Taaqat (1982)

There is no power on earth that could stop me from watching a movie which begins like this. Raakhee as a vengeful dacoit?! Removing her bangles?! It just has to be awesome. I have a severe weakness for daku-dramas as it is, but toss in a girl gone bad (especially if it is Raakhee!) and I am even happier. Plus there are subtitles, although they are unreadable about fifty percent of the time. Female kickassery, a strong moral center and plenty of plot twists enable me to say that this film basically delivers on its promise.

Pran plays Bhavani Singh, a notorious dacoit who is finally caught by a police sting with the help of the local thakur Shakti Singh (Vinod Khanna). Bhavani is not helped any by his own hungry horse, which settles down to graze while Pran and Vinod fight it out.

As Bhavani is dragged off to jail he vows—as a proper dacoit always does—to avenge himself on Shakti Singh.

The local Inspector General (Kamal Kapoor) wants Shakti to join the police force, although his daughter Ambika (Parveen Babi) is in love with Shakti and not happy at the thought that Shakti would be putting himself in danger. Shakti gently teases her along the lines of “absence and worry make the heart grow fonder” and Inspector Kamal looks on indulgently.

But Shakti’s stepmother Kalavati (Nadira), her brother (TP Jain), and her son Deepu have other plans for Shakti: a wealthy bride with lots of dowry. Kalavati frets that Shakti’s new enmity with Bhavani Singh will discourage good families from approving their daughters for him. I’m pretty sure that if the daughter sees Shakti and has any say in the matter there should be no problem.

Kalavati goes on to say that as long as Shakti gets married, then she doesn’t care if he is killed because she and Deepu will get all of his property. I’m not clear how that would work, but the subtitles aren’t the best so I may be misunderstanding things. Plus I’m just so happy to see Nadira that I don’t care if she makes no sense.

Deepu is a wastrel and refuses to dirty his hands with “work”, choosing instead to play lord of the manor. Idealistic Shakti points out that the landlord system is gone, and now that he’s joining the police Deepu and his uncle are going to have to pitch in to manage the property. Kalavati broaches the subject of Shakti’s marriage and he laughs it off, reminding her that the dowry system is gone too.

But he is about to fall in love on his own, with the lovely Devi (Raakhee), whom he hears singing and follows in the forest near one of his hunting lodges. Shakti is smitten on sight, although she flees when she sees him watching her.

Devi is an orphan who has been brought up by the caretaker of the lodge. She grumbles as she prepares lunch about the awful Thakur who kills defenseless animals (I love her now too!). Not knowing that Shakti is the Thakur she stops him that afternoon as he takes aim at three sweet little white bunnies (not too manipulative, filmmakers!); seeing how upset she is, he swears to give up hunting.

Her reaction when she discovers his true identity is pretty funny too.

I’m picturing Premnath, aren’t you?

As Kalavati arranges Shakti’s marriage behind his back to a girl with a dowry of 5 lakhs, Shakti marries Devi apparently while she’s sleeping (seriously, this really puzzles me: she wakes up in a wedding dress with sindoor in her part—and appears to be surprised—while Shakti himself is sleeping in another room until she wakes him up by touching his feet and bursting into tears!).

Needless to say, when Shakti introduces his new bride to his family it doesn’t go well.

I can only sigh when Shakti tells Devi in private that it’s her duty to win Kalavati over and she promises to give him no cause for complaint. It’s too bad that Shakti doesn’t hear Kalavati downstairs plotting to rid herself of Devi and Shakti. It also doesn’t take long for Deepu to put the moves on Devi and you can almost hear the shark music.

Poor Ambika, though heartbroken, welcomes Devi graciously by throwing a party for the newlyweds. But Devi has married into a house of horrors. Kalavati abuses her and forces her to do all the housework when Shakti is not around, and is all sweetness and light when he is. I am delighted to see a spark of defiance in Devi, but she is hurt that her beloved husband’s family treats her so badly.

Ambika helps her out by teaching her to wrap a saree like a proper lady and befriending her, but Deepu continues to try and molest her. Then Bhavani Singh escapes from jail and Shakti is called out of town for two days. Dismayed at the prospect of his prolonged absence, Devi finally breaks down and tells Shakti about her treatment at the hands of his family, particularly Deepu. Unfortunately, he doesn’t take her seriously.

