Safari (1999)

This is a very silly adaptation of “Crocodile Dundee” which I love frankly because Sanjay Dutt is so freaking sexy in it. I’m even glad there are no subtitles, because it would be sad to have text cluttering up the screen and possibly partially obscuring him. There is other fun stuff too, like a wooden killer crocodile a la Khoon Bhari Maang and a “Pagal Gorilla” (actual dialogue not made up by me), but the main reason I watch this is Sanju. If he doesn’t do it for you, there’s Juhi Chawla, who would definitely be on any list of superb comediennes that I might make. In a role which could have been grating she is just adorable and hilarious, despite being flogged by the frilly excesses of Nineties ishtyle and a lot of mud.

She plays Anjali Aggarwal, daughter of Ajit (Suresh Oberoi), Chairman of Aggarwal Industries; and Asha (Tanuja), the company’s Managing Director. Anjali is ambitious and works very hard for the family firm. Her mother cherishes the idea that she will one day marry klutzy Shekhar (Monish Behl).

The Aggarwals want to build a factory on Manjira Island, off the coast of South India beyond the Lakshadweep Islands, but Asha is told that the inhabitants there are opposed to any construction. After Shekhar disables himself, she sends Anjali to the island in his stead accompanied by two complete idiots, Misters Johnson and Johnson (Sanjay Goradia and Rakesh Srivastava). On the way, the Johnsons tell her that she will have to negotiate with someone named Captain Kishan, who is influential with the local people.

To scope out the landscape and look for the elusive Captain Kishan, she rents a plane from “Uncle” D’Silva (Sudhir! Wheee!).

She mounts a camera to the side of the plane and takes off over the island, looking for Kabila (the location they’ve chosen for the factory) and talking with the Johnsons and Uncle D’Silva as she goes. While thus distracted she fails to see a camp full of armed men below her; their leader Gwana (Sharat Saxena) murders one of them in full view as the camera rolls. Seeing the plane (she is flying very low, dangerously so it seems to me), Gwana grabs some binoculars and spots the camera just as Anjali’s attention returns to it.

I think the sight of her in the plane with goggles and a pointless leather helmet which wouldn’t protect her head from a large insect is absolutely hilarious.

She has missed the murder but as she flies away Gwana and his men open fire on the plane, hitting the fuel tank. She crashes into the jungle and is saved from death by some tangled vines which leave her hanging upside down. She is rescued by Captain Kishan himself (Sanjay Dutt). He cuts her loose and then fashions a rope pulley thing to get her back up to the plane where the Johnsons and D’Silva have been frantically calling over the radio. She tells them she’s fine and retrieves her camera. The sight of her hanging from the tree like a marionette also makes me giggle.

Not as much as the giant crocodile which tries to steal her camera, however.

They set off for Kabila in Kishan’s boat (the Captain), haughty city girl and affable jungle man (I love the Caribbean-flavored title song which Kishan sings as they go). Meanwhile, Anjali’s father arrives on Manjira where D’Silva reassures him that since Anjali is with Kishan she will be safe. But Gwana and his men have now reached the plane wreckage, discovered that the camera and Anjali are gone, and are continuing in pursuit.

As they chug along, Anjali listens to Kishan’s life story: he grew up in the jungle and was never educated. He knows plenty about his home environment, though, and as she learns about the forest around them she begins to thaw a little bit despite her initial discomfort. I’m not sure where this was filmed, but it’s really lovely and looks to me like Periyar National Park, a wildlife sanctuary in Kerala where I spent some time a few years ago.

As they near their first destination the son, Manola (Pramod Kapoor), of Kabila’s chief comes to greet them. It’s obvious that he and Kishan are great friends, and he accompanies them to his home deep in the jungle where they are welcomed with evident affection by the chief himself.

