Amar Shakti (1978)

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I was inspired by Antarra’s review to see this film—so many thanks, Antarra! It’s essentially an hommage to Dharam-Veer with some pointed differences, which may make it a better film or a worse one, depending on your point of view. I loved Dharam-Veer (of course!) but I also really enjoyed this movie, maybe because my philosophy is if one of something is good, then two of it is better.

What Dharam-Veer has that Amar Shakti doesn’t:

  • Manmohan Desai’s lunatic sensibilities and larger-than-life scope
  • Dharmendra in a leather mini-skirt
  • Pran

What Amar Shakti has that Dharam-Veer doesn’t:

  • Shashi
  • Shashi’s curls
  • Shashi’s eyelashes
  • A Trojan elephant

What they both have:

  • Royal brothers separated at birth
  • Clever animals who save the day
  • Indrani Mukherjee (love her!)
  • Ranjeet (hot!)
  • Jeevan
  • Pradeep Kumar
  • Jeetendra/Shatrughan Sinha (J in DV, and SS in AS: I consider it kind of a wash, although others might will probably disagree)
  • Two kick-ass heroines who are (unfortunately) mostly decorative
  • Many sword-fights
  • The medieval Europe-ancient Rome dichotomy (although in DV’s case many other eras are factored in as well—probably AS director Harmesh Malhotra is at least marginally less crazy than Manmohan Desai, although he did make Nagina a decade later)
  • Very nice music courtesy of Laxmikant Pyarelal

In any case, on with our tale. Traitors Shamsher Singh (Pradeep Kumar) and Nahar Singh (Jeevan) kill the heir to the throne and his wife, and then the old king himself, taking over his kingdom. Unbeknownst to them, however, the Yuvraj’s two young sons have not died. The older one, Shakti, has been rescued from drowning by a band of nomadic gypsies; and Amar has been saved by his nursemaid Leela (Indrani Mukherjee) at the cost of her own son’s and husband’s lives.

Shakti (Shatrughan Sinha) is brought up by Sardar (Om Shivpuri), the chief of the gypsy tribe. Sardar treats him like his own son, to the jealousy and chagrin of his actual son, Hameera (Ranjeet). This jealousy is further complicated by the fact that both Shakti and Hameera are in love with Chamki (the delightful Manjula), who loves Shakti. I love Hameera’s mutton-chops. Those are some serious side-burns!

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Shakti is old enough to remember his parents being killed, and has vowed to avenge them when the time comes.

Leela has brought up the younger Amar (Shashi Kapoor)—who remembers nothing of his former life—as her own son. Her brother-in-law has trained him to be a master swordsman. Their village is periodically harassed by the the now-king Shamsher Singh’s men.

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Five villagers are taken prisoner since they can’t pay the tax. Amar hears about a sword-fighting tournament for which the winner’s prize is 500 rupees—just enough to spring his neighbors from prison. He signs up despite the fact that the previous five years’ winner is the cruel prince of a neighboring kingdom, Ranjit Singh (Roopesh Kumar), who kills his opponents and eats them (no, just kidding, he only kills them). He also wants to marry Shamsher Singh’s daughter, the Rajkumari Sunita (Sulakshana Pandit) although she’s not as keen on the idea.

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Sardar has decided that the gypsies should attend the festival surrounding the sword-fighting tournament too. Let the games begin!

Shakti and Amar brush past each other as they arrive, as they should in a good soul-stirring masala film. Amar challenges Ranjit to fight, and wins too—although the palace guards step in when Ranjit is defeated. Sunita (who is pleased to have someone other than Ranjit win, especially if that someone looks like Shashi) saves the day.

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Amar hands his prize—a bag of gold coins—over to one of the king’s men, and his fellow villagers are freed from the prison. Hameera then steals the bag from the king’s man, but as guards close in on him he throws it at his father’s feet. Sardar is arrested for theft along with Chamki. He is tortured on a rack-wheel thingy and Chamki is forced to sing and dance for the king’s advisors, while Shakti works on a plan to free them.

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Does anybody know anything about the actress Manjula? I liked her in this: very feisty, good dancer, pretty girl too. She even helps Shakti overcome all the guards when he finally busts through a window to get her. They get Sardar out too, who is pretty pissed off at his actual son Hameera for throwing him into the soup, as it were.

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The torture has weakened him (the rack-wheel thingy is more effective than it looks apparently) and he dies not long after after naming Shakti as his heir.

Meanwhile, Amar meets Sunita accidentally-on-purpose in a temple, and thanks her for supporting him at the end of the tournament. They flirt with each other as Hameera lurks behind a pillar.

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When he thinks Amar has left, Hameera tries to grab Sunita’s jewelry—but Amar hasn’t gone far, and he returns and bashes up Hameera. In gratitude, Shamsher Singh makes Amar a commander in his army—sworn to protect the very man who murdered his parents.

Amar woos Sunita further by disguising himself as her music teacher and singing with her, as would-be husband Ranjit looks on. Much of Sunita’s furniture would not look out of place in the Poconos, especially the round, plush pink revolving bed.

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Meanwhile, back at the gypsy camp Hameera has challenged Shakti for the chieftainship of the tribe. They decide to fight it out according to tradition.

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Shakti wins this battle waged over hot coals, and banishes Hameera from the tribe. He then declares war on Shamsher Singh: it’s time for him to take revenge for his parents’ murder and the usurpation of his throne.

This puts him on a headlong collision course with Amar, who is promoted to an even higher rank (Emperor of France? Drum major in a marching band? Chief girly man?) in the king’s army.

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What will happen when these two meet face to face again? Will they ever get to know that they are brothers? Can Shakti defeat Shamsher Singh, or will Amar stop him? Will they find true love, or will Hameera and Ranjit cause trouble in paradise?

Watch Amar Shakti to find out (and to see a scene lifted straight out of Ben-Hur). It doesn’t have the grandeur and ambition of Dharam-Veer, but it also doesn’t have the OTT lunacy which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (although: why?). It’s a lovely fairy-tale with a well-crafted story and screenplay that moves along swiftly, with plenty of heart-warming masala dil to boot. A very enjoyable way to spend a rainy or snowy afternoon!

And because I realize that my screen-caps unfairly excluded him (yes I was distracted by Ranjeet and Shashi), and I know that some people would likely be upset about that, here is Shakti-Shotgun in all his mustachioed glory.

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34 Comments to “Amar Shakti (1978)”

  1. Shashi and Shatru together make my day for sure :) Poor Shashi looks a bit peaked with all the costumes weighing him down- but that doesnt seem to affect his curls at all, which are bouncing to glory :D

  2. Yup, Shashi looked good in this. I think it’s the period in time where he looked his best, although he must have been exhausted a great deal of the time since he was always working on about 20 movies at a time!

  3. Greta, this is a movie I probably would never have given a second thought to ever watching, but you make it sound so fun!

  4. Not to mention making me chuckle several times!

  5. I cackled out loud for a good 20 seconds when I scrolled down to the Shashi-as-Napoleon picture – especially because he looks so unimpressed, lost, and/or uninterested in wearing it. Clearly I must see this film – repeatedly. It’s so jam-packed with fantasticosity! However, whenever I see Sulakshana Pandit, I want her to be Neetu Singh. That isn’t anything against her; my love of Neetu is just hard to overcome, apparently.

    Do I want to know how you know about that place in the Poconos? SO CORNY. Though we COULD have our meetup there and film Helen-ish songs in the champagne glass….

  6. Don’t you mean “homage”?

  7. Aieee!!! After being STUNNED by Shashi’s GORGEOUSNESS (in all its oddly Louis XIV-esque glory), I can reply. GOSH, he so fine. He may be the finest there ever was. EVER. And Shotgun + Shotgun’s scar of strange appeal to boot? I’m sold.

    I wonder: did Shashi, Shotgun and PRAAAAN (!!!) ever make a film together? Or is that what I’m going to get to see when I die, but only if I’m extra good?

  8. “Don’t you mean “homage”?”

    I would approve heartily if what you did mean was `homme-age’! Shashi is one helluva hot homme!

    This looks like a movie I’ll like – Bollywood historicals do tend to be rather fascinating, even if they’re not quite believable (Parasmani? Aan? Yahudi?) – though Dilip Kumar’s dressing gown-style Roman togas in Yahudi had me falling off my chair laughing.

  9. This sounds really fun! I like the whole “raised by gypsies” edge…lol

    I wish I had that round pink bed…sigh…

  10. I missed this film. How come? Though must admit, Sulakshana Pandit was not on my list of favourites, ever. I hated her voice, and her makeup was really, really loud. Manjula, I’ve never seen. Strange. Was this her only film? Does she star opposite Shotgun?

  11. Mike: It’s not Dharam-Veer, but it has its own charm, and certainly I had a good time watching it :-)

    Beth: He was pretty visibily uncomfortable in that getup, although he have a fun “drinking” scene in it. Sulakshana does look just like Neetu, and Neetu would be better, but Sulakshana is okay too. Re: the Poconos…a friend of mine once told me that the Poconos were renowned for their tacky honeymoon hotels, and that “Get Poked in the Poconos” was their unofficial tourism motto. I’ve somehow never been able to forget that :-D And I like the idea of a Helen-type song in the giant champagne glass, except I’m not sure that I’d ever want to actually get in one (unless it had been very very very very well-scrubbed beforehand)…

    FiLMiNDiA and dusted off: No, I meant hommage—it’s the French word for homage, and it’s what came to mind first and that’s what I scribbled down :-) Too pretentious?

    ppcc: I think the late 70s were Shashi’s finest for sure. I’m still not sure about SS though. And I think you might have to wait for filmi heaven to see both of them with Pran, although I could be wrong. If only Pran had been in Shaan!

    Nida: It is fun, and I too covet the pink fluffy round revolving bed.

    Banno: I don’t mind Sulakshana for some reason, although I wouldn’t put her in an “ideal cast” list. Manjula appears to have done a few other Hindi films and some South films, although imdb is not terribly accurate when it comes to Indian cinema. She was opposite SS here, and I liked her a lot.

  12. Oh, Shashi. Always the elder co-star yet always the younger brother! He looks hilarious in the music teacher and drum major getups. Did he have any other fun disguises in this film?

    Anything even remotely like Dharam-Veer gets a thumbs-up from me. Looks like I need to check this one out too, pronto.

  13. I thought of that too—and truthfully he does look younger than Shatrughan Sinha. He didn’t have any other disguises except the music teacher one, which is a good thing IMHO—it’s criminal to disguise that kind of beauty :-)

  14. Great review but two words stand out
    Ranjeet – Hot. hehe. I liked Ranjeet as a villain, he had that expression that could make him look lecherous, evil, dumb, scheming all at the same time (is that really possible? hehe..ok not ALL at the same time)

    @Beth: Neetu Singh had attitude, didn’t she? Liked her although Rekha will always stand a notch higher.

  15. Comic Project: Ranjeet is hot. Evil, lecherous, scheming, idiotic, all true, but hot as well. :-)

  16. Shashi! Shashilicious! Shashified!

    There are so many ways to turn his name into a descriptor. I think he was born to adorn. Tee-hee.

  17. Wow, it looks like they raided Mogambo’s closet for the outfit in that next to last screencap! He will not be pleased when he returns to discover the theft of his prized “Majorette…OF EVIL!” duds.

  18. Ranjit is hot but he looks so much hotter when he isnt in these odd wigs! It never once struck me that SS must be younger than Shashi. lol He definitely looked older. And I agree with you re Shashi’s disguises – the lesser the better! This was such a fun movie – the DVD cover was so off putting (and totally misleading) that I didnt get down to watching it till I read Antarra’s synopsis.

  19. ajnabi: Born to adorn! That should be on his family crest.

    Keith: Mogambo khush nahin hua!

    bollyviewer: Welcome back! Does this mean we finally learn the identities from your last post? The DVD cover for this was hilarious, it had nothing to do with the film, as Antarra pointed out. Shashi and Shatrughan with automatic weapons instead of swords! I guess whatever images are closest to hand are good enough!

  20. Yes, all is revealed on the post! :-)

  21. About manjula!!

    she is a south-indian actress (tamil esp) J.Jayalalitha contemperory..married to actor Vijayakumar who again is a character actor in tamil films…she has 3 daughters – vanitha, preetha, and sridevi who acted in various films (tamil..what else). Manjula was/is very pretty though din get her due in tamil movies as jayalalitha/saroja devi etc..and pops up now and then in matronly roles in tamil/telugu films nowadays.

  22. There was another movie strarring virtually the same actors (Shashi Kapoor- Shatrughan Sinha) with virtually the same story line during the same era. It was called “Gautam Govinda”. “Gautam Govinda” in fact was met with better success than “Amar Shakti”.

  23. I was looking at Gautam Govinda on imdb…may have to find it :-)

  24. Happy New Year, memsaab!

    how about reviewing Juari 1968, has your eternal favourites Shashi, Tanuja, Nanda and Naaz?

  25. I don’t have Juari! :( It’s out of stock at my regular DVD place…will need to look further for it.

    And Happy 2009 to you, too, harvey :-)

  26. well, good luck then! :-)

  27. Oh TCP, you are SO right! Neetu has it all!

  28. PS Memsaab, _I_ have Juari – how is it I own a movie that you don’t?!?

  29. Where did you get it???? Where???? I’ve been looking for it forever…

    :(

  30. a nice movie of ss and sk

  31. I’ve just finished this, and there IS another Shashi disguise! He wears that yellow suit, giant red turban, and an even bigger beard and mustache to help get the princess out of the palace. He’s not in it for very long, as he has to remove the extra bits when his plan is foiled and he has to fight off about 20 soldiers! :)

  32. Shashi Kapoor was like 40 when he starred in this film…yet, he remains ever so youthful and undeniably drop-dead gorgeous…he’s so handsome…

  33. Shashi Kapoor never got the recognition he deserved. Was far better then he was ever given credit for so deserved the lifetime award he finally received some years back.

    Could have been amongst the top two of his generation had he tried harder and chosen his roles more carefully. Sadly he was often too caught up in undemanding movies too fund his own projects.

    His then co-stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha who are only a few years younger are still going strong as they took greater care of their weight and physical appearance. Shashi, as handsome and charming as he was will go down as a very underrated actor who did not fulfil his potential.

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