A genre that I haven’t explored much (and by “much” I mean “at all”) in Hindi cinema is that of the horror film. This is not surprising since I dislike being scared, and even the cheesiest of devices employed by the worst directors can cause me several sleepless nights. Examples of movies that have terrified the bejesus out of me include Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) and The Hills Have Eyes(1977), and I don’t even want to discuss the ramifications of Jaws on my hygiene in 1975.
But if I’m going to call myself a true connoisseur of Hindi film (and I really really want to!) then I clearly need to suck it up; and since Suhan offered to hold my hand (via an online watchalong) I decided that Rajesh Khanna’s foray into the genre would be a good place for me to start.
Helen, Helen, Helen. How your talents were (mostly) squandered by the powers-that-were in Hindi cinema. But actor Chandrashekhar, when faced with the prospect of starring in his own vehicle (he produced and directed this too), decided to cast her as his heroine. Excellent decision—except he really should have found another hero too. In a cast that also includes Om Prakash, OP Ralhan, Aruna Irani, Bela Bose, Iftekhar, Madan Puri and these two:
plus guest appearances by Dara Singh and Tun Tun, Chandrashekhar himself is the only blight. Well, he and the shrewish Ma to end all shrewish Mas, Leela Mishra. Dull and doughy as he is, seeing him opposite vivacious and beautiful Helen is just wrong. But otherwise, Cha Cha Cha is oodles of Beach Blanket Bingo type fun!
Ah, the ’90s: swelling orchestral music, wind machines, flowing chiffons, campy sound effects, foreign song locales, palatial mansions, excess on every front. How I love excess! Especially when it includes Shah Rukh’s twisty almost-crying face. Why is it that he can make that face and I don’t want to toss things at the screen? Why is it that I love this film so very very much? It should annoy me, but it doesn’t. It’s corny and cartoony and shamelessly manipulative, but it tugs at my every heartstring. I always end up awash in tears—and loving every minute of it.
When a movie opens with yet another poor woman forced to give up her husband for the sake of his family’s honor and material wealth, leaving her and their baby nothing to fall back on but prostitution, I usually think: Oh No No No No.
But I love this film. It’s one I can watch over and over just for the beauty of Dharmendra alone. He is at his best around this time in my opinion, and it is one of his first films with a very young and pretty Hema Malini. But beyond that, it has a good, nicely-paced script (punctuated though it is with a completely superfluous and tiresome CSP) which culminates in a satisfyingly emotional way (in other words, I cried); although I must confess to some ambivalence about the overall message (more on that towards the end). Plus: absolutely lovely songs by Laxmikant Pyarelal and lots of dancing from Hema!
Finally (thanks to Beth!) I got around to watching this Mehmood production, and I’m so glad I did. I seem to be on a roll of “not much plot but plenty of other stuff to entertain” types of films! I am sure I missed a lot of the regional humor, although some of it was so broad I couldn’t miss it—the south Indian family, for instance. Parts of it did drag on a little too long (the whole film was one big long Comic Side Plot, after all), but it was so much fun picking out guest actors and marvelling at Amitabh’s shirts that altogether I was highly entertained. Some of the subtitles were hilarious too—sometimes even because the actual dialogue was hilarious. Although Aruna Irani and Amitabh Bachchan were nominally the hero-heroine, it was a Mehmood & Friends vehicle all the way (no pun intended)!
So stylish! So much of eye candy! One of those rare films to make Excellent Use of Helen (and inspiring me to add a category here), The Train is oodles of filmi noir crime-fighting fun. It also has one of the best RD Burman background scores EVER, with RD himself adding vocals. Just listen to this!
It stars a young, very handsome Rajesh Khanna *sigh* and one of my favorite heroines, Nanda, along with an absolutely hilarious Rajendranath; Madan Puri and Shetty provide the villainy. Despite an extremely silly plot with gaping holes and mind-boggling suspension of disbelief requirements (especially at the end) it is well worth the time spent watching—and I have lots of screen caps to prove it!
I hoped for a well-plotted filmi noir story; I got a badly-plotted filmi noir story instead, but all the plot holes and suspension of disbelief requirements didn’t really matter in the face of…well, Ajit’s face! And Saroja Devi’s as well. A beautiful hero and heroine, gorgeous songs, a minimal Comic Side Plot, atmospheric cinematography and KN Singh as the villain—this was entertainment enough for me. Lovely Bela Bose has a short (albeit sadly dance-free) role too!
I sometimes think of Manmohan Desai’s films as being like a rodeo saddle bronc ride: as they erupt from the gate, the rider (i.e. director) is in control of the horse (i.e. story), and excitement builds until the rider is either tossed off or jumps off after his 8 seconds are up. Either way it ends with an out-of-control animal loose in the arena and the cowboy sprawled in the dust. In Gangaa Jamuna Saraswathi the rider is tossed off about halfway through his 8 seconds. Up to that point, the movie entertains with its twists and turns and stunning visuals; but the second half goes haywire until it tires itself out and limps to its conclusion. Too bad! because it had real potential.