Despite my near-certainty that I should know better, I once again succumbed to the lure of the Mithun-Ravi Nagaich combo. Feeling that I needed something *fun* to do, I watched Gun Master G-9 battle the unnecessarily complicated maneuverings of Evil with equally needlessly elaborate gadgets and code names—all the while still failing to convince me that his lacklustre activities in various nightclubs could really be classified as “dancing.” Ahem.
The beauty of Surakksha lies in the triumph of imagination over economics. I pretty much have to love and respect a filmmaker who spends most of his spy-movie budget on wallpaper and furnishings. This lacks the yellow plastic locusts of its sequel Wardat, sadly, but compensates by making said locusts appear positively high-tech in comparison to what GMG-9 encounters here. And the cinematography, courtesy of director-producer Nagaich in a triple threat, is really interesting. Crazy angles, migraine-inducing lighting…it’s all there. This writeup is even more screenshot-heavy than usual, due to the spectacular visuals which have to be seen to be believed. No real attempt to link plot points together is made: the story consists mostly of random (stolen from Bond) events which serve as an excuse for plenty of action and accessories which are a cracktastic tribute to the Indian spirit of jugaad.
Criminal mastermind Neelam (Mala Jaggi, who is far more charismatic and fun to watch than the heroine, as usual) seduces dashing airplane pilot Captain Kapoor (Suresh Oberoi, looking v. v. much like his son Vivek) into stealing a map on which the location of a diamond mine is pinpointed.
The poor naive Captain (who accomplishes his mission by gassing the map’s owner in mid-flight while using a hanky over his mouth and nose to save himself) is soon thereafter shot and killed by the bad guys working for Neelam and her partner-in-crime Hiralal (Jeevan). These henchmen are relieved of possession of the map themselves by CBI agent Jackson (Tej Sapru, son of Memsaab favorite DK Sapru). When Jackson is eventually caught by the evildoers, he has hidden the map, and Hiralal tortures him by spinning him around in a chair at top speed.
Making him dizzy does not make Jackson talk, and Hiralal is furious. Cut to Jackson’s balloon-filled home, where his wife Maggi (Prema Narayan) and obnoxiously precocious son-daughter (hard to tell), whose birthday it is, are bemoaning his disappearance. A large crate is delivered, ostensibly from Jackson, but instead of little Monu’s birthday scooter the crate contains…the body of Jackson!
Nahiiin! In New Delhi, the head of CBI (Iftekhar) does not believe that Jackson is dead despite the post-mortem report and death certificate: he has an envelope with handwriting-expert-certified Jackson’s script on it. (It makes no sense to me either.) He decides to call in his best man to find out the truth—Agent Gopi, aka Gun Master G-9!
Elsewhere, Hiralal is instructed by his mysterious boss (who sports a blue glove with a remote control glued onto it) to track down GMG-9 as well. They communicate via a complex system made up of what looks like an old manual typewriter, a postage meter, and a television set.
Clearly a job for Neelam, right?
Wrong! She disappears from the movie now for quite some time, and Hiralal’s henchmen are given the task of chasing down GMG-9.
Iftekhar locates him first: Gopi is in bed with a pretty girl, whom he renders unconscious by means of a sleeping-gas filled cigarette lighter and then uses as a telephone stand.
Here is a perfect example of how Mr. Nagaich allocated his limited resources. Note above the opulent gold wallpaper and pleather studded bed with matching side tables (the lamp appears later in a different house as well). Below is the outside of Gopi’s house:
It is clearly some sort of collage with paper cutouts of a toy barn and a car glued onto a photograph of a canyon. Much of the footage in this film consists of toys being flung about to simulate cars flying through the air, etc. Gopi is forced to drive off a cliff during one chase scene (his pursuers hilariously wear helmets possibly borrowed from Dharmendra in Saazish), but luckily his high-tech car has a parachute.
I don’t know what it says about me, but I would much rather watch this kind of makeshift entertainment than be blown to pieces by all the SFX techniques at James Effing Cameron’s disposal. I do wonder what Ravi Nagaich might have done with JC’s budgets and resources, but I suspect that he may have been better off as he was, with nothing to disguise the sheer charm of his tenacity and ambitious vision.
But I digress. Following cryptic instructions from his chief, GMG-9 heads to a nightclub. Even the knowledge that I’m about to be flogged with a musical number cannot interfere with my pleasure at the sight of the sign outside. Kittehs!
The Forest Klub interior is anything but house-cat friendly (gargoyles! dragons! a limping waitress whose shoes are too small or something!) but GMG-9 makes himself at home at a table occupied by Priya (Ranjeeta Kaur) and her friend Kamla. As feared, the ensuing song is abysmal. I am relieved to see Aruna Irani, who actually can dance and does so around a pelvic-thrusting Mithun. And to be fair, Mithun does bust out some moves at one point which makes me wonder what he might have done with Dick Van Dyke and “Me Old Bamboo” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
This mitigates the awfulness of the music somewhat, plus there is just so much to look at that I wonder momentarily if I am hallucinating.
