Rani Aur Lalpari (1975)

I have a love-hate relationship with this movie’s star Baby Rani and its director Ravi Nagaich. Baby Rani was so very cute in Hum Kisise Kum Nahin but so very monotonous and terrifying in the film which spawned the shortest review I will probably ever write. And Ravi Nagaich insists on making films in which the whole never quite equals the sum of its parts—parts that are so mind-blowing that the whole shouldn’t even matter, but somehow always does. This leaves me dissatisfied but also intent on seeing more of his output, which leaves me dissatisfied, and on and on. I guess it takes talent to be both cute and annoying beyond belief, and so imaginative and yet so boring. And that pretty much sums up how I feel about Rani Aur Lalpari, except in addition, probably because this is supposed to be a children’s story, it is ruthlessly miserable.

Fairy tale writers seem compelled to warn kids that life sucks, and sucks hard, especially if you are Baby Rani.

The film’s opening credits announce that we are to be “blessed by” a cavalcade of big name stars, and that is pretty much the last bit of good news we get for some time.

Rani (Baby Rani) lives with her hard-working seamstress mother Kamala (Asha Parekh) and the cruelest uncle-auntie pair you will ever see. Ramlal (Satyendra Kapoor) is Kamala’s brother, an alcoholic wastrel who spends all the money she brings in on booze for himself and food for his fat wife (Lalita Kumari) who is perpetually stuffing her face. This is in stark contrast to Rani herself, of course, who must resort to daydreaming about an assortment of toffees and biscuits and ice creams in a song that is a product-placement delight.

Rani’s only friends (aside from her mother, whom she loves dearly) are her cute little white bunny rabbit Moti and next-door neighbor Pappu (Master Ibby), who gives Rani a close run for her money in the expressionless line-delivery department. Kamala is sweet but not terribly good at protecting her daughter from her evil brother and sister-in-law. Her hopes are pinned on her beloved husband (Rajendra Kumar) who is working in some foreign location currently but whose return she is sure will make everything better.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which one is the adult and which the child as Baby Rani’s suffering increases. Her only respite from her uncle and aunt is school, but she is rusticated (I love that term!) when Ramlal uses the money Kamala gives him for Rani’s school fees on sharaab instead.

I am irritated by her lack of spine on behalf of her child.

Predictably, Rani’s days are now filled with laundry and chores and I have to say that it is pretty grim watching to see that little body working so hard while Auntyji stuffs her face.

WE HATE MAMI AND WANT HER TO CHOKE ON A PAKORA.

Even Moti is sad, although neither is as sad yet as they are going to be.

When Pappu hears Rani’s tale of woe, he compares her to Cinderella and tells her the story. This musical interlude goes on for a really long time, and although I am so very glad to see Neetu Singh as Cinderella and Jeetendra as the Prince, it seems like we’ll never get back to the subject at hand. Also, at this point Ravi Nagaich decides to obscure much of the screen by blurring it out, focusing the action in a small circle in the middle. This makes me feel like I have glaucoma or something and is annoying. His hallmark disregard for even trying to make things look real entertains me though, as usual. Plus we get to meet the titular Lalpari (Reena Roy) who presents herself as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, and when Cinderella escapes the palace at “midnight” she runs out into the blazing sun of Day Night Continuity Issues. And her glass slipper is made of mirrors. Love.

Rani’s real-life Fairy Godmother turns out to be Pappu’s father and mother (Ramesh and Seema Deo), who kindly pay her school fees when they hear of her plight.

Alas! Lest anyone forget that life sucks, and sucks hard…Ramlal discovers that Rani has been keeping a pet rabbit. I cringe as poor Moti bobs and twists in the air hanging by his ears as Rani bites her uncle’s arm.

Why did you choose now to make things look real, Mr. Nagaich, why?! Arggghhhhh.

WE HATE MAMA AND WANT HIM TO DIE.

Kamala doesn’t do much but tell Rani that Moti is now at “Chanda Mama’s” house but any sympathy this harrowing experience has engendered in me for the little girl is erased by what happens next: a cloying school pageant about peace and unity and children being the future and our only hope and so on ad nauseum. Rani acts her little heart out dressed as Mother Theresa or Indira Gandhi in front of an audience that includes the school principal (Jankidas) and film star Danny (Danny Denzongpa as himself), who presents her with a silver cup at the end.

