Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)
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Hare Rama Hare Krishna
The 1970s saw Bollywood's first hippies and drugs in Dev Anand's film Hare Rama Hare Krishna (Praise Rama Praise Krishna). The film also introduced an actress that would go on to become a Bollywood icon: Zeenat Aman.
Hare Rama Hare Krishna was the no.5 or no.7 most successful movie of 1971. Filmed almost entirely in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, the movie explores not only the theme of a broken family, but also a relationship between a brother and a sister, as well as drugs and the hippie movement. Many people assumed the film had been made with the involvement of ISKON, the movement for Krishna consciousness. [The film confuses the drug-taking, free-living hippie movement with the clean-cut, vegetarian world of ISKCON.]
The movie begins with scenes of drug use and a dancing woman, who we are told is the narrator's sister. The film then flashes back to the brother and sister playing happily as children, only to hear their parents arguing. This soon leads to a split in the family. The brother goes with the mother and the sister with the father, who re-marries.
As time passes, the brother goes in search of his sister and is informed that she no longer lives with the father and that she has moved to Nepal. Here, the brother Prashant not only finds love, but he also finds his sister Jasbir, who calls herself Janice. But he finds out that she has fallen into some bad company and takes drugs to block all memory of her past. With help of Shanti, his love, the brother tries to get his sister away from all this but has to overcome many obstacles as people try to stop him. During filming, Dev Anand asked Panchamda (the composer RD Burman) to compose something special for this film. Panchamda came back with the composition 'Dum Maro Dum', which became an instant hit.
The movie was ahead of its time with its realistic portrayal of drugs and the hippy movement. The music and songs, especially 'Dum Maro Dum', sung by Asha Bhonsle (who has sung with Boy George) were very popular. The film also rocketed the career of Zeenat Aman, who played the ill-fated sister. She would soon become an icon for teenagers, even though the sister's role was initially offered to another actress, Zaheeda, who rejected in favour of a role as the girlfriend. The role was offered to Aman, who was the daughter of one of the writers of Mughal-E-Azam, Amanullah Khan.
The evolution of Hare Rama Hare Krishna, the film
When Dev Anand met the Dum Maro Dum girl Zeenat Aman
Hare Rama Hare Krishna was born during a trip to Nepal for the wedding of the crown prince. In Kathmandu, Dev Anand came across a group of hippies smoking marijuana. The flower children lost in a haze of drugs and delusions, intrigued him, in particular a young runaway. And an idea germinated.
A close associate of the late actor, Mohan Churiwala, picks up the thread of the story: "Dev saab told the king he wanted to go someplace quiet to write his story. He was flown to Pokhara where he penned the rough draft. On his way back, in Kathmandu he realised that he'd left the draft behind. By then the chopper was gone." Back in Mumbai, Anand approached SD Burman to score the music for Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
The composer thought it was a mythological but when he heard what the actor-filmmaker had in mind, he was horrified. "In the early draft, Devsaab's character Prashant falls in love with the hippie girl Janice, only to realise that she's his long-lost sister, Jasbir. The hint of incest shocked Dada. He wasn't pleased even when Dev saab assured him that he'd introduce a local girl, Shanti, and the hero will romance her," says Churiwala. Reportedly, he tried to convince Anand to drop the "dirty" subject and then told him to take it to his son Pancham who was better suited to give music for a film about hippies, drugs and estranged siblings.
RD Burman came up with hummable tracks like Phoolon ka taron ka, Kaanchi re and Ram ka naam badnaam na karo. Anand loved them, but asked for another song that would precede Ram ka naam badnaam na karo and justify the lyrics.Anand Bakshi and RD came up with Dum maro dum, mit jaye gam, bolo subah shaam Hare Krishna Hare Ram.
"When Dev saab first heard the song he was sceptical and according to Pancham didn't want it, apprehensive that it would stir off a controversy," says Churiwala. The song eventually got Asha Bhosle the Filmfare best playback singer award and became a cult classic. Years later, Anand would fondly remember sitting on the studio floor with Asha, SD and RD Burman while working on the song. He was seriously upset when Pritam remixed it with reworked lyrics as the title track of Rohan Sippy's Dum Maaro Dum. Outraged, he sent an open letter to the producers and raged that no one could take away his song on the basis of some clause in the contract.
The filmmaker at the time was gearing up for the release of Hum Dono Rangeen and simultaneously working on half-a-dozen scripts, one of them was Hare Rama Hare Krishna Aaj. He was planning to return to Nepal to shoot the sequel and scouting for a new girl to take Jasbir's story forward. But death took him away.
The casting of Jasbir in the earlier film is a story in itself. Anand had approached Mumtaz who broke the CINTAA film ceiling to work with him despite threats from the producers' body. Fortunately, K Asif, who was heading the association, stood by them and facilitated her departure to Kathmandu for the shoot.
But she insisted on playing Anand's wife and not his sister.
The filmmaker then approached Zaheeda, his Prem Pujari co-star who pointed out that having played his girlfriend, she'd never be accepted as his sibling. "Zaheeda was also doing her brother-in-law Amarjeet's Gambler opposite Dev saab and that was another reason for turning down the role," adds Churiwala.
That is when Anand was introduced to Zeenat Aman, Miss Asia Pacific 1970, at a party. She offered him a cigarette. As she lit it, her eyes lit up. He knew he'd found his Jasbir.
The film which released on December 9, 1971, won Zeenat the Filmfare Award for best supporting actress and the actress who after the forgettable Hungama and Hulchul had been planning to reurn to Germany with her mother stayed on to reign as Bollywood's glamour queen.