Some of you I imagine will scratch your heads and say: “This is the dubious production she’s choosing to review after so long?”
Many more of you will say: “Well of course it is.”
To all of you I have only two words: Arjun Hingorani. I have seen a few films in the month since I last posted a review, but as nice as some of them were they simply didn’t inspire me enough to overcome the cloud of Callie-worry and work overload. I was positive that the letter ‘K’ loving Mr. Hingorani would have something up his sleeve to make my eyes pop out. And so he did. He always does.
Anybody who comes here regularly will not be surprised that I could not resist a film called Big Pigeon. And I’m so glad I didn’t—it is oodles of fun, with a talented ensemble cast, nice RD Burman songs, and lots of laughs. And *wow* I love Rehana Sultan. What a shame she got pigeon-holed (yes pun intended, my bad) and her career fizzled. Deven Verma wrote, produced, directed and starred in this comic crime caper; the internet appears to believe that Amitabh Bachchan and Helen star in it, but Helen has just one cabaret dance and Amitabh is nowhere to be seen (nor is he credited, as imdb claims). It’s possible that he had an uncredited guest appearance but if so, it’s gone.
I didn’t miss him: Ashok Kumar, Leela Mishra, Rehana Sultan, Deven Verma, Pinchoo Kapoor and a little butterball toddler billed as “Golu (A Wonder Child)” kept me enthralled and in stitches.
How much do I adore this film? Let me count the ways! 1) Dharmendra; 2) Mumtaz; 3) everybody else in it—wah! what a cast; 4) the gorgeous songs; 5) the fine ultra-masala plot; 6) Dharmendra’s chaddies; 7) the props and sets, including my new obsession the Egyptian Room; 8) the best use of Indian Movie Balloons and (possibly) Padma Khanna EVER; 9) Mumtaz’s outfits and Spare Hair; 10) no Comic Side Plot to speak of; 11) wooden gora extras; and 12) everything else I haven’t mentioned. Everything.
Regular readers here know that by and large I adore Manmohan Desai and his films and can mostly forgive him for anything except Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. It has long been my great sorrow that two of his movies, Shararat and this one, are not available with subtitles. Manmohan Desai’s complicated plotting has always seemed daunting without them and though I have had both films for a long time I never quite had the courage to watch them. So imagine my great joy when I finally sat down with this one and (despite no doubt missing many nuances) could actually follow what was going on. There is a lot going on!
As is usual for him, he sets up the many characters and plot threads masterfully. Creating a web of relationships torn apart by misunderstandings and loss, he carries us along breathlessly rooting for our protagonists to *just stop already* missing each other by mere inches and find their way back to the lives they should be leading. As is also usual for him, the last 45 minutes or so go completely and a tad disappointingly off the rails into Crazy-land, taking the focus away from the pure emotional joy of the reunion(s), but never mind.
I still love this film.
Finally (thanks to Beth!) I got around to watching this Mehmood production, and I’m so glad I did. I seem to be on a roll of “not much plot but plenty of other stuff to entertain” types of films! I am sure I missed a lot of the regional humor, although some of it was so broad I couldn’t miss it—the south Indian family, for instance. Parts of it did drag on a little too long (the whole film was one big long Comic Side Plot, after all), but it was so much fun picking out guest actors and marvelling at Amitabh’s shirts that altogether I was highly entertained. Some of the subtitles were hilarious too—sometimes even because the actual dialogue was hilarious. Although Aruna Irani and Amitabh Bachchan were nominally the hero-heroine, it was a Mehmood & Friends vehicle all the way (no pun intended)!
If Dharmendra playing Zorro and rescuing pretty young things isn’t your thing, how about these options? Dharmendra chasing down a train! Dharmendra swinging through trees like Tarzan! Dharmendra taming wild horses! Dharmendra wrestling tigers! Dharmendra saving a man in chains from a burning building! Dharmendra saving the honor of women everywhere! Dharmendra impersonating a holy man! Dharmendra romancing the Dream Girl! Dharmendra escaping the Loony Bin of Death!
