GANWAAR (1970)

cast: Rajendra Kumar, Vijayanthimala, Pran, Nishi, Jeevan.

Wealthy Ram Pratap Rai (Tarun Bose) doles out free plots of land to the peasants and in return is given half of the bounty from each. This is referred to as the ‘zamindari’ system. 

Rai, who is a widower, has recently remarried. His beautiful second wife (Nishi) has a brother, Vijay Bahadur (Pran), who has been put in charge of managing the Rai business front. Vijay makes it a daily habit to ride his horse through the fields, to keep an eye on the workers while at the same time terrorizing them (it is Pran, after all) just a little bit. As demanded by Vijay, the workers stop what they are doing and bow to him as he makes his rounds, but on the day our story begins one elderly man does not notice the boss’ arrival and continues with his chores.

Vijay dismounts and beats the poor man mercilessly.

Fortunately, Vijay’s viciousness is (temporarily) suspended when a spunky young gal named Parvo (Vijayanthimala) steps up and  grabs the whip from the cruel man’s hand.

Vijay is taken aback, both by her beauty and her nerve but warns that she had better take heed as to who is boss.

Meanwhile, back in the city, Mr. Rai’s adult son, Gopal (Rajendra Kumar), returns home from 10 years abroad to help his father with the family business. Gopal is eager to meet his new stepmother, but quickly learns that she is a spoiled, vain, unpleasant woman who is not particularly pleased to see the young man returning home.

When a group of the farmers, led by Parvo, trek to the Rai mansion to meet about the treatment they have been receiving from Vijay…

…they are intercepted by Mrs. Rai who insults them and tells them to leave.

Gopal witnesses this and tells replacement maa to stop abusing these people.

(Notice Gopal’s wonderful fashion sense and how he manages to color coordinate with his surroundings. I want to do that)

Parvo tries to explain the issues that they are having.

Gopal insists that Mrs. Rai leave the room so that he can meet with the farmers alone, since she seems to do nothing but antagonize them.

Parvo chastises Gopal, telling him that being a rich man’s son he could never understand the plight of the poor unless he has experienced this condition first hand.

He takes her comments, but mainly just wants to know what their specific complaints about Vijay are. Parvo Shows him.

Gopal is shocked.

Enraged at his stepmom’s attitude towards the workers and Vijay’s brutal treatment of them, Gopal has a showdown with her, but is confronted by his father who gives him a tight slap.

Shocked that his dad would not take his side in this fight over right and wrong, Gopal leaves the family estate. On a train headed out of town Gopal remembers the words of Parvo. He dons the disguise of a simple villager and heads to the country to immerse himself in the lives of his dad’s peasant workers, calling himself Garibdas.

Not realizing who he really is, Vijay gives Garibdas a barren plot of land to sow.

Our hero is given the low down on the zamindari system and is  informed that in addition to delivering half of his harvest to the Rai family as contracted, he must give Vijay half of what is left over. Ah, another of Vijay’s abuses!

Carrying on, Garibdas tills the barren land and makes it fruitful despite the taunts from Parvo and her friends who didn’t believe this hayseed would be able to make anything grow.

Vijay, riding through the fields as usual, tramples a little boy (Master Rattan).

Garibdas confronts Vijay for his callousness towards the severe injuries he has inflicted on the kid….

…and Vijay is not pleased to have Garibdas talk to him in such a manner as to take him down a couple of pegs.

Up to now the relationship between Gopal and Parvo has been one of bickering and battling (but in a cute and amusing way). It eventually turns to love, as we all knew it would, and a musical number results.

Warning: This song  is preceded by an explicit (and just plain weird) scene of foot fondling.

At the conclusion of this kinky interlude, Garibdas is attacked by a group of goons led by Hariya (Ram Mohan).

They beat our hero and dump him in a large well, leaving him to drown.

Hariya, it turns out, was hired by Vijay to make mince-meat out of Garibdas. With that accomplished, and as an extra special treat, the goonda had locked up Parvo in a godown for Vijay’s pleasure.

Vijay, drunk on Vat 69, heads out to pursue illegitimate relations with the trapped girl.

Parvo is not one to take matters lying down, so to speak.

Parvo escapes Vijay’s clutches and leads the lech on a merry chase, right into the hands of a just-climbed-out-of-a-well-and-not-too-happy-about-it Garibdas, who proceeds to kick Vijay’s ass.

Again humiliated, Vijay this time sets out with his rifle to hunt down Garibdas. His sis stops him, not because she minds the killing of a peasant, but because she doesn’t want her brother to go to jail. Instead, she suggests taking away all of the villager’s tools so that they are unable to work their land. This, she reasons, will cause much more suffering and will surely teach them all a lesson.

With this action put into play the workers choose to take up arms against Vijay and the Rais, but cooler heads prevail and Garibdas goes to the mansion to talk to Mrs. Rai. She does not recognize him as her step-son, he has disguised himself so well, and she ends up giving him a tight slap, also.

Upon leaving the mansion Garibdas snatches a plough and ox and resumes work on his plot of land. Hariya and his men set out to kill Garibdas, but Garibdas manages to kill them with kindness.

With  Garibdas’ help, the crops are a success, but during the celebration that night the harvest mysteriously catches fire.

Garibdas, now back to being Gopal, has discovered that Hariya set the flames, destroying everyone’s hard work. Gopal, in front of Vijay and the Rais, forces Hariya to tell who made him destroy the crops. Hariya lies and tells them that it was Garibdas who made him do it!

What will Gopal do now that his alter ego’s honor has been maligned? Well, there is a  lot more story ahead and it involves Pran dressing like a Cuban revolutionary…

…quaint miniature work….

….more miniature work, but with a murder thrown in…..

…..matchbox cars…

……and an ending that would do any masala flick proud!

Rajendra Kumar and Vijayanthimala have some great chemistry going on here and you really root for them to become a couple (even though you already know it is going to happen). The playful fighting between Parvo and Garibdas is adorable and both performers are top notch with Rajendra Kumar very believable as the humble Garibdas and showing a nice flair for comedy that I don’t recall seeing from him before (maybe I just haven’t seen enough of his films). Vijayanthimala is, of course, always a treat to watch, and I love her feisty attitude in this film. No shrinking violet is she.

Pedro favorite Nishi, as the evil stepmother, gets to wear a different fantabulous sari in every scene, and she wears them so well. She really looks beautiful. And her hairstyle changes almost as often as her outfits! Her character is vile, but she makes such lovely window dressing , as you will see from the following screencaps.

I am really very fond of Nishi, and it is a shame she did not have a bigger career as an actress. She made a number of A pictures during her time, but she was usually cast in secondary roles. She did, however, manage some nice lead roles in B thrillers as well as in a handful of Punjabi pictures. Since I love B thrillers and Punjabi pictures, her being  cast in these makes me quite happy.  Nishi may have felt differently, however.

As Nishi Kohli she later produced, along with husband Raj Kumar Kohli, several popular horror thrillers including two versions of JAANI DUSHMAN (1979/2002), the snake woman classic NAGIN (1976), and the 1988 chiller BEES SAAL BAAD, as well as a string of films in the 1990s and 2000s meant to get their son Arman Kohli’s film career off the ground. Sadly, Arman’s career has yet to take off, although I for one really like him in the few films of his that I have seen. He is also quite handsome as you can see from this publicity photo for JAANI DUSHMAN.

All in all GANWAAR is one satisfying film with great music, fine performances, and lots and lots of colorful outfits and sets. Eye candy like this is all it takes to perk up lazy Sunday afternoon, don’t you think?