That night Deepu and three of his friends lock Kalavati in her room and lure Devi downstairs, where they attack her. Devi puts up a ferocious defense, killing Deepu and one of his cronies as fire spreads through the house and another of Deepu’s friends is burned to death.

Kalavati screams for help as the house explodes in flames. By now hysterical, Devi escapes and runs into Bhavani Singh at a temple. He calms her down, and she tells him what has happened (and declares defiantly that she would do the same again if she had to). Struck by her spirit, Bhavani offers her a home with him and his men as his sister, but she tells him she must return to her husband. His right-hand man Sher Singh (Bharat Kapoor) breaks the news to Bhavani that his new “sister’s” husband is his mortal enemy Shakti Singh.

He makes sure that Devi returns safely to Shakti, who arrests her because she ran away initially instead of going straight to the police (thus apparently rendering a plea of self-defence impossible. Oh, Hindi movie logic and justice, thy name is bakwaas!). She is tried for murder, and Deepu’s cousin, the only one of his co-conspirators who escaped her knife and the fire, goes on the stand and tells the court that Devi has been his lover. His father—Kalavati’s horrible brother—takes the stand as well, and tells the court that Devi is a member of Bhavani Singh’s gang.

Bhavani Singh is in the courtroom in disguise, and he’s heard enough. When court is adjourned for the day, he creates a diversion and escapes with her.

This seems to me a bad idea, since Shakti has made it clear that he believes her. He has even (finally!) gone to his uncle and cousin and confronted them about their perfidy. But Devi herself has no faith in the justice system (and I don’t really blame her) and she decides to take matters into her own hands.

She tracks down Deepu’s cousin and beats the crap out of him before shooting him dead.

She is an excellent shot, but talk about burning your bridges! Even Bhavani Singh doesn’t approve.

He tells Devi that he doesn’t want to lose her as he has already lost a sister, and tells her the story of how he became a dacoit. The family into which he had married Radha (Kumari Naaz) demanded more dowry than he could afford, and though he made payments as he was able, her mother-in-law burned Radha to death in a “kitchen accident”.

He shot the evil MIL and her family in revenge and has been on the run from the law ever since. Sher Singh warns Bhavani that keeping a policeman’s wife with them is insane, but Devi seems to have taken to dacoity in a big way.

She accompanies the gang when they find out that an old man is marrying a fifteen-year-old girl in a nearby village, stop the wedding, and steal the money he had paid to the girl’s greedy father.

What will happen to Devi now that she’s willingly joined a band of dacoits, and killed a man in cold blood? She also gives birth to Shakti’s son. Will she ever see her husband again? Will he ever find out that he has a son? Can lovely and kind Ambika help him forget Devi?

I really liked this. It held my attention easily despite having uninspiring music (Laxmikant-Pyarelal) and a silly (but relatively unobtrusive) comic side plot with Rajendranath as a wannabe dacoit.

The acting is great (if occasionally melodramatic—I’M LOOKING AT YOU PRAN!) as is the marvellously engaging screenplay. Even without great subs, some of the dialogues are especially good (not surprising given that they were penned by Rajinder Singh Bedi), although I wish Raakhee had been less marginalized in the last third of it. In fact this would be a film I’d love to see remade with a few changes.

*SPOILERS HINTED AT AHEAD*

I felt very let down by the same-old, same-old double standard, forcing the female characters to represent either goddess or whore with no middle ground. This film could have been so much more powerful had it stayed true to what it was otherwise saying throughout, but in the end the filmmakers (or maybe censors) compromised with what they probably believed audiences would rather see. Too bad!*

*END SPOILERS AND REVIEW*

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49 Comments to “Taaqat (1982)”

  1. You were picturing Premnath ? Damn it, so was I even before coming to the line. What a stereotyped image we have of Dacoits !

  2. wonder if TP Jain is still around…

      • Aap T P Jain ko nahin jaantin? Aapne jo screenshot lagaaya hai na, Nadira ke saath, wohi TP Jain hai. :-)
        (“You don’t know T P Jain? He’s the guy in the screenshot opposite the one of Nadira”).

        Nice review, Greta. I haven’t seen this movie, though I vaguely remember it. I think it was around the same time as Baseraa and Bemisaal, two big Raakhee movies of the time.

        I’ve always loved daaku movies – right from when I was a young boy. Maybe it is because, at that age, even the “room-talking” of Hindi movies would go over my head. Daaku movies (much like westerns) had more action and less talk. Characters also tended to be pretty well-defined, so easy to understand for a young boy.

