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.
I normally would not bother writing about this film since Beth and the PPCC have already covered it in their usual stellar and thorough fashion. But they mostly liked this, and I hated it. Part of the reason is that it was *almost* good. It should have been, could have been! It had a great cast and good songs! But even the goodness of Shashi+Amitabh is not adequate compensation for being smashed over the head with a sermon that I disagree with, especially when it’s done largely to compensate for the lack of a real script (by Salim-Javed, no less). “Clutch your [Bible, Quran, Gita, other] and trust in your blind faith!” it trumpets. Just the kind of pablum that a world overrun with corruption, greed and poverty needs, right?
A genre that I haven’t explored much (and by “much” I mean “at all”) in Hindi cinema is that of the horror film. This is not surprising since I dislike being scared, and even the cheesiest of devices employed by the worst directors can cause me several sleepless nights. Examples of movies that have terrified the bejesus out of me include Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and I don’t even want to discuss the ramifications of Jaws on my hygiene in 1975.
But if I’m going to call myself a true connoisseur of Hindi film (and I really really want to!) then I clearly need to suck it up; and since Suhan offered to hold my hand (via an online watchalong) I decided that Rajesh Khanna’s foray into the genre would be a good place for me to start.
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 was inspired by Antarra’s review to see this film—so many thanks, Antarra! It’s essentially an hommage to Dharam-Veer with some pointed differences, which may make it a better film or a worse one, depending on your point of view. I loved Dharam-Veer (of course!) but I also really enjoyed this movie, maybe because my philosophy is if one of something is good, then two of it is better.
What Dharam-Veer has that Amar Shakti doesn’t:
- Manmohan Desai’s lunatic sensibilities and larger-than-life scope
- Dharmendra in a leather mini-skirt
What Amar Shakti has that Dharam-Veer doesn’t:
- Shashi’s curls
- Shashi’s eyelashes
- A Trojan elephant
There are only two things which give me *good* nostalgia for the 70s: ABBA music and Hindi movies. I spent the latter half of that decade wearing hideously patterned Qiana shirts, sporting feathered hair and fighting the tendency of my stomach to overhang hip-hugger bellbottoms, all the while living in rural Indiana and wishing I were dead, so that is actually saying something.
I suppose if I had cable television and thus access to reruns of the original “Starsky & Hutch” television shows that might do it too, but I don’t. I love Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music in this film, though, especially the opening title and background music (although the songs are fab too). It’s funkadelic 1970s, all the way, and reminds me of the opening themes to those 1970s cop shows.
When people roll their eyes and scoff at “Bollywood” this is the kind of film it’s nice to have on hand to prove all their misconceptions wrong. It is a powerful social drama with great performances from everyone and a tightly written (Gulzar) and directed (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) story. There’s not a minute wasted. It’s sad—and you know I hate sad—but it’s a film I’m glad I’ve seen and would heartily recommend, though my swollen eyes may never recover. Wah!
Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan are paired again as best friends after Anand, and are superb. And Om Shivpuri (who is inextricably linked in my brain to evil Mr. Oberoi in Disco Dancer) delivers in a small but pivotal role as an unscrupulous businessman. The core issue—socialism as a cure for the plight of the middle and lower classes (and a responsibility of the wealthy) still seems as relevant today as it was thirty-five years ago.
Ahhhh masala. The very very best filmi masala has at the very very least most of these twenty-one ingredients:
- Prodigious use of religious symbolism, preferably encompassing at least The Big Three: Hindu/Muslim/Judeo-Christian
- Squishy dil™ (ppcc) (aka “Oh! the humanity!”)
- Fabulously mod fashions
- Outlandish nonsensically fun plots
- At least one weeping mother
- Brothers/friends on opposite sides of the law
- Incredibly pretty hero(es) and heroine(s)
- Disguises, preferably which mock some ethnic or cultural group
- At least one child lost at a fair, preferably two who are childhood sweethearts