22 May 2010 | Peter_Young
An excellent picture; fantastic performances.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee could never disappoint. Nor could Gulzar. Here Mukherjee directs a film scripted by Gulzar and the result is an excellent film in all respects - real, intelligent, moving. The movie starts well and keeps growing on you as it proceeds.
This is a story of two brother-like friends, Somu (Khanna) and Vicky (Bachchan). Somu lives a poor lifestyle with his mother and sister while Vicky is the son of a wealthy businessman who runs a huge factory in Bombay. When Vicky's father has a heart attack and is advised to take bed-rest, Vicky takes his place. He has a confrontation with the union leader, Bipinlal, as a result of which a strike takes place and he is forced to apologise in public. He confides Somu about his humiliation, and the two plan to take revenge on the poor honest man. Somu poses as a labourer in the factory, befriends his fellow-workers, wins their confidence by arranging them several contrived benefits, and ultimately takes Bipilal's place as the union leader. But while the mission gets completed, Somu finds it difficult to leave. He gradually gets close to the people and gets increasingly involved with their life troubles, which makes him look at things differently.
This social drama is brilliantly written - an interesting story, a tight conflicted script, awesome dialogues. Mukherjee's direction is excellent as always, and the film is brilliantly executed. The depiction of poverty and hardship among people from the lower middle class is spot on and at points really manages to tug at your heartstrings. That makes it easier to understand Somu's involvement with the world of simple villagers, a world he actually belongs to but an involvement which could smash his friendship with Vicky. This conflict of interests is well brought out by Mukherjee. The film of course presents a clash of opposing economic worlds, but it works essentially because of the human relationship between the two friends, which is extremely well done. Somu and Vicky are very different, the former being soft-spoken, simple and generous, and the latter being hot-tempered, proud and a bit aggressive. Yet their friendship is convincing and it's clear that each one of them would do anything for the other.
Rajesh Khanna plays Somu exceedingly well, and his character is very easy to relate to. But it is clearly Amitabh Bachchan's film. As Vicky, he delivers an impressive performance by creating a tough, dignified and stylish persona. His decisiveness, inner conflict, anger and care for a friend are excellently displayed, and everything--from his facial expressions to his line delivery to his body language--is incredibly forceful. Apart from Bachchan and Khanna, the cast includes many good actors, all of whom perform well. A very young Rekha appears in a tiny role as the sassy Shyama and she is very charming. Simi Garewal plays the intelligent and educated Manisha with grace. A.K. Hangal is outstanding and likable as Bipinlal. Om Shivpuri does a good job as Vicky's dad and he gets some of the better dialogues in this film. Raza Murad is wonderful as Alam, an alcoholic poet who befriends Somu. So are Durga Khote and actress Manisha who play Somu's mother and sister.
Namak Haram is one of many great films made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and written by Gulzar, with a beautiful soundtrack composed by master RD Burman and some memorable performances. I recommend you to watch Namak Haram - it is entertaining, it is moving, it is heartbreaking, it is a classic.