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35 years of Daata: Ultimate dacoit saga by Sultan Ahmed

Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Shammi Kapoor, Padmini Kolhapure, Suresh Oberoi, Sayeed Jaffrey, Pallavi Joshi, Amrish Puri, and Ranjeet Directo...

Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Shammi Kapoor, Padmini Kolhapure, Suresh Oberoi, Sayeed Jaffrey, Pallavi Joshi, Amrish Puri, and Ranjeet

Director: Sultan Ahmed

Music Director: Kalyanji Anandji

The decade of the 70’s and 80’s were replete with dacoit sagas of different magnitudes primarily with revenge as its backdrop. Sultan Ahmed was one director whose films had this recurring theme. And, Daata, released on June 24, 1989, is no exception. Upon release, Daata proved to be a huge hit, particularly in the hinterlands of North India and the small towns.

Storyline : Master Dinanath (Sayeed Jaffrey) an honest and upright school teacher, publishes a book named “Daata” where he has written about various religions prevalent in the world. The book becomes extremely successful and Master Dinanath gets awarded by the President of India through the education minister Raja Suraj Singh. Dinanath has a brilliant son Kundan (Mithun) and a daughter Shanti (Pallavi) who is of marriageable age. But, trouble ensues when the vile and greedy Gopaldas (Amrish Puri) demands a huge dowry from Dinanath and his family. Dinanath offers all the jewellery belonging to his daughter but strangely they turn out to be fake leading to the cancellation of the wedding. As a result, the entire family’s image is tarnished, and they are ostracized by the society. Master Dinanath, suffers a heart attack and dies and Shanti commits suicide. In a fit of rage, Kundan kills Gopaldas’s son and becomes a bandit. The rest of the story revolves around Kundan’s revenge and his moral dilemma.

Direction and other technical aspects: Sultan Ahmed has always relied on a large canvas involving horses, the desert topography of Rajasthan or the ravines of Chambal, and a mix of high-decibel drama and emotions. Daata also has all these ingredients along with a “tale of a brilliant mind gone astray due to circumstances” at its core and he handles the goings on pretty well. It's also a multi-starrer with many top actors from that era and credit must go to Ahmed for giving scope to almost each and every actor to perform. Yes, if watched from today's context , some of the scenes may appear a little crude or over the top , but one must remember that was almost the norm in these kind of movies. The masses used to greet such scenes with whistles and claps.

The cinematography of the film by R.D.Mathur is breathtaking. The able capture of the dry terrains, the rusty ambience of the mofussils enhance the overall mood of the film. The production design, however, is a bit tacky at places.

Music : Kalyanji Anandji were the trustworthy music director duo of Sultan Ahmed and Daata as an album is an eclectic mix of mostly situational songs. The most popular song from the film is Babul ka Yeh Ghar Behna sung with pathos by the inimitable Kishore Kumar. It’s still a compulsory Bidaai song almost everywhere in North India. Rona Dhona Chhor, sung aggressively by Kishore was another popular song from the film. Interestingly, Daata had two songs that used to be shown regularly in the early 90’s on Doordarshan to promote national integration. Daata Tere Kayee Naam (Mahendra Kapoor, Manhar Udhas and Sadhna Sargam) and Yeh Teri Meri Yaari (Suresh Wadkar and Mohd Aziz).

- By Ayushmaan Mitra

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