Sometimes all I really need is Dara Singh and one gorgeous song after another. This film has that in spades, plus the lovely Ameeta and Bela Bose, and Kishore Kumar, and Sheikh Mukhtar, and King Kong (the wrestler, not the giant simian). What it doesn’t have is a coherent story or any sense of identity: is it a comedy? a spy caper? a wrestling film? a lost-and-found family drama? The answer, of course, is YES! to all of the above. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially given Dara Singh’s target audience (an audience in which I firmly belong).
My main complaint is the comedy element, which quickly becomes tiresome. It is inserted awkwardly into what should have been dramatic or suspenseful moments, and goes on way too long in other places. No doubt this is the fault of director (and comedian) Maruti, but Kishore’s presence doesn’t help either. I love Kishore, but I prefer him a bit less manic than he is here. Maruti is credited with the “scenario” too, but no screenplay is mentioned and I am pretty sure there wasn’t one. The whole thing has a very seat-of-the-pants feel to it (some less charitable than I might even call it uncontrolled chaos).
In any case, it is still chock full of the eye-and-ear candy I mentioned first: yummy yummy Dara Singh, fabulous Laxmikant-Pyarelal songs, pretty ladies and a pair of seriously ugly dudes—fascinatingly ugly, though. I saw a young Sheikh Mukhtar recently in 1942’s Roti, which I would love to write up except that it had no subtitles so my sense of it being a really good movie is a hunch rather than anything I could actually describe. Here he is in it (on the left):
and here he is 23 years later:
He’s not helped of course by the fact that T-Series couldn’t be bothered to do even the simplest picture improvement (why is everything BLUE?) and slapped their obnoxious bright red logo on top of it all, but there’s no getting around the fact that he was always a scary-looking individual.
I do love him though! He plays a man wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife’s father, in the wake of his wife’s disappearance. I don’t think his character ever has an actual name, so I’ll just call him Sheikh here for the sake of brevity. He goes to jail for fourteen years, and when he is released finds that being a convicted murderer is a stigma he cannot erase. He then turns to crime as a way of life, and forms a nefarious gang whose biggest payoff comes six years later when it’s hired by traitors “across the border” to deliver a film containing Indian state secrets to them.
In the intervening years, his absent wife Radha (Lalita Kumari) (who was swept away in a flood and rescued by some villagers, where she stayed, inexplicably choosing not to go home in search of her husband) has given birth to their son Ram; he has grown up to be Dara Singh.
I feel I must say here that Dara has never looked as good as he did in this film. I don’t know what it was, but he made my heart go pitter-patter. And he did not have a romantic role, either, Kishore being the nominal “hero” in the wooing department. Ramu lives with his Ma and a sister (I assume adopted, since Radha would not have cheated on her husband surely!) who never has a name either (at least not that I catch), so I’ll call her Bela (Bela Bose).
Sheikh and his gang steal the film (we don’t get to see that part) and kidnap a little girl in order to force her older sister Rupa (Ameeta) to deliver it across the border. The thinking is that since Rupa is a decent girl, she won’t be searched—and she isn’t. But, being a decent girl, she also listens when her conscience appears in her rear-view mirror.
She decides that she cannot sacrifice the lives and freedom of her countrymen and women for her little sister’s sake, and speeds past Sattar (Maruti), Sheikh’s henchman who is supposed to receive the film. This is one of those movies where you have to just let go of any need for anything to make sense, because it just never does—the “border” seems to move around a lot, for example. Anyway, in the ensuing chase, Rupa loses control of her car and crashes off a bridge into the river below.
Now we meet Kishore (Kishore Kumar), a charming scamp of a man who has Walter Mitty-like dreams of becoming a detective.
News of Rupa’s accident reaches Sheikh and also the police, who begin searching for her. Kishore happens upon the police investigation and decides that this is a perfect opportunity for him to hone his detecting skills; he sets off to look for her as well.
Rupa has meanwhile washed up in the same place Radha did twenty years earlier, and is rescued by Ram and his family. When she regains consciousness, she tells them that she doesn’t want to return home as she’s afraid she will be killed.
