This is a pretty silly adaptation (by Basu Chatterjee, no less!) of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps which nonetheless manages to be quite satisfying entertainment. Basu Sahab is a little out of his element, but that works for me since I find most of his films similar in nature to watching paint dry. Sticklers for things like continuity, context, and attention to detail might not enjoy it as much as I did; but with my dear friend Suhan translating as we went, it made for a very pleasant afternoon watch-along. There are some of the director’s finer touches here too: authentic settings, intimate and humorous interactions between people, plenty of local color.
I haven’t seen many Raaj Kumar films, a deficiency which I hope to correct this year. I chose to start with this film for several reasons: I already owned it, Hema Malini stars opposite him, Pran is in it, and it also stars Sanjay Dutt, Amrish Puri, and another object of my curiosity, Farha Naaz (Tabu’s older sister). Okay, so essentially my choice mostly came down to one thing: the cast, the cast, the cast. And the cast, the cast, the cast in the end is what made it such an enjoyable film.
The story is a relatively simple “good versus evil” fairytale, revolving around the rivalry of two Muslim landowners ruling a wild and hilly region: Rehmat Khan (Raaj Kumar)—a devout and good man; and Shahbaaz Khan (Amrish Puri)—a…well, it’s Amrish Puri. (I also love the Urdu-based language of Muslim-dominated films—the words are just so beautiful: begum, ammijaan, adaab, khuda hafiz…)
I had long ago decided that two or three 1980s-era Hindi disco movies was probably enough for me. But in the interests of a well-rounded filmi education, I needed to see a Kumar Gaurav movie; after all, he is Rajendra Kumar’s son and Sanjay Dutt’s brother-in-law. So I braved this one, and was surprised to find it quite sweet and very watchable.
Largely this was thanks to the afore-mentioned star son himself: he is just as cute as a button, making his character one you can really root for. Especially when he suffers under a Ma who really should have thought twice before she brought children into the world and Saeed Jaffrey (love him!) as the villain of the piece. I even actually liked the songs (by Biddu), although Indian disco is not usually my cup of tea.