Reader Chris brought the sad lack of reviews on the internet of this film to my attention recently, and I am surprised. This is a really fun film, and though Shammi is admittedly towards the end of his career as a hero, he is still the Shammi who made hearts go pitter-patter. The songs are classic Shanker-Jaikishan-Rafi-Shammi, with the dance-off between Helen and Vijayanthimala probably its most well-known feature. But there’s so much more to it than that! Shammi is less exuberant than the Yahoo Shammi of early in the decade, which gives his performance a more subdued realism. He plays Prince Shamsher Singh, the jaded, bored, arrogant son of the Maharajah of Ramnagar (Ulhas); the film is about how wealth and privilege do not guarantee happiness, not by a long shot. This theme—and the setting, at the twilight of the Princely States—may be be trite, but they are no less valid; and the screenplay and story are penned by none other than Abrar Alvi. And the supporting cast…let’s just say it is a gift that keeps on giving.
It being that time of year, I am off on a skiing holiday in Switzerland with my best friend Asha P. and my something-or-other-by-marriage Babita. My friend Mike suggests I take along an inexplicably neglected friend of his whom he calls The Bomb, Praveen Choudhary. She has always seemed like good fun to me too, so: the more, the merrier!
All three of these ladies make me envious with their ability to tease up a big bouffant and their cat’s-eye makeup, perfect for setting off a fur collar or parka hood. My plan is to have them teach me these valuable life skills when they are too tired to ski any more. And while they wear themselves out on the slopes, Gemma and I will be making friends with the bartender in the nearest cozy firelit lodge. I don’t ski, myself, but I do love a good ski resort!
As inured as I am to the crimes against humanity (and cinema) perpetrated by Indian vcd/dvd manufacturers, this left me gasping when it abruptly showed up smack in the middle of a climactic scene about an hour and a half in:
A burning problem indeed! Since I didn’t actually buy this (thanks Shalini! *mwah*!) I don’t have any idea whether Priya’s packaging warned the consumer to expect an abrupt cessation of events. I’m guessing not, though, and they fill in the last half hour with ads in case you are inclined to demand your paisa vasool, which I at least did not have to worry about.
The situation does beg this question: am I glad I saw what I did of the film, even if I had no idea what was going on (no subtitles) and never did find out how it ended (burning problem)? The answer is a qualified yes: I am grateful for what is there, garish as it is, especially the songs by GS Kohli. They are fabulous. But I am also painfully aware that there will likely be no opportunity for me to ever see it as originally intended, all the way through. It is a sad loss indeed.