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Great Indian thinker and diplomat - Chaanakya's words of wisdom are -
'Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first'.
It's a hard hitting truth underscored in Imaan (1974).
Imaan (honesty / conscience) begins with a court scene in which the hero of this movie - Maadho (Sanjeev Kumar) is tried for the charge of stealing medicines from a shop. He had stolen those costly medicines because he needed them to save his mother's life and he did not have enough money to buy them. He got caught and put under trial on one hand whereas his mother also passed away in the absence of proper treatment on the other. The public prosecutor highlights this fact that Maadho's brother Laakhan has been a jailbird in the past and hence despite this being Maadho's first crime, his case is not be dealt with any lenience on the part of the law. Maadho himself agrees for any punishment under the law, telling the judge that he has lost his faith in goodness and life values and come to know that being poor is the biggest crime.
The kind-hearted and benevolent judge (Krishna Kaant) feels that if this young man who is actually not a criminal, is not helped at this moment, after completing his due jail sentence under the law, may turn into a real criminal, losing his faith in the morals for good. He awards Maadho 3 months' imprisonment which is the minimum punishment prescribed by the law for the crime (stealing) committed by him. However simultaneously, he seeks the cooperation of the welfare officer of the jail (Shivraaj) for rehabilitation of Maadho post the completion of his sentence. The welfare officer arranges a retail shop in a distant village for Maadho to enable him to earn an honest living. However he tells Maadho that he has to follow the principles of honesty, conscience and benevolence in his work. Maadho who is originally a nice, benevolent and ethical person, agrees to that and vows to follow these principles not only in his shopkeeping work but also in his life.
The real story of this movie takes off from here. Maadho reaches the village and takes possession of the shop. He keeps an assistant(Johnny Walker) and starts his shop, following the principles of honesty, conscience and benevolence with utmost sincerity. Now his competitors in the village frame conspiracies to sabotage his business. Plus gradually his kind-heartedness and benevolence also go against him. He is not able to recover his dues from those whom he had sold the goods on credit. Not only the selfish people of the village take undue advantage of his simplicity and benevolence but also demonstrate their ungratefulness in many ways. His competitors are happy because his honestly run business is getting ruined with their businesses containing different kinds of foul play prospering at the cost of his loss. Despite getting the love of a village girl Imli (Leena Chandavarkar), Maadho becomes more and more disheartened as days pass by. One day the conspiracy of his competitors culminates in an arrest warrant against him but he runs away from the cops and disappears from the scene with the help of his sweetheart Imli. Nobody pays two hoots for his escape. His shop is now closed.
Shortly thereafter, his brother Laakhan(Sanjeev Kumar again) appears on the scene, taking over the shop and running the same in a manner utterly different from that of Maadho. He proves to be a strong-armer for one and all. Not only he adopts all the dishonest practices in his business but also bullies those who owe money to the shop and realizes all the arrears. He hits business of his competitors of his shops hard by masterminding a conspiracy and force them to come to his shelter only. Maadho also visits the village occasionally and hears from the bullied ones about the activities of Laakhan. When most of the villagers fall sick due to using adulterated oil sold from Laakhan's shop, Maadho only helps them only to see their ungratefulness again. However Laakhan shows his anger towards Maadho and the situation takes such a turn that he is arrested and tried for Maadho's murder. How much is the truth under this charge? Only Laakhan knows it. Just like the beginning, this movie ends also with a court scene only.
This movie is the cellular adaptation of a story of Hermann Sudermann. It's a regular Bollywood movie studded with the usual entertainment formulae of romance, comedy, action, suspense etc. and is able to maintain the viewer's interest till the very end.
Performance wise talking, only Sanjeev Kumar stands out in the lead role. All others are routine.
As stated in the beginning of this review, the woodcutter's axe always strikes the straight trees first. Hence the moral of the story is - despite being nice, kind and honest; a person should not be too simple to allow the manipulators to take him / herfor a ride or seek undue advantage of him / her. As per the Indian mythology, the lunar eclipse takes place because of the demon Raahu's swallowing the moon but it happens only when the moon is round or symmetrical. Using this metaphor, the legendary poet - Goswaami Tulsidaas has asserted - 'Tedh Jaani Sanka Sab Kaahu, Vakra Chandrama Grase Na Rahu' (if you appear to be a trickster, all remain apprehensive of you the way the demon Raahu abstains from swallowing the moon when it is askew).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Its a suspense film so please don't read further if you haven't seen
the film. Madhav comes out of jail but is given a chance to run a shop
with complete honesty. Madhav fails in his mission. Madhav gets
arrested and shop closes down. Madhav's brother comes from his village
and runs the same shop with illegal rules and mints money. The film is
about which path to chose in life.
Sanjeev kumar as Madhav and Laakhan is great. He really looks two different personalities. Film really belongs to supporting cast. Kaishto mukherji, Anwar Hussain and Johhny walker are too good. Johnny walker speaks 'Marwari' with ease and perfect pronunciation. Anawar Hussain as mean dukandar is a very strong portrayal. Leena is also very good. Music of the film is forgettable except 'Paise Bina Pyar' by kk.
Film is an adaptation of a story by Hermann Sudermann. Its serious cinema. It doesn't meander. No extra scenes. Just the story and the basic conflict. Film asks the question if honesty is the best policy or its not a policy at all. Story is full of twists and turns and is very engaging. The best part of the film is the end. For a story like this the end becomes a difficulty because you can't really say what is right and what is wrong and so you generally have to create a dialog and leave it at that like Plato's style. Film almost does that and still gives a logical end to the narrative. Highly recommended. 9/10
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