When Feroz Khan died earlier this year, I thought I’d better see a few more of his films in order to pay tribute to his career. One of the most mentioned films of Khan’s career seemed to be Dharmatma (1975), so I watched it.
Feroz Khan, who has died aged 69, was an Indian actor and producer who became one of Bollywood’s biggest stars; with his swagger and tough-guy styling he was compared to American leading men like Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen. He based one typically all-action picture, Dharmatma (1975), on Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning film, The Godfather, and starred in another as a suave racing driver who wins the world championship. Later he appeared in a series of cowboy films that aped the Spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone – they became known as Curry Westerns. (source)
First off, let me get this spectacular image out of the way:
Hema Malini’s character declaring her orphan-hood.
Don’t you think that reel for reel Bollywood may have the highest occurrence of orphans than any other film industry in the world? Now back to the movie Dharmatma (1975), which is essentially supposed to be a Hindustani-ized version of The Godfather. One thing The Godfather doesn’t have is Helen.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the film I copied from IMDB:
Wealthy, powerful and influential Seth Dharamdas leads a financially secure life in a palatial mansion. He is known to come to the aid of all people who are beyond any hope of assistance, and this leads to him being known as “Dharmatma”. But Seth Dharamdas does have a number of skeletons in his closet, and a parallel life as a gangster. The only person Dharamdas hates and fears is none other than his very own son, Ranbir, who has sworn that he will never compromise with his father’s dark career, and threatens to expose him. Dharamdas has never conceded surrender or defeat at the hands of any mortal, and will never even consider to do so – even if this means the death of Ranbir. (by rAjOo)
Alas, Ranbir has sets his sights on Reshma (Hema Malini) a girl living over the border in Afghanistan, since it’s never quite Bollywood until there’s a love triangle. I enjoyed the lavish tent like home where Hema’s character lived. It looked like a high class yurt, but I thought yurts were in Mongolia, not Afghanistan, right? Even in this opulently decorated tent, she’s stifled
For a taste of that nomadic life, enjoy Meri Galiyon Se, featuring playback singer Lata Mangeshkar with the music of Kalyanji Anandji, and picturized on Hema Malini in some nomadic camp in Afghanistan, or maybe it’s in movie studio, you be the judge. Both Danny Denzongpa and Khan’s character are smitten with Hema’s Reshma. Who will win her love?
Besides digging the hip 70’s vibe of this flick, I was delighted to find it had one of my favorites, Farida Jalal, who played Mona, the sister to Feroz Khan’s Ranbir. Unfortunately, she’s married to a dacoit, Kundan (Imtiaz Khan) but it takes her sometime to figure this out. Kundan’s gangster side kicks are played by Ranjeet and Sudhir, who wear matching outfits throughout the film. Their shirts are always open, and often made of sheer fabrics. They are very, very bad men, but more on them later.
Wait a minute, even the good guy wears an open, chest hair bearing shirt a lot of the time:
Eventually Mona lets her creepy gangster husband know that she doesn’t like the lowly company he’s keeping which causes some marital strife.
Doesn’t she know this is Bollywood and a woman cannot talk to a man in such a way without suffering a tight slap to the face? Even I saw that one coming.
Mona’s husband may be a hopeless pig, but her brother is reliable and caring. Everything is fine on Raksha Bandhan and she ties a rakhi on brother Ranbir. Look how sweet!
Yet moments later she changes her warm feelings when she realizes that …
Can’t you almost feel that tight slap to the face, or at least hear it? When I saw this in the opening credits I was very pleased:
I’m a big Ranjeet fan. It’s most likely psychologically problematic that I find his bad boy characters irresistibly attractive, but I’ll work that out on my own time. Normally I love Ranjeet, but his character was so extra creepy in Dharmatma, that I found him only mildly hot, not ultra hot. Hats off to his acting distracting me from his beauty. Was is due to being paired with a creepy sidekick played by Sudhir that was too much? Who knows, but together in their sheer, unbuttoned, and always matching shirts, they were repulsive. I looked forward to seeing each new outfit.
Their characters were abusive and drunk most of the time. Take a nice look at them here. I believe there can never be enough photos of Ranjeet out there for the world to see, no matter what.
Ranjeet wears a pinky ring here, which is a tell tale sign of villain-hood: