It’s historic! No, I’m not talking about the election (although: YEAH BABY!!!!); I’m talking about this fabulously campy Wadia Movietones flick featuring an Indian Tarzan, his (literally) lunatic mother, cannibals, the nectar of immortality, Dada the ape man, and more animals than you can shake a stick at (including lions, tigers, bears—oh my—hyenas, elephants, crocodiles, etc). It may also give us a first in Hindi cinema history: a dog named Moti.
And before I do anything else, I must thank my new BFF and faithful reader Michael for sending it—and more treasures that you will be reading about—to me. Thanks Mike!!
Ramu, a scientist, lives with his wife Uma (Nazira) and their little son Leher in a jungle.
He has just discovered the “nectar of immortality” when his compound is attacked by rogue lions. Ramu tucks the formula into a locket which he puts around Leher’s neck and they try to escape (I’m not sure why they don’t just stay inside their house, which would seem to be more lion-proof than the outdoors where they run straight into the maws of death, but it’s not my film).
Ramu is killed, and Uma loses both her son and her sanity when Dada—Leher’s apelike friend—hops aboard a hot air balloon with Leher and a cute puppy (that he’s also rescued from the lions, thank goodness) and they soar away.
Dada is a fantastic half-ape half-man creature, who speaks only in grunts and largely resembles a golliwog. He and Leher and Moti the puppy sail along happily for a while, then crash during a thunderstorm through the thick canopy of trees covering the jungle.
Cut to fifteen years later, and Ramu’s father, a professor, has come to Vanrajpur (a town on the edge of the jungle) with his adopted daughter Leela (Gulshan) to search for his grandson. Leela believes that the jungle man called Tarzan may be Ramu’s son Leher. They are joined on their quest by a pith-helmeted guy named Bihari whose ulterior motives include finding the legendary nectar of immortality and romancing Leela.
Also accompanying them is their guide Dilawar (Ahmed Dilawar) and a servant named Bundle (Bandal) who additionally serves as the comic side plot.
They set off into the jungle to search for Tarzan, accompanied by many coolies bearing their tents and other supplies. They have traveled for some time when the party is attacked by crazily painted cannibals with poisoned arrows. Chaos reigns and draws the attention of a little white dog. It’s Moti, rescued years before by Dada. He runs off barking madly to fetch Tarzan (John Cawas).
John Cawas, by the way, was Fearless Nadia’s frequent co-star; he’s very handsome (I think he somewhat resembles Arjun Rampal).
Tarzan and Dada come to the rescue with some of their elephant friends. Thrilling stuff! After the cannibals are vanquished, the Professor and Leela coax Tarzan into approaching them. Bihari sees the locket hanging around Tarzan’s neck and guesses that the formula is in it.
They are interrupted by mad laughter; it’s Uma, still crazy after all these years. She wears a pair of skulls like water wings and cackles a lot, and warns Tarzan against the strangers.
The Professor doesn’t recognize her; I’m not sure if he had never met his son’s wife or if her craziness has changed her appearance. In any case, Tarzan takes her advice and runs away, and Bihari—loath to let him go off with the formula—shoots at him. Luckily he misses, but the Professor is sad.
They set up camp near a waterfall, and Moti reappears, drawn by the smell of meat cooking. Unfortunately, Dada comes to get him and trigger-happy Bihari shoots him in the arm. Leela prevents Bihari from doing further damage by pulling her own gun on him, and Dada gets away. Tarzan finds him and takes him home.
The next morning, Leela is doing her hair and makeup when Bihari comes into her tent and attempts to molest her. Tarzan arrives just in time to save her from Bihari; he kidnaps her instead and takes her back to his lair in the trees.
Her screams are more of the “thou dost protest too much” kind than they are real cries for help. Tarzan has brought her to help Dada, who is in a lot of pain from the bullet still lodged in his arm. She takes it out using Tarzan’s knife and bandages Dada up. He’s instantly better, and there is much joy. So much joy, in fact, that Leela decides to stay for a while.
She dons a new (skimpier) frock made from leopard skin, gets used to swinging through vines, and bonds with Tarzan. This involves a lot of wrestling and hair pulling and slapping of each other, sort of like puppies playing.
Back at camp, the Professor frets while Dilawar sings the first song we’ve had yet (I’ve seen the music credited to both Iqbal Qureshi and Master Mohd). The Professor is worried that they’ll have to leave Leela behind if they don’t find her soon. Uma arrives and shrieks some more, and then cannibals attack once more and take the entire party prisoner.
The cannibal leader has a strangely friendly grin, although his intentions are pretty obviously hostile.
Leela sings the second song of the film while bathing in a lagoon.
Moti steals her leopard dress and runs off—she chases him and gets it back just in time for both of them to be captured by cannibals. Leela and Moti are tied up with the Professor, Bihari, Dilawar and Bundle. They all speculate about the cannibals’ next move.
Luckily, Moti has skills. He unties (not chews through—unties) the ropes binding him and slips out the window. Can he reach Tarzan in time? Can Tarzan save our little group from being sacrificed to the Gorilla God that the cannibals worship? Yes, I said it: Gorilla God.
And if he does save them, can he save himself from greedy Bihari? Can Leela ever be happy as a jungle girl?
Toofani Tarzan has all the answers. And more. Waaay more!