Bollywood’s 100-odd years can be traced through a bunch of its landmark films. These films are the ones that not only made a mark at the time of their release, but also because they are timeless. One such example of Hindi cinema is 1973’s Yaadon Ki Baarat, starring Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, Vijay Arora and Tariq Khan. It is considered Hindi cinema’s first ‘masala’ film thanks to its fast-paced, drama- and action-packed plot, and its remarkable music by R.D. Burman.
The film, directed, produced and partly written by Naseer Hussain, makes use of the very popular lost-and-found (the bichde hue bhai trope). Three brothers, Shankar (Dharmendra), Vijay (Vijay Arora) and Ratan (Tariq Khan) are separated as children, when their parents are shot by local smuggler Shakaal. The three boys grow up in different circumstances, but all still searching for each other and the man who killed their parents.
The only marker they have to recognise each other is a song that their parents taught them — Yaadon Ki Baarat. They cross paths many times while in pursuit of Shakaal, but fail to recognise each other. The twist in the tale comes when Shakaal unwittingly hires Shankar to work for him, which become his undoing.
This film has everything a classic Bollywood potboiler is supposed to have — long-lost siblings, murder and thievery, love and great songs, an evil lair with automatic sliding doors and hidden assassins and no real logic. No wonder, then, that it became the quintessential Bollywood film. It is a truly enjoyable piece of work.
It starts off on a high note with a song, quickly followed by a double murder. Then, you’re introduced to a myriad of wildly different characters with varying motives. And while the film is broadly predictable, the journey to the conclusion is still entertaining, despite the casual sexism, fat-shaming, and bigotry that was common in that era.
Apart from being a game-changer, Yaadon Ki Baarat was also a career-defining film for Zeenat Aman, coming as it did right after 1971’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna, where she arrived on the scene and completely shook up how women are seen in Bollywood with her ‘bold’ characters. Yaadon Ki Baarat established her as an actor who was here to stay. Her character, Sunita, who is rich, spoilt, but independent and smart, is only a love interest, but is one that captures your attention throughout.
The music is another notable feature of this film. Composed by R.D. Burman, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and sung by Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle Kishore Kumar, the songs were electric. The title song, Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, Meri Soni, Meri Tamanna — each song has managed to make itself heard and loved even decades later.
Yaadon Ki Baarat was remade in Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam and ignited the idea of masala aka complete entertainment, irrespective of logic and substance, in India’s mind. And till today, we see its effects in the film industry. In the week that saw Zeenat Aman’s birthday, this is the perfect film to watch.