When a filmmaker has limited means and can thus only make a movie that’s
don’t you think he or she should choose the color portions wisely? Alas, this is never the case. In Faulad for example, most of the action takes place in fabulously ornate palaces and havelis and on a pirate ship, and it’s all black and white. At the end, when all the action is taking place in a boring, dingy dungeon—it’s in color! I don’t need to see a gray stone dungeon in color!
Nevertheless, Faulad is a lot of fun. It’s hard to go wrong when Mohammed Hussain is directing (and Dara Singh, Mumtaz and Minoo Mumtaz are starring in) a film with swashbuckling Arabian Nights championship wrestling action and gorgeous songs (by the criminally ignored GS Kohli)!
When the ruler of a kingdom is told by his astrologer that eighteen years hence a common man will marry his newborn daughter and usurp his throne, the king orders that all infants in the kingdom be killed. His soldiers rampage through every village and kill every baby they find, but one enterprising Ma bundles her son up in a basket and sends it floating down the river.
Wouldn’t you want to see this room and this decor in color? The King khush hua. Interestingly, although I find this order to kill all the babies in the kingdom pretty dastardly, through the rest of the film the King is kind of a good guy.
Meanwhile, the little boy in his basket is rescued by the childless wife (Praveen Paul) of wealthy Thakur Ranjit Singh (Uma Dutt), who takes him in as an answer to her prayers.
Eighteen years later, the Princess (Mumtaz) has grown up into a beauty, and the King’s Chief Minister has matrimonial designs on her. She doesn’t like him though, and has strong ideas of her own. And a fabulously swirled bodice too. Yay! Would love to see the outfit in color.
We hate the Minister too, because he does things like use a little baby lamb as bait when he goes hunting. Cheater! The Thakur’s now grown-up son (and how!) Amar (Dara Singh) rescues it. I totally melt at the sight of huge Dara holding a little baby lamb—there has to be some biological evolutionary something at work on me here.
This earns him the Minister’s enmity, which is further compounded when he rescues the Princess from her runaway chariot. She falls in love with him pretty quickly and sings a lovely song to him (“O Matwale Sajana”). He takes her home to change her muddy clothes and meet his parents and then returns her to the palace.
The King likes Amar on sight too:
I like the King’s curly wig and beard! He belongs on a playing card! Anyway, he is delighted to discover that Amar belongs to a noble family (whew! not the common man of the dire predictions!) and is a wrestler, and asks him to help oversee the construction of a wrestling arena that a “foreign guy” is building for him.
Here follows a series of events where Dara gets to show off his manly strength and further alienate the Chief Minister while romancing the Princess. He also unknowingly meets his real mother (who should have been crushed when a pillar fell on her but is miraculously unharmed). The Minister hires some assassins to kill Amar but he prevails over them, putting the Minister at his wits’ end until one of the Thakur’s servants appears at the palace with a score to settle.
She tells the King that Amar was an orphan and is not really the Thakur and his wife’s son. Amar is horrified, and the King enraged (he’s not forgotten the prediction); he orders Amar’s immediate arrest. Eventually (after he meets his real mother again, now realizing who she is) he is chained in the dungeon along with the Thakur and his wife, and his real mother. The Chief Minister has a suggestion for the King: a foreign ship has just sailed into their harbor.
How convenient! There is also a lovely lass by the name of Veena (Minoo Mumtaz) on board. The Minister bribes the ship’s captain (his name is Franko, and he looks a lot like Dr. Evil) to have the wrestlers kill Amar in the ring; he forces Amar to participate in the wrestling “competition” by threatening his loved ones.
As you can imagine, it is quite a spectacle (would have been great in color!). Both Veena and the Princess are very happy to see Amar.
True confession: once upon a time, many years ago, I was a big fan of the WWF. I saw Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, and many others in shows at the Boston Garden. The wrestling that follows in this made me a bit nostalgic for those days. It’s a tag-team format and Dara is paired with Randhawa.
The “foreign” wrestlers cheat at every opportunity (accompanied satisfyingly by the booing of the crowd, including me). There are over-the-head spins, headlocks, and there is a lot of sweaty, damp man-crotch on display.
To almost everyone’s delight, the Singh brothers eventually prevail, but the King and the Minister are not done yet!
After some sword-fighting which I admit wearies me pretty quickly, Amar manages to win again!
So Captain Franko makes Veena distract Amar one evening with the absolutely gorgeous “Jaan-e-Jaana” (how I love this song!) while he slips a mickey into Amar’s drink. Amar wakes up chained in the cargo hold of the wrestler-pirate ship along with an assortment of sorry-looking men. Being Dara Singh, he is able to break free of his chains though, and then free the other guys. More swashbuckling ensues, and Amar and his new friends are in command of the ship! And what a ship it is…or would be, in color.
They embark on some Sinbad-like adventures, encountering a giant bug, treasure chests and a fabulous den of iniquity belonging to a pirate named Alberto (Shyam Kumar, one of my favorite sidekicks from this period). All of it would have been absolutely stunning in color too.
Meanwhile at home the Chief Minister has imprisoned the King and is bent on forcing the Princess to marry him. She sends Amar a message via carrier pigeon, but Veena intercepts it on board the ship and keeps it from Amar.
Will Amar wake up from his pirate fantasy and remember his beloved? Or will Veena’s charms distract him? Can he stop the Chief Minister? What about his parents (adoptive and real), still locked up in the dungeon?
The end drags on far too long (even Dara Singh’s shirtless torso wears thin after a while), but there is a lot to enjoy before you get there. I really love the music too, including a great pirate ditty. GS Kohli worked as an assistant to OP Nayyar for a long time, but he also composed on his own: songs for Shikari, Char Dervesh, and other films that I’m getting to soon, and would watch just for his music if nothing else. It’s one of those perennial mysteries of Hindi cinema why he didn’t get acknowledgement and more work in the mainstream. Le sigh.
And also, color arrives just in time for us to discover that the Chief Minister has been dressed as one of Santa’s elves this whole time:
and to see pendulous man-boobed King Kong as the Executioner.
Of course, I didn’t need to see that in color.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, it has come to my attention that two songs filmed in color were—in Shameroo’s infinite wisdom *heavy sarcasm*—cut out of the dvd. You can see them on YouTube, at least until Shameroo makes the uploaders take them down.