One of things I find so fascinating about Hindi cinema is how many people there are who had the ability to carry a film no matter how dreary the story and their co-stars. That some of these people have been almost criminally ignored, by and large, is a subject for another day. I would not have made it through this one without the sparkly and mesmerizing presence of Minoo Mumtaz. She has some support in the presence of Anwar Hussain, a spectacular Helen dance and lovely songs from Ravi; but even Kum Kum can’t overcome her sanctimonious dialogues and Nishi has the dubious honor of playing one of the most hateful female characters ever. Pradeep Kumar is the nominal hero and I will leave that to speak for itself.
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.
This is not a very good film. In fact, many might flat-out call it a bad one. But I was entertained thoroughly by the sheer power of Ashok Kumar’s awesome performance, an Abundance Of Helen, and the gaudy spectacle of Pradeep Kumar’s makeup (he wears more of it even than the ladies). Plus, a (way too) short appearance by my favorite band, Ted Lyons & His Cubs in the seventh film that I know about, so far. And with Helen, too—a first! I’m always happy to see them and hear their bahut achcha cha cha tunes. And so I found it easy to put up with the predictable plot, the dreary Pradeep-Padmini pairing, the day/night continuity issues, horrible editing (apparently a five year old was given responsibility) and so on. It is, when all is said and done, Dadamoni’s movie, and he is great in it.
The end of our first installment saw Aladin passing out drunk at a restaurant in the desert, and Alibaba going off in search of Sinbad and Princess Jameela; elsewhere in the same desert, Sinbad is romancing Zarina (Minoo Mumtaz) for some unknown reason as Shyam Kumar tries to molest poor Jameela.
I’ve been dying to see this ever since I found out it existed. It’s not any big secret that I’m a sucker for an Arabian Nights tale, especially as done in 1960s India on a shoestring budget. And if Helen is in it along with Sayeeda, Minoo Mumtaz, Bela Bose and Madhumati, how can it possibly be bad? It’s a dance extravaganza! The music is by one of my favorite music directors, Ravi—and it is lovely. Alas, the film is only available on VCD so no subtitles; whatever I got out of the story I’ve basically made up wholesale because it was seriously bewildering. But the visuals are so fabulous (despite the poor video quality) that I thought it time for another comic-book style entry, which is my way of saying: “Look at the pictures and figure the story out for yourselves.”
After reading a fine review of this movie over at Dusted Off, I had to see it. Nargis’ last film! Young Feroz Khan! Laxmi Chhaya! Ted Lyons & His Cubs! And truly it is an interesting and fun filmi noir, dominated by a fine performance from Nargis as a woman with a split personality. The music by Shankar Jaikishan is absolutely fabulous. My favorite song from the film is the lively “Awara Ae Mere Dil”—it’s going to be in my head for a few days, I can already tell. It’s picturized on the lovely Laxmi (it’s one of my picks for her top 10 songs) with my favorite band providing the music. The main quibble I have with the film is that it’s a Criminal Waste of Young Handsome Feroz—but hey, at least he’s there!
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