Naturally, Ramlal takes the cup from her as soon as she gets it home to sell it for “household expenses” i.e. more booze money—and Kamala does nothing to stop him.

Rani’s parents aren’t even dead yet (as I know from the dvd cover they will soon be) and I’m as depressed as can be. So is Rani, and Pappu invites her over for some happy family time. His life is a stark contrast to Rani’s! When he traps a black ant under a jar, Rani begs him to let it go and then later frees it herself. Pappu shows her a film he has of Gulliver’s Travels; and again although I am very happy indeed to see Feroz Khan as Gulliver and Jagdeep as the King of Lilliput, it just goes on and on.

Then they watch the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations from Pappu’s window and Pappu explains that Ganesh is immersed in water because the way to heaven is through the sea. I am sure that makes sense to Indians. I hope so, anyway, because it’s sort of important.

At home, a very happy Kamala informs her brother and sister-in-law that her husband’s long-awaited return from abroad is scheduled for Diwali. Rani too is overjoyed at the thought of having her Papa back (who can blame her?). But remember kids: life sucks, and sucks hard, especially when you are Baby Rani.

Not surprisingly, happiness turns to sorrow in an instant as Rajendra’s plane plummets to earth and explodes (in miniature). Kamala passes out from the shock and is hospitalized; when a sobbing Pappu informs Rani that her mother has died it’s not difficult to predict her next move.

I’m exhausted and depressed, and yet I know there must be some real cracktastic moments coming my way. And of course there are, muddied as they are by huge amounts of dry ice, fog machines, colored klieg lights and that annoying blurry halo.

Will Baby Rani find her way to heaven and get her Mom back? Will she find poor murdered Moti? Does anybody care about Papa? And where is Lalpari? Does she even deserve to have her name in the title? So far she’s only really been helpful to Cinderella!

*SPOILERS*

Once again, I find myself trying to get through crazy visuals in a film that has no momentum or emotional oomph. Rani is constantly warned about frightening dangers lying ahead but they never *quite* materialize. Even Premnath as Yamraj appears to be going through the motions (although I do love that Rani is saved from his buffalo by the little ant that she had saved from Pappu). Jagdeep is hilarious as the god Indra, busy writing in his book of deeds. But mostly, Rani’s journey meanders from one eye-popping set and guest star to the next, with not much of anything to connect them. I even begin to want awful Mama and Mami back. And at the end, when it’s revealed that her parents aren’t even dead but survived their plane crash and shock I can only just bang my head on the arm of my chair.

*END SPOILERS*

As for me, my love-hate relationships with Baby Rani and Ravi Nagaich are intact. I mean, I can’t hate this little face no matter how annoying the acting, and it’s not her fault really that she cries so much. With her life, I’d cry too.

Nor can I hate anyone who gives me stuff like this:

and this:

and this:

I just can’t completely love someone who makes it…dull.

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69 Comments to “Rani Aur Lalpari (1975)”

  1. “Fairy tale writers seem compelled to warn kids that life sucks, and sucks hard, especially if you are Baby Rani.”

    I know I shouldn’t laugh, but oh man, that cracked me up!:-D

  2. Oh my…this is one horrible film…currently in my head i’m wondering whether the evil uncle n aunt suffered any sort of payback towards the end or whether they repented n go unpunished as baby Rani forgives them…with the convoluted plot that Nagaich has woven for this otherwise memorable film, I think it’d be a waste of time to dwell on what happens next, unless you tell me, memsaab…hahaha…because i’d rather hear it from you than suffer in the hands of the man who surprisingly made awesome thrillers like The Train…

    • I think The Train is probably the only film he made which I love wholeheartedly. He just tends to derail things by bashing you over the head with his “messages” and so many special effects that you just slip into a coma eventually. I didn’t hate this film by any means, and am glad I watched it—but the FF button was my friend.

