Though this is only available (to my knowledge) without subtitles, I figured since my current blog header features images of Shashi and Bindu from the film I ought to watch it. And it’s pretty entertaining, maybe even more so if you don’t know what’s going on. I don’t need subtitles to know that there is a lot of patriotic fervor and anti-smuggling-corruption-greed preaching in the story, but there are lots of subplots woven together too and without subtitles I have no idea if the subsequent story fabric is a sturdy khadi or fraying and full of large holes; I don’t care, either. Shashi is beginning to show his age (well, so am I) but he is still worthy eye-candy (see above), and Rekha is at her delightfully plump and imperious best. A huge cast of character actors—many of whom I need help identifying—are decked out in dizzying full-on seventies fashions, bad wigs, and huge sideburns, all in aesthetic competition with the beautiful Rajasthan desert.
Here is a look at a train compartment so you can see what’s in store on the visual front:
We meet the assorted characters in our story as they board a train, chief among them MP Dharamdas (Yunus Parvez), his wife and secretary (Kedar Sehgal):
a spoiled, petulant Rajkumari (Rekha) who is seen off by her father (Trilok Kapoor) and greedy uncle (Om Shivpuri), who is plotting to have her killed on the journey:
two guys very interested in the MP (Mac Mohan and ?) (Moolchand is a railroad employee):
a pair of newlyweds (? and ?):
and glamor girl (Bindu), who attracts the attention of a nattily dressed photographer (Johnny Walker):
Additionally, there is an insouciant man in shackles named Nitin Babu (Shashi Kapoor) travelling with an officer named Abdul (Utpal Dutt). Nitin has spent the past twenty years in prison and he is happy to see the voluptuous Rajkumari.
As the train gets underway, Abdul and Nitin finally find a seat after being rejected by several groups of people. Chugging along, Nitin falls into a doze and memories of his past, first in a courtroom where he’s accused of something having to do with his sister, and then further back in time as a new graduate on the final day of school. He and his friends sing a cheerful ditty about the death of apna Hindustan (from corruption, etc. I gather). It’s gratingly preachy even to my uncomprehending ears.
Word arrives that his father (I think) has died, and he rushes home to his sister and a confrontation with Jwala Prasad who (I think) claims that their father owed him fifty thousand rupees. Jwala Prasad is driven off by a new arrival by the name of Gautam (Sujit Kumar) who offers Nitin a job. Nitin is grateful, but his sister warns him that Gautam is not a good guy, and is into smuggling (I think).
Back on the train, the man hired by the Rajkumari’s uncle slips into the compartment she is sharing with a companion in the guise of a waiter and attacks! They fight him off valiantly for a while, but when he gains the upper hand the Rajkumari’s friend throws herself between her and the attacker’s knife just as the train crashes.
Nitin is thrown clear, and one of his handcuffs comes undone. He quickly proves to be a better man than many of the other passengers around him, rescuing people from the fiery wreckage, finding a doctor to help a pregnant woman give birth before she dies, moderating some quarrel between Mac Mohan and the MP (they agree on some payment or something before pulling the MP out), and eventually carrying the unconscious Rajkumari out of the rubble too.
She proves to be most unpleasant when she comes to, ordering him to find her some food. An old lady gives him her small ration of roti, but when Nitin offers it to the Rajkumari she wrinkles her nose and throws it into the sand. Angry, Nitin asks sarcastically if she would prefer Chinese or Continental; she replies “Shut up!” He says: “You shut up!” and walks away. Very Scarlett and Rhett! As she grudgingly scoops the roti out of the sand and begins to eat it, her attacker from the train reappears.
She escapes him by running to Nitin, who doesn’t believe her story but softens when he sees that she was eating the roti after all. The night passes with the women (except the Rajkumari) behaving far better than the men (except Nitin and Abdul). When no aid has appeared the next morning, Abdul sets off to find some, leaving Nitin (who is still sporting his handcuffs from one wrist since the keys have been lost, see blog banner above) to manage the thirsty and hungry survivors, which include some pretty opportunistic men.
May I say that ever since my faux pas in confusing Amrish Puri with Goga Kapoor, I have become completely enthralled with Goga. He is a sane and suave Amrish, with the same compelling voice and unsavory character but without the scary eyeballs. He strikes up a partnership with the husband of the newlywed pair and they find water and try to sell it to the desperate passengers. This doesn’t work out well for them since they are outnumbered, and they are thrashed.
There is something else going on which puzzles me: one of the passengers is a weird figure wearing a big cross and an old-style western cowboy hat, who eavesdrops on conversations and when challenged mutters “God bless you.” He comes across Bindu sitting under a parasol with her bright red shawl next to her. He stares at her and the shawl disappears (one of those camera now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t tricks). Weird!!!
The Rajkumari’s assailant appears again without his mustache, which is enough to fool her into following him into the desert (I doubt that even with subtitles this would have made any sense). Luckily Nitin appears to save her, and gets the truth out of the villain about her uncle being the instigator. She doesn’t want to believe this, but when Nitin points out that greed makes men do many things she accepts it rather easily. Her attacker escapes but she is more interested in Nitin’s story by now, and we now discover that his trust in Gautam was indeed misplaced. Gautam had tried to rape his sister, and Nitin killed him to save her.
I would have killed him just for wearing this shirt, although I guess with that jacket Nitin didn’t have much room to criticize.
The Rajkumari greets this piece of news with a speech about Ravana and Krishna, and then clamps the dangling half of the handcuffs around her own wrist.
This is followed by a song against a beautiful Rajasthani backdrop which makes me drool: I want her outfit, and Shashi, and to be at that fort.
But when reality returns, they are of course now handcuffed together which to my mind anyway might make it a lot harder for them to escape her uncle’s hireling should he show up again. Luckily for them, Abdul returns having somehow found a key to unlock them (although Nitin retains the cuff around his wrist) and having also found some Rajasthani tribals to bring food and supplies.
But Goga has been busy. Learning his lesson from the water incident, he has joined forces with a bunch of thuggish guys led by a guy with a huge silver pendant around his neck (is this the actor named Tiger by any chance?)—until the mysterious Christian makes it vanish with a look as he had Bindu’s shawl.
When the tribals show up, the passengers are stopped from accessing their supplies by Goga and his new gang who demand payment first. The MP (who has never stopped making long speeches throughout) steps forward and offers to negotiate but he is easily co-opted (of course!) with a bribe from Goga. Angry, the passengers surge forward to meet Goga’s thugs.
Will blood be spilled? Is there no limit to man’s greed and opportunism? Can Nitin—a convicted criminal—save the day? Will he have to return to prison? What is the rest of his story? Will the Rajkumari be attacked again? Who is the weird guy who can make stuff disappear by staring at it?
As I said, I have a feeling that I enjoyed this way more without understanding all the “room talk” as my friend Raja calls it. I think it was likely quite pompous and preachy and might have irritated me beyond belief. But there is plenty to look at, a LOT of action and plot, and some intriguing side stories and relationships.
Bindu is absolutely hilarious, speaking Hindi with an angrezi accent and positively bursting out of her tight blouse and skirt. There are lots of little moments which I enjoyed too, being undistracted by dialogue, like when Johnny Walker and Mac Mohan come alongside each other and walk off hand-in-hand. It seems completely natural and unscripted, and so sweet.
There were quite a few actors in this whom I recognize but can’t put names to (and I don’t think nearly everyone is credited at the beginning). Can you help? Here are some of them, plus the ones above marked with “?”:
But this one I know very well, and he’s the main reason to watch.