Here is a 1968 James Bond-meets-Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cheesefest from the Master of Masala himself, Manmohan Desai. While I haven’t seen all his films, I’ve seen most of them, and this is the first one that’s been devoid of any message (well, except: “betraying your country is wrong”). There’s no religious symbolism, or paeans to the poor and downtrodden, not even a single tearful Ma; just a villain named Scorpion, an unwitting hero, his beloved, his friend, his friend’s clever car, and some microdots hidden in a guitar. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Better editing (and possibly a higher kitsch budget) could have made it entertaining; but as it is, it’s an unfocused, meandering, silly film.
A bunch of explosions are tearing apart India. The Commissioner of Police (Murad) and his men are stumped as to who is responsible. But we aren’t! We meet Scorpion, who is being paid by the agent of an *unnamed* enemy country.
The Commissioner receives a mysterious call from a man who knows who and where the evil-doers are. His information is contained in:
later also referred to as:
Since the people actually talking say “microdots” and it makes more sense, that’s what I’ll call them too.
Scorpion somehow knows about the microdots too: he is conveniently omniscient, although his thugs are remarkably ineffectual. He sends Lopez and Joe (Shetty) to Twist Music & Photo Shop, whose owner (Bhagwan Sinha) is the informant.
As he’s being threatened by the villains, Vicky (Biswajeet—yes, poor maligned Biswajeet) arrives to collect his guitar. As the villains watch from the back room (their guns trained on him), the music store owner slips the paper containing the microdots inside Vicky’s guitar, who takes it away with him. But he quickly confesses all to Lopez and Joe, who go after Vicky immediately.
Vicky is a singer and guitar player at a hotel nightclub. He works with Nancy (Helen). Hooray! OP Nayyar wrote the songs; this one (“One Two Three Baby”) is quite Helen-worthy, although I don’t think most of them are up to his usual standards.
[Side note: Biswajeet was tolerable in this film! Quite lively!
He still reminds me of Peewee Herman, but tempered a bit here---more as if he were Peewee and Rishi Kapoor's love child.
End side note.]
Scorpion’s thugs break into Vicky’s room afterwards and try to get the guitar from him. It was a gift from his late father, so he refuses to give it up, and manages to escape. They corner him again a couple of days later, and he gets away again, this time by hopping aboard a train where he meets another escapee, Roma (Babita).
Roma’s father is a wealthy businessman and she is his only child—so he’s very strict with her and she has run away from home. Roma and Vicky sing a song by a waterfall and are saved from having to walk back to the city by a good Samaritan named Jani Bhai.
Jani’s car has special skills, like boxing and shooting paintballs out of its exhaust pipes.
Jani himself is an eccentric inventor. See? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
He and Vicky become best buddies in the filmi manner, and he helps Vicky get a job at the hotel where Roma has decided to stay. Vicky sings a country-western song while his audience does the twist.
I love the tall white girl with the fiddle. Roma arrives looking glam in a silver lamé saree. Vicky is thrilled to see her, and after the song, she invites Vicky to stay in her room with her! I’m astonished, although it’s of course completely chaste.
Omniscient Scorpion has discovered that Vicky is at the hotel; luckily, his henchwoman Julie works there too. She delivers a suitcase to Vicky/Roma’s room, which contains a hidden camera. Keeping tabs on Vicky’s whereabouts doesn’t really help Scorpion’s useless henchmen though; with Jani’s help (and the car’s) he keeps eluding them.
Time to send in the big guns!
Nancy reappears, and manages to insert herself between Vicky and Roma, creating a misunderstanding. When Roma boots Vicky out, Nancy takes him home. From the bathroom, she spies on Vicky through a hole in her medicine cabinet (on Vicky’s side the hole is cleverly concealed in an outer space mural).
He’s sitting comfortably in a leather chair. Indecision and sorrow flicker across Nancy’s face before she pushes a switch which sticks a knife blade out of the back of the chair.
Luckily, Vicky leans forward just as it makes its lethal entry, and fortuitously is kept from leaning back again. He catches on to Nancy’s treachery pretty quickly when a villain with a hook for a hand appears and tries to kill him (but is defeated fairly easily). Nancy ends up impaled on her own chair. Before she dies, she tells him that she was forced to work for Scorpion because he’s holding her father prisoner. This storyline never goes anywhere and I’m not sure why it’s even introduced in the first place. But Nancy—my Helen!—is dead.
After that, I kind of lose interest. The story is just idiotic, and though there are some bright moments—as when Biswajeet and Babita do a mujra in drag (the other song I like: “Kajra Mohabbatwala”)—I’m just not invested.
If you want to find out who Scorpion is and whether Vicky and Roma get it together, by all means watch it. Lower your Manmohan Desai expectations (although he wrote the screenplay too, it’s almost like he just never showed up to be part of the film), and the FF button can help a lot too.
And finally, who is the guy playing Jani? Help me, smart readers!