Posts tagged ‘Rajan Haksar’

July 20, 2012

Fiffty Fiffty (sic) (1981)

This is maybe not the post I should choose to write in memory of Rajesh Khanna, but it happened to already be under construction and he was so charming in the film…so why not? One shouldn’t defy kismat.

I loved this lunatic movie. It cannot by any stretch be called either well-written or even wildly original, but it is solidly entertaining if you like this sort of thing (illogical melodrama) which I do. Infants are switched at birth for nefarious purposes and spirited away for good ones; one of the villains is a bitter hunchback; we have con artists conning each other, a mute illiterate downtrodden mother trying to communicate a terrible secret (and failing) for years and years and years, divine intervention at moments of sheer despair, and the Rainbow Splendor of Disco—a mishmash that makes this one hard to forget. Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music is good fun, and I love the cast, too: even the completely age-inappropriate Rajesh Khanna-Tina Munim pairing works, maybe because Tina’s character is so worldly-wise that she doesn’t seem young. Plus Rajesh seems to be enjoying himself thoroughly, as he should, and is very handsome indeed.

July 17, 2012

Khoon Aur Paani (1981)

A daku-drama in the iconic mold of Manmohan Desai—what could possibly go wrong? Not much, I am pleased to report, at least as far as the film itself goes. The people in it suffer plenty, though, especially Feroz Khan’s angsty dacoit tortured by amnesia and an inexplicable phobia of water-pumps. Writer/director Chand hits every masala note he can think of even if not much is done with some of them  (religious imagery, for instance, seems thrown in there for no good reason). A young family broken up, lockets and tattoos, socially respectable but morally bankrupt villains, blood transfusions replete with filmi irony (get it? irony? sorry), plus all the standard dacoit movie delights (beautiful horses, black pagris, tilaks, golden earrings), and a great cast make this one a complete paisa vasool winner.

December 2, 2011

Mahal (1969)

The first hour and 45 minutes of this film are solid entertainment: an interesting suspense plot, pretty songs, beautiful Darjeeling, and plenty of sparks between Dev Anand (playing a 28-year-old and basically pulling it off at the age of 46) and Asha Parekh. Plus young Farida Jalal as a seductive nurse! But as so sadly often happens the last 45 minutes or so disappoint. This could be because there seem to be some scenes missing as the story reaches its dramatic peak which make subsequent events confusing and out of place. How edifying would it be to discover the place where all these thoughtlessly excised scenes and songs go to die a largely unmourned death?

Still and all, Mahal is a lot of fun and I’d watch it again.

October 25, 2011

Shatranj (1969)

Just when I fear that I may have seen all the crazy Indian spy films that there are to see, another one appears. This one is not quite as loony as my beloved Spy In Rome or Puraskar, but that is probably because it also had a larger budget and A-list stars (Waheeda Rehman and Rajendra Kumar). Still and all it is satisfyingly filled with many of the same tropes: an enemy country never called by its actual name, but whose denizens all have names like Comrades Ping and Chang and Shin Cho. They are led by an angry man we only ever see in silhouette until the end, who kills his loyal henchmen at the slightest provocation with weapons like machine guns mounted on turrets (and marvelous dying theatrics on the part of those men, although there is a sad lack of blood and gore). AND IT HAS SUBTITLES, hooray!

Plus, all the usual suspects—Madan Puri, Rajan Haksar, Ratan Gaurang—are present, sporting Fu Manchu moustaches and squinty eyes. Seriously satisfying.

September 27, 2011

Sher-E-Watan (1971)

If I didn’t know any better, I would now believe that Sher-E-Watan means “Men Without Pants”. Experienced Dara fan though I am, the sheer amount of male crotch-and-thigh on display amazed me; most of them wear nothing longer than a micro-mini tunic (Dara’s looks like leopard print velvet) or short skirt. Female costuming is confused and random, ranging in style from Arabian Nights to 1950s American Prom. Of course, I am not complaining; in fact along with the music by Usha Khanna, muscular men and pretty women in sparkly costumes are basically the reason to see this. Along with the monster named Octopus which is actually a man in an ape suit with bear claws.

Oh Indian cinema, you truly are the gift that keeps on giving!

July 25, 2011

Patthar Aur Payal (1974)

Here we have another formulaic daku-drama, by which I mean I loved it. So many throbbing neck veins (Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Ajit)! So many ferocious eyeball-to-eyeball staredowns! So many lines spat out through clenched jaws—and Prem Chopra nowhere in sight! So many manly men named Singh!

It is chock-full of Man Candy; pretty, pretty horses; the usual assortment of terrible wigs that do nobody any favors; men in hoop earrings; and that love which passeth all understanding—the unconditional bhai-bhai rishtaa. Hema Malini provides the Woman Candy and is the feisty catalyst for the eventual showdown between brothers and rivals. Plus, wonderful music from Kalyanji Anandji, including some funked-up title music!

July 2, 2011

Gora Aur Kala (1972)

If you are enticed by a story built on more than a few ludicrous suppositions and where skin color informs character, you might enjoy Gora Aur Kala. Or you might think—as I did more than once—that the racism inherent in all of it is so despicable that even Madan Puri atop a Disco Throne (before disco!) and the delicious irony of medically separated Siamese twin princes being separated again by fate hardly make up for it. But then again, it is all so very very over-the-top that I giggled at least as much as I cringed.

March 28, 2011

Nasihat (1967)

Nasihat double-Daras you not to like it and wins!

Sorry. My brain is addled with grief and self-pity these days and half the time I don’t know what I’m saying. Unsubtitled Dara Singh films are proving most appropriate for my powers (or lack thereof) of concentration, and a loony band of smugglers calling themselves the Golden Gang—based out of the Hotel Mogambo—being infiltrated by CID officers cannot possibly be bad, right? Right. It is, in fact, deliciously campy and entertaining even though several of the plot points escaped me (most notably the CSP which I didn’t care about anyway). What did not escape me is that there are two Daras, one Randhawa, a Helen, a Madan Puri, a faux Chinese henchman, a midget, a plethora of corpulent bald wrestlers, and a Boss with a somewhat pitiful little Desk Lair from which he issues his commands.

February 12, 2011

Maa (1976)

I don’t know if this film was made for children or not, given the number of cute baby animals etc. in it, but it is chock full of dumb messages like “Go ahead and pick up a wild baby lion cub even if its protective mother is lurking nearby!” and “If you are chased by a tiger, climb a tree because it can’t get you then!” all of which are followed by “…oh wait…ohhhhh.” Attention to detail is such that leopards are misidentified as cheetahs and the mama lioness has a mane. It is painfully stupid, over-long, harrowing to watch if you’re an animal sympathizer, and Nirupa Roy (as Dharam’s Maa) is the only sensible character in the movie!

So how and why did I make it through? Well, because I knew from the dvd cover blurb that eventually Dharmendra’s character was going to GET HIS from a mother elephant, and within the first five minutes of the film that became something I really wanted to see.

January 28, 2011

Cobra Girl (1963)

Also known as Naag Rani, this movie is a perfect example of how the so-called “B movie” genre contains gems (no Naag Mani pun intended, or not much) of movie history which really need to be treated with more respect. I would rather watch this and others of its ilk a hundred times over than watch Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam or Mother India more than once or twice. Sure, those are great films; but they aren’t exactly uplifting entertainment! Why is such pure uplifting entertainment as this so frowned upon and discarded? Very often the zany trappings overlay genuine emotional content and messages which are far more palatable to me than the stifling conservatism of mainstream Hindi cinema.

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