It ends badly for Aruna who dies after she tries to kill GMG-9 with a poisonous ring and—oops!—clumsily falls victim to it herself.
Gopi now decides to take his faithful sidekick Kabadi (Jagdeep), a Hanuman devotee and the CSP, to Goa where he digs up Jackson’s “body” and discovers that the skeleton in Jackson’s grave was somebody else who had plastic surgery to look like Jackson. He and Kabadi fight off various goondas trying to kill them, and Gopi meets Jackson’s grieving wife and son-daughter to give them the good news.
He also asks Iftekhar to please send him the phone numbers of all doctors named Verma in Bombay (I forget how he knew the surgeon’s name was Verma). Iftkhar gives this task and messenger a code name although later—when much more important information is being bandied about—he is markedly more sloppy, with dire consequences.
Gopi also becomes reacquainted with Priya, who doesn’t think any more highly of him now than she did at the Forest Klub.
I hope the same can be said of his outfit (and hers). After much phoning around, Gopi finds the plastic surgeon Dr. Verma. It might have been easier just to ask Iftekhar to narrow the list down a bit, but then we’d have missed this fabulous interior:
Gopi is delayed in setting out for Dr. Verma’s house by a green and yellow striped water snake hiding in his lunch tiffin. It jumps vertically to great heights in an effort to kill GMG-9.
This makes me laugh and laugh, and goes on for ages as poor Gopi ducks and feints, trying to escape this Michael Jordan of the reptilian kingdom.
He finally manages to capture the determined creature in a pillow and flushes it down the toilet. An ignominious end for such a talented serpent!
This has given Hiralal plenty of time to get to Dr. Verma first, of course, and he kills Verma with the same type of poisonous ring that felled Aruna.
And guess what? Dr. Verma’s daughter is none other than Gopi’s frenemy Priya. She arrives home to find her father dead and sees GMG-9 driving away from the scene in his car. GMG-9 arrives home to discover that his colleague “Horizon” has been murdered too. His budget may have been low, but Mr. Nagaich did not skimp on details!
Luckily, this murder for some reason convinces Priya of GMG-9’s innocence when she arrives at his house to avenge her father. She agrees to join forces with him and Kabadi to find the real mastermind behind Jackson’s disappearance, which GMG-9 now believes is a syndicate called “S.S.O.” They continue this search down at the docks, where Gopi fails to save one of the bad guys from a killer porpoise with oversized teeth:
Gopi is himself captured by Neelam, who reappears finally to my great joy. Her plans to seduce him:
go awry when a jealous and enraged Priya kicks all of Neelam’s girl-guards’ asses, and then Neelam’s too (a still tied-up Gopi enjoys the catfight immensely).
You will be seeing those chairs again some day, oh yes—you will.
Gopi and his chums escape Neelam’s clutches and eventually rescue poor Jackson. This involves an elaborate high-wire act between two high-rise buildings and some severe day-night continuity issues, along with a soporific dance by Neelam in the very tawdry Play Boy Club (bring back the kittehs!).
Things continue in this vein for a bit—GMG-9 and his cohorts getting the upper hand, and then Hiralal and Neelam. It all culminates in a grand showdown at S.S.O. (Shiv Shakti Organization) headquarters, reached by an elevator that goes 300 feet under the sea:
Meet Dr. Shiva—Hiralal’s mysterious boss—who YAY! has grandiose plans for world domination.
His lair of course includes a giant aquarium tank containing a large guppy or goldfish, and it is policed by a zombie-robot named Jango who is dressed like an out-of-season Santa’s Workshop elf.
Jango apparently considers Priya a greater threat than GMG-9, and spends much of his time holding her in a bear hug.
And Shiva’s mechanism for holding the world in his thrall? An atomic weather controller, which he demonstrates by unleashing a tsunami upon the shores of Bombay.
Can Gun Master G-9 save the world (or at least Legoland)? Can he and Priya defeat Hiralal and Neelam in a Qawwali Competition (winners live, losers die)?
So I have to admit: I came to this film with some trepidation based on my Wardat experience (So Bad It’s Good is not a favorite genre of mine, although it has its place). But I was richly rewarded! Even the mostly dreadful music is interrupted by a couple of gems: the qawwali, for one, and a cute romantic song (“Maine Pyar Kiya”), although I still have never really seen Mithun dance (his attempts to channel Dick Van Dyke and the Riverdance guy bring him marginally closer, but only very marginally). Above all, I just couldn’t stop marvelling at the imagination and derring-do of Ravi Nagaich. Believe me when I say I have flogged you with many screenshots, but I have left a great deal out too!
Just watch it. That is all. And can someone please for the love of Mithun design a dollhouse based on Surakksha’s interiors?!