Surakksha (1979)

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.

The humanity!!!!

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?!

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74 Comments to “Surakksha (1979)”

  1. Those ties (in some of the screen shots) are wide enough to be bibs. Mithun who is most definitely in my ugly-fugly category is actually surprisingly passable here. Youth can mitigate so much.

    • You know, the fashions—as boldly seventies as they were—scarcely registered, there was just so much else to look at. I did really love Neelam’s pleather hot-pants jumpsuit and orange go-go boots at one point. And although Amitabh OWNS bell-bottoms, Mithun is pretty good at carrying them off too.

  2. When I watched this movie, I could not but conclude that the snake in this movie had acted better than Mithun da.

    • Oh how I loved loved loved the snake!!!! I soothed myself after he was flushed with the knowledge that he was a water snake and therefore probably made his way through the sewers to freedom and more high-jumping opportunities.

  3. Memsaab, you really did this film justice. LOVE your choice of screencaps. And I agree: I’d rather watch Surakksha on permanent loop than sit through Avatar once. How could any of that film’s effects be more breathtaking than this one’s deadly tank of plastic Seaworld souvenir sharks?

    • Oh to say that I did this justice is a fine compliment indeed….I wanted to screencap just about every frame. There is a great deal in there to repurpose elsewhere, I must say. I am so glad I have finally seen this!

      ps That was a shark?! ;-) Heh.

  4. I remember this movie being released in the late 70s – that was the period when I started taking a distance from new Hindi movies – though you could just not escape the songs of movies at that time ! They would be blared from loudspeakers at every function / festival, till late in the night (so much for noise pollution).

    During this period, Mithun acted with heroines like Ranjeeta, Rameshwari, Zarina Wahab (I remember there was a movie with a goat as the main attraction. I have not seen the movie but the posters figured the goat very prominently. :-) I think the producer may have been trying to insure his investment in any which way :-) ).

    I remember one song from Suraksha “mausam hai, gaane ka, bajaane ka”. I think it was the most popular song of the movie.

    • Raja my friend, you cannot leave me hanging like that with a goat description but no title to go with it :( Procure it for me at once!!!

      This is oodles of fun as long as you don’t expect a masterpiece of subtle craftsmanship and plot.

      • I simply must see this goat movie! Either I see it or you review it. Either way… but IT MUST BE DONE!

      • :-)
        I am pretty sure it was “Mera Rakshak” with Rameshwari Talluri (of Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye fame) as the heroine.

        The screenshots here of Suraksha are awesome. LOL @ “With this, storm, wind and earthquakes could be created”. And the devices – WOW !!! You’ve got to be really creative when you are working on a limited budget – and this movie gets a 10/10 for visual creativity.

        I may just pick up this movie to relive that decade. :-)

        • That seems to be it! There is a goat on the vcd cover as well. But sadly it’s not available in subtitled dvd form yet…

          Surakksha is fun!

          • Mera Rakshak was a remake of the Tamil film, Aattakarru Alamelu (with Sripriya and Sivakumar).

        • Yes it was Mera Rakshak with Mithun,Rameshwari & the Goat….Surakksha was a major corwd puller when it was released 7 the music was blaring everywhere

  5. I think if Nagaich had JC’s budget, we would have gold-plated interiors and same outdoor shots ;)

  6. “Handsome, dangerous…it’ll be fun to search for him”!!!!! VAH VAH VAH! Also, that house exterior collage is priceless. I’m not sure I could have guessed such a thing could exist! Wonderful.

  7. I also think we could have a fantastic crafty weekend making that dollhouse. I’m not kidding.

  8. O. EM. GEE!!

    :_O

  9. Wow!! I have yet to delve too deeply into the So Bad It’s Good category but this might just be first on the list!

    Seventies Week FTW!

    • I wouldn’t call this SBIG because there was no *groaning* involved as I took it all in, just wide-eyed and -mouthed wonder. It was pure and joyful and left no bad taste, only awe and respect for the filmmaker’s vision :D

  10. lol This sounds like the kind of lets-pretend games we used to play as kids! Lets pretend to be a spy and lets pretend that we have the most fabulous house and that we have a flying car… :-)

    I was watching Dhuan the other day and Mithun had some moves that would qualify as dance! Maybe you should try it in your quest for Mithun-dance. ;-) (It also has Rakhee being driven nuts by him.)

  11. I’m intrigued as never before :-O.
    Or entertained, for that matter. The screen caps are fabulous!!

    The lamp!! Which appears in another room too :-D.
    The doll house where I spy Barbie and Ken. My favourite room is the dining (?) room with 8 red chairs.
    And oh my, the collage?

    There is too much to digest.

    Its such fun to see old films with fathers or mothers of present actors.
    What a fun week!!!

  12. I will be buying this one very soon, oh yes!

  13. Possibly the greatest movie in the 70s that Bollywood ever made. Although mad people believe Sholay was better.

    I remember watching this in a theater where I had to dodge mice running over my feet in the dark…followed by a very annoyed cat.

    • I would not want to have to choose between this and Sholay. So glad I have both!

      What an excellent theater experience. I really need to park myself in one of those on my next trip…so envious (was it a fluffy white cat from the Forest Klub?)…

    • Aspi, is that the Ghayal experience? ;) just remembering it brings tears to my eyes and I can’t stop laughing….

