The theme of identical twins has been present in many cinemas (this being one of the most basic ‘tricks’ available to cinema that was not available to live performances such as plays). Common to melodramas, it is taken to extremes in Hindi cinema, with not just identical twins (Afsana , Anhonee , Gol maal, Hum dono , and others, including ‘fake’ doubles in Jewel Thief) but unrelated doubles (Don, Kaho na pyaar hai), while there are many other examples of non-identical brothers separated at birth (Amar, Akbar, Anthony, Johny mera naam and many others) as well as brothers who are opposites (Mother India, Gunga Jumna, Deewaar and so on).
Ram aur Shyam is also interesting for being one of several south Indian films that were remade in Hindi in southern studios. Shot in Madras, it was a remake of a Telugu hit starring N. T. Rama Rao, Ramudu Bheemudu (1964), whose director, B. Nagi Reddi, produced this film for a new director, Chanakya.
The timid Ram (Dilip Kumar) is terrified of his brother-in-law Gajendra Babu (Pran), who has bullied him all his life but, to protect his sister (Nirupa Roy) and niece, he suffers in silence. Gajendra wants Ram to marry heiress Anjana (Waheeda Rehman) so he can take her money as well as Ram’s. When Ram realises that Gajendra will stop at nothing, he runs away. Meanwhile, we have met the lively and fearless Shyam (Dilip Kumar) who lives in a village, where he gets up to mischief and loves playing jokes, especially on his friend Shanta (Mumtaz). He goes to the city, where he rescues Anjana, who thinks he is Ram. They fall in love but he cannot convince her that he is not Ram. Meanwhile, Shanta falls in love with Ram, who has ended up in Shyam’s village. Gajendra also mistakes Shyam for Ram, so is in for a shock when Shyam asserts himself. However, he finds Ram and imprisons him, then accuses Shyam of his murder; only later does it emerge that Ram and Shyam are twins separated at birth.
Dilip Kumar was known as the king of tragedy, so his debut in comedy was anticipated with skepticism if not amusement. However, as soon as Shyam appears, all doubts were dispelled, as he gives a hilarious performance as a villager hired to be a hero in a film who actually beats up all the baddies and is told that he will never make it in the movies. He is then soundly beaten by his mother for even thinking about joining the film industry. It must have been quite a shock when the film came out to see Dilip Kumar dancing and singing at a children’s party, pulling faces and putting on silly voices. The others play roles with which they were usually associated. Waheeda and Mumtaz were well cast as opposing types. While Waheeda was already established as a major star, this was the film that moved Mumtaz onto the A-list of actresses, a position she would hold until her marriage. Nirupa Roy is saintly and long-suffering, while Pran is cruel and villainous.
The music for this film is not Naushad’s best score but songs such as ‘Aaj ki raat’ were quite popular.
Year – 1967, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Vijaya International, Director – Chanakya, Music Director – Naushad, Cast – Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Mumtaz, Nirupa Roy, Kanhaiyalal, Nazir Hussain, Sajjan, Mukri, Amar, Leela Misra, Zebunissa, Farida, Pran