Lakhon Mein Ek (1971)
Mehmood, Pran, Radha Saluja, Aruna Irani, Nasir Hussain
Lakhon Mein Ek. One in a million! Well, there was hardly any aspect in this movie that one would call appealing. Yet, nostalgia drives you to watch it. Slapstick comedy dominated this Gemini production, but it remained an average film despite stars such as Mehmood and Pran figuring in the cast.
Those were times when Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan were ruling Hindi cinema, and Mehmood, a towering actor in his heyday, had begun to fade. His magic had worn off and gone were the days when his mere presence would attract the audience.
Mehmood had an obsession to be a major part of the story, dictating the pace of the movie with his frequent interruptions to the flowing narration. The audience would find it irritating, but then he had a loyal following too. Even the producers preferred Mehmood to be a key component of the movie, with a song or two reserved to keep him in constant loop.
Many established actors were known to have reservations, but such was Mehmood’s stature that they would refrain from complaining. Some adopted the best remedy by refusing to sign films that includ-
ed Mehmood. Many Leading actors of the day, including Mumtaz, Aruna Irani and Shubha Khote, were paired with Mehmood, sometimes with good results. He was a stalwart who elevated the status of comic actors, if not comedy as a genre, with colleagues like the incomparable Johnny Walker, the versatile Kishore Kumar, Deven Verma and Om Prakash. A quality that distinguished Mehmood from the rest was his ability to experiment with the theme of a movie. He could laugh and weep, making the transition with amazing skill, in the same frame, which was a tribute to his overall abilities as an actor.
Lakhon Mein Ek was a story that suited Mehmood’s persona. He is Bhola, who fights for survival, literally, by doing various errands in a Bombay chawl, on his feet the whole day, yet struggling to make ends meet. ‘Bhola Aa Gaya’ he pleads at the door of various chawl residents in anticipation of some reward for his work, but disdain is what comes his way.
Pran is Sher Singh, with a soft corner for Bhola, who also finds support from Nasir Hussain, a veteran actor of more than three decades. Lalita Pawar is the typical demanding senior citizen and here she plays the mother of Gauri (Radha Saluja), who comes to the chawl and finds solace in the company of Bhola.
Bhola must attend to various chores and find time to study. His education is sponsored by a kind-hearted professor (David) but life is tough for him. He seeks care and affection which comes his way from Gauri, who is smitten by his simple living. ‘Chanda O Chanda’, one of R.D. Burman’s finest compositions, is sung by Lata and Kishore in solos, but sadly wasted in the contrived circumstances in the film.
Never mind if the story fails to engage the audience. What strikes most is the huge assembly of character actors that producer and director S.S. Balan packs in this movie. From David, Kanhaiyalal, Madan Puri, Ramesh Deo, Aruna Irani to Jalal Agha, Mukri, Mohan Choti in cameos, there is an impressive array. Mukri’s is a superb character immersed in his own world, the newspaper an inseparable part of his life. Nothing is acceptable to him unless it finds a mention in the newspaper. A dream sequence duet — ‘Jogi O Jogi Arre Pyaar Mein Kya Hoga’ — did figure in the popularity charts, but there were a couple of forgettable numbers too, a raunchy Padma Khanna dance finding an avoidable presence in the story. Lakhon Mein Ek hardly justifies the title and comes off an average film from Gemini Studios, known otherwise for some superb social movies.