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.
The plot skittered all over the place like a frightened kitten. Continuity was never even a gleam in the director’s eye. I’ll just say that Shekhar (Dharmendra) and Rajesh (Feroz Khan) are best buddies in that weirdly bromantic way of Hindi films. By day Shekhar runs a shipping company, and by night he is Tiger Singh, a renowned smuggler. Rajesh is Superindent of Police and he is sent to catch Tiger and his gang. They both fall in love with Seema (Saira Banu), who is in love with Shekhar—her childhood sweetheart—and who wears vividly patterned sarees.
This naturally leads to much self-sacrificing on the part of both men, with nobody giving any thought to what Seema might think or want. Seema tries to take poison at her own wedding before realizing that Rajesh has bowed out gracefully and she’s married to Shekhar.
This is So Many Kinds Of Wrong that I don’t even know where to begin. When she discovers that Shekhar is also the infamous Tiger Singh, she leaves him and tries to drown herself (I would have let her do it, but someone kinder than I stops her), then inexplicably gives birth to a five-year-old. By the end I did not care if Rajesh caught Shekhar/Tiger or not, if Shekhar and Seema and their son would be reunited or not, and there were suddenly a whole lot of new characters running around in sheikh outfits whom I couldn’t keep straight from one another.
But as is true of most Hindi films of this era, it did give forth a few moments of pure joy. Todd has covered the awesomeness of the title song (hilariously subtitled for those of us who might not have gotten that Mahendra Kapoor is singing the words “crook crook” over and over again). I am putting it here so that you can have it stuck in your head too:
The song punctuates the film throughout (whenever the bad guys spring into action), always subtitled. Shankar and Jaikishan were no more enthusiastic about this film apparently than I am: for the most part, the music is pretty lacklustre and tired.
There is one other fun song though (“Husn-e-Iraane”), which takes place in “Iran” with a very buxom belly dancer whose musicians are four awkward white guys.
The dancer herself is barely contained inside her costume and threatens to burst through (or up over) the seams at any second.
The white “harem girls” standing (or sitting) around are bored and embarrassed, with bad posture. My favorite is the rosy-cheeked one sitting next to Dharmendra, who never takes her deeply suspicious gaze off him. She looks like she’s thinking of pouring the contents of her carafe all over him. Dharam himself doesn’t seem too thrilled to be there either.
There are misfit white people everywhere in this movie, I guess to give it that “international” flavor. Some of it was shot on location in actual, real Alaska.
Even the Comic Side Plot has its share of white people.
Tiger Singh’s lair is dreary and disappointing:
I mean, come on! Plain stone walls and boxes of nylon filament yarn? His henchmen are an improvement, and include Rajan Haksar, Shyam Kumar and Shetty. They all overact, and basically stand around shouting their dialogues at each other.
My favorite is poor stupid Sher Khan, whose oft-expressed love for his country is out of place and enrages his bosses and co-henchmen (the theme of the film being that smuggling is bad, is traitorous, and is robbing the motherland of her precious resources).
According to imdb, Pachhi directed and wrote only one other film, 1967’s Around The World. I’m thinking I can probably give it a miss, unless it holds out temptation in some form:
in which case, I may cave. He did produce two films I like very much, Howrah Bridge and Jaali Note. Probably he should have stuck with the financing side rather than venturing into the creative.
If you truly long to be entertained by someone with far more money than talent, I would recommend checking out Florence Foster Jenkins. My dad used to listen to her recordings with tears running down his face. Listen to her rendition of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria from The Magic Flute.