We have already had a glimpse of what Kishan calls the “Pagal Gorilla” one night (which compelled Anjali to put her sleeping bag right next to Kishan’s). The morning after they arrive Kishan shows the village an absolutely priceless drawing of the ape, which doesn’t look crazy to me so much as severely traumatized. He evidently has some plan to capture it which involves tranquilizers—but the villagers are only interested in Anjali.

He explains to them that she is as crazy as the gorilla, and that she wants to build a factory but that’s all I get out of it.

The girls of the village give Anjali an unasked-for makeover which results in Kishan’s jaw dropping and which makes me giggle once again at Juhi’s antics. He is clearly impressed with her new look and she is just as clearly happy that he’s impressed.

But here comes the infamous Pagal Gorilla! The young men head out into the jungle with Kishan while the old folk, women and children barricade the village—except one little boy, another of the chief’s sons, who blithely heads off into the forest himself. Anjali runs after him with the boy’s mother.

The gorilla suit is quite spectacular, I must say, and so is Kishan’s camouflage even if it does stop at the neck down. He rescues Anjali—using his large colorful beads—after she sends the boy and his mother back towards the village using herself as bait to distract the The Pagal One from them.

Eventually the village men bring the poor ape down with tranquilizers and discover that he has a wounded paw, probably the reason he has been so, well, pagal. Everyone agrees that they should bandage up the poor fellow and let him go back to the jungle when he’s healed (I think), and a celebration is held that evening. This of course is an excellent excuse for a song and for Kishan and Anjali to make eyes at each other. I don’t know why Kishan is dressed as a matador though.

Kishan and Anjali take leave of Kabila (somehow the factory isn’t brought up again) and set off for D’Silva’s and the coast. But Gwana and his men now catch up to them. Luckily, D’Silva’s faith in Kishan has not been misplaced and he rather easily (although Anjali does a fair job of defending herself too, yay!) dispatches first the men and finally Gwana. Before they escape from him, Gwana manages to disable the boat and thus enables our hero-heroine to drift along and continue their romancing.

A few more adventures later, and Kishan delivers Anjali back into her father’s embrace. Poor Anjali finds herself in a dilemma: she loves Kishan but her home and work is in the city, and she’s expected to marry Shekhar. She’s also not sure that she could be happy in the long run with uneducated Kishan. Then her mother gets the news that the people in Kabila have refused permission to build the factory, and she tells Anjali that the company’s future depends on it.

Can Anjali persuade Kishan to let the factory go forward? Does he love her enough to leave the jungle and go to the city, and if he does will he survive its very different ways? What about Shekhar, who is not about to let her go that easily? Will she ever look at all that film and see the murder that her camera captured? Gwana thinks so, and he is still looking for her—and more than willing to go all the way to Bombay to ensure her silence.

This is, as I said, a very silly movie indeed. But if you are in the mood for a fluffy romantic comedy with a few gangsters and fun songs thrown in you could do worse. I really love Juhi Chawla—she is very funny as Anjali finds herself out of her depth. In her element she is feisty and self-assured, making her a good foil for Sanjay’s macho Kishan. They are sweet together.

As for Sanjay Dutt—well I have probably already said too much. But he has always been one of my favorite leading men and he seriously is the only person on the planet who has ever rocked a mullet. Even his moobs are lovely (sorry King Kong).

All right, now I am sure I’ve said too much.

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59 Comments to “Safari (1999)”

  1. I had seen this movie in 1999 itself when it was released. Contrary to your opinion, I liked it. It’s one of the rare contemporary movies in which there has been a wide use of animals. Despite the overall silliness, certain scenes are pretty good, laying out a moral and heart-warming. I give example of two scenes – 1. Sanjay Dutt demonstrating to Juhi and others how the building of the factory will practically destroy the environment, 2. Suresh Oberai’s taking the blame on himself to save the image of his wife – Tanuja in the eyes of their daughter – Juhi and its leading to the transformation of heart of Tanuja.

