*Now with subtitles!*
I guess wishing very very hard for something does make it come true—at least sometimes, when you have friends like Tom and Raja. I saw this film a couple of years ago but never bothered to write it up because there was no reason to: Todd over at D4K already had, and brilliantly so. We have long lamented the lack of subtitles for this; it has a LOT of plot, and much of it is incomprehensible without understanding the dialogues. So when Tom recently found some awesome people willing to help subtitle songs for his wonderful compilation dvds (hooray for Ava, Madhu and Raja!), I somehow got him to agree to make a subtitled version of this enchanting and stylish Indian science fiction should-be classic.
Thus far the only version available has been an unsubtitled vcd from Nupur, although a higher quality trailer for it is on Youtube and it is fab:
Thrills! Chills! Latest scientific devices!
If by now you are panting to see this, you can skip to the end for the links to download (or watch online) Tom and Raja’s subtitled version. If you aren’t sure you want to take the plunge yet, read on and I will try to convince you!
In Delhi, diamond merchants are being plagued by alien jewel thieves equipped with floating microphones and flying saucers.
They are extremely ruthless, with three-fingered scaly claws and laser death rays.
This rash of Martian diamond thefts has people debating whether people from Mars really do exist or not, and the CID are stumped.
More importantly, the “wahan ke log” have an ally on earth in the form of Anil (B-movie staple Nisar Ahmad Ansari, who produced and directed this too). He plans to use them to help him control the world with a super-laser ray under development. Mwaaaaahaahaahahaaha!
Anil has a syndicate of female operatives led by his most trusted lieutenant Miss Margaret (the awesomely flippantly-coiffed Nilofar) and he is as ruthless as the people from Mars. He blows up CID Agent Vijay with a bomb planted and operated by remote control, and he knows that the CID will put a new man on his trail: Rakesh, whose image he has inexplicably put onto a fake fingernail which he shows to Margaret.
Very handsome but very dangerous Rakesh (Pradeep Kumar, to whom I am not always kind but whose roles in movies like this are endearing him to me) is at a club being entertained by his friend Johnny Walker and the lovely Laxmi Chhaya with this gem of a song (the music in this is just wonderful, by C Ramchandra).
In the office, Rakesh’s superior officer (DK Sapru) is puzzled by the same thing I am: fake nails.
He is sending Rakesh to meet Professor Chakravarty (NA Ansari again), a crazy old scientist in Bombay who has invented a machine which can locate the people from Mars. The CID chief gives Rakesh a couple of 007-worthy pens: one for writing secret messages with invisible ink and another which shoots bullets—but only one at a time.
This sort of painstaking explication is a hallmark of films of this nature and I miss it when I can’t understand what’s going on. Of course I don’t need it when I can but never mind.
Rakesh is now set upon by a gorgeous—and mysterious—woman (Tanuja), who had earlier been lurking at the nightclub too.
She flirts with him, sings a lovely song and then vanishes as suddenly as she arrived, leaving Rakesh intrigued. When he returns home his friend Johnny shows him a new gadget that allows him to eavesdrop through walls, and he’s listening in on Rakesh’s Ma (Shobhana Samarth).
Meanwhile, we discover that Professor Chakravarty is none other than Anil’s father—but they are on opposite sides of the law. Anil tries to destroy his father’s machine on the pretext of saving him from alien wrath, but fails (his feisty father beats the crap out of him with his cane) as another female skulks in a corner looking on. The baap-beta rishtaa is clearly fraught with long-standing issues.
Rakesh flies to Bombay to meet Professor Chakravarty. At the airport he thwarts a half-hearted attempt on his life, and is surprised to see the mystery woman from Delhi waiting for him—she even knows the code name he is travelling under, Prince Ranvir Singh (so unobtrusive!). She gives him a ride to his hotel.
The woman seen skulking at the Professor’s house turns out to be a CID agent herself; she informs Rakesh that Anil has an island with a secret laboratory—and a swimming pool.
In his room later, another enigmatic beauty by the name of Sophia (Bela Bose) introduces herself.
She entertains at the hotel club that evening (please take note of the awesome decor and stoned gori guitarists!).
The mystery woman from Delhi is there too, watching Rakesh closely as Sophia flirts with him. While Rakesh is thus distracted, Anil shoots his father and then destroys the alien-locating machine. Luckily the professor is only grazed by the bullet, and when Rakesh finally arrives Chakravarty tells him that his scientific colleagues have been disappearing.
They are being held on a spaceship. One of them accuses Anil of perpetrating a fraud—there are no aliens, he says, only gangsters working for Anil himself. He is killed with a death-ray by the mysterious space-suited figure.
I am enthralled by the multi-national extras in this scene, some of whom participate more enthusiastically than others.
Rakesh’s female CID agent is killed too, by Anil and Miss Margaret in a swimming pool “accident.”
Rakesh and Johnny are mildly regretful when they arrive on the island to save her.
Rakesh grows ever fonder of the mysterious woman from Delhi:
and he and Johnny continue to gather evidence against Anil and his collaborators. Are they really people from Mars? Who is this mysterious woman from Delhi and what is her interest in Rakesh? Can Anil be stopped from turning his super-laser-death-ray on the world? Will there be any diamonds left on earth for the rest of us?
And most of all, what is the connection between people from Mars and fake nails?
The film is cheesy, without a doubt, but delectably so. It embodies everything I love about these obscure so-called B-movies in its cheerful entrepreneurial spirit and low-budget creativity. It doesn’t always make sense—even with subtitles—but it doesn’t have to, and to be fair it does hang together much better than many with greater pretences. The music is lovely, the dances fabulous, the special effects startling; and the actors seem to really be enjoying themselves (except some of the extras, as I’ve pointed out). I especially now love Nilofar and her flipped-out hair. She is a wide-eyed low-key evil-doer—I need more Nilofar!
If you’d like to see it (the subtitles are really well done too, I might add) the link to the download is embedded in this Wahan Ke Log pdf file, which is also interesting reading. Tom explains what he’s done with the source video to improve it (difficult at best with the low-quality vcd files that are all he had access to). If downloading it is too tedious or difficult (we’re still looking for a server to house these gems!) you can watch it online here. If you have problems, leave a comment and we’ll try to help troubleshoot.
Thank goodness for Tom (someone should be paying him for all this) and many many thanks to Raja as well for translating this charmer. Please let them know how much their work is valued and appreciated: they do it out of a deep and abiding love for this cinema and the least we can do is cheer them on!