Against an epic backdrop of one-sided sibling rivalry, rock-em sock-em lumberjack action, bizarro world medical pronouncements, ham-fisted Mahabharata references, unrequited puppy-love, puffy sleeves and big-budget musical excess lies a plot which I will mostly let speak for itself through screenshots, because all it left me with were questions.
Questions like: Why is Vinod Khanna in this film? Why is Saeed Jaffrey in this film? Why is anybody in this film? Why does this film exist at all? How did the actors keep their faces straight through their dialogues? How old were the people who wrote this, anyway? Were they even out of grade school yet? And above all, will I ever make it all the way through?!
Wealthy businessman Balwant Rai (Saeed Jaffrey) hires tree-hurling figure Arjun (Vinod Khanna) as his manager after Arjun saves him from being robbed—despite having been unfairly fired days earlier from his factory job by Rai Sahab over a misunderstanding.
Rai tells new best friend Arjun the sad tale of his family’s history: he survived a plane crash which killed his wife and caused his father to die of shock on hearing the news—after he rewrote his will, leaving all his wealth to his two orphaned (he thought) granddaughters, with family doctor Prashant (Om Shivpuri) as trustee.
Rai Sahab’s not-orphaned heiress daughters Lata (Sridevi) and Sita (Poonam Dhillon) grow up warring over that age-old crucial debate: is song more important than dance? The argument is settled once and for all in the most hallowed of filmi settings, the “All India Music Competition.”
Dance, being represented by Sridevi, wins! Extremely poor loser Sita drives off in a huff, killing an innocent pedestrian in her rage and self-pity. She jumps off a cliff after cursing her sister.
Lata is now kept locked in a room upstairs in the Rai haveli, because afterwards she is went insane…OR DID SHE?
Arjun attacks Lata in her room. When she screams for help and he is caught by Rai Sahab, Doctor Prashant and old family friend and valiant police officer Karan (Jackie Shroff), Arjun explains.
Huh? What will the actual medical professional in the room have to say?
Oh, make it stop! At least Karan looks like he gets how stupid this is.
*Memsaab covers her eyes*
He anyway has an excuse for his misplaced optimism—we already know he’s been in love with Lata since childhood, but has never had the courage to express his feelings except through Prom Night musical fantasies.
(Who can’t love the pink post-it note dress, although unfortunately yes, Sri, it does make you look fat.)
Psychobabbler Arjun takes Lata out for some fresh air and dancing and brings her back all cured.
…OR IS SHE?
Her elated father throws her a birthday party, where she goes berserk with the cake knife, cutting poor Karan’s love-token-offering hand.
Later, she cuts her own hand (in remorse? or because the mirrored prison she lives in is torturing her?). (Seriously, should someone who is mad be surrounded by walls of mirrors? Questions, only questions!):
*What to do, what to do?*
Because the Germans are such great arbiters of sanity, Rai Sahab thinks this a splendid idea and decides that Arjun will be the perfect groom for Lata; and the otherwise brave Karan fails once again to elaborate on his own feelings.
I get the distinct impression (subtlety not being one of this movie’s hallmarks) that Lata may need guarding; during the wedding ceremony her new husband wears a grim face and flashes back to a funeral pyre.
And Karan’s disappointed Ma (she had fondly hoped to have Lata as her own bahu) generously provides some backup for her son.
He’s going to need it, too. As Moon Moon Sen gyrates with backup dancers in black/green face in a bar:
Arjun meets up with an old dushman Mahesh (from whom he had saved Rai Sahab at the beginning of this interminable film) and Doctor Prashant—trustee of Lata’s wealth.
What is the connection between these three? Why are they hand-in-sinister-black-glove(s) with each other? Is Sita really dead? Can this film get any worse? I can’t honestly tell you, because at this point in the proceedings, I am interrupted to go out for dinner with some friends. I tell them about the story thus far, and they stare at me.
Finally, my friend Pratiksha (who is a real doctor) says in a grave tone: “I don’t think you should watch any more of this.”
