Though it was a super hit of its time (not to be confused with Kajol’s Dushman), this is one of Rajesh Khanna’s lesser celebrated films. Released on January 7, 1972. It can be called an experimental film of sorts due to the subject of the film which was explored earlier in V Shantaram’s Do Aankhen Barah Haath but was much different in the tone and tenor.
Directed by Dulal Guha, Dushman has Rajesh Khanna who was at his peak when he took up this role of an over confident reckless truck driver sentenced to work for the family of his victim, a willing risk which he took being in pole position then. He pulled off this role with aplomb. He was a romantic star at the time, and here it was sort of a de-glamorization for him. He changed quite a few things, his body language, style, facial features to look the part which he was every inch of. It was also one of the last performance of Meena Kumari.
After a night of song and dance at a brothel Surjit Singh (Rajesh Khanna) has to cover distance for being late and the reckless driver that he is, he pushes the pedal hard despite warnings by his cleaner to drive slow in a fog. Eventually the expected does happen and he runs over a farmer. He is brought to the court and seeing that the earning member of the farmer’s family was killed the judge passes a sensitive judgement ordering Surjit to take care of the family for two years the duration of his incarceration. Surjit protests but he is delivered to the family and has to face the hostile family with whom he has to stay and resentful villagers who throw barbs at him.
On the first night he tries to escape but is caught and is back, gradually he starts understanding the plight of the family and starts sincerely looking after them though they still call him Dushman or enemy. With the help of free spirited village belle Phoolmati (Mumtaz) he slowly gets endeared to the villagers and helps them in many ways.
He also becomes protective about his adopted family who after an untoward incident finally accept him as their own and he is no longer the Dushman.
As as in all Rajesh Khanna movies, this movie too had a couple of humable numbers notably ‘Wada tera wada’ a spritely fun song and the title song ‘Dushman, Dushman jo doston se pyaara hai’. The successful pairing of Khanna and Mumtaz just got one notch better with this outing.
Dushman is in the moralistic, reformist genre and was a superhit. A rare gem. We specifically chose this over Khanna’s other better known movies because of the theme and the risk he took to play a truck driver’s role, blending into it effortlessly.
A major credit is to be given to the director Dulal Guha who had earlier directed Jeetendra-Nanda’s Dharti Kahe Pukarke (1969) which had a strong message on how our Indian family values strengthen’s the bond between the brothers to overcome all odds and Mere Humsafar (1970) which had Jeetendra, Sharmila and Balraj Sahni.
Dulal Guha then went on to direct Dost (1974) which had Dharmendra and Shatrughan Sinha, and then it was Pratigya (1976) which gave Dharmendra the ‘garam Dharam ‘ image. Guha’s experiment with showing Rajesh Khanna as the truck driver donning a mustache minus the romantic hero’s trademark mannerism and style earned the actor accolades across a wide spectrum of film critics and the film was a runaway success at the Box Office. Dushman is fondly recollected while listening to the evergreen hit songs ‘Vaada Tera Vaada’, ‘Maine Dekha.. Tune Dekha .. ek Dushman jo dosta se pyaara hai’ and the ‘Paisa pheko tamasha dekho’.
As with many successful movies, Dushman too had many remakes in different languages.
– Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA