I am a pretty big fan of director-producer-writer-actor Arjun Hingorani’s work. His listing on imdb is probably incomplete, but the films he made that I’ve seen (four of them now), I have really enjoyed despite some issues. Those issues are very small in the face of his laboriously tangled—but coherent—storylines, stylish camera work, fabulous music, and the people he loves to cast: Dharmendra, Ashoo, Hiralal, Shetty, Jankidas, Keshav Rana and more. I also appreciate his penchant for casting himself in his films, not always in a heroic light but always in a terrible wig. In essence, his movies are solidly entertaining and a real delight to sit through if you are willing to overlook a certain glossing-over of logic and moderate level of preachy melodrama (which I am).
Fate has conspired to push snake movies at me from all angles this month; so be it. Until Doodh Ka Karz came along this was my topmost favorite of the genre and it is at least still tied for first. I love it for the ridiculous special effects, the Seventies style, the star-crammed cast and the shape-shifting, vengeful ichchadhari nagin Reena Roy. These things more than make up for the heavy-handed (at times) preaching on a wide number of subjects: marriage, wifely duty, religion, sacrifice, revenge, redemption. I was only planning to mine this for screenshots for my “Nahiin! Face Gallery” (coming soon), but I couldn’t stop watching once I began. There are lots of Nahiin! Face moments, but there are some surprisingly sensitive ones too. All in all it’s an odd mixture of things, almost none of them boring.
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.
This Sharmila Tagore home production took years to make and it shows, mostly in Rajesh Khanna’s hair. But it’s sort of fitting, actually, because the story itself takes place over years—as do all of the Sharmila-Rajesh movies, with lots and lots of suffering and noble sacrificing principles (tyaag!) along the way. This is full of all that, but still I enjoyed it: sometimes angst is not misplaced and human frailties can cause a lot of trouble. I will say that the subtitles leave a lot to be desired—they are patchy in places (long dialogues with short or no subs) and hard to read at best. My friend Suhan did her best to fill in the gaps but even so a lot of the dialogue went over my head, making the film much less meaningful for me I think than it might otherwise have been. The music by SD Burman (his last soundtrack) is also very pretty indeed (my favorite is the duet “Hum Tum Hain Tum Hum”).
This entire review is nothing but a giant spoiler, because the ending especially is So Many Kinds of Wrong that I cannot do anything but tell you all about it. My sister pointed out that if Rush Limbaugh and his ilk were to make a film this might very well be it, a sentiment I fully agree with. It spouts the same judgmental and self-righteous crap that those people do and is just as egregiously dumb, although clearly many people don’t find it as obviously stupid as I do. It’s a typical Manoj Kumar venture: everything modern (or progressive) is evil and can only be redeemed through the influence of traditional (and repressive) values and mores. It sums up exactly why I hate his “Mr. Bharat” persona.
I am sure no regular reader of these pages will have any trouble imagining my great joy at receiving this treasure from my new friend Shalini.
Shammi + Wadia Brothers + Babubhai Mistry—it’s like a miracle!
*dies and goes straight to heaven*
Add in Shashikala as Shammi’s heroine, and the redoubtable Kuldip Kaur (dictionaries should all have her picture next to the word “haughty”), plus a hunchback, a band of gypsies, and royal intrigue!…words fail me. Really. And it doesn’t matter, because I couldn’t tell you honestly what the plot is, only that I love this film. LOVE. Of all the early Shammi films I’ve seen, this is the first one in which he actually pretty much resembles the Shammi of his heyday. He looks like he’s having a ball—and why not? It’s oodles of swashbuckling fun.