J Jayalalithaa (1948-2016) was one of Tamil cinema’s biggest stars, so it is not surprising that she wanted to spread her luminescence beyond her state’s borders in the 1960s. Hindi remakes of Tamil films and vice versa were common enough, while several actresses from the Southern language cinemas, including Vyjayanthimala and Padmini, had appeared in big-name productions in Mumbai. By 1968, Jayalalithaa had headlined numerous hits in Tamil and Telugu, and she chose Izzat as her vehicle towards fame in the Hindi belt. She had previously appeared as Krishna in a dance sequence in the Hindi movie Man Mauji in 1962.

The lure must have the chance to star opposite the hunky and dependable Dharmendra. T Prakash Rao’s movie, written by Rajinder Singh Bedi, stars Dharmendra in a double role: one character has light brown make-up on the face, and the other has a fair complexion.

Dharmendra in ‘Izzat’.
Dharmendra in ‘Izzat’.

The mystery behind the boot polish-smeared Shekhar in the opening scenes is cleared soon enough: his mother is a tribal woman. After her sudden death, the village priest reveals the family secret. Shekhar is the illegitimate son of a wealthy landlord (Balraj Sahni) who refused to marry her after she got pregnant. Shekhar swears revenge, but hesitates when he finds a lookalike half-brother, Dilip (Dharmendra again), who is in love with another tribal woman, Jhumki (Jayalalithaa). Dilip is too cowardly to marry Jhumki, and Shekhar is determined not to let the sins of the father visit the son.

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‘Sar Par Lampa Top Leke’ from ‘Izzat’.

Jayalalithaa is presented feet first, in the one-piece sari and cheap silver jewellery that was the standard costume of tribal women in Hindi films. Jhumki is coquettish and frisky and a very good dancer. Tanuja plays Shekhar’s girlfriend, and they walk in stately fashion through the beautiful hillside locations, but Jhumki has the louder and weepier role. The ordinary music and hackneyed plot did nothing for Jayalalitha’s career outside Tamil Nadu. She went right back to where she had come from, and delivered many more hits before she retired from acting in 1980. Two years later, she entered politics.

Jayalithaa in ‘Izzat’.
Jayalithaa in ‘Izzat’.