I was inspired to get a second copy of this film (a copy with subtitles) by Banno and I’m so very very glad I did. I am sure you will understand the attraction once you read her description of the action. Beth did, and Todd too—so watch out for what I am sure will be their superb analyses of this masala masterpiece as well. It’s a fun story that moves along at a brisk pace embellished with oodles of cracktastic detail.
After months during which this Chetan Anand film was “next” in my to-watch list, I finally got around to it. And I’m glad I did; it is compelling viewing. Having said that, I’m not sure what exactly what else to say about it. Unusual story? Check. Good cast and performances? Check. Nice music? Check. Good movie? Uhhhhhh…I think so? Maybe? In the end it felt a bit schizophrenic: it is a reincarnation story—and leads you firmly down that path—but then also drags in some token debate about reincarnation being a silly belief held by uneducated riff-raff. It also wanted to be a “serious” suspense film (and succeeded to a large degree), but was very lazy about some details (medical and legal practices, for one, and some pretty stringent suspension of disbelief requirements too).
So I spent a lot of time feeling pulled in one direction, and then nudged in another, and the whole never quite came together for me. The fact that the subtitles disappeared entirely during the climactic courtroom speech didn’t help at all either (and thank you to Suhan for sending me a synopsis!).
But: I couldn’t stop watching it, as the suspense was built very nicely, and the performances were really good, especially Vinod Khanna as a doctor who loses his love to the man she loved in a past life; and Rajesh Khanna as the man who is pulled unwillingly into a story involving him but of which he has no memory. The sets and the Simla scenery were beautiful, and the cinematography stunning, and RD Burman’s music very nice too.
I’m going back to rewatch some of the first Rajesh Khanna films I ever got. He is one of the first actors from the older generation that I became interested in, after I saw him in the inimitable Disco Dancer and thought him very charming (especially in contrast to the dreadful Sam and Mr. Oberoi and unbearable Mama’s boy Jimmy). He didn’t maintain my interest at the time, possibly because there was so much else to distract me (Shammi! Pran! Helen!), but I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered him.
A little Dharmendra withdrawal prompted me to watch this film yesterday. It has a massive Sholay hangover, except it’s mostly a comedy: sort of a Keystone Cops meets Sholay and vomits up Pratiggya. Nevertheless, it’s good fun and had me laughing on more than one occasion. Johnny Walker, Jagdeep and Keshto Mukherjee display their comedic skills as cowardly villagers, Dharmendra plays a hard-drinking, illiterate truck-driver-turned-cop, and Hema a sharpshooting, tart-tongued village belle.
Ajit Singh (Dharmendra) is transporting a merchant and his goods to their destination one night, when he learns that his mother is dying. Abandoning his customer at a truck stop, he rushes home, where his mother confesses to him that she is not his real mother.
His real family—father Devendra Singh, mother and two older siblings—were murdered by the dacoit Bharat (Ajit) in revenge for Bharat’s brother’s hanging at the hands of Devendra Singh, who was a Superintendent of Police. Bharat is a fan of Tonto and the Lone Ranger (okay, I made that up).
The maidservant escaped with the baby—Ajit—and brought him up as her own. Ajit promises her that he will return to his home village to seek revenge and she dies.
Unfortunately the man whose goods he has inadvertently run off with has filed a police complaint, and Ajit’s friends arrive to tell him that the police are looking for him. He jumps into his truck and speeds off.
The next morning he is woken up by a two villagers out hunting: a mute accompanied by a pretty girl (Hema Malini).
He asks for directions to Dinapur, the village where Bharat Daku hangs out. The girl immediately assumes that he wants to join the bandits, and gives him a piece of her mind. She refuses to tell him where Dinapur is and they have a little argument before she and the mute drive off in their caravan. As they go through town they see a man distributing wanted posters and recognize a description of Ajit, but keep going.
