Ganga Jamna is one of the finest examples of a popular theme of Indian cinema, namely that of the good and bad brother. Gunga (Dilip Kumar), framed for a crime by a landowner, becomes an outlaw, while his younger brother, Jamna (Nasir Khan, Dilip Kumar’s real-life brother), whom he has educated, becomes a police officer. When Ganga and Dhanno (Vyjayanthimala) are expecting a child, he returns to the village but is killed by his brother acting on behalf of the law.
The theme of the good and bad brother was seen in Mother India and later in Deewaar, where the bad brother is portrayed as a good person who is forced to take the law into his own hands, often in search of a higher form of justice, to protect his family or thwart a villain. His good qualities are constantly emphasised and, although he is the true hero of the film, because he has broken the law of society, his only redemption is in death. This law of society is often embodied by a policeman, particularly a younger brother.
The dialogues of Wajahat Mirza were highly acclaimed, with lines like Dilip Kumar’s, ‘Mujhe ghar lautna hai, mere bhai (‘I want to go home, brother’) being quoted even today. Like other dacoit (bandit) films, this one employs the Bhojpuri dialect of eastern Uttar Pradesh (later used by Gabbar Singh in Sholay) to given an authentic flavor to Ganga and Dhanno, but Jamna speaks a more standard Hindi. Many have commented on Vyjayanthimala’s skill in mastering this dialect even though she is a south Indian, and this may have helped her to win the Filmfare Award for her role in the film. Dilip Kumar’s death scene is often shown as one of his best moments in cinema, though, like most death scenes, it is milked for all it is worth. Ganga becomes the archetypal victim of the feudal system, the helpless villager, who, if he fights back, will be destroyed. There is no hope for the ordinary man who wants an ordinary life for himself and his family.
Nitin Bose had earlier worked with New Theatres, but there is little obvious influence here, and it is often claimed that Dilip Kumar had more directorial input than Bose. Naushad’s music was popular, though the score is not remembered as one of his greatest, despite popular songs like Asha Bhosle’s ‘Tora man bada paapi’ and Hemant Kumar’s ‘Insaaf ki dagar pe’, as well as those sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi.
Year – 1961, Genre – Crime, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Citizen Films, Director – Nitin Bose, Music Director – Naushad, Cast – Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Nasir Khan, Azra, Kanhaiyalal, Anwar, Helen, Nazir Hussain, S. Nazir, Akashdeep, Aruna, Naaz, Praveen Paul, Leela Chitnis