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40 years of an Italian romance with ‘Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahaani’

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The Great Gambler (1979), directed by Shakti Samanta, was released on this day (6 April) 40 years ago. We revisit the famous gondola song composed by RD Burman.

Sonal Pandya

Filmmaker Shakti Samanta returned to his early staple of suspense thrillers with The Great Gambler (1979) starring Amitabh Bachchan in a double role.

Samanta, who had directed the cult classic Howrah Bridge (1958), returned to a familiar story with The Great Gambler. He had made China Town (1962), which explored a similar storyline — twin brothers separated when young meeting on opposite sides of the law as adults.

According to IMDb, Samanta wanted to make the film with his China Town star, Shammi Kapoor, in 1967. But he was delayed by a decade and made the film with 1970s superstar Bachchan in the lead.

One brother Jai is a card shark while the other, Vijay, is a police inspector. Due to a coincidence of fate, or the machinations of a Hindi screenwriter, the brothers end up in Europe and are mistaken for each other.

The Great Gambler was stylishly shot in Cairo in Egypt and several scenic cities in Mediterranean Europe — from Lisbon in Portugal to Venice and Rome in Italy. The film's enduring legacy is the famous gondola song ‘Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani’ set in Venice which may or may not have inspired several Indians to visit the Italian city in the hope of recreating scenes from the song.

While many may not remember the film’s complicated screenplay today, the romantic number composed by the great RD Burman, and written by Anand Bakshi, remains unforgettable.

Jai is paired with the beautiful Shabnam (Zeenat Aman), who thinks he is Vijay, as they explore the city of Venice. The couple are serenaded by the gondolier, providing the perfect setting for the song. He croons a few lines in Italian, saying “Amore mio...”, as the gondola streams down the Grand Canal.

In the song, Bachchan’s character Jai asks Shabnam to translate what the gondolier is saying and she does with the lyrics of ‘Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani’. The film’s IMDb trivia page states that the Italian lyrics to the Hindi song were created by Burman and Sharad Kumar, who also sang the Italian portions.

The composer was inspired to create the romantic track of The Great Gambler after listening to the French song ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’ from Parigi e Sempre Parigi, or Paris Is Always Paris (1951). Bhosle herself loved Burman’s composition and called ‘Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani’ her all-time favourite number.

While the song took off, the film didn’t. It fared poorly at the box office, but has remained a cult classic for those who remember the decade fondly. With foreign locales, a large ensemble cast including Neetu Singh, Madan Puri, Utpal Dutt, Prem Chopra and Iftekar, The Great Gambler is another entertaining thriller with Amitabh Bachchan in a dual role.