The supernatural and horror genres don’t attract me much, although the Indian versions are more interesting than mainstream Hollywood’s—usually because they are pretty low-budget and not at all scary, and chock-full of WTF-ery. I do love a good (or bad) snake movie, however, so when I saw this one directed by someone I am curious about—BR Ishara—I decided to give it a whirl. The few early 1970s film magazines that I have refer to Ishara’s work as “bold” with undertones of “sleazy” implicated in every other line. I know that he made a film considered quite radical for its time called Chetna, which is sadly not available anywhere that I can find, and that he eventually married the beautiful heroine of that film, Rehana Sultan, whose promising career was seemingly hampered by her willingness to push the envelope in films of a certain reputation, undeserved or not.
I got this film for three main reasons: Feroz Khan, Ranjeet and the title. Kashmakash. What a word! It just rolls off the tongue, na? I am informed by my friend Raja—who also subtitled it for me, more on that later—that it means troubles or problems. The people in this have plenty of them, not the least of which is putting up with IS Johar’s endless pompous and pointless pontificating (a problem for us too). Mitigating that, though, are the aforementioned Feroz and Ranjeet; cracktastic Seventies costuming and set decorations; a young plump Rekha (the best kind), a less insufferable than usual Shatrughan Sinha, and Memsaab favorite Rehman; very cool music by Kalyanji Anandji including a fab dance by Padma Khanna; plus an engaging murder mystery.
Apparently this film only released in 1989, but it was made in 1971 and clearly looks it so that’s what I’m going with. It’s a pretty entertaining potboiler, but even if it weren’t there is one compelling reason to see it: a scene with uber-villain Tiwari in a bright pink and white lace negligee admitting that he gets his kicks from cross-dressing. Yes, really. And it has nothing to do with the plot, either. The story itself is in service to a criminal reform message which probably didn’t play as well in the late eighties as it might have in the early seventies. It is weak in places, but there is a plethora of lovely songs (by Ravi, with lyrics by Sahir) and an assortment of fine character actors with lashings of clever humor (no annoying CSP!). Leena Chandavarkar, a feisty heroine I always love, is paired with Sanjay Khan and backed by Pran and Rehman as lifelong foes on either side of the law.
One of my major philosophies in life is that non-human animals are better people than humans can ever hope to be. I am a complete sucker for films which reflect this belief back at me, especially when I don’t have to see any animals suffering in the process—the sight of animals suffering at the hands of man is something I truly find unbearable. I dislike circuses, and am ambivalent about zoos (at their best they facilitate the survival of species that we are trying our level best to eradicate, at worst they are giant cages filled with bored and distressed animals). So when this National Award-winning children’s film (as rare a thing in Indian cinema as the albino elephant it features) came to my attention I was *cautiously* excited.
Finally (thanks to Beth!) I got around to watching this Mehmood production, and I’m so glad I did. I seem to be on a roll of “not much plot but plenty of other stuff to entertain” types of films! I am sure I missed a lot of the regional humor, although some of it was so broad I couldn’t miss it—the south Indian family, for instance. Parts of it did drag on a little too long (the whole film was one big long Comic Side Plot, after all), but it was so much fun picking out guest actors and marvelling at Amitabh’s shirts that altogether I was highly entertained. Some of the subtitles were hilarious too—sometimes even because the actual dialogue was hilarious. Although Aruna Irani and Amitabh Bachchan were nominally the hero-heroine, it was a Mehmood & Friends vehicle all the way (no pun intended)!
When I found this DVD I was puzzled as to how it had not registered before on my radar: Raj Khosla directed, Salim-Javed wrote the dialogues, and it stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Zeenat Aman, Prem Chopra, Amrish Puri, Helen AND PRAN along with a serious array of character actors (KN Singh, Iftekhar, Sudhir, MacMohan, Birbal, Paintal, Trilok Kapoor, Jagdish Raj and more!). How could that possibly go wrong?
And it didn’t, really, at least not terribly…but it is dull and predictable; and there is no chemistry whatsoever between Zeenat and AB or SS, or—more importantly, actually—between AB and SS. It is also a little sloppy at times: Pran has a young son who doesn’t age at all, for instance, although Pran himself does (going from dark hair in a flashback to completely gray hair in the present), and Prem Chopra fires a number of bullets from a gun inside his pocket—but somehow said pocket remains intact, without holes. These are just minor issues though, and if the story had been better, with actors not just going through the motions, they would hardly warrant a mention (at least from me).
Manmohan Desai! How I adore you. And this sort-of-medieval swashbuckler with snake gods, sword-fights, dacoit Ranjeet, Bela Bose as a greedy courtesan, and Jeetendra and Shatrughan Sinha as brothers on opposite sides of that pesky line between good and evil has not changed my mind one little bit. The setting is gorgeous too, as the movie was shot on location at the spectactular Laxmi Vilas Palace belonging to the Maharajah of Baroda. It’s much less loony than the film it vaguely reminded me of (Dharam-Veer); I guess, my dear Manmohan, you hadn’t quite reached your full masala stride yet. Still, it’s an entertainer in your trademark style, with lots of action and well-drawn characters.
This was a pretty good movie until the last half hour, when a different bad film was tacked onto it. Such is life. At least the bad one was only half an hour long. Until then, I was enjoying an interesting story with eye-searing ’70s style and the yummy goodness of young Amitabh, Shatrughan Sinha and our homegirl, Laxmi Chhaya. She got third billing after those two, and although strictly speaking she wasn’t the heroine, she had a central role and she was fantastic. Why was she not a star, why? Sigh.
The makers of Life…In A Metro apparently saw this film at some point, because one of the story threads in that was lifted from this (either that, or lending your boss the key to your apartment so he can cheat on his wife is a common practice in India—please say it isn’t so!).
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