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.
Ashok (Dharmendra) is a man with a beautiful white horse (oh how I love Indian horses) named Raju. The first song in fact is a heartfelt Sholay-style paean to Raju (“Raju Chale Raju”). Substitute a white horse and a La-Z-Boy-inspired saddle for Amitabh and the motorcycle and you’ve got “Yeh Dosti.”
Raju is smart as well as beautiful. Together the two of them roam the countryside getting involved in other people’s quarrels. Ashok’s bhabhi Sarla (Sulochana) wants him to stop getting into fights. But what’s he supposed to do when he runs into the spoiled Princess Seema of Raigadh (Hema Malini) setting fire to a field of crops so that she can paint it?
He shouts at her and she has him arrested. To pacify Sarla, who is like a mother to him, Ashok decides to go off in search of a job. He heads off to Raigadh where Sarla’s cousin Ramesh Sharma (Keshto Mukherjee) lives with his sister Rekha (Shoma Anand). Sarla thinks Ramesh can help get Ashok a job; Ashok discovers that he’s a drunk (being Keshto Mukherjee and all) who works at Raigadh Palace.
There, Ashok is destined to see Princess Seema again. She’s fencing with Thakur Ajit Singh (Ajit).
I love the palace decor:
Despite their antagonism, Seema gives Ashok a job in the local distillery. Raigadh seems to be a one-company town:
Everything is owned by Seema, but managed by Ajit Singh and his son Prem (Prem Chopra). Prem is a bullying coward whom Ajit plans to marry off to Seema for her wealth. The next 45 minutes or so of the film covers Seema and Ashok playing mean tricks on each other, then falling in love, while Prem whines and Ajit pretends that he’s happy with Ashok’s presence. There is an amazing tiger fight, although I worry about the tiger’s welfare—he is not acting when Ashok lassoes him with a rope and bucket.
We also meet Seema’s father, Thakur Ranjeet Singh (Om Shivpuri) whom Ajit has locked up in an old stone pile of a building. Ajit has convinced everyone including Seema that Ranjeet Singh is mad—but the truth is that he keeps Ranjeet Singh drugged and in chains as part of his plot to take over the estate. For the first time ever I feel my heart breaking for Om Shivpuri (connected in my head forever to awful Mr. Oberoi from Disco Dancer)!
Ajit and Seema’s Diwanji (Jankidas) are also cheating Seema out of profits and using her businesses as a front for smuggling. Seema has promoted Ashok to manager of her fish packing plant, and is spending more time there herself.
A customer named Mr. John (Pinchoo Kapoor) supplies Ajit with the powerful drug used on Ranjeet Singh in return for hashish. On the day that his sister Rekha’s marriage is to be fixed, Ramesh—working overtime to finish Mr. John’s consignment—finds a packet of the drug when he drops the block of ice encasing it. He is plied with alcohol and then murdered by Ajit—whose office conceals the completely insane death-trap lair that Banno described, and which we see in much more detail later.
Nooooooo! Despite his alcoholic tendencies, Ramesh was a nice guy and I am sad. Needless to say, Rekha and Ashok worry about his disappearance. Rekha goes to the plant to enquire about him, and Prem gets a look at her. On the pretence of taking her to see his father, he takes her to the old palace where Ranjeet Singh is held prisoner, and attempts to rape her. As she tries to fight him off a fire is accidentally started; as the building burns she is suddenly aided by Ranjeet Singh, who gets his shackles around Prem’s neck!
She runs! Weakened by his confinement and the drugs, though, he can’t hold onto Prem for long and Prem escapes, leaving Ranjeet Singh to die in the conflagration. Word that the old building is on fire quickly spreads, and Seema arrives with Ashok, who enters the flames and saves her father. It’s edge of the seat thrilling!
When Rekha tells Ashok what Prem has done to her, he goes to Prem’s house and drags him out. A locket given to him by Sarla, with her picture and her husband’s in it, falls to the floor. Ajit Singh finds it, and recognizes the photo of Ashok’s policeman brother. He flashes back to meeting the Inspector, who had discovered his smuggling and confronted Ranjeet Singh one day.
Ajit Singh—the real culprit, of course—killed Ashok’s brother, and took Ranjeet Singh prisoner. Meanwhile, Ranjeet Singh is telling Seema what had really happened as well.
Seema, realizing the magnitude of Ajit Singh’s crimes, tells her father she’ll get help from Ashok.
But meanwhile, Ajit Singh has called Ashok to his secret-lair-concealing office on the pretext of returning his locket—and has sent him into the Loony Bin of Death.
Stuffed bears with bottles of Vat 69! Music box figurines! Ashok recognizes Ramesh’s topi hanging from the spiky ceiling decoration (which is functional as well), and watches as it falls into a bubbling pit of fire and acid.
Just to be sure he doesn’t escape, Ajit sends in his killer golden lab (they are so renowned for their vicious natures) to help finish him off. For once I don’t have to worry about the dog’s welfare, since it’s clearly a stuffed animal.
As insurance, Ajit has also kidnapped Rekha and Sarla (who had come for a simple visit with family) and is menacing them (along with Seema’s father) with death by Toaster Oven!
Is there any end to the craziness of Ajit and Prem’s lair? (no) Can Ashok escape the killer labrador retriever? Can he save his sister, his bhabhi, and Ranjeet Singh? What will happen to Seema? For all the answers and more, watch Azaad—you’ll be so glad you did. It’s chock full of goodness!
And smokin’ hot Garam Dharam.