Kishore has equipped himself hilariously with binoculars and a thermos (but no food).
He embarks on his search by train, where he intervenes in a quarrel between some men with a really lovely “Hindu-Muslim-bhai-bhai” song called “Pyar Baantte Chalo.” Hooray for non-secular brotherly love!
He lands up in the same village that everyone else has (hey, why not?) and meets Bela, raising her suspicions when he describes Rupa. Rupa has finally confessed her secret to Ramu, and he has promised to protect and help her.
I really wish that Dara had been Ameeta’s love interest in this instead of Kishore. What a waste of this manly man, to make him everybody’s bhaiyya—although his sibling chemistry with Bela Bose is absolutely wonderful: teasing and combative, but very affectionate.
Kishore I think would have been perfectly happy to be the comic foil, although it would have deprived us of one of his romantic songs (except I don’t see why it couldn’t have been pictured just as well on Dara). He gives the romance only half-hearted attention. But in any case, he is welcomed by the village after Bela gives us a lively song and dance (“Bambai Ke Yeh Babu”) where she and the other girls bash him around a bit.
Rupa comes to his defense and Ram allows him to stay with them (a cute scene with Dara making Kishore do push-ups follows). Sheikh and his gang now appear on Rupa’s trail, disguised as wandering sages who grant requests. They meet Ram and Kishore, and see Rupa there as well, but leave before Radha can be seen and recognized by her disguised husband.. The conversation is naturally fraught with filmi irony!
Kishore begins romancing Rupa, and she sings the pretty “Ajnabi Tum.” Kishore sings another—sadder—version of it later, which I think was more famous, but I like Rupa’s (Lata’s) rendition better. It’s just so happy, and beautifully picturized. I wish the film were in better shape—it’s clearly deteriorated quite a bit, but some shots are just breathtaking even so—the cinematographer had a thing for billowing clouds!
Ameeta often reminded me of Neha Dhupia in this film. (If it seems like I’m going off on random tangents during this synopsis, it’s because that’s what I did while watching the movie too. It’s just that kind of film.)
Sheikh and his gang set upon Kishore and Ameeta at one of their romantic rendezvous, but are thwarted by Ramu. During this very very very lengthy brawl, Radha and Bela come on the scene too, and Sheikh unwittingly smashes Radha on the head from behind, with predictable results.
Ramu vows to track Sheikh down in Bombay to avenge his mother’s misfortune, and Kishore and Rupa devise a plot to help him and to rescue Rupa’s sister Munni, using Rupa and the film as bait. I have to laugh, because Munni is relatively unconcerned at being held captive by Sheikh. He pats her on the head in a fatherly manner as she stuffs her face—Rupa it seems, has no real need to worry (not that she has been, much).
Will our trio succeed in saving India from its anonymous enemies across the border? Can they rescue Munni? Will Sheikh and Ramu ever realize that they are father-son? Will Sheikh be reunited with the wife he has blinded? Will he end up back in jail?
Above all—can Ramu survive the horrors of city life??!
(Isn’t Ameeta so cute as a man?)
King Kong, whom I have only seen wrestling before, actually has a role and dialogues in this, which he delivers in a shout with an accent worse than mine (his English is good though, possibly even his mother tongue?). He takes our threesome under his wing, and into his home.
He is a spectacularly ugly man:
And though Ameeta looks good in drag, the same cannot be said for Sheikh Mukhtar.
He channels Mrs. Doubtfire in a nightclub scene, which also features Dara, Kishore and King Kong all in disguise. Kishore sings the wonderful “Suno Jana Suno Jana” to “her” in his inimitable style as a roomful of people do the Indian Twist.
Who is this woman? I need to know!!!! She turns up everywhere!
It’s a rollicking good time.
And with judicious use of the FF button, the film is an enjoyable romp too. You will need the FF button, though, unless endless bouts of wrestling and unrestrained comedy are your thing. But the songs (oh! the songs! look them up on Youtube, do!) along with handsome Dara, irrepressible Kishore, and almost everything else, are oodles of B-movie fun!