        If you want to see female revenge kickassery, maybe you could try “Bindiya aur Bandook” (1972). I remember seeing it as a young boy. It was a B-movie at that time but I think did quite well. But you are warned, it has Joginder – and I know you don;t like Joginder. He became pretty popular with this particular movie and with his catch line in the movie “Ranga khush”. Am not suggesting that it is a good movie but it was considered a sort of iconic daaku movie of the time (in the B-league, of course).

        • Oh good, I can add him to the post—he plays Nadira’s evil brother.

          I don’t dislike Joginder, I don’t think I’ve seen any Joginder except on YouTube. I would love to see Bindiya Aur Bandook, the name alone (which I understand! Yay me!!!) ensures THAT!

          *goes off to look for it*

          • This movie also has a couple of Laxmi Chhaya songs. In my books, that’s as good a reason as any to look for it. :-)

  3. I’m sort of feeling sorry for Parveen Babi. And I can totally imagine Raakhee taking to daku-dom. Lots of opportunities for melodrama.

    • It was really kind of insane that Shakti didn’t reciprocate her feelings. She was just lovely. But Raakhee was pretty kick-ass and I loved that too :)

  4. “(but relatively unobtrusive) comic side plot with Rajendranath”

    That’s why he’s so great! He can come in do a few jokes and step aside for the main movie to progress — and he’s not annoying like Mehmood. :)

    • Yeah, I don’t think he had the ego of a Mehmood and didn’t need to be the center of attention. He is a great sidekick and comic relief guy, and so goofy that I can’t help but laugh at him.

  5. Oh dear! Vinod in white and in tears does NOT bode well for the fate of the avenger does it? Love Raakhee and love Vinod. Wonderful write-up as usual Memsaab.

    Vinod looked sooooo good around that time. If you have ‘Lahu ke do rang’ (1979) would you review it please? I’ve just seen the songs on youtube; Bappi Lahiri’s (pre-disco phase) music was great. Mahesh Bhatt’s first film I believe?

    • Ha, Vinod in white and tears had nothing to do with Raakhee :) He did look really so handsome, despite the poor picture quality. I think I do have Lahu Ke Do Rang…I might have even seen it once. Glad to see you connected once again :) Miss you!

  6. Memsaab, though I am not fond of dacoit movies, specially ones in color, I think I may like this movie, for a young Rakhee and Hunterwali (Nadira) as a saucy-saas. What happened to Nadira in the end? Did she too die in the fire? That picture of her with the appalled expression is priceless. What did Rakhee do in that scene?
    Were you watching from an old DVD/VCD? Because the picture quality was not up to the mark, as in your other reviews, and the subtitling in dirty-yellow, I wonder how you managed to read that.

    • Oh Nadira perished in the fire for sure, her son had locked her in her bedroom upstairs. She is so awesome.

      I downloaded the movie, and I think it’s a taped-from-television original. Picture quality is pretty bad, and subs unreadable sometimes but it was entertaining enough to persevere!

  7. Yellow subtitles? What a mess!

  8. Oh boy, do I have some things that will test your adoration of dacoit movies. As in “from cast and crew of Bhoot ke pecche Bhoot”

  9. Marrying 1982 vintage Vinod Khanna in my sleep happens to me ALL THE TIME. Finally a screenplay that relates to MY life.

    This looks fantastic! Please to be adding to our slumber party to-watch queue!

  10. Doesn’t this have a duet by Raakhee and Kishore Kumar that goes `Teri Nindiya ko lag jaaye aag re? And I’m guessing Parveen Babi doesn’t have to joining the Red Cross, as Simi had to in `Saathi.’

    • I don’t remember song lyrics/titles unless I really like them, and I didn’t like any of the songs in this. They weren’t horrible, but they were boring, which is worse :)

  11. The hungry horse too busy chowing down to bother with humans hitting each other (yawnnn!!!) had me laughing out loud…. This looks pretty good – Raakhee is one actress whose work I have grown to love, and it looks like she handed in a fierce performance here.

    • I think at one point they almost bumped into the horse even, and it just moved away without even lifting up its head. LOVE. She was fierce for a while :) Good enough for me!

  12. Ohh, I forgot to say that song was dreadful – Raakhee was hysterical, but that was supposed to be the highlight – Raakhee singing.

