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Blast from the past

Oonche Log (1965)

Ashok Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Feroz Khan, Tarun Bose

Photo: AP

Demise of a style icon! Son Fardeen Khan and brother Akbar Khan carrying Feroz Khan’s body for the last rites at a cemetery in Bangalore. (Inset ) A young Feroz Khan. (Bottom) Sanjay Khan, Suzzane and Hrithik Roshan at the burial.

Feroz Khan was never an actor of the calibre of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor or Dharmendra. He was a robust and handsome hero, who shifted to direction with “Apradh” in 1973 and became very successful. Though popularly known as an entertainer, a few films do have glimpses of Feroz Khan as a sensitive actor. One such film is “Oonche Log” in 1965, the last film directed by veteran Phani Majumdar.

“Oonche Log”, revolves around a blind, retired major (Ashok Kumar), his two sons (Raaj Kumar and Feroz Khan), a brother to avenge his sister’s death (Tarun Bose) and Kanhaiyya Lal as a worker at Ashok Kumar’s residence. Ashok Kumar maintains strict discipline at his residence, which is followed by elder son, Raaj Kumar, a police inspector. Feroz Khan, the younger son, is a happy-go-lucky, young man deeply in love with Tarun Bose’s own and only sister.

The father and elder brother are not aware of the younger one’s love affair. The story moves dramatically as the girl commits suicide after Feroz Khan ditches her.

Her brother, determined to take revenge against his sister’s wrong doer, murders Feroz Khan. He flees away from the police and takes shelter in Ashok Kumar’s residence, without knowing that he has landed in the house of the murdered.

A gripping dialogue exchange with the major, reveals the truth and ultimately Tarun Bose is arrested by Raaj Kumar. The climax is unusual and worth watching many a time.

With simplicity

Phani Majumdar directs “Oonche Log” with brilliance. The taut screenplay proves that he belongs to the league of stalwarts like Nitin Bose, V. Shantaram and Bimal Roy. Ashok Kumar stands out with his towering performances as the blind major and no viewer will forget the scene in which he reacts to Raaj Kumar’s queries, his back to the camera and ears speaking for him. In the scene, in which he canes Raaj Kumar for hiding the truth from him, that he had already interacted with Tarun Bose, is a lesson in acting. Raaj Kumar is controlled and very effective as the police inspector. Feroz Khan rubs shoulders with the stalwarts and essays his role with simplicity and effortlessness. His lip-syncing of the Mohammed Rafi number, “Jaag Tera Diwana” is worth viewing ashe spells a rare romantic touch. The other song of the film, “O Tere Chanchal Nainwa” is also haunting. Kanhaiya Lal’s comedy disturbed the pace of the otherwise serious film.

Chitra Gupta’s music and the soft natural light camera work in black and white are truly commendable. Feroz Khan himself commented, prior to “Aadmi Aur Insaan” and “Safar”, “Oonche Log” was his really memorable film.

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Flashback Brother Sanjay Khan says “Oonche Log” gave Feroz Khan a strong footing in the industry

After “Reporter Raju” and “Teesra Kaun”, Feroz Khan acted for the first time with confidence and grit in “Oonche Log”. Though his role was not an author-backed, he proved his worth and did not get sandwiched between the giants, Ashok Kumar and Raaj Kumar. He did not have any style or mannerisms in “Oonche Log” and his loving screen presence was his asset, accompanied with an innocent smile. Phani Majumdar being the imaginative director that he was did not give undue preference to Ashok Kumar or Raaj Kumar. He brought out an aspect in Feroz, which was again visible only in Asit Sen’s “Safar” in 1971.

Ever since Feroz Khan took to directing and acting, he developed a jazzy style, based on popular westerns and it endeared him to the masses. But the simple, deglamourized, Feroz Khan of “Oonche Log” will always haunt me.

(As told to Ranjan Das Gupta)

RANJAN DAS GUPTA

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