  3. I remember hearing promotions about this movie constantly on the radio. I suppose the intent was to make a kind of a fairy tale, but it just got so melodramatic. Luckily I did not see it. Also its good too many children’s films were not made, if this was the benchmark. The only kiddie film I enjoyed thoroughly was The Blue Umbrella, superb.

    • I guess a lot of filmmakers in the 70’s were stuck with a masala template of what films ‘should’ be like. This one looks like a mish-mash of what a lot of different people thought a children’s film should be. Sad waste.

    • It is so very miserable for the first half. I mean, murdering a little bunny! That is unforgivable. I love The Blue Umbrella too, and also Makdee (although it’s kind of scary for little little kids).

  4. Greta, I saw this when I was a kid. For some reason, our school decided to take us to watch this film. I didn’t remember one thing about it except one particular scene where the ‘lal pari’ (I didn’t even remember it was Reena Roy) lands up to give Rani something.

    After reading your review, I now know that the trauma of this story made me forget everything about it. I could wish it had stayed forgotten, but I laughed so much at the gems you scattered throughout!

    ps: Please tell me that it was not Amitabh as one of those heads on the pillars??

  5. After reading the film story, my face was “redder” in anger than the angel’s costume :-)

  6. So Jagdeep plays the Lord of Lilliput AND Lord Indra? Sweet.

    By the way, I somehow love Asha Parekh in this phase of her career – good-looking in a mature way (mature by age, not brains). But somehow, she also played a string of annoying characters in a string of annoying movies during this time. Oh, the fate of the middle-aged Indian actress!

    • Okay question: it is Chitragupta who keeps the records of good and bad deeds, right? But he was subtitled as Indra. In any case, yes it was Jagdeep both times and he was hilarious :) Asha looked absolutely gorgeous as you say, but I wanted to smack Kamala upside the head. She was just so very ineffectual at protecting Baby Rani!

  7. Another film I’d been wondering (till a few minutes ago) how I’d missed watching – even though it’s well-known enough. Thank goodness I never saw it. And thank you for warning us off!

    Interesting to learn that Jagdeep acted as King Lilliput in this film – years later, his son Javed Jaffrey acted as ‘Gulliver’ (or, rather, his equivalent) in Jajantaram Mamantaram).

    P.S. Are my eyes giving out, or is that really “You are my dot”?

    • @dustedoff: perhaps the original went – tu meri bindiya or something to that effect. By the way, father-son acting in two adaptions of the same Jonathan Swift story – we Indians sure know our 18th Century literature!

    • I love “You are my dot” and yes…your eyes are still good! And as Dee says, it was the word “bindiya” translated as dot.

      Truthfully I didn’t hate this film, I really liked parts of it even. But it was a real mixed blessing for sure, very very depressing. And Rani and Master Ibby are SUCH BAD ACTORS, it made me stabby. I wonder how it might have been with better ones.

  8. Jagdeep in that screen cap looks amazingly like our hugely popular Telugu comic actor, Raja babu. http://www.jokesintelugu.com/2009/12/about-raja-babu.html

  9. thank u soooooooooooooooooooooooo muccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhh, there is no words for express my feelings to u…..i was searching from last 20 years………..

  10. The name “Rani aur Lalpari” did not immediately ring a bell for me but as I read the review, I realised I’ve seen this movie as a young boy. I remember the evil Satyen Kappoo and Lalita Kumari, I remember in particular that scene where the kid runs to the sea to join her mother.

    If this is supposed to be a children’s movie, I think maybe the script writer got a bit carried away with his doses of misery in the story. Ok, so it’s not uncommon to have a story which shows children being badly treated – and then some magic happening in their lives to set everything right again. Cinderella is a similar story. As was Safed Haathi.

    But here the misery in the movie seems to have been exaggerated and prolonged well after the message has clearly gone out to the public. This misery overflow has therefore extended to the audience also. Subtlety was never Nagaich’s strength, was it?

    For me, the 1970s Hindi movie for children is still Safed Haathi. Sweet film, with a balance of misery, fantasy and a fairy-tale ending. I still remember that dream fantasy song in the jungle.

    Why could Asha not stand up to her brother? Now THAT really makes no sense. When her brother and sister-in-law are ill-treating her child, which mother will tolerate it? Poor kid!

