There are only a few things that I will watch without subtitles when they aren’t available in subtitled format: early Shammi films, really really old films (from the 30s, for example), old B-movies (if Helen and Dara Singh are in them), and—Fearless Nadia.
Imagine if you can the great joy I felt at finding this Nadia film on VCD. Thanks much Moserbaer! In 1953 Nadia would have been 45 years old and she’s paired with an equally older John Cawas. But of course young romance is not the point of a Nadia film! Nadia herself is, and she’s in great form here still: swinging through trees, riding on elephants, diving off cliffs and punching bad guys. This is all accomplished against a backdrop of outdoor jungle scenery and indoor cracktastic madness courtesy of Babubhai Mistry.
Synopsis disclaimer: this may or may not be accurate, but it’s the general drift that I got out of the action, anyway.
The film opens in Simbola, a vast unexplored jungle territory populated with ferocious tribal types and ruled by the fierce Sheena (Leela Kumari).
A big thorn in her side is Mala (Fearless Nadia), the daughter of a city-bred doctor who takes care of the native population’s health care.
Mala persists in saving people that Sheena has sent out into the jungle to die (insert lots of snarly lion stock footage) aided by her faithful horse Rajput, who can do things like fetch water in a bucket and then use it to revive her ginormous friend Nimbo (Abdulla—was he a wrestler by chance? He is very muscular and shows off his strength in many manly ways).
One day three strangers from the city arrive in a small plane. They are immediately attacked by savages, although they hold them off with their superior fire-power (guns > spears) until they run out of bullets.
Kiran (Dalpat) is captured first, with dimunitive Comic Side Plot guy Deepak (Shyam Sunder) second. The third stranger is Vijay (John Cawas) and he falls off a cliff into a deep lake. Nadia has reached the scene by then and executes a beautiful swan dive to save him.
Unfortuntately as soon as they reach the shore they are captured too, and all four of them are tied up against what looks like giant Pez dispensers (one resembling Richard Nixon!).
Much conversation ensues between haughty Sheena and Kiran, not a word of which I understand. I do know that Deepak makes funny faces which seem out of place considering that there’s a giant pot of boiling water (complete with giant wooden spoon) with their names on it.
Before they start cooking, the natives and Sheena perform a crazy dance (well, Sheena looks more like she’s twirling around on a ballet stage) in front of a giant black statue which resembles Kali (skulls and all) except that it appears to be masculine.
Just as poor Deepak is being carried towards his doom, the good Doctor (Aga Shapoor) appears and stops the proceedings. He produces a statue-like thing (which I discover later is called the Rajanishan but do not ask me why) and the tribe prostate themselves in a group bow and freeze in place.
He unties his daughter and the three strangers from the Pez dispensers and herds them off home. There, he discovers that Kiran has come to bring news of his brother Ramesh’s impending death. The Doctor doesn’t seem to care much about this, but Kiran eventually persuades him that he should return to the city to see his dying brother.
Now we’re interrupted by the CSP, which is a lot more fun that the usual stuff. Deepak romances pretty servant Chulbuli (Rajini) with a song as she plays coy like a good girl. At the end of the song she hides behind some trees next to a big leaf-covered pit. When Deepak peers into it, he sees movement and thinks she’s fallen in there. He gets a vine and lowers it in, and then pulls out—a potbellied guy in an ape suit!
I guess without the ape it would not be a jungle movie. This one might be a girl ape though, because it takes tender care of Deepak after he faints.
The Doctor now informs everyone that he will be going to the city to visit his brother. He needs some money (I am not clear on whether Kiran asks him to bring some or if he just needs it—I suspect the former) and they all accompany him to a cave guarded by tribals. He uses the Rajanishan to stun the guards (they freeze in the bowing position) and brings out a big box of diamonds.
Kiran practically salivates all over it, but the doctor removes only one diamond and puts the rest of them back under guard.
Now it’s time for some love and another song (this one sounds vaguely Hawaiian and is very pretty) in the moonlight. Mala and Vijay get their groove going (he just doesn’t look the same):
while Deepak continues to romance Chulbuli and accidentally engages himself to marry practically every girl in the local tribe by giving each one a flower for her hair.
Before the Doctor takes off with Kiran for the city, he hides the Rajanishan inside one of the support poles in their house. He leaves his daughter and Vijay in the care of Nimbo, and Deepak in the custody of the girls who all want to marry him.
When they reach the city, Ramesh (who is the Doctor’s identical twin) is not sick at all! They are furious that the Rajanishan is not in his bag, and try to force the Doctor to tell them where it is; when the Doctor refuses, Kiran shoots him dead.
Mala and Vijay are tricked into going to Sheena’s palace lair on the pretext of helping someone who is injured. Fisticuffs! with Nadia naturally kicking butt all over the place until she’s conked on the head. She falls conveniently onto a conveyer belt powered by a giant wheel.
Vijay continues his desperate fight as she moves ever closer to a giant…well, what I can only describe as a giant handbag. I have circled it below for your inspection.
It goes up and down, landing with a dull *squish* and buckling significantly. It reminds me of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition and the torture by comfy chair. I mean, wouldn’t it have been easier—not to mention scarier—to manufacture a large blade, or something that might actually hurt her at least? The giant handbag seems like it would have been a lot of work to put together. Anyway.
They escape eventually. Meanwhile, Deepak’s large wedding is underway, with a little ditty that I am compelled to share with you.
I really like the songs in this. They are very silly and catchy indeed. The music director was someone named Madhulal Master, and Shyam Sunder (who plays the hapless Deepak and was himself a music director) sings for himself. And Uma Devi (whom we love as Tun Tun) sings one of them too (I’ve appended it at the bottom of the post)!
Deepak is saved from his forced polygamy by the lady ape whom he had saved from a pit earlier (I’m certain she’s a lady ape now, and I’m sure you can see why).
Kiran and Ramesh (now posing as his late brother) return to Simbola to find the Rajanishan and get the diamonds. They are soon working in cahoots with Sheena—they only want the diamonds and she wants the Rajanishan. They all want to get rid of Mala and Vijay! Will they succeed?
This movie is lots of goofy, over-acted fun, and just whets my appetite for more Fearless Nadia. I want to see Hunterwali! Diamond Queen! Somebody help! Here’s Tun Tun’s song: