I have no idea what the plot of this movie is—seriously no idea—but I know that I love it. Even if with subtitles it became a maudlin, sexist melodrama (which I doubt) I would still love it. Why? Well for one thing it is extremely shiny. Premnath has a lair made completely out of mirrors, and not in a pretty Mughal-e-Azam kind of way but in a spectacularly gaudy disco kind of way. The songs by OP Nayyar are delightful and the cinematography (VN Reddy) is gorgeous. The cast is a veritable Who’s Who of character actors. And a still-dashing Sunil Dutt makes a dacoit I can really root for, although he does seem a little old for plump young Rekha. The story is liberally sprinkled with dacoit-drama masala ingredients: greedy moneylenders, long-lost daughters, flashbacks, dozens of people named Singh, pretty pretty Marwari horses, and real ruffians lurking beneath a veneer of respectability and draped with scantily-clad gori extras. I felt totally sated by the end.
Did I mention the mirrors? Lots and lots of mirrors.
This film is exactly why I feel blessed to have discovered Hindi cinema. As Beth said in her review of it this summer, I live in fear of running out of movies like this. Elaan is more fun than anyone ought to be allowed to have, and if it had subtitles my head would probably explode (but please, somebody, subtitle it anyway). The lunatic story (featuring a ring of invisibility that only works when you put it in your mouth) is presented with great relish and plenty of style, and manages to stay on track and is nicely paced. Even the flaws only add to its charms. And all this is embellished with the finest fashions and set decoration the Seventies had to offer!
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!
True confession: I really can’t sit still through an entire Hindi movie without getting up to fidget. I wake up Gemma and irritate pet her, check my email, pour another glass of wine. The films are just so long and my attention span so short. But during this one I didn’t want to MOVE—I was positively riveted to my chair. There is no romance, no hero-heroine (and only three songs, each one a gem): it is an ensemble film, and what an ensemble it is! The finest character-actor-villains of the time play cohorts in crime who are joined by thief Vinod Khanna when one of them betrays the others. It is stylish and suspenseful entertainment at its best.
It’s my understanding that this film was a big hit, and responsible for bringing both Rekha and Navin Nischol to the public’s attention. I am not really sure why, since it is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff; but Sonik-Omi’s songs are lots of fun and the second half did take an unexpected twist just as I was about to nod off. What got me through it were the large assortment of wigs (almost everyone wore them—including the hero—although Shyama’s were particularly fascinating), Jayshree T’s mad dancing skills, a lot of Woman Power, and young whippersnapper Ranjeet as Rekha’s slimy brother (Ranjeeeeeeeet!).
This is one of my favorite Rajesh Khanna films: his character Raja and his chemistry with Sharmila’s Rani is beyond sweet. My friend and Rajesh expert Suhan points out that it’s possibly the only film they made where they actually get to spend time together being young and in love instead of being painfully separated and only reunited in old age! RD Burman’s music is lovely, the performances are strong (with some fun guest appearances); the story is interesting and nicely paced with lots of humor, and the characters beautifully etched. If you are in the mood for some sweet romance and stylish seventies fun, this is a well-made and non-taxing movie to settle in with.
I watched this film years ago as part of my early obsession with Helen, and didn’t fully appreciate then how very unusual it is for its time. It must be one of the earlier examples of the 1970s resurgence into “parallel” cinema and hard-hitting social commentary directed at the country’s youth. As you may have guessed from the title, the story revolves around a woman named Kamini (Zahira) who has been forced into a life of “high-class” prostitution by a society which offers few choices to a girl—on her own in the world, trying to support herself—who is raped by her wealthy employer. I would assume that in 1974 India it was considered (and probably criticized for being) “titillating” but to my western eyes thirty-six years later it is compellingly and realistically tawdry and sad, and an excellent attempt to illuminate the injustice inherent in a woman being made to pay an ongoing price for her own victimization. It is a film that has stuck in my memory—and revisiting it for this blog is long overdue (it’s not a movie I want to see over and over again, though: it is pretty grim).
Over the years, without realizing it, I have seen a great many films made by director-producer Brij. Mostly this is due to the fact that he made Excellent Use of Helen in most of them, and as many of you know Helen was one of my first obsessions-within-the-obsession for Hindi cinema. I have even written about six Brij movies on this blog, although my favorite ones (Yakeen and Night In London) haven’t made it yet, and except for Chori Mera Kaam I find that my reviews here have ranged from tepid approval to rather scathing disapproval.
I think at this point I am qualified to say this about Brij: he made films which have super-sweet potential and cracktastic detail (and Helen!) but often become just plain bewildering by the end, when he drives the plot off a cliff to its explosive death, or—to use a phrase coined by Todd and Beth—Death By WTF. It can be really disappointing. So I am very happy to report that he actually held this one together pretty well, and it is highly entertaining—you just have to pay close attention!
It’s widely understood that beautiful people get a pass on many things that those less favored in the looks department do not. And so it is with films too. Does it have an intelligent, spell-binding and socially relevant plot? It does not. But it is GOR-geous. Rajesh Khanna is beautiful, Leena Chandavarkar is beautiful, the costumes, the sets, the color…my god, the color! Truly only Indians and possibly the color-blind would think to combine the shades in the screen cap above (plum, scarlet and coral?) but it is spectacular. In an international beauty pageant of cinema, Muslim socials—and this one in particular—would always be a winner.