Rajesh Roshan, son of veteran music director Roshan is someone who has always remained in the shadows despite the fact that the scores that he recorded for some movies have stood the test of time. He comes across as someone who seldom blows his own trumpet which cannot be said about most other music directors in Bollywood. In fact, movies that were damp squibs in the 80s are still remembered by fans for Rajesh Roshan's memorable compositions. Here on the occasion of his 64th birthday on 24th May, we review "Yaraana" a movie that released in 1981 and flopped at the box office.
If the film is still recalled today it is only for Rajesh Roshan's chartbusters, such as “Bhole O Bhole”, “Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahaan”, “Chookar Mere Manko” and “Sara Zamana Haseeno ka Diwana”: songs that evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. So, when I sat down to watch Yaraana I was full of expectations. But the movie was a huge let-down. If memory serves me right, Yaraana flopped at the box office despite the soulful music. The reason is not far to seek. Director Rakesh Kumar has faltered on most counts and the script is to be blamed for the film’s debacle.
80s was the period when Bachchan was riding high on the box office. Amitabh Bachchan has given many failures but these remain subsumed under his commercial blockbusters like “Lawaris”, “Satte Pe Satta”, “Muqaddar Ka Sikandar”, “Don” etc. There are massive jerks in the narrative. It is evident that the editor couldn’t salvage a film with shoddy production values and a wafer thin plot.
Bishan (Amjad Khan) and Kishan (Bachchan) are childhood friends. At some stage in their lives, the two get separated as Bishan has to pursue higher studies while Kishan chooses to stay back in the village. The verdant landscape in Goregaon’s Film City passes off as a village with a tin shed shown as Kishan’s hut.
Bishan’s uncle and his son (the wily Jeevan and Ranjeet) stay with Bishan’s mother (Sulochana Latkar, the perpetual fixture in Hindi films for the character of the mother next only to Nirupa Roy). Mercifully, Sulochana is less melodramatic and is shown to be emotionally restrained. The script then shows Bishan returning from London along with his wife (Tanuja) and son (Master Bittu). What was Bishan doing in London and what was his occupation? These questions are conveniently brushed under the carpet. But in the latter half of the movie, Bishan is shown as the owner of a huge ship (Sigh! Where is the logic?).
Bishan takes Kishan along with him to the city to ensure that Kishan has a flourishing singing career. He introduces him to the promoter of a music company (veteran actor Bharat Bhushan in a very brief role) and his daughter Neetu Singh. Singh is supposedly a grooming expert and attempts to groom the rustic Kishan into a suave city-bred singer. Curiously enough, Kishan learns to dance before you can say “Mombasa”.
Meanwhile, the uncle and son have swindled Bishan’s mother of all the family fortunes and the poor mother can do nothing but wail over the misfortune bestowed on her. Despite his vulnerable financial situation, Bishan pledges his house to fund the career aspirations of his friend. His wife is furious at the turn of events and leaves home. In a few scenes later, she is back home (maybe she couldn’t afford the hotel bills!).
The plot gets further convoluted with the introduction of Johnny (Kadar Khan) who is Bishan’s car driver and further attempts by uncle and son to cause harm to Bishan. The motivation for this is unclear. Johnny is loyal to his master and the audience is introduced to his mother Lalita Pawar (appearing for the millionth time as an old Catholic woman with a heart of gold). So sad that Bollywood continued to typecast Pawar in film after film just because Anari (1959), Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s superhit featured her as Mrs D’sa, a Christian woman with an acerbic tongue and heart of gold.
All of a sudden, Bishan decides to take a bunch of school students in his ship. The students are accompanied by their teacher Farida Jalal. Jalal is known for her competence and it is puzzling that she chose to do this friendly appearance for which there are no credits in the titles. The uncle and son threaten Bishan and hold him and children hostage in a dungeon. They are seeking ransom from the children’s parents and use Bishan as a front. How did they manage to transport all of them from the ship to the dungeon is conveniently edited out from the narrative.
Bishan manages to escape with the help of Johnny. They exchange their clothes.
Johnny’s mother appears from nowhere and takes care of Bishan and admits him to a mental asylum. Johnny (who was worn Bishan’s clothes) is mistaken for Bishan and the goons kill him. Bishan has now lost his mental balance after all the threat and humiliation suffered at the hands of his uncle and uncle’s son.
Kishan gets a wind of all that has transpired in his friend’s life. He is now determined to set things right. In between, Bishan’s son (Master Bittu) suddenly falls ill and doctors claim that he has lost his memory and only Kishan can help him. Kishan successfully manages to do this and then enters the mental asylum and by feeding Bishan rotis, Kishan cures him in a matter of seconds. Then both friends escape and use a parachute to fly in the sky to decimate the enemies.
The film is absolutely bizarre and chaotic with complete absence of continuity in many scenes. It is akin to a hastily prepared dish with luxurious ingredients but something that has no taste. Some of the scenes in “Yaraana” are downright hilarious. For example, Aruna Irani (she was another permanent fixture in most Bollywood films in the 70’s and 80’s) calls herself Julie and appears from nowhere to call up Bishan’s wife Tanuja. The latter snaps at her and bangs the phone down despite Julie claiming that she is Tanuja’s classmate. In the first half of the film, the audience is told that Tanuja was raised in the UK so how is it that Julie became her classmate in an Indian school? The same Tanuja calls up Julie in the mental hospital and seeks her help to save her son who has lost his memory.
To be very frank, it is shocking that an intelligent actor like Amitabh Bachchan approved such a poorly written script which literally takes the audience for granted. The apathy with which Rakesh Kumar has directed this movie is appalling. Seriously, what was he thinking? The film appears disjointed and patchy and the characterizations are far too nebulous and sketchy. Amjad Khan has played a positive role but the script does not allow him to display his histrionic abilities at all. Amitabh has his moments and his earnestness shows through but it a case of earnest efforts wasted in the wrong endeavour.
To reiterate, music of “Yaraana” is the only saving grace. It is sad to note that a talented actress like Tanuja had to stoop to doing character roles in movies like “Yaraana”. Neetu Singh (who acted as Baby Sonia in the 1968 flop “Do Dooni Char” that also starred Kishore Kumar and Tanuja) plays the heroine in “Yaraana”. Singh has very little to do in the film and has limited screen time. But she is elegantly styled and has moments of tenderness which she was always known for. Yaraana was one of the last movies that Singh shot before she entered into wedlock with Raj Kapoor’s second son Rishi Kapoor. Unfortunately, the screen chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Neetu Singh is somewhat tepid and subdued.
When it was released in 1981, not surprisingly, the film was an unmitigated disaster. One feels exasperated at the way the director has wasted the monumental talent that was at his disposal.
This is one friendship that we should give a miss.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80’s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)