Luckily after catching a glimpse of himself in the river, Ajit has sought out a barber and gotten a haircut and a shave. He gets directions to Dinapur and sets off. On the way, he comes across a fierce battle as a bunch of dacoits attack a police convoy. When the smoke clears and the bandits have escaped, only the Inspector is left alive, and he is badly wounded.
He has managed to save a truck from being looted; it is filled with machine guns and hand grenades. He tells Ajit that he and his men were on their way to set up a police station in Dinapur so that they could nab Bharat Daku. He gives Ajit responsibility for the weapons and the truck and dies.
In Dinapur we meet the local hooch-seller, a scoundrel named Thekedhar (Johnny Walker), and his assistant Kaana (Jagdeep). Their (unlicensed) liquor den is filled with local men talking about the shoot-out until Thekedhar spots a police truck rolling into town. They scatter.
Ajit has transformed himself!—sort of. To Thekedhar’s relief, he asks for a bottle of booze and proceeds to down it. Ajit asks about Bharat and Thekedhar tells Ajit that he lives in the forest, although his niece Radha lives in the village. She’s beautiful, a bit of a do-gooder and hates her uncle—and hangs around with a mute guy.
Then Ajit tells him that he will put the police station right here next to the liquor store. Horrified at the thought of what that will do to his business, Thekedhar makes a huge mistake.
I just love the rainbow assortment of liquor bottles. Anyway, Ajit overhears him and ties him and Kaana up as an example to the other villagers; then he passes out.
He is awakened the next morning by the same girl—whom he now knows is Radha, Bharat’s niece, and her friend Bhiku the mute. Radha is thrilled to see what he’s done with the unscrupulous Thekedhar.
She tells Ajit that Bhiku’s tongue was cut out by Bharat after he filed a complaint with the police (Bharat and his men had abducted his wife). She acknowledges that Bharat is her uncle, but says that her father had not followed that path; in fact, he was the informant who turned in his brother to Devendra Singh. Ajit asks Bhiku if he will join him and Bhiku happily accepts.
Radha has a visitor when she reaches home: her brother.
He is a member of Bharat’s gang. Radha confirms the Inspector’s presence in the town. Meanwhile, some of the villagers have rescued Thekedhar and Kaana, and Ajit puts them to work setting up the police chowki. Kaana asks Ajit if he can be a policeman too, but the other villagers want nothing to do with it. Especially vocal in his opposition is the town drunk, Chandi (Keshto Mukherjee).
Then the dacoits attack Dinapur to get at Ajit. He (accidentally) successfully fights them off using some of his hand grenades:
I am worried that they are using real people and horses for the action:
It’s a little TOO realistic!
As the bandits flee, the villagers go wild with glee and sign up for the force in droves. An old blind man stumbles forward asking about one of the dead dacoits. He is Shivkaka (Nazir Hussain), who was Devendra Singh’s right-hand man and the only other survivor of that terrible night when Ajit’s family was massacred. When Ajit realizes who Shivkaka is, he reminds us all why he’s there.
One villager remains loyal to Bharat Daku, however. Chandi tells him how all the villagers are joining the Inspector.
Bharat (who hasn’t changed his Tonto look in 25 years) tells him to sign up for the police to act as his spy, and vows to drive the police from Dinapur.
Meanwhile, the real police in a nearby city are wondering why they haven’t heard from their man, and they send a havaldar to enquire. Ajit manages to send him off satisfied, but how long can an illiterate truck driver pretend to be an educated Police Inspector? How can he train his new recruits when he himself has no idea what he’s doing?
Will Chandi’s spying sabotage all their efforts? Will Ajit be arrested for theft? Or will they manage to drive the dacoits away from their village?
Watch Pratiggya to find out. Despite a few lapses into maudlin sentiment and scenery-chewing, it is a good solid comedy and an opportunity to see some legendary comedians of Hindi cinema at work.