So remember this movie, with this really great scene where Dharmendra plays a former criminal who teaches a village belle how to shoot in a forest setting?
And that movie had this pretty despicable villain played by a really good actor, called Mabbar Singh or Dabbar Singh or something to that effect? And a coin that played a key part in the decision making of the hero? And a fight towards the end that is a tables-turned version of a fight we saw earlier? And the scene where the villain has a gun and angrily questions his henchmen?
And of course the usual, cutesy harrasment of heroine for comedic scenes. And how can you not love the bit where the gypsie girl dances in front of the villain?
But if you know your 70's Hindi cinema, you know where I'm going with this. In fact, while it might appear to the modern viewer, working their way through the rich history of Bombay's cinema, that Mera Gaon Mera Desh has far too many similarities with the classic Sholay, release dates reveal that it was in fact Sholay that took influence from Mera Gaon. It's quite a funny thing, to watch this movie after Sholay and realize that the more popular and yes, the better film out of the two, is not just the one influencing others, but also has those clear influences of its own.
Vinod Khanna is indeed called Jabbar Singh, a dacoit-thakur who doesn't hesitate to put bullets into those who oppose him. Dharmendra on the other hand plays Ajit, a reformed criminal who moves into a village to work for a man who believes in giving people second chances. And Asha Parekh plays Anju, the village girl he falls in love with.
The movie handsomely begins with the following quote:
Yeah, Gandhi can be badass, too. Who says you can't learn from cinema?
It delivers everything you'd expect. Ajit may be an orphan disregarded by society as a lost cause, but the idyllic Rajasthan village and faith placed on him by a few really good people reforms him and makes him the people's hero, gathering the villagers to fight against the evil Jabbar Singh. There's plenty of songs, fights and sentimental speeches.
But mostly the film falls into the "just okay" category for me. I get a huge kick out of Dharmendra in just about anything but Asha Parekh as a heroine lacks that special something. The story certainly doesn't rise up to the level that Sholay does; it just isn't as good and appealling, I didn't find myself getting that emotionally invested in any of the characters. Of course, it does fall short of Sholay in star power as well as budget, probably, so it's not at all a fair comparison. If it stands alone, Mera Gaon is decent masala of its time.
That is, unless you're me and ...
.. absolutely ..
.. friggin' ..
.. adore ..
.. Vinod Khanna in this movie!
By no means is Jabbar as despicable or as legendary as Gabbar Singh. He is in a sense ruthless but he doesn't take the sick pleasure in killing and torturing people as Gabbar seems to. But the first scene he's in, where he tears a mother apart from her child and plainly shoots the child, sets the tone of the character. And while my biased adoration is, I'll admit, mostly superficial, Vinod does play the role with such intensity that it's not hard to see why this was the role that got him noticed.
In a sense, the movie belongs to its side stars -- alongside Vinod, we have Laxmi Chhaya, who steals the show as the gypsie girl Munnibai. She's a double agent of sorts, who eventually decides where her true loyalties lie and is responsible for most of the dance numbers in the film. On my first watch she was such a breath of fresh air after the blahsome Asha I almost wished she'd been the romantic interest in the film. The last song in the film is so memorable, very much due to her performance.
I was feeling very angry at the world today for whatever reason and screencapping and rewatching this movie totally did the trick. Mmm, bloody, evil Vinod. If I'm alone and crazy in this matter, I apologize for affecting you with my mental disorder. Really, I'm so sorry. I'll stop now.
..sorry! Okay, I'm done now. Promise.
.. I need help.