Mister Yash Chopra's 'bold and beautiful adulterous drama'from Seventies still comes across as a refreshingly grey look at the 'Indian Bollywood love triangle' and the happy mantra of the middle class Indian marriage but what distinguishes it even today is the almost voyeuristic quality that the script has given this vehicle where the viewer is left to judge it's atypical characters while the movie becomes a subtle observation of the rather more eventful aspects of human existence .
He explores various themes about fatalism ,judicial errors ,identity change ,marital fidelity and human quest for survival in his intriguing love story with a brilliant cast who all look sublime and emotioally inhabit their roles immaculately .
Rajesh Khanna is the dashing central character who is married to Sharmila Tagore in a blissfully romantic marriage ,their middle class Indian haven is interrupted by an impulsive offense by mr.Khanna and he is sentenced to death in a court case ,but he escapes miraculously and is 'presumed dead' by the judiciary and his family .
It's the subsequent story that is the true trump card, where Khanna ensues a new life away from his wife and child within a newer more successful surrounding,and the director has appropriately made use of Khanna and his subtle acting style .
The plot has some very intriguing twists and it has an interesting take on typical male behaviour under duress which Khanna conveys with his facial expressions alone and the ambivalent nature of love itself is psychologically explored between the sexes ,mister Chopra has interrupted his script with six joyously wondrous songs,composed by the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal , ranging from 'love duets' to 'philosophical laments' and 'carnival dance party numbers' and they have been used well to propel the script and add to the visual accomplishments here .They are well choregraphed but might distract the western viewers from the tightly knit script .
Rajesh khanna interprets his atypical role with grey streaks very well as a victim and the helpless deceiver ,miss Tagore is the wife who is left forlorn,traumatised and than stunned by her own fate ,they have a brilliant chemistry on screen and are for me one of the finest 'Bollywood screen couples' in it's long screen history .
The surprise here though is 'Rakhee Gulzar' ,she is a naturally gifted actress with a porcelain doll like beauty that is very rare on screen and here she is showcased in possibly her best earliest role as the 'other woman 'who is in love with a charming man ,who unknown to her has a murky past and she portrays those emotions in a nuanced manner on screen giving the movie an abstract but intelligent base ,she exudes a fragile scepticism in every frame despite her obvious love for the man with a forgotten past,she compliments the performance by Khanna into a darker and deeper character study of the sexual rules of attraction coupled with some tantalising questions about Indian marriage and its sanctity or otherwise .
The fact a mainstream movie questions and explores a 'taboo subject' intelligently is quite profound and it does so with lavish production values comparable to Hollywood studio vehicles ,but it turns it's stereotypes inside out till you are experiencing something both intriguing and ingenious .
It does have shades of Thomas Hardy's 'Mayor Of Casterbridge' but than that is a viable compliment as the book is a masterpiece on themes of fatalism ,complex erratic human behaviour and the unpredictable consequences of those predicaments .
The movie has been shot in the spellbinding majestic splendour of the Himalyan backdrops and both the spring in the mountain forest and the frozen pine trees on the snow clad mountain slopes are lushly photographed by the lensman .
Despite the audio-visual delicacy offered by the ravishing locales and the cast ,it's the plot ,script and characters that keep you involved in a complex ,adult love story which almost borders onto a 'fugitive adventure' at times but it manages to knit it's two perspectives well and the characters never lose their credibilty as they are all vulnerable and imperfect which makes them likeable too and it has a very unpredictable and 'brilliantly staged climax' which makes the denouement even more subtle and cunning and very 'provocative' too .
A fine hour for all concerned .