Apout the story: The money lender Lala (Pran) plagues people, energeticly supported by his son Rajesh (Gulshan Grover) with his dreaded whip. When Rajesh rapes Gopal Singh’s (Sachin) sister who thereafter commits suicide, and the local thakur threatens Rajesh to sue him, Lala and Rajesh set the thakur’s house on fire. The thakur’s son Jeevan (Sanjay Dutt), together with Gopal, manages to save his parents from the burning house, but it’s too late for them. Jeevan seeks help with an inspector who, however, supports Lala. Confronting him, Jeevan unintendedly kills the inspector, and as no one dares to testify against Lala, Jeevan is sentenced to death. Gopal arranges Jeevan’s saving through the gang of the sardar Jaghir Singh (Amjad Khan) who once had been rendered an invaluable service by Jeevan’s father. With no other perspective left in life, Jeevan and Gopal join the gang, and Jeevan changes his name to Jeeva. But on his way to revenge against Lala, Jeeva has to overcome two hurdles: Lakhan (Shakti Kapoor), his rival for the sardar’s succession, and police inspector Dushant Singh (Anupam Kher), his lady-love Nalini’s (Mandakini) father...
In the mid-1980’s, Sanjay Dutt was singlemindedly working to escape the loverboy drawer once and forever. In three films made at the same time – Jaan Ki Baazi, Mera Haque and Jeeva – he even passed the bridge between the nice and well-behaved young guy and the insubordinate rebel on the silver screen itself, before he combined both characters in Naam and thus created a prototype as which the public subsequently was going to love him most. As Jeevan, Sanjay is the perfect dream for every mother-in-law, and even shows a bit of comedian flair when he, afraid of dogs, is chased by such a beast through the house and up onto a chandelier. As Jeeva, however, Sanjay produces a kind of prestage to his Jai Vikraanta: with cartridge belt, beard and a black tika on his forehead, the dacoit Jeeva is in optical contrast with the nice Jeevan but keeps the latter’s basic virtues like honesty and sense of justice which makes Jeeva a "noble bandit" who always takes up his responsibilities.
Sanjay’s co-star cast is remarkable, too. The Sholay "Gabbar" Amjad Khan plays Jaghir Singh who becomes a second father to Jeeva; Shakti Kapoor puts up a serious and merciless fight against Sanjay for the supremacy within the gang hierarchy; Pran as Lala escapes a comic relief just by the skin of his teeth, while Gulshan Grover as his son is the typical murky villain; Sachin is touching as Jeevan’s buddy Gopal, and Anupam Kher is a bit wasted as police inspector. The bright-eyed Mandakini is the woman in Jeevan’s/Jeeva’s life and shows above all her dance abilities while her acting remains a bit colourless.
All in all, however, Jeeva is just average. Those who want to see Sanjay in his "transit phase" on his way to Naam are served better with Jaan Ki Baazi or Mera Haque, be it just because Sanjay in both of them had the better female co-star. Jeeva has some nice moments, e.g. Sanjay with a black eye and a bagpipe, later wounded and blood-stained on his way to revenge; and furthermore in many scenes he shows gripping emotions, e.g. when Jeevan loses beloved ones. But in the end, Jeeva even for Sanjay fans is more a can-see than a must-see.
Produced by Romu N. Sippy; Directed by Raj Sippy
Ca. 122 Min.; DVD: Shemaroo, English Subtitles (including songs)