Char Dervesh (1964)

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When a film’s credits list Homi Wadia as director and producer; JBH Wadia as screenplay writer; John Cawas (Nadia’s frequent co-star) as assistant director; Babubhai Mistry as art director; and a cast which includes Feroz Khan, Kumari Naaz, and Dog Romer—I am guaranteed to love it. When Todd reviewed it over at D4k I felt actual despair at not having it myself. Luckily I have since fixed that, and this weekend was able to wallow in the sumptuous, colorful, cracktastic goodness that is Char Dervesh.

Feroz looks like he is about 18 years old, and he is faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles: a two-headed monster, a lecherous sorcerer, greedy brothers and a lazy genie (with full support from the Genie’s Union), among others. He is aided by the love of two beautiful princesses, a diminutive sidekick and his clever canine in a rollicking, humorous Arabian Nights tale with really lovely songs by GS Kohli throughout.

Three “seekers” have converged upon the Shrine of Patience and are awaiting a fourth seeker whom they need in order for their quests to be fulfilled. He arrives towing a carriage with a cage containing two men and a throne upon which sits a large German Shepherd dog.

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He explains that the two men are his brothers who have consistently betrayed him, and that the dog has always remained loyal to him and thus deserves to sit upon the throne. His body and face are black as coal, and he settles down in the shrine to explain the circumstances which have brought him here.

Upon the death of his father, Qamar (Feroz Khan) has been cheated out of his share of the inheritance by his two elder brothers Harim and Karim (Sunder). He leads the life of a vagabond, accompanied by his faithful dog Aashiq (Dog Romer). One day, while on the run from his brother and the King’s army commander Yusuf Beg, he enters the palace and finds himself in the royal ladies’ bathing area (hilariously referred to in the subtitles as the “restroom”).

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He escapes after jumping in the pool with Princess Nargis (Sayeeda Khan) although he is immediately smitten by her beauty. That night he sneaks back into the palace and into her bedroom.

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Although she is charmed by Qamar, the Princess doesn’t intervene when he is caught and arrested. The next day he faces the King for his sentencing.

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How can that not be entertaining?! And it is. After sailing for a some time, Qamar’s ship reaches the waters where the King’s other daughter Hamida Bano is thought to have drowned years before. Qamar’s brothers (also aboard the ship) throw him overboard along with the ship’s captain Masha Allah (Mukri). The two of them wash up against a big rock in the middle of the sea—but it is no ordinary rock.

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Underneath lies the sorcerer Makar’s kingdom, and it is quite something. Words cannot possibly describe it as well as these visuals!

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Despite the rather forbidding two-headed guard and bubbling lava pit, the palace inside is quite lovely.

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Here our heroes see the long-lost Princess Hamida (Kumari Naaz), weeping next to a woman named Marjina (Ratnamala) who has been turned all to stone except for her head. Marjina is a sorceress, and to her everlasting chagrin she has taught the evil Makar (BM Vyas) all her magic only to have it used against her. He forces Hamida to dance for him along with a number of cat-people. It’s a fabulous song—“Kali kali aankhon mein.” Love! It also features the hapless Hamida being menaced by Makar in the form of a giant icky spider.

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Anyway, Masha accidentally gives his presence away to Makar but manages to hide in a ginormous vase. Frustrated Makar (so much for his magic powers) has to resort to his greatest asset to find the little intruder.

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After much back-and-forth and running around which you really need to see (I can’t screen cap everything!), Qamar and Masha manage to escape the watery kingdom without Hamida, but with the magic lamp containing the genie. Unfortunately he is not immediately much help in getting them home.

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The next day though he turns Qamar into the Prince of Khurasan (Masha is his Minister) and takes them back to the Kingdom. The fake Prince woos Princess Nargis some more, and discovers that she is pining for the banished Qamar. Joy! When his ruse is discovered, he tells the King that in return for his life, he will bring Hamida home, and he returns to Makar’s abode to rescue the Princess.

From here the plot only thickens, and it would take way too long to cover it all. Plus, this film just needs to be seen. It’s a visual masterpiece, with unbelievably wonderful makeup, costumes, sets, and special effects.

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The genie remains hilariously uncooperative throughout: “Yeh namumkin hai!”

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Although the picture quality is really good, the subtitles are a strange and goofy mix of American-type slang (“gonna” “wanna” “cut the crap”) and garbled fairy-tale speak. 

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It was a slightly annoying distraction, but at least they kept pace with the onscreen goings-on.

And where there’s a cloak of invisibility and a flying carpet, who cares about subtitles anyway?

