NASEEB (1981)

Manmohan Desai, born February 26th 1937 in then Bombay, was considered the ultimate emperor of the so called “masala movie genre”.  In the article about the 1977 all time classic “AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY” I tried to explain what this “masala-genre” actually was. Also a filmography of Manmohan Desai’s movies was mentioned as well as what that moment was when Manmohan Desai actually decided that every movie he would make would have Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role.

Manmohan Desai directed Amitabh Bachchan in a total of 8 movies out of which the last one -the 1988 film “Ganga Jamuna Saraswati” was the least successful. When they set out to make that movie it would be a retelling of “Amar Akbar Anthony” with Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Mithun Chakrevotry as the 3 brothers. But due to the budget of such a film in that era the idea was scrapped and another movie was made which till today is a shame.

The movies Manmohan Desai made with Amitabh Bachchan were what is today called “event-movies” which succeeded one after another.

“Amar Akbar Anthony” was the biggest hit and changed the Hindi Film Industry’s way of filmmaking and lead to many a potboiler. The subsequent films that Manji and Amitabh made together were all blockbusters (“Parvarish”, “Ganga Jamuna Saraswati”, “Suhaag”, Desh Premee”, “Mard” and “Coolie” (the last being the film in which Punneet Issar almost killed Amitabh Bachchan in real life) but could not match up to that great film “Amar Akbar Anthony”. It seemed like that film would be Manji’s and Amitabh’s “Sholay“.

But then in 1981 the duo released a film that even surpassed “Amar Akbar Anthony”. Surpassed in the sense that all the “masala – elements” were in the exact perfect dose : humor, songs and dance, action and emotion. I will come back to that part in a short while. Of course that movie was …

“Naseeb”  can be seen as Manmohan Desai’s magnum opus. Though Manji’s every movie was a multi-starrer the cast he assembled for this movie was extraordinary. Never had such a big cast been in a Manmohan Desai movie. Sure “Amar Akbar Anthony” had three heroes as well (Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna) but besides that this movie had a host of villains and the best of the supporting actors or character actors -however you would like to name them.

Though many directors over the years have tried to make Manmohan Desai kind of films – some more successful then others – Manmohan Desai scripts had one thing that was lacking in all others. Think about the movies made by Farah Khan, Rohit Shetty (whose movies I just love) and David Dhawan (whose Govinda movies were a milestone), their films had comedy and drama as well. But regarding the drama it was more “touch and go”. They didn’t delve that deep into the emotions like Manmohan Desai could and it worked big time in his films.

And in those other moviemaker’s movies there was a plot with maybe 2-2 storylines going on.

I am going to (try to) give you a brief synopsis of Manmohan Desai’s “NASEEB” :

  • There are four friends (Pran, Amjad Khan, Kadar Khan and Jagdish Raaj) out of which 2 friends kill a third friend and frame the fourth friend for the murder because that way they can get the money which they won for a lottery just for themselves
  • The eldest son of the framed friend (Amitabh Bachchan) is forced to work in the hotel build by the 2 friends who are the killers so he can take care of his younger brother (Rishi Kapoor) and can afford to let him study.
  • The son of one of the killers (Shatrughan Sinha)  is the best friend of the framed friend’s son (Amitabh Bachchan) whichi is against his criminal dad’s wishes but the 2 friends try everything to remain friends.
  • The youngest son of the framed friend (Rishi Kapoor) falls in love with the youngest daughter of the murdered friend (Kim) but obstacles are put up in their way because his dad is framed for her dad’s murder.
  • The framed friend (Pran) is presumed dead but is saved by a big don (Amrish Puri) and is now a criminal abroad.
  • Shatrughan Sinha meets a girl (Hema Malini) whom he falls in love with. She considers him just a friend. A misunderstanding leads to them her braking her friendship with him which results in Shatru becoming an alcoholic and throwing away his life.
  • Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini meet (she turns out to be the elder daughter of the murdered friend and big sis to Kim) and fall in love. When Amitabh comes to know that Hema is the girl Shatru loves and she is the reason why he drinks himself to death he sacrifices his love for her in order to save his friend’s life.
  • The lady who took a small Amitabh Bachchan in and raised him (Lalita Pawar) has a daughter (Reena Roy) who is like a sis to Amitabh Bachchan. She has been in love with Shatrughan Sinha since childhood but she too has to sacrifice her love in order to save his life.
  • The two criminal friends (Amjad Khan and Kadar Khan) are the agents in India for Amrish Puri. When Amrish sends Pran to India on some “business” Pran wants to take revenge but Amrish stops him.
  • The “heroes” unite to bring the criminals down which leads to all the criminals uniting to kill the heroes.