    • Oh…you know I forgot that she was credited as one of the playback singers! Well, if it’s the song I think it was it was not worse than Lata’s screeching at this point by any means :)

  13. Yes, that observation of yours is another reason I’ll be giving you my vote always. Lata should’ve stopped singing after `Main solah baras ki.’

  14. Those rape / molestation scenes in 70s and 80s really made my blood boil (I used to dread seeing a sister of the hero; it would mean there is a molestation scene in the offing). Yay for Rakhee knifing and burning down the villains! Simply gunning them down never left me satisfied. The story sounds familiar and I think I may have seen it. But I can guess the ending. I believe there was a stupid censor rule that if anyone does anything illegal he/she has to be shown suffering the consequences (die or serve a jail sentence). This often killed a good story where one would be rooting for the ‘bad’ guy.

  15. Lovely horse.

    • SPOILERS HERE!

      The main problem I have with this and others of its ilk is that the person who does something illegal always has to DIE if she is a woman. Even if she doesn’t do anything that wrong (as Raakhee here), she’s gotta go. Pran was allowed to live at the end of this one, and he did way worse things that she did…and there was really no reason to kill off Raakhee either, except that she was a naughty girl who didn’t submit to her fate like a good Indian woman should.

      And for sure, lovely horse :)

  16. Once again I have to say that I never knew the existence of this movie ! Thanks memsaab. I would love to see this movie for Hot Vinod alone.

    One must give kudos to Rakhee for trying our various roles as an actor. This was the same year she acted as Amitabh’s ma in Ramesh Sippy’s “Shakti” – Dilip Kumar was the dad. Have you seen that movie memsaab?

  17. Forgot to add – Parveen Babi looks gorgeous in those screen caps!

    • I saw Shakti long ago…don’t remember that much about it though. Raakhee was great in this when she was allowed to be :)

      Parveen looked beautiful…makes me sad to know that she was getting sick though :(

  18. Re Pran. Poor Chap. Post Upkar he was pushed into those goody goody emotional roles (I still like him). But see his villainous roles in B/W films. In Adalat with Nargis – repelling and mesmerizing at the same time. Now that’s a villainous snake in the grass. Fab!

  19. Raakhee as a dacoit? Hard to swallow. She’s such a petite, delicate thing. I’d imagine a female dacoit more like Dimple, Rekha, Sri Devi. Oh well, I think Raakhee, a delicate beauty turning ferocious dacoit is what makes the character more compelling cuz delicate women are seldom seen as capable of fiery, vengeful stuff. So hats off to Raakhee for pulling this off so well.

    TP Jain often plays a mean and miserly creature. His most memorable roles in my opinion are as Ganeshilal in Angoor, as a real estate broker in Namkeen. I think he’s also in Mausam. Incidentally all Gulzar films. Seems to be a regular with the director. Didn’t know his name but his face and his characters are all too familiar.

    The other person who played similar roles to his was CS Dubey, who’s also in Angoor as the goldsmith Seth Chhedilal. Lovable character in this movie. He often plays a pimp or scheming conniving lala/seth and I think is among the rapists who gang-rape Moushumi Chatterjee in a granary in the grusomely (in)famous scene from Roti Kapda aur Makaan.

    • She was very believable in the scenes where she fights back. Her character in general was pretty feisty from the get-go. I don’t know why TP Jain never registered on my radar before (CS Dubey has), but I need to track down some good screencaps for the Actor Gallery now and put him there!

  20. If I am not mistaken this was Raakhee’s home production. I think it was for this film that she took riding lessons and practiced riding on Bombay’s Juhu Beach. For quite sometime I have been wondering where T.P.Jain disappeared. He had a successful career in films and television but suddenly disappeared from the scene. Can someone enlighten me please?

  21. Greta ur handwriting simply suckzzz! bad!
    But an good review.

  22. As per Hindi movie director, Sawankumar Tak, he introduced T.P.Jain in 1978 Nutan starrer “Sajan Bina suhagan”(who blackmails Nuthan),He was also became famous in T.V.Commercial of a famous tooth powder, as he got a somewhat different set of teeth. Ah. I remember in Gulzar`s Kitab in a role of teacher for kids.

  23. OMG, Memsaab, a bandit queen movie I haven’t yet seen–and didn’t even know about? Thank you thank you thank youi!

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