    • Fairy tales or children’s tales do seem to always have an element of misery, but this was really OTT. As you say, subtlety was not one of Mr. Nagaich’s strengths :)

  11. Oh dear. While I don’t mind adults suffering, to see a child do so is unbearable (will never forget the hypertension of watching Aakhri Khat). I don’t think I want to watch this film :-(
    But the pleasure of watching such a collection of stars can perhaps be achieved by FFing most of the time? Hmmm. I’ll go and have a cup of tea to make up my mind about this.

    • Actually this film is made bearable only by the FF button, but when you use it there are quite a few fun things in there too. I don’t NOT recommend it by any means…just be prepared to be depressed and bored alongside entertained!

  12. Memsaab, this was the first movie I saw in a Cinema Hall. Must have been about four or so, when our school marched us off, as it was a “children’s movie”. All I remember is one tragedy after the other, a weepy sequence after another, in a dark hall, with sore feet (we must have walked about a mile), with Jagdeep as Chitragupt the only silver lining. Was enough to put me off the whole genre for ever.

  13. Baby Rani didn’t grow much between Nanha Farishta (1969) and Rani Aur Lalpari (1975), did she? The latter must have got a very late release.
    Made fun-reading!

    • She did actually, I’d guess she was about four when Nanha Farishta was made and probably about ten here…although I am really hopeless at guessing children’s ages :D

      She was also in Imaan Dharam, played Helen’s daughter, but I don’t remember much about her from that one.

  14. Saw this movie as a 11-12 year old. There was a great deal of publicity about this film. All that dreariness was expected (the more miserable you are, so much sweeter the salvation) – it was the standard thumb rule of story telling (get’s my daughter’s eyes rolling). I enjoyed the fantasy bits but remember feeling Lal Pari’s visitations to be too few and felt cheated by her late appearance (did not get my ticket’s value :D – all innocent expectations I hasten to add). I liked Baby Rani (I did not see Nanha Farishta but we had an EP record of its songs – and got pretty sick and tired of its cloying lyrics). My gut feeling even then was that this film was too long and – yes dwelled tooo much on suffering. As a kid I fidgeted and slouched in my seat through the dreary sequences and only perked up and watched the screen during fun sequences/songs.

    Your grouse of disjointedness between scenes is probably due to our current day CD/DVD manufacturer’s editing (VCDs were not much better). While the editing may not have been the most cutting edge, I must emphasise the sequences in old films were detailed (too detailed and looong I should say now) – and there was no jumpiness and abrupt end to scenes – which is the impression one gets by watching the CD/DVDs today. The second half of Vyjantimala’s Nagin on CD became songs placed end to end with no clue as to where the story is going!

    • I agree that editing of dvds and vcds contributes nothing of any value, but this film didn’t seem edited much from the original—things flowed one to another…the disjointedness came from the fact that she was just wandering from one loony set to another through fog and bright lights ad nauseum. It quickly felt like the “story” was in service only to the sets and decorations and special effects, and not the other (proper) way around. The story should always be central :) (at least, USUALLY)…

  15. All children’s film made in golden era lacked proper story telling and children acting in them always overly acted. Very few child actors made place for them, daisy irani, jr.mehmood, sachin, sarika, jugal hansraj were good child actors, but they failed to make big as hero or heroine.

    • There really weren’t that many children’s films made before the 70s, were there? There were films with children in them, lots of those, but not much of an attempt to make movies entertaining for children.

      • The emphasis was more on ‘family’ film than a ‘children’ film those days. That this film had bits of ENGLISH fairy tales (Cinederella, Gulliver’s Travels) was the USP of this film. With no TV (very little penetration) and English (American) children movies going over the head of the tiny tots (as a small kid the American accent was incomprehensible to me as Hindi has been to you), no wonder there was a publicity blitz about this film.

  16. I’m with you 100% on this one, Memsaab. Despite how dismal it was, I was unable to look away due to the ever increasing visual weirdness. At the end I felt like Rani aur Lalpari had dangled me by the ears and smashed me against a wall. If only there had been a scene where Feroz Khan smashed the whole of Liliput with his drunken fists like a macho, hairy chested Godzilla, that would have made the time invested seem worth it.