Mind you these are not even all the plot threads. Just the main ones. There are many more. You might get dizzy reading all this but kudos to Manmohan Desai and his team of writers because not once do you get confused or bored. Everything is just perfect and you enjoy the full 3 hours running time of the movie. With so many plot threads and characters it is but only logical that some characters get more screen time then the other.

Now for the main leads of the movie:

Amitabh Bachchan is undoubtly the star of the movie since in those days Amitabh was considered a one man industry. For the newer generation : Amitabh Bachchan in those days was what Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are combined today. Though Amitabh (just like Rishi Kpaoor) was a good in all his movies (the movies could be good or bad) he was at his best when he was in a Manmohan Desai or Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie. Amitabh -besides being the number 1 star of those times- was never afraid to be in multi starrers and share screen space with other big heroes. Another fact I would like to mention is that in today’s times a big noise is made when Shah Rukh Khan has Deepika Padukone’s name appear before his in a film’s credits. Check the credits in an Amitabh Bachchan movie. The name of actors like Shashi Kapoor or Ashok Kumar almost always appear before Amitabh’s name!

Amitabh is brilliant in the role of “John Jaani Janardhan”. he makes us smile, makes us clap and makes us cry with him. I have now words to describe his performance any further. Together with his turn as Anthony Gonzalves this is his best turn in a Manmohan Desai movie.

Hema Malini has the best part (as far as length goes) of the three heroines. The biggest of the three heroines as well (as in at th box office) she does justice to her part. Her scenes with Shatrughan Sinha are fun but it is her chemistry with Amitabh Bachchan which makes us sad that these two legends did not make enough movies together in the 70’s and 80’s.  When this movie was released Hema was a bit upset since she had shot many more scenes (with and without Amitabh) for the movie which were not incorporated in the final version of the film. But let’s be honest: her storyline is actually the love triangle between her, Shatrughan Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan. And so since there are so many characters and plotlines choices had to be made.

Rishi Kapoor is my second all time favorite actor (Amitabh Bachchan being the first and Dev Anand the third). Like Amitabh, Rishi Kapoor has never been bad in a movie. The movie might have been bad but Rishi never was. He could emote more with his pinky then many other actors of that era. A truly underappreciated genius of an actor! He is well cast as Amitabh’s younger brother (just like in “Amar Akbar Anthony”) and he does full justice to his role. Be it his track with Kim (the college scenes), the climax or (for me one of the highpoint of the movie) his interaction with Amitabh Bachchan. If you need to see what chemistry is check out Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. Here is the clip of a song by these two greats. Who in today’s times could have pulled this of the way these 2 masters did…

The second leading lady of the film was the beautiful actress Reena Roy. Though Hema Malini was considered a far bigger star and was named “the dream girl” according to me Reena Roy was far more beautiful and a good an actress as Hema which is proven in this movie. Though Hema might have a bigger role in screen time it is Reena Roy who walks away with the laurels for her performance in this film as far as the leading ladies go. She gives an electrifying performance that touches your heart.

Reena could have achieved much more in her career as an actress and star had it not been for Shatrughan Sinha whom she had a relationship with.

Which brings us to the third hero of the movie Shatrughan Sinha. He is good in his role and gives a credible performance. Though I must mention here that though I can not visualize anyone else but Amitabh in his role or anyone else then Rishi Kapoor is his role the same can’t be said for Shatrughan Sinha. I could easily see Vinod Khanna or maybe even Shashi Kapoor in this role. Nonetheless Shatru gives a good performance.

Finally the third heroine of the movie -Kim. She has a thankless role. Hema Malini and Reena Roy (the last one even more) have meaty roles and are given the opportunities to actually emote and perform. This can’t be said for Kim. Known as Mithun Chakrevotry’s leading lady in “Disco Dancer” and as Danny Denzonpa’s then girlfriend she is okay in the movie as Rishi Kapoor’s love interest. To be honest that is the description of her role in the movie.




Now for the villains in “NASEEB” : the movie boasts of a humongous cast. And a film with so many heroes needs to have quite a few villains as well.

Amjad Khan was at his villainous best when he was in a movie with Amitabh Bachchan. In this movie he too is one of the main villains though this time his character is of the age of Amitabh’s father (in Manmohan Desai’s “SUHAAG” where he was a villain as well he actually was Amitabh’s character’s father) and Amjad is great in his part.

Kadar Khan is the second friend who turns on his friends. Kadar has a bigger role then Amjad as far as screen time goes. While Amjad has a nice trach as the father of Shatrughan Sinha as well Kadar Khan is an out and out villain in this movie and he does as good as Amjad!

This was the first movie where I noticed Amrish Puri. A film that boasts of villains like Amjad Khan, Kadar Khan, Shakti Kapoor and Prem Chopra who were the top villains of those times, Amrish Puri makes an impression in his role as the boss of all. What happened after “Naseeb” everyone knows.

