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Upperstall Review

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Raja Jani

 

Hindi, Drama, 1972, Color



Cast And Crew



Raj Singh Thakur (Dharmendra) is a man willing to earn money by any means possible. He joins hands with the Deewan of a kingdom (Premnath) to plant a girl as its lost princess, Ratna. The princess was lost as a young girl in an attack on her parents years earlier when she fell into the river. Her grandmother, Rajmata (Durga Khote), refuses to believe she is dead since no body was found. Raj finds a girl, Shanno (Hema Malini) who dances on the streets and is exploited by her adoptive parents (Sajjan, Nadira). He convinces her to impersonate the lost princess and what's more trains and polishes her as well. Shanno falls in love with him and decides to go along with his scheme hoping her love would change him. She makes it past the inner coterie of the palace employees and even manages to convince the old lady she is indeed her granddaughter. But any thoughts she harbours that Raj might have changed are dashed when Raj tells Shanno she must now get him the keys for the royal treasury from the old woman. On top of it, her marriage is announced to the wily Deewan's son (Prem Chopra)...



The Yul Brynner - Ingrid Bergman starrer Anastasia (1956) gets the Hindi film treatment with Raja Jani and to be honest, the film by and large works pretty well. With a strong central performance by Hema Malini (yes, she could act and act well if directed properly), the Dharam - Hema chemistry at its peak and some catchy music, the film remains eminently watchable even today.

The adaptation by Nabendu Ghosh in terms of story and screenplay is quite apt and Ananstasia lends itself quite easily to Bollywood as you are drawn into the story of street performer Shanno who is blackmailed impersonate the lost-for-years princess Ratna by gold digger Raj Singh. The story moves along smoothly enough till street performer Shanno is convinced, trained and placed into the palace and accepted by Rajmata as her long lost granddaughter. The film handles certain tracks rather well - the Johnny Walker - Hema Malini relationship for one is well worked out - and Hema Malini displays fine comic timing in these sequences. It is hereafter, once the story shifts to the palace that the film falters as it gets into simple black and white, stereotypical territory. Especially, since the suspense of Shanno's identity is quickly dealt with whereas the identity issue was the backbone of Anastasia and remained ambiguous. So of course, Shanno is actually the real princess lost years ago as she couldn't be a negative imposter could she, the gold digger is really a nice guy who must now save Rajmata, Ratna and the kingdom's treasury from the evil Deewan and his son etc, etc before the customary happy ending. And of course she coughs at the right time due to stress for Rajmata to verify her identify but fails to do again when things get even more stressful! All this takes away from the grey shades, layering, suspense and ambiguity the drama of Anastasia had and finally renders Raja Jani as typical simplistic Hindi film fare. Enjoyable and entertaining enough, yes, but typical and failing to reach any great heights.

The performances are good even if Dharmendra, though looking as dashing as ever, is a mite stiff and uncomfortable as the not so nice and at times even unlikeable gold digger. His justifacation for what he has become seems token rather than being convincing enough to justify his love for money over everything else. As mentioned, it is really Hema Malini who is the life of the film. She is spot on in every scene be it the lighter ones with Johnny Walker or the more serious and emotional ones as well. What's more, she clearly seems to be having a great time in the film. Her chemistry with Garam Dharam is crackling! For someone who is supposed to speak English better than the Europeans, they've cleverly made her speak very little of the same. Durga Khote effortlessly combines the regal bearing of her character with much maternal warmth while Premnath and Prem Chopra make a fine pair of villains though Prem Chopra's dancing with Hema Malini in the song where she wants to make Dharmendra jealous is a hoot (unintentional I'm sure)! Johnny Walker is fine as Dharmendra's valet cum cook and Nadira and Sajjan lend adequate support as Shanno's adoptive parents. Helen is also around but sadly is restricted to just dancing as Hema's character takes over the singing department in the Mubarak Ho Tujhe Ae Dil song.

Laxmikant - Pyarelal's music works best in the Duniya ka Mela and ABCD Chhodo numbers rendered extremely effectively by Lata Mangeshkar while Kishore Kumar is in fine vocal form with Jani O Jani. Other technicalities are adequate enough for the period without really deserving special mention. All in all, the film is good time pass and it's fun watching the Dharam - Hema pair sizzling together. If only the film sizzled as much...


Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan


ABCD Chhodo - Lata Mangeshkar
Aa Aaja Kuch Kehja - Lata Mangeshkar
Duniya ka Mela - Lata Mangeshkar
Jani O Jani - Kishore Kumar
Kitna Maza Aa Raha Hai - Lata Mangeshkar
Mubarak Ho Tujhe Ae Dil - Lata Mangeshkar


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