As inured as I am to the crimes against humanity (and cinema) perpetrated by Indian vcd/dvd manufacturers, this left me gasping when it abruptly showed up smack in the middle of a climactic scene about an hour and a half in:
A burning problem indeed! Since I didn’t actually buy this (thanks Shalini! *mwah*!) I don’t have any idea whether Priya’s packaging warned the consumer to expect an abrupt cessation of events. I’m guessing not, though, and they fill in the last half hour with ads in case you are inclined to demand your paisa vasool, which I at least did not have to worry about.
The situation does beg this question: am I glad I saw what I did of the film, even if I had no idea what was going on (no subtitles) and never did find out how it ended (burning problem)? The answer is a qualified yes: I am grateful for what is there, garish as it is, especially the songs by GS Kohli. They are fabulous. But I am also painfully aware that there will likely be no opportunity for me to ever see it as originally intended, all the way through. It is a sad loss indeed.
The disclaimer (this one by the filmmakers) at the beginning of the film is as funny and almost as WTF-inducing as the one at the end:
Since the Picture has everything to do with my Culture (the foreign folk Lore), the lack of subtitles was not much of a curse although I missed the fun they would doubtless have brought with them. I must add, though, that the Charectors, Costume and Incidents mostly bear little resemblance to the original firangi tale anyway, not that it matters one whit.
Essentially the plot consists of Robin Hood (Prashant) wooing Maid Marian (Praveen Choudhary) and collecting a band of Merry Men (Bhagwan as Friar Tuck, wrestler Saudagar Singh as Little John, and an unknown actor—to me, hint hint—as Alan-a-Dale):
They occupy themselves fighting the treacherous King John and his “Shareef” of Nottingham, who is not in the least shareef. I particularly love King John’s clothing and accessories.
I must confess here that I had trouble telling the difference between King John and the Sheriff—they looked exactly the same to me, with their pointy goatees, gaudy clothes and evil smirks.
Maid Marian’s father added to the confusion, although I think he might have been a good guy (that’s just a guess though since I never got to see the end of the film).
King John and the Sheriff are aided and abetted by my favorite B-movie villain Shyam Kumar as someone named Lord Jambal (I think) who cherishes an unrequited passion for Maid Marian. How I love his strutting and tendency to shout his lines towards a point just beyond the camera.
The Sheriff’s platinum blonde daughter Shelly (Nilofar) cherishes her own passion for Lord Jambal although I think her father wants her to hook up with King John (who seems willing enough).
Robin Hood meets jolly Friar Tuck first, and then Alan-a-Dale, a minstrel whose fiancee (Lino Jones) is kidnapped by an evil nobleman who murders her father and wants to marry her. I’ve seen Lino in a lot of B-movie adventures, mostly as a dancer.
She is hilariously wooden, even when being “forcibly” dragged away by said nobleman. I am no actress myself, but I think even I could muster up the appearance of a struggle for a few minutes. Not our Lino, though, no. Her task is just to look pretty, and she does it well.
After she is rescued, Friar Tuck marries her to our minstrel Alan, and they get a fair share of the gorgeous music in this: a duet—“Pyar Ki Baat”—and a ballet-type dance for her.
Okay I’m done with her now. Sorry. It’s just so thrilling to see one of my people in a lengthy role!
I would like to know the name of the actor who plays Alan—he gets two songs of his own (“Sawar De Jo Pyar Se”—a happy and a sad version) and looks vaguely familiar. He is unfortunately captured towards the middle (or end, now) and half-heartedly whipped by the Sheriff, who keeps his beverage firmly in his grasp.
Much of the “action” (and “acting”) in this is perfunctory, as if they were all hot and tired. Maybe they were! I laugh and laugh when Shelly attacks Robin Hood and he fends her off with one hand, looking at her as if she is a pesky mosquito.
The women in this are variously attired in strapless evening gowns, flirty sixties shirtwaist dresses, spandex stirrup pants, and combinations thereof (plus some fashions which I can’t even begin to describe). There is a LOT of Spare Hair on these sets too.
Jeevan Kala appears in some sort of formal toga-sheath-dress to dance to my favorite number, “Chik Chari”:
Although romance isn’t truly the point here, our hero and heroine get two songs, one Rafi solo which is lovely (“Maana Mere Haseen Sanam”) and a lively duet “Jawan Jawan Husn Ke”.
The sets vary from actual Mughal fort to precarious styrofoam English castle. This is a film with a very very low budget, but with lots of love and attention lavished on it by people who did the best they could with what they had, even if that was mostly large paper flowers and pink hooded sweatshirts.
So even with its problems, I am glad this movie made its way into my hands (especially for free). See it for the songs, especially, and for the crazy Goodness that is always inherent when Indian ingenuity meets the foreign folk Lore.
Robin Hood zindabad!