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.
I have now seen this particular place in four different films spanning nine years. Originally I thought it was a set, but it now seems difficult to believe that a set would remain so unchanged over that time frame. Almost nothing does change, except the dining table chairs and floor coverings! The light fixtures remain almost identical, as do the altar (?) beside the second door, the stone walls, the stairs, the ceilings—and of course the Cat Wall-Hanging.
Surely if it were a set, different art directors would have changed it from film to film and most certainly from year to year, don’t you think? Especially since the whole thing is really retro-hideous (which is why I love it so).
(left to right: Namak Haraam—1973, Chorni—1981)
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.
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.
Memsaab: “But…but…Ranjeet and Bindu get married! And play good guys! How can that possibly be bad?!”
Shalini (patiently): “Why is it bad? Let’s see: for the first half of the movie Neetu plays a rich little suicidal (she thinks she has cancer and only has months to live) girl who hires unemployed, working class Randhir to kill her. It’s nobler/braver, you see, to “defeat” death by taking it in your hands rather than doing something sensible like consulting with doctors to see if there might be some treatments/cures. Anyway, she spends the second half of the film trying to not fall victim to an elaborate, sick revenge plot concocted by deranged, homicidal Ajit. Ajit becomes unhinged when his only child (a young Gufi Paintal) kills himself over his unrequited love for Neetu. He of course blames Neetu for not loving his son back and is determined to make her pay for her “crime.” Neetu and Randhir fall in love in the midst of all of it, because what could be more romantic than this plot?”
Memsaab: “But…Ranjeet…and Bindu…….”
Shalini: “You never learn, do you?”
A few hours later:
Memsaab: “OMG! Ajit STABS A PICTURE OF A KITTEN, he is so crazy!”
Shalini: “Keeping Paintal’s preserved body in the bedroom is worse.”
Memsaab: “That’s probably true.”
Shalini: “Do you realize that Ranjeet (and Bindu) are the most *normal* characters in this movie?! I suppose that’s reason enough for this movie to be immortalized.”
I spent the entire running time of this film with a big angry WTF bubble above my head. It’s not that I shouldn’t have known: packaging which advertises Bindu as a nymphomaniac is pretty fair warning. Sadly, it is also irresistible enticement for someone belonging to the “How bad can it be?” school of risk management.
It’s bad. It’s REAL bad. It’s Haseena Atom Bomb bad.
If you are in the mood for a cleverly plotted swashbuckler a la mode indienne, reach for this one. The dialogues are written by Abrar Alvi, always a good sign, and the screenplay by Javar Sitaraman; the story is intricate, entertaining and witty. If Rajendra Kumar and Ajit are a *little* too old to be playing men in their twenties, it doesn’t really matter and they look just fine opposite Vijayanthimala. She is beautiful, even sharing lots of scenes with the younger and equally gorgeous Mumtaz, and she shows us all once again that GIRL CAN DANCE. Amazing. Shankar Jaikishan’s music is catchy and pretty, and the host of supporting character actors all seem to be having fun—Jagirdar especially, as the dacoit Ram Singh. Plus, a loyal horse and clever elephant companions: what’s not to love, really?
About the only thing this dreadful movie has going for it is the Bizarro World subtitles—subtitles so strange but enthusiastic that I pictured a crowd of manic little elves shouting and arguing about the best word or phrase to use, none of which probably made any sense, let alone the one they finally settled upon. But I thank Bhagwan above for the weird subs, because there was not much else to like.
I confess that I have never shared the fervent Rishi love that so many of my fellow Hindi film lovers do, although I do pretty much adore Noughties Rishi who has stolen the show in films like Hum Tum, Luck By Chance and Chintuji. He stars here with his real-life lady love Neetu Singh (whom I DO totally share the appreciation for usually) and my recent acquaintance Zahira, with Pran as his military father figure Major Sharma. The story is an exercise in dysfunctional parenting with lots of overacting (Roopesh Kumar I am looking at YOU) and that sacrificial-lamb theme that I so despise, although at least this time it’s mostly the men who wallow in stupid pointless suffering: equal opportunity martyrdom is the order of the day.
Ooh, yeah. This is a rarity in 1980’s Hindi cinema, a masala film that’s complete paisa vasool! It starts off with a bang and continues to entertain thoroughly right up to the end: a rollicking, swashbuckling good time. The screenplay was written by Jyoti Swaroop, who is one of those people I’d really like to find out more about, but whose presence on the web is mostly confined to the hilarious film Padosan, which he directed. He’s known to me also for directing the delightful Chorni, and also for writing Satte Pe Satte and Inkaar—two other Memsaab favorites. In any case, the fun quotient is greatly enhanced by the droolworthy presence of Vinod Khanna and Danny Denzongpa as bitter rivals who *might* also be long-lost brothers, and by some zany subtitles.