We all know about the “Curse of the Second Half” which afflicts many films. I am happy that this one avoids that, but sad to say that it suffers instead from the “Curse of the Last Half Hour Or So” and devolves into melodrama and idiocy not befitting an otherwise really good film.
It is dominated by Nana Palsikar’s fine performance as Bholanath, an elderly man who has never lost his capacity for optimism despite a life of hardship and poverty. He has pinned all his hopes on his son Ram (Rajesh Khanna), whom he has educated against all odds. The conflicted father-son relationship is portrayed poignantly and believably by both actors. Jal Mistry won a Filmfare Award for his gorgeous cinematography (the art director should have too), and RD Burman’s music is a joy.
It’s hard to believe that the vivacious and beautiful Geeta Bali has been gone for more than 44 years now. She passed away on January 21, 1965 at the age of 35, from smallpox. Filmfare had a lovely tribute to her (with photos they had taken shortly before her death) a few weeks after that.
Every other frame of this film contained some element of which I said: “I want that!” like a small spoiled child.
It’s an Arabian Nights-meets-Zorro fantasy complete with lush sets, fabulous costumes and beautiful horses, but the highlights are the fantastic songs by Usha Khanna (who also has a beautiful singing voice). The only real drawback is the leading man: Mehmood’s antics grow quickly tiresome. He is actually good as the serious Zingaro, and occasionally very amusing as Zingaro’s effeminate alter ego—I just wish he’d been allowed (or required) to tone his act down a bit. Helen has a good role as the brains behind the villain (Jeevan), and the other cast members all acquit themselves well. The story is credible and absorbing; altogether, this movie is a lot of fun.
Raj Khosla’s first venture into directing is a solid entertainer, although apparently it failed at the box office. The quality of the DVD was lacking, probably due to the source material—it was by turns really dark, overexposed or blurry, and there were definitely some scenes missing, but nonetheless it kept me in my seat! I love that Khosla populates his films with strong and believable female characters, and this is no exception. Lovely and talented Geeta Bali is the heart and soul of this movie, but she’s very ably supported by Dev Anand minus most of his mannerisms, and Memsaab favorite KN Singh as an unscrupulous (but suave and sophisticated, natch!) lawyer.
Khosla assisted Guru Dutt (another Memsaab favorite) and his influence is seen here too—beautifully shot songs, atmospheric use of light and dark (although hampered a bit by time’s wear and tear). And Khosla’s habit of “framing” his shots is here too, although not as sophisticated as in his later films.
This movie is what happens when a person (producer/director/writer Pachhi) with money to burn sets out to follow his dream—a dream for which he has no aptitude whatsoever. I can’t even say I wasn’t warned. But the temptation of Dharmendra and Feroz Khan circa 1974 in a film by the awesome name of International Crook proved too much for me to resist. Even the presence of Saira Banu dressed up like a dog’s dinner did not deter me. And while I won’t *quite* say that I’m sorry I watched it, I will say that it is a bad film. A very bad film.
If Dharmendra playing Zorro and rescuing pretty young things isn’t your thing, how about these options? Dharmendra chasing down a train! Dharmendra swinging through trees like Tarzan! Dharmendra taming wild horses! Dharmendra wrestling tigers! Dharmendra saving a man in chains from a burning building! Dharmendra saving the honor of women everywhere! Dharmendra impersonating a holy man! Dharmendra romancing the Dream Girl! Dharmendra escaping the Loony Bin of Death!
I was inspired to get a second copy of this film (a copy with subtitles) by Banno and I’m so very very glad I did. I am sure you will understand the attraction once you read her description of the action. Beth did, and Todd too—so watch out for what I am sure will be their superb analyses of this masala masterpiece as well. It’s a fun story that moves along at a brisk pace embellished with oodles of cracktastic detail.
Pointless plot provides framework for awesome songs and cute star cameos: that pretty much sums this film up. It is a Mehmood vehicle, and although Mehmood does his best—and provides some funny moments—the fabulously picturized Shankar Jaikishan songs, peppered by short appearances by stars like Waheeda Rehman and Rajendranath in a “behind-the-scenes” look at movie-making, are what made it worth sitting through. I got this film on the strength of one of its songs which Richard over at Dances On The Footpath had posted. I defy anyone to watch it and then NOT spend the rest of the day bursting forth with “Naach meri jaan—fa-taa-fat!”