Adventures of Robinhood and Bandits (1965)

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!

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31 Comments to “Adventures of Robinhood and Bandits (1965)”

  1. OMG! Thank you for the best laugh out loud moment I’ve had in weeks!!! Oh, those dastardly dvd manufacturers indeed! I think I would have died!

  2. I did a lot of choking myself while watching it, especially at the abrupt finish. I seriously could NOT BELIEVE my eyes, and I don’t say that much any more.

  3. This is too delicious for words! NOTHING beats bolly-faux-period movies. I dont get what the “burning problem” WAS though- was it “foreign folk lore” that was a problem? or the “bandits”? Its fantabulous :D

    • I believe the burning problem was a technological issue with burning the master vcd. Yes, should have been something they could do something about. Yes, mind-bogglingly idiotic excuse. Yes, incompetence has never been so glaring. But still. I think that’s what they meant.

  4. LOLz!!!! Memsaab, you should create a new tag for these films: “Burning Problem” movies!!

    PS: Isn’t Lino Jones the same lady you were trying to identify in Hum Sab Ustad Hain? Or am I just blind (*cough* confused *cough*)? :$

    • She is! The very same!! I’ve seen her in about six or seven films now that I can remember. She’s just so random (although very pretty)!

      Why wasn’t I a tall, leggy blonde living in India in the 1960s?! WHY?

  5. I need help. I am actually thinking it might be a good idea to hunt up this movie. :)
    On a totally random tangent: just how do kids in US and Africa address grown-up acquaintances? I remember how one young woman who was didi became aunty the moment she had a kid of her own. :)

    • Well, it’s good fun if you don’t mind incredibly eye-searing picture quality and no ending. Re: your random question, well….it depends. We don’t use terms like sister and aunt for people who aren’t actually related to us (or very close friends). I knew I was looking old when waiters and waitresses started addressing me as “Ma’am” though if that helps! :)

      • Memsaab, when people in India address you as “maam” it is
        it is said in a respectful tone irrespective of age esp in the c
        context of “customer service” in public places.

        • Oh it’s said respectfully here too but generally young women are called “miss” and “ma’am” is saved for the older types. I was only speaking in answer to his question about addressing older people in the US anyway.

  6. Ah, ‘Mana Mere Haseen Sanam…’! One of the greatest Rafi numbers, and sadly, like lots of others, wasted in a B-grade stinker like this.

  7. I don’t think I have ever seen a movie starring Prashant? Oh, but I do love me some Parveen Choudhary (whose name seems to be spelled differently in every movie she appears in), and she looks too cute with that bouffant hair…and indeed that is Nilofar as Shelly. I would love to know whatever became of Nilofar and Parveen. Pehaps they sit around drinking chai and reflecting on some of these ghastly, but o-so-fun movies that they made.

    What a find this movie is! Priya certainly isn’t known for their quality VCD product, but maybe another company will burn it onto DVD in it’s entirety.

    • As far as I could tell, Prashant was kind of cute. And thank you for verifying Nilofar’s identity, although I was pretty sure about it :) Names are hard in Hindi cinema, so I generally go by the imdb name (which for PC is Praveen, although the Choudhary spelling is always confusing for me)…I wonder what became of them, too. Would love to know! And fingers crossed for a better version of this film.

  8. I think that first disclaimer (about costumes) applies to bollywood movies esp from the 2000s!

  9. “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.”

    Brilliant. Thank you for that review – I haven’t laughed so much in ages. But nobody (and no film) deserves that sudden “Burning problem” – do you think the burning problem was that they finally ran out of funds?

    • I think trying to narrow it down to a single “burning problem” is futile :D

      • My husband had an interesting (and possibly possible) explanation: “the reel must’ve gotten burnt. This was all they were able to salvage.”

        • Actually, that makes all the sense in the world!!! What a clever man your husband is :D

          It still makes me want to know why on earth they released an incomplete movie on video…but I guess I will keep in mind what a friend of mine says (remember: I LOVE India! I mean no insult whatsoever!)—“India: the place where logic goes to die.”

  10. Memsaab , in how manty films neena wife of Rajkumar kohali (jaani Dushman , Naagin) acted and the period f these films

  11. ‘The End Burning Problem’ sounds like a great tagline for Preparation H.

    Sorry, I will get my mind out of the gutter now :D

  12. Oh my dear god, how did I not read this when you originally wrote it? That’s got to be the best disclaimer I’ve ever seen (and I’m desperately trying to figure out how to apply it to my own life). The whole thing is so…pastel! It’s like Robin Hood done by Wonka by way of the community theater “even we can’t use this stuff anymore” costume closet.

  13. memsaab, I clicked on this link only because I saw the comments had been updated! Oh my God! How could I have missed this! The review is hilarious, the film looks (unintentionally) hilarious, and the icing on the cake has to be the DVD maker – I had to sit down to absorb the shock of the movie ending where the plot (should have) began.

    OT: My husband says he is very impressed by you – I have been sending him a few of your reviews, especially the ones where I cannot stop giggling long enough to read them fully :) It gives him something to laugh about in the middle of fixing some persnickety bugs. So, ‘thank you’ from both of us. :)

    • Ha ha, I am glad to hear it Anu :D There is so much left to discover, too, that we should be able to keep your husband entertained for years to come—as well as our own selves, of course!

  14. You make me want to actually grab a copy of these DVD’s and watch them. Most of these movies are what I have heard about, but which never get played on local television! I am a BIG fan of yours, and intend to sit and watch these movies as and when I can lay my hands on them! THANK YOU :)

  15. The best disclaimer ever .. hehe… well I love these “unintentional comedies” .. and thanks to you I came across another gem from this genre :D
    -The End Burning Problem : Epic in itself.
    -Lino Jones : Pretty lady indeed.

    Now I am looking forward to get my hands on this movie… can’t wait to watch it.

    • Lino (Leonora was her name) was involved with another background dancer for a while. Then I guess she moved to England or something and has gotten lost in the mists of time. If you find a whole copy of it let me know! :)

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