Apout the story: The three friends Johny (Mithun Chakraborty), Govinda (Sanjay Dutt) and Iqbal Ali (Govinda) are always on the spot in their Bombay community to help people who are in distress or somehow threatened. Johny has grown up without parents which often depresses him to the extend that he starts drinking and needs encouragement by his girl-friend Julie (Mandakini). The hot-headed Govinda and the rich and egocentric Kiran (Vijayata Pandit) need some tutoring from Iqbal to find together after initial grave difficulties with each other. When Govinda learns by Johny that Kiran’s father Balwant (Danny Denzongpa) is a drug smuggler, and when he confronts Kiran with this truth about her father (whom she till then had regarded as an honest man), Balwant orders Govinda to be killed - but the murderers by mistake slay Govinda’s mother Geeta (Ashalata). At her funeral, Govinda surprisingly finds himself reunited with his father, advocate Verma (Satyen Kappu), who had been missing for years. But their joy is only short-lived as Johny shortly thereafter finds out that his mother Mary (Gita Siddharth) is alive: Twenty years ago, she had been charged with murdering her husband and was sentenced to life imprisonment because her lawyer Verma had sold the evidence to prove her innocence to the real murderer. When Johny tackles Verma about this, Govinda vehemently rejects the reproaches, but before the two friends can kill each other, Verma confesses the truth: It was Balwant who was responsible for Johny’s father’s deat; Balwant had framed Mary for the crime and blackmailed Verma by threatening to kill Geeta and Govinda if Verma helped Mary in court. And while Johny and Govinda make up with each other and decide to fight Balwant together, the latter already plans his next cruel attack on the three friends' happiness...
Jeete Hain Shaan Se (= We live with pride) is an interesting film, and be it just for casting reasons, because for the first time Sanjay and Govinda as well as Sanjay and Mithun came together on screen. Whereby Govinda, who later was to become Sanju’s co-star in many films, here has a rather small part as the trio’s cheerful counterpoise and solves this task with a lot of lovable charme. The central figures are Mithun and Sanjay, and this was an explosive matter not only concerning the plot, because with Sanjay who at that time was continuously rising, Mithun rightly had to fear a serious rival for his position as a leading hero – here even more than in the one year later released Ilaaka where Sanjay, at least on the script-paper, was only the second lead (what he then made out of his role is of course another story), while his and Mithun’s roles in Jeete Hain Shaan Se were absolutely equal. And Sanju wouldn’t have been Sanju if he hadn’t used this unique chance and delivered a smashing and spirited performance. No doubt about it: He’s always at his very best when his co-stars call forth his ambition, be it as a dancer alongside with a dance goddess like Madhuri Dixit or as an actor opposite calibres like Amitabh Bachchan or immediate competitors like Mithun Chakraborty.
Mithun, for his part, does it in style too, acts excellently (he even does a humorous special appearance as himself) and shapes his character very likeable so that the three-confessions-trio (Johny is Christian, Govinda Hindu and Iqbal Muslim) harmonizes terrificly. There are even no visible attempts of the three actors to outplay each other, they rather inspire each other to unforgettable scenes like the emotional and touching funeral for Geeta, the confrontations between Sanjay and Mithun, and the really enjoyable big dancing scene of the three friends where Sanjay doesn’t stand back at all behind his two co-stars who were, and rightly so, regarded as the better dancers at that time; in my opinion Sanjay’s got the most elegant movements of them all. Generally the makers have been very fair with the clips; all three leading men got their own entry clip, and Mithun and Sanju were furthermore allowed to amuse themselves dancing with their female co-stars.
The latters are praiseworthy, too. Mandakini is much more present in this film than in Jeeva and straightforwardly stands up to Johny when the latter once again flips with booze. Vijayata Pandit, on the other hand, had the bad luck to have to play an initially unlikeable character and thus to get some verbal ticking-off by Sanjay (oh my, this man can really become angry – when he bawls Kiran out there is not very much left from her), and in the end the script literally forgot her. But at least this fate she shares with Mandakini. For as soon as after about 90 minutes the hour of Danny Denzongpa strikes, the whole plot concentrates fully on him, his former victims and the three friends. Danny plays the villain with a lot of noble reservation and thus gives him a more subliminal dangerousness which sets his Balwant in a pleasant contrast to many other and more hamming villain roles in the 1980s.
At all events, Jeete Hain Shaan Se deserves the attribute “worth watching”. Good story (apart from the usual few crudities, like why was life-sentenced Mary suddenly free), good actors, and – looking back – some very interesting first encounters in front of the camera which fortunately didn’t end with blood and thunder among rivals but inspired the parties to intense and sweeping performances. Watching them is real fun. Snap it again, Sanju!
Produced by P. Bhagyam; Directed by Kawal Sharma
153 Min.; DVD: KMI, English Subtitles (including songs), the disc has a few sound and image interferences