    Jitendra Mathur

    • Where on earth did you get the idea that I don’t like this movie? I LOVE IT. I knew there was a “preserve the environment” message in there (yay), but most of the intricacies of the dialogues and plot points went past me (no subs). I’m always happy to see Tanuja, I liked Suresh Oberoi and I LOVE the lead pair!

  2. “…he seriously is the only person on the planet who has ever rocked a mullet…”

    Don’t forget Kiefer Sutherland! http://ll-media.tmz.com/2011/11/18/lost-boys-credit.jpg

  3. Sanjay Goradia and Rakesh srivastava
    are the names of two idiots(misters johnson and johnson)and its PRAMOD KAPOOR who is there in 23rd screen cap(man with head band and without shirt -half clad man-who is smiling with sanjay dutt and juhi chawla)

  4. Oh sorry

    Greta ji

    MERRY CHRISEMAS and Happy new year in advance

    God Bless you and your family

    regards
    prakash

  5. sorry I made spelling mistakes again and again

    Gretaji

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

    prakash

  6. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND ALL OTHER READERS !

    -AD

  7. Juhi is priceless. Very few people have such happy faces. It lends itself to comedy very well. I liked Sanjay Dutt in these early movies of his career too. He was refreshing and a laugh riot. He did cool in the 90s really well.
    Thanks for the awesome review, I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed watching madcap bollywood renditions like these.
    Happy Christmas and the new year to come. :)

    • Oh that is sad…although I do think the media likes to highlight the “everyone has forgotten this person” thing when THEY finally pay attention. It sounds like she is well-cared for (and maybe like she wasn’t the best off-screen mother?) and hopefully she has had a good life.

    • Oh My favourite actress ACHALA ji, I am so sad………

  8. 1999 was a good year for Sanjay though not due to this movie. “Haseena Maan Jayegi”, “Vaastav” and “Khoobsoorat” too released the same year.

    True he’s effortless in all movies. I believe, he can read several pages of dialogues just once and the result is there for all to see. The climax of Vaastav is one such.

    Eagerly awaiting Agneepath (2012)….

    • He is AWESOME in Vaastav. I have heard that about him too (and I know people who have worked with him!) :) Actually someone told me that when he did the first Munnabhai movie he got irritated that Raju H. did more than one take for each shot because he was so used to just nailing it—other directors never asked him for a second take. But when he saw the rushes for the film he stopped complaining that Raju didn’t know what he was doing :D

  9. You know what – Sanjay Dutt is the only current hero that I find myself sighing over. I just adored him in Mission Kashmir even though he had stiff competition from Hritik Roshan who was all the rage then. He is a good actor, he is handsome, he is stylish. Have you seen Nehle Pe Dehla where he co-starred with Saif? Its hilarious.

    He is one hero (after Dev Anand) who looks good with any girl. Heck, he even looks good with male co-stars.

    • Yay!!! I had gotten sort of used to the idea that I was the only person on earth who thought he was one of the sexiest men walking the earth. I’m so glad that I am not :) And I agree—he does look good with every heroine he works with, but he doesn’t have to have one; he’s equally at home in solo roles.

      • How could I forget Mission Kashmir? Of course, you’re right. His career has been along one with many, many instances of thoroughly entertaining performances even when every other element let his films down.
        I suppose, when I say I really enjoyed his early movies, I meant the kind of hero he portrayed in stories made in that decade. Like ‘Captain Kishan’ – a character that he wouldn’t try today, I think; nor would any director attempt a movie like Safari.
        His movie personas were fun, handsome, energetic… ‘different’. He still has all of that, of course, but just as age sweetens the fruit it also takes away an enjoyable tang, you know?
        I like him now, but I just ‘really’ liked him then. ;)

      • I wish I could ‘like’ you comment here. He looks good alone too.

  10. OF COURSE this movie exists. Hee! Do I spy the “Titanic prow-of-ship” move in one of those screenshots?

    • Ha ha that’s what I thought of too when I saw that, although the context was different :)

      This is one of the first movies I ever owned. I fell in love with Sanju pretty early on and grabbed everything I could, although a lot of it was sadly unsubtitled (I guess there’s a perception that he only appeals to Indian viewers? I don’t know—the lack of subs for his movies continues to be true).

