Cameos are fun, but they can also be cruel. Case in point: Ram Bharose, wherein the scant time afforded Dara Singh onscreen only tempts us to imagine what the film -- by Bollywood standards a fairly well financed spy thriller in glorious Eastmancolor, certainly more well appointed than related genre efforts fronted by the third billed Dara Singh in his heyday -- might have been like if the wrestling star turned stunt film king had been given it all. Instead what we get is lesser Kapoor family scion Randhir hogging the screen in his central role as a complete staggering idiot.
Ram Bharose exploits that most well trod of 1970s masala movie plots; that of the brothers set by fate upon opposing moral paths. In this case those brothers are Ram (Kapoor) and Bhanu, the latter played by Sholay’s Gabbar Singh himself, the great Amjad Khan. Growing up in dire straits has left each of the two with very different approaches to life. Ram, openhearted and devout, has embraced the cause of justice, and intends to follow in his late father’s footsteps by joining the police force, despite being by all appearances retarded and having no aptitude for the task. Bhanu, by contrast, is cynical and ruthlessly materialistic, worshipping money at the expense of god and Mother India. This has lead Bhanu to, without his family’s knowledge, take employment with one of those many high-living Indian movie baddies who is known only as “Boss”, in this case played by Madan Puri and serving the interests of some unnamed and nefarious “foreign country” represented by token Caucasian weasel Tom Alter.
When C.I.B. Agent 1107 (Dara Singh) steals out of said foreign country with an incriminating microfilm, Boss and his goons are hot on his tail, finally forcing a wounded 1107 to pass the film off to the hapless Ram during a chance encounter. Thus is set in motion the string of events that will lead the brothers to face each other from opposite sides of the law, and ultimately offer Bhanu a final chance at redemption. And, yes, this is yet another one of those “reluctant secret agent” movies, and being that it’s also a 1970s Bollywood movie, we can rest assured that, no matter what else happens, it will all end with a big fight in an exploding lair.
While Ram Bharose, at least superficially, stacks its moral debate in Ram’s favor, it ultimately doesn’t make a very good case for virtue. I think we’re meant to be charmed by what director Anand Sagar and Randhir Kapoor himself consider to be Ram’s childlike innocence. But what he really comes across as is a freakish, creepily desexualized man-child; basically Baby Huey without the diaper. Thus, whenever he does one of his wide-eyed takes at the oh so mysterious workings of the adult world, or uncomprehendingly lets one of the femme fatale’s obvious come-ons fall clatteringly to the floor in the space between, all we want to do is smack him across his stupid face. By contrast, it is Amjad Khan’s Bhanu, as the more complex of the two characters, who provides most of the film’s real heat and excitement. And it’s nice to see the often underused Khan playing a somewhat more dimensional version of his usual heavy -- one who, despite being bad, is at least given reasons for being so, as well as a chance at redemption, even if that ultimately involves his heart’s icicles being unconvincingly melted by Ram’s insipid goodness.
Also on hand here is Rekha as Kiran, the daughter of one of Boss’s enemies who was kidnapped by the villain in her infancy and raised to be a kung fu fighting “Mafia Queen”. It’s a fun bad girl role that sees her tasked with vamping the coveted microfilm away from the naïve Ram, at one point by disguising herself in a sexy nurse’s outfit. Of course, Kiran’s background makes her also ripe for redemption and, sadly, ultimately not immune to the mysterious thawing power of Ram’s Keane-eyed guilelessness. Another performer worth noting for his receiving a little more of the limelight than usual here is Keshto Mukherjee, 1970s Bollywood’s favorite comedy drunkard, who gets a fairly meaty sidekick role opposite Kapoor, albeit one that requires him to act drunk for a good portion of the time.
As for Dara Singh, Ram Bharose’s action keeps him confined to the Boss’s underground dungeon for a good portion of the film, though not without affording him a nice iconic moment during the climax. A good few years past his Hercules days, the star proves still adept at pretending to bust heavy chains with his heaving pectorals, just as he did during the final moments of countless Bollywood proxy peplums during the previous decade. In this sense, Dara is here in Ram Bharose to play what is essentially a quote from a Dara Singh movie, and that fact in turn testifies to his beloved status within Indian popular culture. It’s a wise choice by the filmmakers in this case, because, to my mind, his appearance is one of the few things that make this otherwise unremarkable masala worth mentioning.