Mrs. Beige has been staying with me for a few days and bless her, she always enjoys watching a Hindi movie. (Well, not always.) We watched Seeta Aur Geeta the other night and at the end she pronounced it “Shakespearean” which I realized was bilkul correct. That made me think of this film, a marvellous adaptation by Gulzar of the Bard’s “Comedy of Errors” which I’ve owned for a long time but never watched all the way through. It, too, features twins who are mistaken for each other (in this case two sets of them) with hilarious consequences. The performances are deftly handled, and the script witty and well-paced (I could have done without most of the songs though).
I love pirate movies, especially when the pirate in question is a woman. And if that woman is also Geeta Bali, then…hooray! When I first saw this ten years ago or so I knew nothing about Guru Dutt except that I was “supposed” to watch all his movies if I wanted to be au fait. There is nothing I don’t love about it, except that it hasn’t survived in its entirety, mostly towards the end. Like most of Guru Dutt’s films today the video is murky much of the time, but there is no disguising how beautifully shot every frame is. Equally lovely is the music: OP Nayyar’s tunes have just the right changes in rhythm for what is happening onscreen, and the lyrics (Majrooh Sultanpuri) are wonderful (and subtitled). Sublime. And the cast is just superb. In addition to the gorgeous lead pair are the legendary Sulochana (Ruby Mayer), KN Singh at his suavely villainous best, Johnny Walker and Kuldip Kaur in prime comedic form, and Yashodhara Katju as Geeta’s sweet-faced, slyly clever best friend. They all are just so much fun to watch.
Recently the great-nephew of the prolific writer and director-producer Khwaja Ahmad Abbas left a comment here under my review of Char Dil Char Rahen (Abbas was the screenplay and dialogue writer on that film). Everyone is familiar with many of the movies he wrote, beginning in the 1940s: Neecha Nagar, Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Awaara, Shree 420, Jagte Raho…the list goes on and on. He also wrote for film publications including my beloved Filmindia, and introduced newcomer Amitabh Bachchan in a film he wrote, directed and produced called Saat Hindustani. So I was thrilled to hear from Mansoor Rizvi, and he graciously consented to give us a guest post with some personal insight into a man who gave Hindi cinema and Indian literature and journalism so much.
He says he has much more to tell, too, so let’s give him some encouragement!
When friends ask me why I haven’t upgraded to digital high-definition from my 20-year-old CRT television set, I put a movie like this into the dvd player as explanation. It looks bad enough on my old workhorse, I can’t even imagine how bad it would look on HD. And really, I don’t want to ever stop watching movies like this, no matter how abysmal the video and audio might be. It is a riotously colorful Arabian Nights vehicle for tall, handsome Ajit in a last gasp as hero, replete with the loony touches and sumptuous sets and costumes for which director Mohammed Hussain is beloved (at least by me). Usha Khanna’s music is plentiful and fortunately pleasant (sometimes very much so), and Sayeeda makes a lovely heroine. The lack of subtitles, choppy editing, and poor made-from-vhs-tape quality cannot diminish my pleasure in it; I am even thrilled by the (some would say poorly) hand-drawn title credits.
I stray once again out of Hindi movie territory, tempted by the complete and utter dreaminess of Indonesia’s action star Barry Prima (thanks to Todd, whose guidance into the weird wide world of cinema has been invaluable if not always properly appreciated by me). There are two main factors which prevented me from really loving this loony film: the heavy-handed English dubbing, done by even worse actors than those onscreen—I much prefer subtitles; and the incredible amount of gore. I am not a big fan of blood even when it’s obviously fake, and this movie is soaked in it. Even the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail makes me shudder (a not-coincidental reference, by the way).
Enough about the bad points. The Warrior does have a fair number of good ones. In fact, in many ways it reminded me of (besides Python) a Manmohan Desai film: vicious jack-booted, badly-bewigged colonial (Dutch) oppressors, one with a daughter who falls for the rebel hero; active animal participation; and an unsubtle crazy mish-mash of religious references and imagery. There is even a CSP guy in the form of the hero’s best friend to interrupt the plot with slapstick on occasion, which does actually serve as relief from all the carnage. Plus, we are given voodoo-practicing zombies and kung fu on top of all that, and—Barry Prima. He really is dreamy, even with bloodied empty eye-sockets and Christ-like stigmata.