Though Manek Irani has a very small part I must mention him here. He had been active for quite a while in the hindi film scene but it was “NASEEB” which made him famous. Films like Shatrughan Sinha’s “Kalicharan” and “Vishwanath” had already released but had made no impact. At least no lasting impact. He was also Amitabh Bachchan’s body double in “Don” (1978 – Zeenat Aman and Pran) and appeared in “Mr. Natwarlal”, “Trishul” and “Shaan” but all it took was 1 scene in “NASEEB” to establish himself.

Prem Chopra and Shakti Kapoor play the sons of Kadar Khan who follow in their father’s footsteps. Though they are good in their roles and quite effective there is nothing there that we haven’t seen them do in many movies before or after this one. But whatever they do they are good and effective.

Pran was one of the most sought after villains in the 60’s,70’s and 80’s and the story about how parents stopped naming their children Pran due to their fear of him is legendary.

Though it must be mentioned that Amitabh Bachchan and Pran had a great on-screen Jodi as well. In all the movies which had Pran and Amitabh Bachchan share screen space not once where they on opposite sides as in villain and hero. They were either friends or family and always worked together to get the villains. Be it “Kasauti” (1974), “Majboor” (1974), “Toofaan” (1989), “Sharaabi” (1984), “Shahehshah” (1988), “Nastik” (1983), “Dostaana” (1980), “Ganga Ki Saugandh” (1978), “Zanjeer” (1973), “Jaadugar” (1989), “Don” (1978), “Kaalia” (1981), “Amar Akbar Anthony” (1977) or ” NASEEB”. As in all their movies they rocked together and Pran being the veteran that he is nails his part!

As in almost all Manmohan Desai movies the musical score in “NASEEB” was scored by Laxmikant-Pyarelal who came up with a great score. Maybe not as great as “Amar Akbar Anthony” but a great score nonetheless.

Mohd. Rafi had always been the favorite singer of Manmohan Desai and Manji had made Rafi sing almost all the songs in his movies. Also in the Kishore Kumar era when all heroes wanted Kishore Kumar to sing for them. Manji stuck to his guns and made Mohd. Rafi sing for the main hero -Amitabh Bachchan. This movie is also the movie which has the baap of all item songs. Shah Rukh Khan may have tried to copy it in “Om Shanti Om” but that’s all he can do … try to copy the original Bachchan (of which “Don” is proof enough). Except for Jeetendra (“Dharam-Veer”) and Shashi Kapoor (many a Manmohan Desai movie) almost all heroes and heroines who had worked with Manmohan Desai made an appearance as themselves in that song. What makes it all the more special is that the song was not shot in pieces like the “Om Shanti Om” one. In this song you see all the actors in the same frame. Even more special because Rajesh Khanna (who was in Manmohan Desai’s “Sachha Jhoota” and “Roti”) still had his war going on with Amitabh Bachchan. Rajesh also had given Raj Kapoor a hard time during the shooting of “Bobby” after he got married to Dimple Kapadia. This was the reason why Rishi Kapoor and his elder brother Randhir Kapoor were not too fond of Rajesh Khanna. Dharmendra had refused a couple of films with Amitabh after the super succes of “Sholay” (one of them being “Shaan”  in which the Sunil Dutt part was first offered to Dharmendra). And all these actors came together just for Manmohan Desai in this one song… (do you see Salman Khan -whom I just am the biggest fan of- coming together with that Vivek Oberoi dude for anyone??)

Fun fact about this song was that it was coordinated by the actor who gave director Manmohan Desai his first chance as a director by agreeing to star in his movie – Raj Kapoor.

By the time all songs were recorded and the movie was released Manji’s favorite singer Mohd. Rafi had passed  away and hence the film was dedicated to the late shri Mohd. Rafi. (a special edition of the radioshow “YAADEIN – A Walk Through Memory Lane” in August 2018 will be dedicated to the legendary singer. For further details go to “about the author“.

Since Mohd. Rafi was not alive to record all the songs for the movie some alternatives were looked for and found in the voice of the Mohd. Rafi clone Anwar Hussain (who is the half brother of “Circuit” – Arshad Warsi).

Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Kamlesh Awasthi, Suman Kalyanpur, Usha Mangeshkar, Anwar Hussain, Rishi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and of course Kishore Kumar were the playback singers for this movie besides Mohd. Rafi. One song had to be recorded which was a song that should have been sung by Mohd. Rafi and Mukesh. But since both singers had passed away Laxmikant-Pyarelal searched for 2 singers whose voice sounded like these two great singers and found them. When you hear this song for a second you might think it are Rafi Sahab and Mukeshji singing the song. Since Mohd. Rafi and Mukesh were not singing the song it was decided not to rope in Lata Mangeshkar for this song and a singer was used whose voice resembled Lataji’s – Suman Kalyanpur.

