hear Major Chandrakant mention that his older son was engaged to a girl of his father's choice. Similarly, the background of the lonely blind Major is conveyed to us in two quick dialogues between father and son when he recounts his encounter with the enemy which left him blind and how he returned from war to find his wife dead.
The movie is shot mostly in interiors, the scene being the house of Chandrakant. It moves outside mostly with Rajjo who is the skittish one. In one telling scene, Rajjo is so pleased to recieve a transistor as a gift from his brother for his birthday, that he hugs the transistor, and dances out to the garden while listening to a lovely song (Hai re tere chanchal). It is almost as if he is the only one of the 3 who can 'stray'.
This is what I liked best about the movie, it goes beyond being just a thriller. It really gets under the skin of the characters. The father, the blind man, cannot see what his younger son is up to. He signifies moral uprightness, and blames Shri for the destruction Rajjo has caused, for keeping quiet when he should spoken up and exposed him. Shri signifies Law, the external control that society imposes upon us. He is constrained to arrest a lawbreaker, even if it is someone dear to him. Rajjo playes the troublemaker - dear to both of them - who really puts their ideals to test.
There are a total of four songs in this movie, all superlative, set to music by Chitragupt with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
1. Jaag dile diwana - sung by Mohammad Rafi
2. Aaja re mere pyaar ke rahi - Lata and Mahendra Kapoor
3. Hai re tere chanchal - Lata and Mahendra Kapoor
4. Ajab teri duniya are insaan - Asha and Mahendra Kapoor (maybe, not sure)
Battle of the Hotties
Right at the outset of the movie you realise that the 3 men share an amazing chemistry. Shri and Chandrakant are constantly bantering with each other, playing Police-Major all the time, even calling each other by their titles, 'Inspector-Major' instead of 'Beta-Pitaji'. Rajnikant is fondly called Rajjo - denoting the love the older men have for their youngest, which could have been a factor in spoiling the son. The three men look absolutely hot, Ashok Kumar is blind, but keeps himself spiffy. Raj Kumar looks very trim in his police uniform and handsome. Rajjo the rake is every bit charming and lovable.
In her review, Memsaab points out how the women in the movie stay firmly in the background. Major's wife is dead and a photograph, Shri's wife is a beloved fiance and again, a photograph, Rajjo's girlfriend appears on screen but is usually veiled and makes a brief appearence. A valuable comment on her post by Raja told me that the movie was actually an acclaimed play. The filmmaker - Phani Majumdar - wisely kept the movie taut and focussed like a play which explains why major action takes place in Chandrakant's drawing room and why the dialogue is so 'descriptive'.
This movie is a hidden classic, there is hardly anything about it on IMDB and you can google up barely anything. You simply have to read Memsaabs wonderful review. I have posted the link at the last, because I wanted to keep the readers on my page. BLUSH
Before you go - the climax is absolutely edge-of-seat-biting-your-nails stuff.