  14. Aww! Gun Master G-9 is embedded in our brains. Never, never to be forgotten. Mithun was considered a kick-ass dancer, though it’s hilarious to watch him now! But there’s something so likeable about him. His smile.

    • I know Mithun was considered a kick-ass dancer…I just have not found the evidence yet to support that. However, I am not ready to give up just yet :D He has such a puppy-dog way about him…in these films he looks sort of bewildered at times too, as if he is saying “How did I get here?!”

      I lurve Mithun.

  15. How fabulously coincidental that you mention dollhouses – one of my best friends is really talented in that area and I’ve been telling her that when I make my money, the first thing I’m going to do is commission a dollhouse based on a movie set… I just didn’t know which movie set! So now I’, telling you – when I make my money, I’m gonna commission a dollhouse based on THIS movie set and send it to you. Six degrees of Mithunmania!

    Like others on this board, I’m left sadly imagining the wonders we might have seen if Nagaich had access to 300 million dollars. Or even one million really.

    PS – I saw a bit of an epi of this dance show Mithun hosts on TV and they really do *dance* on it. Tres impressive!

    • She could probably make a fortune designing dollhouses around all kinds of movie sets. Definitely this one, and there could also be a whole Lair Series too. The house/lair from Dharam’s Azaad def. cries out for the treatment. Then we would need little dolls (we could call them “action figures”) to populate them, in bellbottoms, sheikh outfits, sequinned mini-dresses, gaudy polyester saris…Ranjeet, Ajit, Jeevan and Dharmendra, Mithun, Mumtaz, Hema, Shabana…it could become a whole industry.

      Let’s do it!!!!!!

  16. This might be the most fantastically intriguing thing I’ve ever read in my entire life. The collage! The cat bar! The jumping snake! Oh, this is SO going on my list!

    (And I agree about effects! Who needs 15 years of computer animation, give me a toy plane on dental floss wobbling through the air ANY DAY!)

  17. Hahaha.. Indian James Bond! :D

    Sorry Greta :P the kitty cats, gadgets and choppers (was there one?) and half nekked bed scenes remind me of Bond. Looks like that’s what Mithunda was aiming for… too bad he fell short. I’ll go read the post now. :)

  18. As a child I was not allowed to go and see Suraksha. Now I know why!
    Thank you, Mummy!

    But my brother did watch it and he narrated the story in instalments for over a month!
    And though I can’t remember anything of the storyline, I’m sure he skipped the bed episodes.

    :-)))

    Thanks for this wonderful, laugh-riot review! Had me in splits all the time!
    :-D

  19. The screencaps aren’t showing up on my PC. *sob* I will be in the corner drowning my sorrows in Hot Chocolate.

  20. I’ve been trying to get my hands on this DVD forever – where did you get it?

  21. one of finest gems bollywood has produced in it’s torrid, dubious history. makes don look like a films division newsreel.

    nagaich is a bloody genius!

  22. I too like the “so-bad-it’s-good” genre. (Have you watched “Mr. India”? Or any of the Rajnikanth-starrers?)

  23. I think my favourite detail was that the snake jumped at the wall so hard it head-butted a tiny hole in the plasterboard. That’s a serious and determined assassin at work.
    The interiors are spectacular throughout the film, and the costume department certainly left their mark!
    I watched a dodgy copy of a VCD that had no subs, but my years of watching Bond films was very handy. They managed to incorporate an, erm, tribute to several films and scenes I loved and I greatly enjoyed seeing them re-enacted with no budget or knowhow.
    Thanks Memsaab!

    • Hooray!!! You should find a copy with subs at some point, because they are so bad they add greatly to the fun. Is Wardat next? Or have you already seen that one? :D

      • We have a VCD of Wardat (no subs again) – I skimmed through a couple of scenes and was very taken with the killer plastic locusts. It’s very topical as my state of Victoria is under locust threat at present so it may prove to be educational. Or not :)

        • But is it under threat of YELLOW PLASTIC locusts, that is the question :) Ugh, I remember the 7-year locusts from my years in the midwest here…totally gross!

  24. Thanks for putting a face to the name Mala Jaggi (I believe you’ve mentioned her elsewhere too.) Whatever happened to her, Prema Narayan and Komilla Wirk? Since the water snake is flushed down the toilet, it must have hopefully been returned to the water whence it came from.
    Didn’t Mr Nagaich also make `Rani aur Lal Pari’ with Reena Roy playing Lal Pari? Special effects in this one too, if I read my Picturpost right, long ago.

  25. Hello,
    I’ve only recently stumbled onto your fabulous website! This comment is not about the film reviewed above (a film, by the way, I have a deep & abiding love for), but a more general one.Having been a Bollywood buff all my life, particularly 70’s Bollywood, this site is like manna-from-heaven for me. I’m in my mid 40’s, born & brought up in Mumbai, & Bollywood has always been a close friend; in fact a very close one. I’ve always felt that one’s impressionable years, roughly between the ages 8 to 18, are the years that not only shape you as a person, but also provide pop culture (movies,music etc.) that remains your most favorite for the rest of your life. Hence, my deep love for all things 70’s I guess. However, I’m happy to note that you, despite not having actually ‘lived’ through Bollywood/India of the 70’s (or the 50’s or 60’s for that matter), have managed to find so much love for all these films. There are several films reviewed by you that I haven’t seen, as there are many that I’ve seen & would love to see you review. Wishing you all the best for the future!

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