In my search for anything and everything related to Vinod Khanna, I came across a mention of a movie called Chowkidar which had for its hero Sanjeev Kumar. Now I’ve watched Vinod act with a lot of actors, right from Som Dutt (does anybody remember him?) to Sanjay Dutt (incidentally, where is he nowadays?) but never with Sanjeev so I immediately searched for the movie online and was happy to find it, though like all Goldmines movies, it had scenes either cut abruptly or edited out so that the movie seemed a little jumpy at times.
The eponymous hero of the movie is actually Shambhu (Om Prakash) who guards a village that is slowly being ruined by the actions of the Jagirdaar Thakur Randhir Singh (Sapru) and his henchmen including Lala Dinanath (Jeevan), the village vaid and a couple of lathhets. These men, though they profess to be loyal to him are actually not averse to cheating the thakur when the occasion arises. The only loyal servant the jagirdaar seems to have is a munim (Asit Sen) who is also in charge of bringing up the thakur’s son, Gopal.
In contrast to all these villains is the Good Samaritan Shambhu
who helps the villagers, going to the extent of giving away his dead wife’s mangalsutr in order to save a family from ruin. One day, while making his nightly round, Shambhu sees a woman sneak out of the Thakur’s haveli. Thinking it is a thief he chases her only to find out that she is actually his rakhi-sister Surti who had disappeared a year ago. Turns out that Randhir Singh had made her his mistress but now that she had given birth to his daughter has disowned her. Surti hands over the infant to Shambhu before jumping into the river (When will we be shown something different????)
A grieving Shambhu goes back to the haveli and confronts the thakur who rather than accepting the infant as his own asks Shambhu to kill the little one too. An altercation follows and Moti the wonder dog jumps in causing the death of the thakur (This scene has to be seen to be believed). The Thakur’s widowed sister (where was she all the while??!!!) takes a vow from Shambhu that he will not reveal the girl’s parentage to anyone as this will blacken the Thakur family’s izzat (Apparently she has no problems with her brother’s debauchery but is horrified at an illegitimate child).
Shambhu brings up the child as his own, showering her with love and care, and she grows up to be the village belle, Radha (Yogita Bali) who does the things that are considered cute when done by a film’s heroine. Meanwhile Dinanath’s son, Shyam (Sanjeev Kumar) returns from abroad having completed his medical education and ready to start his practice. However, on his return, he is horrified to see the extreme hatred the villagers harbour for his father and which they transfer to him. When he confronts his mother Mangla (Sulochna) regarding this, she tells him the truth: his father is a blood-sucker who is interested only in filling his coffers. Shyam decides to atone for his father’s sins by becoming that mythical being: a doctor who exists only to serve the poor and the suffering. Slowly, his dedication makes the villagers respect him. It also wins him the love and admiration of Radha (Was there ever any doubt?) and soon the two are romancing in the fields.
However, if Shyam is a contrast to his father, the Thakur’s son, Gopal (Vinod Khanna) is treading his father’s footsteps right down to drinking binges and ravishing young women. In these pursuits, he is helped by his ‘friend’ Vilaiti Ram (Ram Mohan). The latter, of course has his own agenda and with the help of his friend Bela (Jaishree T), guilt-traps Gopal in such a way that Gopal asks him to be at his side always.
The two friends return to the village and as is to be expected, Gopal soon has a run-in with both Radha and Shyam. Bruised in both encounters, he returns home nursing a wounded body and ego. Egged on by Vilaiti, he decides to destroy both Radha and Shyam. Meanwhile, things are not sailing smoothly for the lovers either. Shyam’s father wants him to stop the charity work and failing that pay him back the money he had spent on his education; the village vaid is gunning for Shyam; questions are being raised about Radha’s parentage but Shambhu still maintains his vow of silence even after being aware of Gopal’s dishonourable intentions regarding Radha.
To create more disharmony, Bela comes from the city and as instructed by Vilaiti first pressurises Gopal and then decides to ruin the doctor’s reputation by claiming that he is …..no, I am not going to tell you….if you have watched Hindi movies than you know what is the quickest way to destroy a man’s reputation. Meanwhile Gopal’s men rob Dinanath though the blame of it falls on the Chowkidar Shambhu, whose reputation also lies ruined. Devastated by this turn of events (what happened to trusting your loved ones????), Radha decides to leave the village. Enroute, she is abducted by Gopal’s men who take her to their master even as Bela dreams of becoming a bride, Vilaiti plans to kill Bela, Shyam vows vengeance…and Shambhu still clings to his oath.
Will Gopal realise that the woman he is lusting after is his own sister? Will Shyam be able to clear his name? Will Bela end up as a bride or a corpse? Will Vilaiti get away with his evil schemes? Will Radha know about her parentage? Will Shambhu open his mouth before it is too late?
Except for the incestuous angle, there is nothing novel in this movie. What makes it a one-time watch is some good performances. Om Prakash gets a meaty role and he is adequate though his bleating voice as well as his unshaven bare-chested look did jar at times.
Sanjeev is good but really the role doesn’t have anything challenging for him.
I was pleasantly surprised by Yogita Bali who not only looked good – puppy fat and all- but also gave a decent performance. I, especially liked her in her last scene with Vinod.
Jaishree T. looked beautiful in bridal finery and delivered one of the most trite dialogues ever.
The villains, Jeevan and Ram Mohan played their roles with aplomb. Jeevan, I have always liked, but Ram Mohan stole the show as the cunning, obsequious Vilaiti. His one dialogue “Ahhhhaaa Chowkidar se Kavi Kalidas ban gaye” had me in splits.
And what about the man I saw this movie for? Vinod made an appearance pretty late in the movie, rode a horse as though he was born to it, played his part as a spoilt man- who feels that the world is his jagir – with gusto and also got a melt-down scene in the end.
He also scorched the screen:
But what made me tear-up was when Vinod broke into Rafi’s ‘Ye Duniya Nahin Jaagir Kisi ki’.
Seeing the frame which contained Jeevan and Om Prakash and esp Sanjeev (who left us too soon) and hearing these lines
and then watching Vinod sing ‘Kuchh jaane ko Tyaar’, so soon after his death, was a pretty moving experience.
Have you seen this movie or feel like seeing it? Do share your views.
Submitted for Tuesday’s Overlooked A/V @ Todd Mason’s SweetFreedom.