Johny Mera Naam (1970): 50 years of Crime & Morality

The long weekend had given me some respite from work from home, I decided to watch a film of which I have heard so much, but never found the time to watch it. earlier Surprisingly as I watched this in the early hours of Sunday, I must say that it kept me hooked on for the entire duration.

Johny Mera Naam is a tale of two brothers who get lost in childhood, ending up in two different sides of the law. But then this is a Vijay Anand film, twist in the tale is that the one who is supposed to uphold law the cop is cheating people to achieve his goals.  Johny Mera Naam might look like a crime thriller at the outset, but like a good pulp film, it has layers to it.

Sohan (Dev Anand) is an undercover cop who infiltrates the gang of criminals, unknown to him one of the members of the group is Moti (Pran) who is actually his long lost brother Mohan. If you look at the character arc of Sohan, he is the one who is in more immoral if you compare him to negative characters in the film.

When he realises that Babu a member of the gang is leaving his way of crimes, he does not help him, trapping him instead to win over the trust of the gang. In contrast to this Moti is a man of his words and is only upset when someone betrays him.

Even Rekha (Hema Malini) is provided with a backstory on why she is in the gang. If you look closely, apart from Moti, everyone in the film has an ulterior motive about why they are doing things which is immoral or betrayal to achieve what they want.

With this film deals with an important question while we focus on who is right, we tend to ignore what is right.

Despite being fifty years old, the film does not look dated, thanks to Vijay Anand. This is also testimony to his skills that despite a run time of around 2 hours 45 minutes, unusually long for a thriller but a norm for Indian movies, you never feel the length.

Songs are an integral part of Indian cinema but usually they have been not used effectively to narrate story forward. Very few Indian directors have used songs effectively, Vijay Anand is one of them. Husn Ke Lakhon Rang would have been just another cabaret or item song in the hands of a lesser director, but Vijay Anand gives it such a wild twist that the audience is sucked into the world of prey and hunter. Even when he uses a romantic song Par Vaada Toh Nibhaya, he keeps the theme of the chase and impending danger in the background and gives us a logical explanation on why the cops did not apprehend them.

It is interesting to see all the negative characters in the film having a strong reason and motivation to do what they want, even Ranjit Singh (Premnath) has a backstory which makes us empathise us with him, Vijay Anand in the plot-driven film gives each character flesh and bones ask us to decide on whose side we are.

The film reaches it pinnacle in the last act when everyone gathers at Ranjit’s den. What begins as the tale of double cross, lies and trust issues in the hands of a lesser director this would have fallen flat. The last act should be seen by anyone who ever wishes to write a screenplay I feel.

Fun Fact- This was the first production of Trimurti Films, the film was later remade in Telugu with NTR as Eduruleni Manishi which was also the first production for the renowned Vyjanthi Movies.

The film is streaming now on Zee 5

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