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed the review, Greta. :-)

    This is the first I’m hearing of this movie. A bit odd considering it has a star cast of Sunju and Juhi.

    Sounds like a fun movie, especially if you are into adventure films. I suppose this theme had already become a rarity in the late 1990s – by then many movies had become Yash Chopra-inspired Switzerland-based or David Dhawan-inspired Govinda-like comedies. So it’s refreshing to see somebody dare to really try something different (and not just say so).

    Any idea how the movie did at the box-office? I won’t be surprised if it tanked.

    Amongst more modern actors (“modern” is relative of course) I do like Sunju. And am very fond of Juhi. She’s really sweet – and is just fantastic at comedy.

    I have a Juhi story. I was at Air India building, Mumbai one afternoon in 1985, taking a lift to one of the top floors. As I entered the lift a young lady rushed in. It was just the two of us in the lift. We happened to get off at the same floor. It was only when I came out of the lift that some of my friends (who were at that floor and saw me coming off the lift) told me that that the lady was none other than Miss India, Juhi Chawla! They were quite excited, and were surprised that I did not recognize her but, to be honest, I’d not even looked at her. And even if I had, I wouldn’t have recognized her anyway. It was only later that she became a really known face. Who knows, if our eyes had met…ha ha. :-)

    • Trust you not to notice, LOL. This is a very fun movie and not a scene-by-scene copy of Crocodile Dundee either. I have no idea how it did at the box office, but I’ve never heard anyone or read any discussions about it so I have a feeling it disappeared without much of a trace. I think you can watch it online now (I should see if it’s subtitled there, although I don’t think it really needs them). Look up the songs and see how you like them—I think they are cute.

    • Instead of becoming Juhi Chawla the star, she would have become Mrs Raja. Not a bad deal. hehe.

      • I wish I could *like* this comment Ava! :D

      • Ha ha…why “instead of”? She could have become Mrs Raja AND become Juhi Chawla the star. :-) I would certainly not have interfered in her career.

        But we will never know now, will we? What could have been Juhi singing “unse mili nazar to mere hosh ud gaye” (“my eyes met his and I lost my senses” – Jhuk Gaya Aasman) has now become me singing “waqt karta wo wafaa aap hamaare hotey” (“if only time had been fair to me, you’d have been mine” – Dil Ne Pukaara). That’s life, I guess. *sigh*

        But I only wish her all the best. :-) The song that has always worked for me (all my life!) has been “Wo dekhen to unki inaayat, na dekhen to rona kya…jo dil ghair ka ho, uska honaa kya aur na honaa kya” (If she looks at me, that’s nice and sweet of her..if she doesn’t, no big deal…Why bother about the heart that belongs to somebody else?” – Funtoosh). No heartbreaks with THIS attitude. :-)
        OK, I think now I’VE said too much. :-)

    • “Any idea how the movie did at the box-office? I won’t be surprised if it tanked.”

      ++1 to that, and no I do not think it is a cynical comment on our great Indian public.. Well, maybe it is , but it is realistic.

  12. I love “Safari”!! Sanju and Juhi are a very fun pair, and the whole movie is amusing without being stupid, if you know what I mean, and I know you do. The songs are peppy and fun to sing along…I was delighted to find a music cd years ago. I assumed that it was kind of a family movie, the as the dialogues are pretty understandable without subs. This review is a wonderful Christmas present…very happy holidays to you and yours!

    • I got this early on, when my Hindi comprehension was even worse than it is now, and still loved it :) The only character who really annoyed me was Shekhar and he was supposed to be annoying I guess! Yes, silly but lots of fun—excellent timepass. Happy Holidays to you too Laura :)

  13. There are some obscurely entertaining retro films missing from the reviews here, which makes me assume that you’re yet to watch them. In case, that’s true, here’s a list that may come in handy when looking to kill some idle time.

