Article Hindi

40 years of Yaarana (1981): Rajesh Roshan’s music and Amitabh Bachchan’s superstardom elevate this convoluted buddy film

Directed by Raakesh Kumar, the film is etched in popular memory for Bachchan's lit costume for the number 'Sara Zamana'.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Yaarana (1981) remains etched in memory for the famous song 'Sara Zamana', featuring the superstar in a jacket and trousers with lights. The significance of the song and its afterlife has been so riveting that in a tweet commemorating 40 years of the film, the actor recalled the moment, writing, “40 years of this magnificent film Yaarana .. this song done in the NS Bose Stadium in Kolkata .. first time ever a film shoot .. total madness .. and the well wishers of Bengal .. no where can we compare their love and enthusiasm to .. astounding (sic)."

Directed by Raakesh Kumar and produced by MA Nadiadwala, Yaarana stars Amjad Khan in a positive role  — a change for the archetypal villain — along with Neetu Singh, Kader Khan and Tanuja. Jeevan and Ranjeet are the baddies in this one.

The film is a strange beast with a convoluted storyline. A buddy film, it foregrounds the undying friendship between childhood friends Kishan (Bachchan) and Bishan (Khan) who stick together through thick and thin. Bishan goes abroad for his studies while Kishan becomes a village bumpkin.

Bishan’s uncle (Jeevan) and his son (Ranjeet) stay with Bishan’s mother and over the years sponge the family money. When Bishan returns from London with his wife (Tanuja), he reconnects with his friend by taking him hang-gliding! Bishan also realizes that the family has no money left, but despite that he reunites with Kishan, determined to make him a singing star. He takes a loan to get him the best grooming lessons and turn him into a city slicker. Bishan’s love for his friend and mortgaging the family home to ensure Kishan’s success become a sticking point for Bishan’s wife.

Meanwhile, Jeevan and his son are up to no good. Bishan is taking some school kids on his ship — yes, he is the captain of his own ship! The baddies hold Bishan and the children hostage and seek ransom, blaming the kidnapping on Bishan. From here on, the plot involves a dungeon, mental hospital, amnesia, fight sequences that put the earlier hang-gliding experience to good use and, of course, the quintessential happy ending.

Not only is the plot meandering, but the script also seems like a patch job, possessing elements from different places. The 'civilizing' of Kishan is reminiscent of My Fair Lady (1964) and his dance lessons make us think of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977). Incidentally, the scene was choreographed by Neetu Singh, who shared the clip on Instagram.

The much-hyped jacket with light bulbs that Bachchan wears in 'Sara Zamana' too was seen in the Robert Redford- and Jane Fonda-starrer Electric Horseman (1979). Shot at the then recently constructed Netaji Subhas stadium in Kolkata, the song became an overnight sensation.

In a conversation with the news portal, Neetu Singh recalled the shooting of the song. At the time, the actress was engaged to frequent co-star Rishi Kapoor and was in Calcutta for the shooting of the song. The phones in Calcutta were not working and the couple could not get in touch with each other. Distraught, Neetu Singh started crying and Bachchan asked her the reason for it. He then called the producer, asked him to book her a ticket back to Bombay, and said they would manage the song without her. This is why she is there for half the song and then disappears!

Yaarana undoubtedly endures in the popular memory because of its songs. From the soulful ode to friendship 'Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahan' to the melodic 'Chookar Mere Man Ko', as well as the aforementioned disco number 'Sara Zamana', all sung by Kishore Kumar, each song displays the range of composer Rajesh Roshan.

The film also rides on Bachchan’s stardom, which was at its peak at the time. In an interview with The Indian Express newspaper, the superstar recalled the frenzy of the fans during the shooting of 'Sara Zamana', when around 20,000 excited fans surrounded the car carrying him and Neetu Singh. In the midst of the mayhem, the car broke down and there was no way the artistes could even step out of the vehicle. "So, as we sat inside, pummelled by fans around the car, something strange happened. The fans, realizing that the car had broken down, virtually lifted the car off the ground and pushed-lifted it to the hotel. What a moment! Could never thank them enough and express gratitude for their love," he recalled.

Forty years after the release of the film, its melodies and the star power of Amitabh Bachchan live on.