20th Nov 1970 was a memorable day for me, for Gulshan Rai's first production "Johny Mera Naam" was released in Bombay, Delhi UP & East Punjab.
Those days films were not released simultaneously. All Over India is a trend that started after the advent of Video Cassettes probably during the late 80s. I was in First year college and because the film was Directed by my most favorite Director Vijay Anand, I thought it was best to take an off from college in Delhi and see the film first day first show at my home town, Faridabad at KC Cinema!
While I was parking my Cycle, I overheard that the film was a thriller, and back then I could never have imagined that I would be reminiscing about the film, more than five decades later. The House was about 70% full in a total capacity of around 800 seats, when the film started with some outstanding title music, in fact the same was also used by me in my play, "Dev Ka Khayal Aaya".
Vijay Anand as a director knew how to let the film flow as the captain of the ship, Moreover I give full credit to Producer Gulshan Rai for giving him a free hand. I have heard many stories than that how the film went over budget but Goldie ensured that the Ship reached the coast. Must confess as a school boy I was greatly impressed by his work earlier in films like Guide, but there are two things I would like to mention here regarding Johnny Mera Naam.
Firstly Goldie's Song picturisation, 'an art many are learning today and would like to followas well. Sitting in the hall just imagine this scene Rekha played by Hema is being chased by the police, led by none other than our evergreen screen inspector, Jagdish Raj. She is running and panting when suddenly she sees Johnny, I was sitting on the edge of seat to see what will happen now? Will the police arrest and question her but Vijay Anand had different ideas; He asked Rajinder Krishan to write a song for the situation! We all, in the movie hall had our joyful moments as we watched her most unexpectedly burst into a song, the ever green duet, "O mere Raja......."
My second view of the film is concerning the movie's review. Those days only leading papers came out with reviews on Sunday and The Sunday Times of India, dated November 22nd 1970 came up with this headline 'Johny Mera Naam:crime tale, hotchpotch style'! To quote from the review, the writer writes,"if only Vijay Anand did not conform to the mindless formula of cramming the script......the climax is melodramatic to the point of ludicrousness. I leave the present day readers to make their own judgement, while I cycled back from KC Cinem yet again mesmerized by the master movie maker Vijay Anand and the star power of Dev Anand and Hema Malini!
Sandeep Pahwa is a Delhi based theatre director and cinephile.