    • OMG YES. It is too bad Nagaich did not have you as a script consultant.

      It was your review of this film which made me want to see it, despite your less than enthusiastic support for it :D That and my inability to NOT watch a Ravi Nagaich film. I remember vividly your opening lines: Rani Aur Lalpari might seem like your friend, but make no mistake. Rani Aur Lalpari hates you. Heeeeeee!

  17. Seriously, this movie would have been oh-so memorable if the screenwriter or the director chose NOT to go overboard with the plight of the protagonist…Asha Parekh is gorgeous here, but her character is just so impractical and annoying a la Udhar Ka Sindoor that I feel like she ought to be slapped for being such a lousy mother…this is what happens when you fail to impart a sensible balance into your characters’ profiles…eg. a character cannot be wholly submissive and long-suffering till the end like Baby Rani’s mother here; she needs to have some kind of boiling point to show taht she’s human, after all…Nagaich should have used films like Safed Haathi, Masoom, Makdee and Satrangee Parachute as textbooks for making a wholesome children’s picture, but alas those films were made only after Rani Aur Lalpari was released…by the way memsaab have you come across this 1975 film called Zakhmee, also starring Asha Parekh but this time alongside Sunil Dutt? I felt like Asha Parekh was more realistic and believable in that film…

  18. And to think the leading light of the film is called Rani. Now I understand the full import of `nari deewani main peeda ki rani.’ Apologies to Neeraj and the line from the song Rangeela Re – in any appreciation of this song (on a couple of FB groups, long ago), I forgot to mention that this line was a good example of inversion because just saying/singing the line makes me miserable.
    And I love what you do for us – watch movies like this so we don’t have to. I’m glad I missed this movie on DD and the only pictures I saw from this were in Picturpost. Sheesh, even Cinderella and Harry Potter had better lives.
    Yes, what was Asha Parekh thinking, acting in this, Udhar ka Sindoor, Prem Vivah, Preeti, Aadha Din Aadhi Raat, Main Tulsi …and I forget the rest.
    Makdee upset my Daughter I (she was well under 10 then) and Daughter II probably didn’t understand a thing. But they liked The Blue Umbrella (and then the mad scramble to the library to read the original story and the library had only one copy of the book, filed under `not returned’.) In recent times, I liked `Tahaan’ and `Chillar Party’ was quite all right.

    • Makdee scared ME! Although I loved it :) Hopefully Daughter I can revisit it some day and appreciate it more!

      • I am like Ron (Harry Potter) about spiders. Even a tiny one gives me the heebie jeebies. And Shabana with that ghastly get up on the posters – that and title were enough to make me stay away from the film. Have not seen Blue Umbrella but read the book – I think the film changed some aspects (always a no-no for me) – I tend to be reserved against a film if I have read the story and enjoyed it (which is why I felt let down by the films Da Vinci Code and Angles and Demons)

        • Judging films by the books they’re based on, or expecting the film to follow the book closely, is just plain wrong.

          • I know dear…. but that is how I FEEL about it.

          • I’m with you on this Salim…if I loved a book and have my own vision of what people, places and events were like, I don’t want them replaced with someone else’s vision (Lord of the Rings for instance—I don’t care how good those films are, I don’t want to see them).

            It is nearly impossible to replicate a book on film, some do better work with that than others, but I usually prefer the book.

  19. I think they mostly made films ‘about’ children rather than ‘for’ children.
    Another film that comes to mind is 1960 Zameen ke taare (yes, Aamir just juggled with these words to come up with a similar name).
    The two children around whom the plot circled were Daisy and Honey Irani run away from home (IIRC from cruel fathers) – in search of *hold your breath* – their (dead) mothers.