    (1) Bad Aur Badnaam (Sanjeev Kumar, Shatru) – 1984
    (2) Inaam Dus Hazaar (Sanjay Dutt) – 1987
    (3) Jawani Diwani (Randhir Kapoor, Jaya Bachchan) – 1972
    (4) Kal Aaj Aur Kal (Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor) – 1971
    (5) Hum Se Na Jeeta Koi (Randhir Kapoor, Amjad Khan) 1983
    (6) Bond 303 (Jeetendra) – 1985
    (7) Raksha (Jeetendra, Parveen Babi) – 1982
    (8) Jagir (Dharmendra, Mithun, Zeenat Aman, Danny) – 1984
    (9) Samraat (Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Zeenat Aman) – 1982
    (10) Kaatilon Ke Kaatil (Dharmendra, Rishi Kapoor) – 1981
    (11) Chor Ke Ghar Chor (Randhir Kapoor, Ashok Kumar, Zeenat Aman) – 1978
    (12) Chakkar Pe Chakkar (Shashi Kapoor, Rekha) – 1977
    (13) Nehle Pe Dehla (Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna, Saira Banu) – 1976
    (14) Zakhmee (Sunil Dutt, Rakesh Roshan) – 1975
    (15) Warrant (Dev Anand, Zeenat Aman, Dara Singh) – 1975
    (16) Gehri Chaal (Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan) – 1973
    (17) Parwana (Navin Nischol, Amitabh Bachchan) – 1972
    (18) Chandi Sona (Sanjay Khan, Parveen Babi) – 1976
    (19) Abdullah (Sanjay Khan, Zeenat Aman, Raj Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar) – 1980
    (20) Mardon Waali Baat (Dharmendra, Sanjay Dutt) – 1987
    (21) Haath Ki Safai (Randhir Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini) – 1974
    (22) Amir Garib (Dev Anand, Hema Malini) – 1974
    (23) Joshila (Dev Anand, Hema Malini) – 1973
    (24) Do Waqt Ki Roti (Feroz Khan, Sanjeev Kumar) – 1988
    (25) Chunaoti (Feroz Khan, Neetu Singh, Dharmendra) – 1980
    (26) Khoon Aur Pani (Feroz Khan, Jeetendra) – 1981
    (27) Kachche Heere (Feroz Khan, Reena Roy, Danny) – 1982
    (28) Geeta Mera Naam (Sunil Dutt, Sadhana, Feroz Khan) – 1974
    (29) Agent Vinod (Mahendra Sandhu, Asha Sachdev) – 1977
    (30) Shalimaar (Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, Shammi Kapoor, Rex Harrison) – 1978
    (31) Suhaag (Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Shashi Kapoor, Parveen Babi) – 1979
    (32) Teesri Aankh (Dharmendra, Shatru, Rakesh Roshan) – 1982
    (33) Charas (Dharmendra, Hema Malini) – 1976
    (34) The Burning Train (Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra) – 1980
    (35) Krodhi (Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor) – 1980
    (36) Aap Ke Deewaane (Rishi Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan) – 1980
    (37) Barood (Rishi Kapoor, Ashok Kumar) – 1976
    (38) Victoria No 203 (Ashok Kumar, Pran, Navin Nischol, Saira Banu) – 1972
    (39) Taqdeer (Mithun, Shatru) – 1984
    (40) Duniya Meri Jeb Mein (Rishi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor) – 1979

    PHEW!! That’s enough for now. I reckon.

    • Oh I have seen quite a few of those actually, but I either didn’t have much to say or (more likely ha ha) I saw them before I started the blog and haven’t gotten around to a rewatch to write them up. Or they don’t have subtitles and made no sense at all to me :D But it is a great list—the ones I have seen I have more or less really liked! So I’ll look for the others on the list, thanks!