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Of course I loved Dog Romer best (I want a film co-starring Dogs Romer and Moti!), along with the pretty flying horse Holi.

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Just see it.

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17 Comments to “Char Dervesh (1964)”

  1. oh wow- Feroz looks so gorgeous- completely worshippable [big sigh]. and of course Arabian-Nights-on-drugs is a gr8 genre.

  2. I love the caps. You always got the best screenshots. Hey did you hear that Feroz Khan has cancer?

  3. Wow, this sounds delightful (a little more fantastic than Parasmani, perhaps?
    If only all restrooms could be that fancy. Sigh.

  4. Memsaab, Thanks for digging this one out… Sounds like another Parasmani…. wonder how many such movies exist. Really love these so called B grade movies…..

  5. Why, WHY, have I never heard of this before? From your screen caps and the songs on youtube, its clearly a very big budget film (the sets dont look like cheap plastic and the costumes and make-up are awesome). And I’ve always wanted to see a film where the genie of the magic lamp belonged to a Genie Union that would let him work only certain hours and carry out only certain duties! And Feroz Khan can sure rock ear-rings!!! :-)

  6. genie belonging to a genie union has my full support. Always hated the idea of having to work 24/7.
    Feroze looks really great! Feroz is such a lovely name! But what about the female cast, why are they all looking so …. forlorn ?
    thanks for digging this out.

  7. The most interesting member of this cast for me is Kumari Naaz. Isn’t that the former Baby Naaz? I saw her play a poor, blind, orphaned girl in Payal, breaking everyone’s heart. And just this week, I’ve been watching some clips from Boot Polish where she’s a poor child in a slum-dwelling squatters’ camp. (Couldn’t help thinking of a certain current movie…) But ten years later, she got to be Princess Hamida! LOL

  8. Shweta: He is in fact so CUTE in this. Really sweet and funny and heroic. And skinny skinny skinny!!!! Very young.

    Ramneek: I know, I am very sad. I guess he was just released from the hospital, and I hope he’s doing okay.

    dustedoff: It does trump even Parasmani…for one thing, it is ALL in bright living color, and Feroz is a better hero than Mahipal any day :) The sets etc. are just to die for.

    bluelotus: I must again thank my dear friend Michael for bringing this treasure to my attention :) Thanks Mike!

    bollyviewer: Again—it is great to have friends with the same taste as you :))) Thanks Mike! And also Todd, his review just cemented my desire to see it.

    harvey: The genie is just hilarious. Love him. And Feroz is rocking those earrings (and pink harem pants too!)…the girls looked forlorn no doubt because they were much put-upon by the evil guys in this, who just would NOT leave them alone in peace to be romanced by Feroz :)

    Richard S: Kumari is indeed Baby Naaz—she is a Memsaab favorite (I’ve featured her here before if you do a search for her by name)…she is just gorgeous. One of my readers said that she never really wanted to be in films but was forced into it by her parents. She is awesome in Boot Polish, I will need to look for Payal!

  9. So glad you liked this. I have to admit to being a little pleased with myself for getting to it first. After all, I should get to scoop you at least once in a while! ;)

  10. Ha! You scoop me all the time, you do! It’s a “more the merrier” type of thing though, hai na? :-) I was positively green with jealousy for a while there though!

    This is probably my favorite so-called “B movie” thus far. If only Dara Singh were in it, it would be a total lock!

  11. Memsaab, The Romer, Moti, and Holi movie you suggest would of course not be complete without a “Friendly appearance” by Pedro the Ape Bomb.

  12. Oh of course not!!!! For some reason my stupid computer will not play VCDs or I would totally put together a comic strip starring them all as the A-Team. Vanquishing stupid villains! Rescuing forlorn princesses! They would have their own songs and dances too. Would be fab.

  13. Amazing. collecion about film. enjoyed.

  14. This looks great. I might need to venture into brightly coloured adventure movies.

    Can you copy Vcds to your harddrive? I usually do that because they tend to die on my, and I have managed to copy stuff the computer wouldn’t play. However, I am a non-Windows user, which might make a difference.

  15. Oooh me too! I use a Mac. If you copy a VCD to the hard drive, does it then play with the standard DVD player?

    Brightly colored adventure films are a good companion for tragic melodrama. Keeps everything in balance :)

  16. I use the VLC-player (but I am not using Mac either, though, I am using Ubuntu; the joys of having computer-geeks in the family), and it plays them fine though you may need to fiddle a bit to turn them into mpegs. However, my version of it also rips Vcds, and then no fiddling is required.

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