    The film had fantastic music though. Just one example;

  20. Actually this is a more mythological style movie than children fare. I have seen so many of the type (a favourite genre of my Mother and Nanny) that I have lost track. They inevitably had the central character suffering a lot – before the Devi/Devta makes an appearance and sets everything right. The ‘Mama’ (Maternal Uncle) is clearly drawn in parallel to ‘Kans’ Mama – the maternal Uncle of Krishna. He killed Krishna’s siblings born before him (hence the ‘killing’ of the rabbit). The ‘Lal Pari’ motif was forcibly put in (she rather seemed to be making a ‘guest appearance’ rather than being the central character) – put in a ‘fairy’ and voila you have a children story!

  21. Memsaab, I think Nagaich could’ve used Prakash Arora’s Boot Polish as a textbook…it talks about cruel aunts mistreating the child protagonists…Satyen Bose’s Dosti sounds recommendable too, but it would’ve probably inspired Nagaich or his screenwriters to increase poor Baby Rani’s fatally high dosage of agony…

  22. It’s very refreshing to see Bollywood from your perspective! Some of your descriptions are so funny!

    If obscure is what you dig, then here are a few movies I watched as a kid.
    1. Ek Mutthi Aasman (1973 – starring Vijay Arora and Radha Saluja, although imdb incorrectly says Yogeeta Bali. This movie had some great songs and the story too is different)
    2. Gustakhi Maaf (1969 – this is hilarious and annoying in parts and you have Tanuja playing a double role with Sujit Kumar and a cute Sanjeev Kumar)
    3. Sabse Bada Sukh (1972 – Surprise film from Hrishikesh Mukherjee starring Vijay Arora that was a huge flop)
    4. Minoo (1977 – A film starring Baby Mun Mun who misses her dead mom and leaves her village for the big bad city of Mumbai)

  23. Is that Padma Khanna in that blonde wig?This same kid was in Imaan Dharam(1977) and she looked the same as she did in 1969 in Hum Kisise. She doesn’t seem to age

    • That is Padma Khanna, she plays a sort of “mermaid” except with legs :D

      Baby Rani was in Imaan Dharam and Hum Kisise but they are both 1977 films. She looked much younger in Nanha Farishta (1969).

    • BUt i think the child in “Nanha Farishta” was Baby Padmini or ‘kutty Padmini’ as she is called in Tamil movies. these days that artist has grown up to do ‘Amma’ roles. in the interim years she used to do sister roles. but all through she is called ‘Kutty Padmini’. i think Nanha Farishta was her debut ands there Padmini (senior) played her “Aayama”

      • Baby Rani was the credited actress in Nanha Farishta…was Baby Padmini also called Baby Rani?

        • i am not very sure whether she was also called Baby Rani. and i just looked up her biography on wikipedia she debuted as a 3 year old in 1959 and considering Nanha Farishta came in 1969 the child cudn’t have been Kutty Padmini. my earlier comment was based on memory as i had seen Nanha Farishta in my childhood. sorry if i misled

  24. not sure if this movie truly deserves all the berating…a movie made to entertain kids has never found much investment backing, at least in Indian cinema, until the recent onset of digital and graphic-bearing cartoons/movie franchises. Back then, to keep the story afloat with minimal investment, you’d find an array of stars credited with ‘special appearance’ (‘special’ being a euphemism for ‘free’ ). To juggle dates and maintain a script that does due respect to these special appearances while staying loyal to the core narrative, it is true that the end-product may have turned chaotic. But kids back then, including me, with a weak television network and no computers/internet, had only the movies to look forward to on weekends or holidays. And we’d lap up anything that was a blown-up visual image on screen. Honestly, I vividly remember enjoying this movie – even with its obvious flaws – and its ‘graphics’, even if it were an aircrash in ‘miniature’. Not to forget the great Vasant Desai’s lilting music. Unlike a generation that has the advantage of being exposed to a grand bouquet of technology, for us, any movie was just it – a movie! To be watched, loved, talked about at school, and to yearn for more. FF to here and now – and no names here – but honestly how many of the current big-bill stars’ body of work with their ever-spiraling budgets, can we truly applaud? And for all the tech advancements, do we have a kiddie movie today that is flawless?

  25. oh my!! i enjoyed reading this more than the film….lolz :)
    i watched this movie during my childhood days…it was a holiday and only doordarshan channel…. :(
    i felt it really depressing & yes annoying….
    anyways nice review :D its hilarious!!

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