Like I mentioned before “NASEEB” boasted of one of the biggest casts ever for a hindi movie till then (not counting Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Dharmedra, Simi Garewal, Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Rakesh Roshan, Mala Sinha, Simple Kapadia, Randhir Kapoor, Bindu and Vijay Arora amongst others as themselves during “John Jaani Janardhan”).

(from left to right : Asrani, Jagdish Raj, Jeevan, Keshto Mukherjee, Lalita Pawar, Mukhri, Sheetal, Shubha Khote and Yusuf Khan).

These are just a couple of the supporting players in the movie. Worth mentioning is that Jeevan – who was the main villain in “Amar Akbar Anthony” has no villainous role in this movie. He is the principal of the college where Rishi Kapoor studies and has a crush on Shubha Khote’s character. One if the very few comic roles he has done in his career.

Another fact worth mentioning that the actress Sheetal was reduced to a kind of an extra by this time. In this movie too she is seen hanging with Shakti Kapoor. She was discovered by Dev Anand and started out as a child artist in movies like “Tulsidas” and “Pocket Maar”. She went on to be in movies like “Joshila” (1973 – Dev Anand, Hema Malini, Raakhee Gulzar) and “Heera Panna” (1973 – Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman, Raakhee Gulzar) before becoming a heroine in the Kishore Kumar directed film ” Badhti Ka Naam Daadhi” (1974). By the time “NASEEB” released she was relegated to these kind of walk on parts. Later on she directed her own movies with herself in the lead. But she will always be remembered as Ruby from the 1982 Hrishikesh Mukherjee film “Bemisaal” (Amitabh Bachchan in a double role, Raakhee Gulzar and Vinod Mehra).

Though I mentioned that the songs did become a succes (especially “John Jaani Janardhan”) just like “Amar Akbar Anthony” had a full fledged song by Mohd. Rafi which was not released on the soundtrack “NASEEB” to has a sad version of a song in the movie which was not released on the soundtrack. And for me that is the best line/lyrics of the entire film…

Now for a few fun facts about “NASEEB”

  • Like I mentioned earlier the entire shooting of the song “John Jaani Janardhan” took place at RK Studios and the shooting and guests were looked after by Raj Kapoor who had given Manmohan Desai his blessing by being the main lead in his first real directorial venture “Chhalia”  (1960- Nutan and Pran)
  • In a interview which is available on YouTube Rishi Kapoor tells how Shatrughan Sinha could not get his steps right for the song “Rang Jamake Jaayenge” so a body double was used. When you watch closely you will see that Shatru’s face is not seen during those steps.
  • It was originally planned to have Vinod Khanna for Shatrughan Sinha’s role (surprise surprise) as Manmohan Desai wanted his 3 “Amar Akbar Anthony” heroes in this movie. Vinod Khanna by this time had taken a break from movies and Bollywood so Shatru was signed. On a side note Hema Malini also wanted Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna for the 3 roles in her directorial “Tell Me Oh Khuda”. Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna obliged but Amitabh was unable to which resulted in Dharmendra and Hema Malini sharing screen space again after decades.
  • To continue with the “Amar Akbar Anthony” cast reunion – Parveen Babi was approached for the role later done by Reena Roy. Because of Shatrughan Sinha’s interference Parveen was dropped and Reena was signed.
  • Another “Amar Akbar Anthony” addition was Neetu Singh. Neetu Singh was signed for the role opposite Rishi Kapoor and had even shot for the movie. But because of her marriage to Rishi Kapoor and the fact that Neetu wanted to stop working in movies (she had been an actress as a small kid working under the name of Baby Sonia) Neetu Singh was replaced by Kim.
  • In those times the movies earned money “per territory”. “Naseeb” was one of the very very few movies which crossed 1 crore per territory. Till 1984 there were just 13 films which had managed this feat. Out of these 13 movies 9 were movies that had the Mighty Bachchan in the lead!
  • Famous future scriptwriter and director Anees Baazmee played the part of young Vicky.

For further details about our radioshow “YAADEIN – A Walk Through Memory Lane” like where to listen and the time etc please click here


NASEEB (1981)

produced by Manmohan Desai

directed by Manmohan Desai

cast     Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Reena Roy, Hema Malini, Pran, Shatrughan Sinha, Kim, Amjad Khan, Kadar Khan, Amrish Puri, Jagdish Raj, Lalita Pawar, Jeevan, Manik Irani, Yusuf Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Prem Chopra, Asrani, Keshto, Shubha Khote, Mukri, Sheetal and many others

**special appearances by Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kpaoor, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Dharmedra, Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Simi Garewal, Rakesh Roshan, Simple Kapadia, Vijay Arora and others

music Laxmikant-Pyarelal

singers Kishore Kumar

Mohd. Rafi, Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Kamlesh Awasthi, Anwar Hussain,

Suman Kalyanpur, Usha Mangeshkar, Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan

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