As part of Beth Loves Bollywood‘s international mandate, 7 days of 70’s, a week-long festival of any and all things 70’s from Bollywood, I offer to you my readers, Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1970) somehing I like to call Sholay Lite!
This film is a delightful mix of some of the 70’s most delicious masala staples: orphans, dacoits, bandits, dancers, damsels in distress, amputated limbs, music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Anand Bakshi as lyricist, playback singing by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi, and starring Dharmendra, Asha Parekh, Vinod Khanna, Laxmi Chhaya, and Jayant.
Now let me take you on a visual walk through Mera Gaon Mera Desh. We start with Ajit (Dharmendra) as a pick pocket, caught and put on the stand, explaining his fate to the judge and jury…
Ajit gets a chance after serving a light sentance to start over in a small village to where he’s been summoned by a one armed Hawaldaar-Major Jaswant Singh (Jayant). Ajit carries a coin that he flips to help him make major life decisions, and it flipped to the side that made him agree to go to the little town. But why? Why would the one armed man want orphan?
Enter bad guy, dacoit, and bandit extrodinaire, Thakur gone bad, Jabbar Singh! I’m telling you Vinod Khanna was delicious in this part. Look at the sideburns and the scoul on his face. Hot!
So as it turns out, the one armed guy sought Ajit for the village (gaon) not for farming alone, but instead to take the lead in fighting off the band of dacoits who have long been terrorizing the villagers. Luckily Ajit finds a double agent in Munnibai (Laxmi Chhaya) who was sent by Jabbar to find out about Ajit, but ends up falling for him instead.
Ajit informs the authorities, Munni’s mom get’s upset at her indiscretion because like all villagers she rears the wrath Jabbar Singh and his bandits.
In the song, Hai Sharmaon, Laxmi Chhaya‘s character alerts Ajit to what disguises the bandits are wearing to the fair so that he can catch them.
After some of his men are captured by police at the full moon fair, Jabbar Singh suspects a traitor among his flock and conducts a threatenging interrogation fitting a bandit.
Meanwhile, back in town, Asha Parekh’s character, Anju, freaks out when Hawaldaar-Major Jaswant Singh (one armed guy) is killed by the bandits. I love it when Asha breaks down. She of course needs a tight slap to the face in order to get a hold of herself. To make matters worse, now poor munni is thought by Ajit to be responsible for the bandits’ attack on the gaon village. So she’s once again subject to some man handling, and once again, things get just a tad mysoginistic.
Oh no he didn’t! Ajit can verbally abuse her, choke her, shake her, and shove her down into the river two times, but what sets her over the edge is that he doesn’t understand that she did not betray him, and that she loves him! He pushed her over the edge in so many ways, and now look at the face of a woman scorned! DEKH! LOOK AT IT!
Jabbar Singh cointinues with his dacoitery and kidnaps Anju to lure Ajit into his evil den, where he proceeds to tie them up for torture. Any chance I get to screen cap a scene with the word enmity in it I do, so here:
NOW here is the scene and song that compelled me to see this film in the first place: Maar Diya Jaaye Ya Chhod Diya Jaaye, Bol Tere Saath Kya Sulook Kiya Jaaye. Raj and Pablo, the charming and lovely radio hosts of BBC Asian Network’s Love Bollywood, posted this video from the film on their Facebook page. It starts off with Dharmendra tied to a pole getting slapped in the face, and that was only the beginning of this outlandish number, featuring him, Laxmi Chayya and Asha Parekh.
Spoiler moral message ending alert! In the end the lesson is learned: The village must take responsibility to self govern and not rely so heavily on the government, meaning it’s a joint effort, but this effort must first begins at the grassroots level. As it’s said it takes a village to raise a child, and in this movie, it takes a village to eliminate a dacoit. So now that title makes more sense: Mera Gaon Mera Desh = My Village My Country.
EXTRA CREDIT: Here’s why Mera Gaon Mera Desh can be called Sholay Lite