    • I don’t think Jawani Diwani is obscure, nor was Victoria no 203 They were big hits. But I agree with whichever movie I have seen in this list, they are good,

  14. is this the movie with the mired in the grassy swamp scenes, which are inspired from the movie “The African Queen” of Humphrey Bogart & Katherine Hepburn?

    and thanks Memsaab, your writings are the one thing that I return to, day after day.

    Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year, and please continue with your gifts of astoundingly awesome film reviews.

  15. The film is more like a fleeting memory – of good fun but too fluffy to really register. Juhi is always good fun in comedy roles. I am ambivalent about Sanju – sometimes he’s just a dope-head or trying too hard (Khalnayak or that ghastly Aladin) – but then in a film like Sadak he simply blows me away and he is so towering in other films like Saajan. And see how he makes a film like ‘All the Best’ go – he suited the Big Brother role to a T. But then again I worry about him in the upcoming Agneepath …. when he tries too hard he tends to fall on his face.

    • I actually think it’s the other way around…he’s worse when he’s NOT trying. I think he tends to be lazy and if the director lets him get away with it then he can’t be bothered. But when he puts in any effort at all, he really is so good. What do I know, really, though :D

  16. The only times I liked Sanju are when he is Munnabhai. I don’t really care for Juhi either but she looks very pretty in your screencaps. And you have a dangerous way of making a film sound so fun to watch. I guess the only way I’d enjoy this one would be watching it with you :)

    Merry Christmas and thank you for the awesome reviews!

  17. Vah, Greta, this was great to read (I come here to enjoy the fun – I tend to watch and speak about too many serious movies!) I loooved your love of Sanjay, fancy you mentioning his moobs!! (But Juhi Chawla’s the one for me – & unlike you I don’t need to say too much!)
    cheers!

  18. Thanks to you my vocabulary in increasing. Now I know what moobs are! ;-)
    Once again a very entertaining review. Thank you Greta! :-)

  19. Have you ever watched “Prem Deewane” starring Jackie Shroff, Madhuri Dixit, Pooja bhatt. This is another romantic comedy with goons and fights thrown in. I am sure you will enjoy it. By the way from where do you get all this movies from? i stay in india and i am sure that i wont be able to get my hands on the kind of movies you review on this blog.

  20. This is not just Crocodile Dundee.

    This is Crocodile Dundee attempting to meet The Emerald Forest in a stupidly, condescendingly rubbish Indian way. Oh, and the attempt failed, based on the review at least. I hope at least they showed Juhi joining them in the tribal dress and joining Sanju a la Asha Parekh in Caravan? We send these kinds of messages in films very well. “Boys and girls, this is all a fantasy!”

    Speaking of Emerald forest, Boorman was so masterful: One minute he had you rooting for “civilisation” in a film like Deliverance and rooting for a stop to this mad civilisation in a film like the emerald forest. Now, that’s the power of the films.

    We have been pathetic in making films with messages. We’ve rehashed tired social messages for too long, and got too preachy and oh well, here I am preaching to the choir. You all know it anyway.

    OK, lightening the mood somewhat,
    The “moobs” reference to Sanju had me in splits. Well, you should see him in the latest Agneepath screen caps then.

    • You are right! It does have elements of Emerald Forest, although I didn’t like that film nearly as much as you did ;) Deliverance, though…well lines from that film are lore here like dialogues from Sholay are in India!

      “Messages” need to be delivered with a light touch, and subtlety is not generally a Hindi filmmaker’s forte (with some wonderful exceptions!).

      • Well, if I came across liking the films, let me clarify; I did not. Both films left me completely shell shocked and mighty uncomfortable. That is what I meant by “power of films” — to take you to another dimension, be it euphoria or plumb depths.

        And yes, I’ve heard my share of “that will make you squeal like a pig” jokes between friends high on booze, a few times myself… :-)

        > subtlety is not generally a Hindi filmmaker’s forte
        No Greta, “as subtle as a centurion tank” is the expression for Hindi film makers

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