A daku-drama in the iconic mold of Manmohan Desai—what could possibly go wrong? Not much, I am pleased to report, at least as far as the film itself goes. The people in it suffer plenty, though, especially Feroz Khan’s angsty dacoit tortured by amnesia and an inexplicable phobia of water-pumps. Writer/director Chand hits every masala note he can think of even if not much is done with some of them (religious imagery, for instance, seems thrown in there for no good reason). A young family broken up, lockets and tattoos, socially respectable but morally bankrupt villains, blood transfusions replete with filmi irony (get it? irony? sorry), plus all the standard dacoit movie delights (beautiful horses, black pagris, tilaks, golden earrings), and a great cast make this one a complete paisa vasool winner.
Reader Chris brought the sad lack of reviews on the internet of this film to my attention recently, and I am surprised. This is a really fun film, and though Shammi is admittedly towards the end of his career as a hero, he is still the Shammi who made hearts go pitter-patter. The songs are classic Shanker-Jaikishan-Rafi-Shammi, with the dance-off between Helen and Vijayanthimala probably its most well-known feature. But there’s so much more to it than that! Shammi is less exuberant than the Yahoo Shammi of early in the decade, which gives his performance a more subdued realism. He plays Prince Shamsher Singh, the jaded, bored, arrogant son of the Maharajah of Ramnagar (Ulhas); the film is about how wealth and privilege do not guarantee happiness, not by a long shot. This theme—and the setting, at the twilight of the Princely States—may be be trite, but they are no less valid; and the screenplay and story are penned by none other than Abrar Alvi. And the supporting cast…let’s just say it is a gift that keeps on giving.
I am a pretty big fan of director-producer-writer-actor Arjun Hingorani’s work. His listing on imdb is probably incomplete, but the films he made that I’ve seen (four of them now), I have really enjoyed despite some issues. Those issues are very small in the face of his laboriously tangled—but coherent—storylines, stylish camera work, fabulous music, and the people he loves to cast: Dharmendra, Ashoo, Hiralal, Shetty, Jankidas, Keshav Rana and more. I also appreciate his penchant for casting himself in his films, not always in a heroic light but always in a terrible wig. In essence, his movies are solidly entertaining and a real delight to sit through if you are willing to overlook a certain glossing-over of logic and moderate level of preachy melodrama (which I am).
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.
Here we have another formulaic daku-drama, by which I mean I loved it. So many throbbing neck veins (Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Ajit)! So many ferocious eyeball-to-eyeball staredowns! So many lines spat out through clenched jaws—and Prem Chopra nowhere in sight! So many manly men named Singh!
It is chock-full of Man Candy; pretty, pretty horses; the usual assortment of terrible wigs that do nobody any favors; men in hoop earrings; and that love which passeth all understanding—the unconditional bhai-bhai rishtaa. Hema Malini provides the Woman Candy and is the feisty catalyst for the eventual showdown between brothers and rivals. Plus, wonderful music from Kalyanji Anandji, including some funked-up title music!
This is one of those films I watched early on and I will admit that it confused me hopelessly at the time. I did not understand the wigs, or Dharmendra’s facial tics and popping veins, or why Tariq was so manic. I was so ignorant and naive.
Now of course, although I still have questions, I know they can never be adequately answered.
This is turning into Dara Singh month, which is essentially a constant struggle for me of no subtitles and significant amounts of missing footage. Nothing in this extra-low-budget Maruti-directed film made sense to me, and I doubt it would have even with subtitles and the 45 minutes or so that seem to have disappeared. It is essentially a bad formulaic spy film with Dara Singh as Agent Q and Sheikh Mukhtar as the secondary villain (the primary villain of course remaining unseen until the end) with the usual numbered henchmen and a lair lit primarily by red bulbs.
Most of it drags, but it contained just enough fun to keep me going and make me want to share here (this post is a *little bit* spoiler-y, although nothing significant).
Sadly this isn’t a film anymore, but the last gasping remnants of one: a collection of random scenes (or partial scenes) strung together incoherently with big gaping wounds of missing content (and sometimes, sound). There are barely two seconds of footage together anywhere not punctuated by a skip or a jerk. That it still manages to be kind of fun to watch is a testament to…something, although I am not sure I can pinpoint what that Something is. It might just simply be Dara. Or Ajit, Randhawa, Nishi, Helen, Madan Puri, Bela Bose, Madhumati and some perfectly scintillating songs and dancing.
Well, there you go: I have pinpointed It.
My feisty best friend Asha P. calls to ask me to come cheer on the sports team she captains. Shashi offers to walk over with me and Gemma; since we are always proud to be seen with my stylish and handsome brother-in-law, and it is a beautiful afternoon, we happily set forth. Alas, we arrive at the playing field to discover that the opposing “Heroes” team is unfortunately anything but: led by their crazy-eyed coach Amrish Puri, they are cheating like mad.
Shetty says nothing, but his shiny bald head and bulging muscles are intimidating. Ajit on the other hand is quite vocal, shouting lunatic threats of world domination and lobbing firecrackers in all directions. The Heroes have in fact scored one goal already, probably by accident.
It’s time to return to beloved Shammi: my eyes have been roving of late (Chandramohan, Shyam, the Shash)—but they will always come back to my favorite! One of my goals for this blog is to write about all his movies that I can find and comprehend (i.e. with subtitles). This is one I haven’t watched in a very long time despite remembering it as a wonderfully romantic story which I enjoyed very much. And I love Shammi in this film; he shows a subdued maturity that is really appealing without losing the Melt Factor that I so adore in him. And although Hema is obviously much younger (she is so gorgeous in this), her character has a gravity that makes it work. The kids are not as annoying as they might be either, especially Master Alankar as Hema’s really cute son Deepu. Baby Gauri—Shammi’s daughter Munni—is a hilarious little monkey, if a little *too* spoiled rotten at times.