I think she may be right. While it isn’t generally my habit to write up films I haven’t watched in their entirety, even if I don’t go any further with this one I feel compelled to share, mostly in the hope that it will now be purged from my system. In any case, I think we can all see where it is going. Plus, I have a great many more films stacked up in a ginormous to-watch pile, and many of them must be better than this, right?
Oh, and if you are wondering why I even embarked on this madness (made, I might add, by Kajol-father-Tanuja-husband Shomu Mukherjee), it had something to do with Sridevipalooza and Beth, and my wish to escape all the seriousness around here lately.
And maybe Vinod.
Updated to add (with SPOILERS): For reasons probably best kept to myself (not that I keep anything to myself!) I decided that I needed to see the rest of this. Sigh. Let this serve as a warning to others!
As Amrita says in her comment below (thanks Amrita—bless you for having seen it too, I don’t feel quite so alone in my stupidity, hee), Arjun’s sister was the girl killed by Sita’s poor driving on the day she lost the All India Music Competition to Lata. Arjun overhears a bystander telling Doctor Prashant (he and Rai Sahab have also followed the two girls, but they stop at the accident scene) that the driver was Rai’s daughter, although he doesn’t specify which, and everyone for some reason assumes it was Lata.
Prashant comes to see Arjun at his sister’s funeral pyre, and they formulate the plot by which Arjun will get his revenge by killing Lata and Prashant will inherit all her wealth as her trustee (ginormous plot hole here as Lata has now come of age and it’s her money, so after marrying Arjun she rewrites her will so that he inherits everything and should “God forbid” Arjun die too, Prashant will inherit; I have to wonder why she’s leaving her poor Dad—whose money it should have been in the first place and who is sitting there next to her—completely out of it, but never mind).
Arjun marries (still crazy) Lata, and pushes her off the cliff that her sister jumped from. Karan investigates her “suicide” and cleverly deduces from the giant Arjun-sized shoe-prints and cigarette butts left on the scene that Arjun killed her. Lata doesn’t die though, and is rescued by some fisher women—but the knock on her head from the fall has restored her memory and her sanity (this last is debatable to me, but that’s the general assumption). She doesn’t appear to remember that Arjun pushed her off the cliff though, and she acts as lovingly towards him as a good wife should. Arjun seizes an opportunity to take her to a Kali Maa puja, where he plans to kill her at the temple. On the way they pass the place where his sister had died, and Lata remembers the accident. She makes him stop the car and asks the vendor there if the girl survived; he tells her no, and that the girl’s brother went mad with grief.
She is very upset to hear this, and tells Arjun about it all. He is stunned to realize that Lata did not kill his sister, but Sita did. He tells Lata that he will take her home, and she asks him if he is not going to kill her after all. She has remembered that he pushed her off the cliff, but because (*stupidity climax here*) he is her husband she is willing to let him kill her if he wants to, although she wants to know why first. I bash my head against the arms of my chair but sadly remain conscious and the film rolls on. He tells her who he is, proclaims his love and she is justly rewarded for her sterling womanly qualities.
Prashant in the meantime has sent his goons after them: they are to kill Arjun after he kills Lata. Bwaaahahahaaa, etc. Karan has convinced Lata’s father that Arjun wants to kill her, and they are also in hot pursuit of the pair. At the puja Arjun saves Lata from Prashant’s goons and himself is fighting with Prashant when Karan arrives with Rai Sahab. Prashant convinces them that Arjun is trying to kill him and Lata both and while Karan and Arjun fight he takes off with Lata as his prisoner. There is a lot of fast-forwarding on my part and eventually Karan realizes that Prashant is the bad guy, not Arjun, and they band together to defeat Prashant. Lata is rescued and tearfully reunited with her husband, and Karan and Arjun vow to be BFFs forever, and then pointlessly and needlessly Prashant appears intact out of his exploded burning vehicle and kills Karan before being killed by Arjun.
Then it blessedly, finally, ends.