Heeralal Pannalal (1977)

Five seconds into the film (just after the censor’s certificate) this notice appears:

Hilarious! I absolutely adore the sarcastic, essentially unrepentant tone of it, and apparently it worked just fine for the censors too. This film could be used in a directing class as an example of what can happen when you work “over-enthusiastically” without a script. Halfway through, I had to stop so that I could diagram all the criss-crossing plot threads and character relationships in an effort to keep them straight. It’s not boring! but there is a definite seat-of-the-pants feel to the story, and little things like logic and continuity are thrown right out the window.

So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

A devout man paints Ganesha murtis in a workshop belonging to Kalicharan (Ajit). One evening he sees Kalicharan hiding diamonds inside one of the statues destined for export. He rushes home in a huge rainstorm, distressed, and tells his wife everything.

Kalicharan arrives just in time to murder the man and his wife, leaving their infant son Heeralal orphaned and afloat in a basket as the house collapses under the weight of the storm. It’s quite Biblical, actually!

That poor infant “actor” does not look happy. Kalicharan’s wife is herself about to give birth. When she goes into labor, he packs her off to the hospital but doesn’t accompany her. He has more pressing things to take care of, like killing the Police Commissioner (Murad) who is after him. He gives her his gold Ganesh medallion to take with her.

On the way, her car breaks down. The Police Commissioner is passing and instructs his driver to take her to the hospital; he stays behind. Unaware of this development, Kalicharan blows up the Commissioner’s car with his wife and unborn baby in it. He discovers his error on the way home. Ajit and his “Nahiiiiiiin!!!!!” face:

A local villager finds her and she survives just long enough to give birth to a son, Pannalal. The villager puts the medallion around the baby’s neck and carts him off to the orphanage.

Heeralal and Pannalal become best friends in the orphanage and swear undying brotherly devotion to each other. Heeralal’s grandmother tells him before she dies that his parents were murdered, and that he should take revenge some day. Credits roll, and grown-up Heera (Shashi Kapoor) and Panna (Randhir Kapoor) are presented as defendants in court.

They are accused of forcing people to buy bags of gravel along with their grains and water along with their milk. They cheerfully admit to doing that, but point out that their boss really wanted them to mix the gravel with the grains, and the water with the milk, which would have made people sick. So they asked people to buy them separately. They are acquitted and their boss Seth Dhaniram is arrested. Hooray!

On their way home, they come upon an injured tiger in some distress.

Panna pulls the thorn out and Heera gives the big cat some painkillers, and off they go. Next, they pass a steel factory from which workers are removing big sacks of grain.

They run to the local Police Inspector’s (Asrani) house. Inspector Arjun doesn’t want to get out of bed, so they snatch his gun away and take off—he and his havaldars are forced to chase after them, and run smack into the black marketeers. Arrests are made, Heera and Panna are thanked, and it’s all followed by a merry song about corruption (“Seedhe Raaste Chaloge To”).

RD Burman’s music, by the way, is lots of fun; far higher quality than the film itself. In any case, two of the goons evade “accidental” capture, and report to their boss.

It’s our old friend Kalicharan—Panna’s father. He vows to kill Heera and Panna.

Cut to the current Police Commissioner, Premlal’s (Premnath) office. Inspector Sawant (Ramesh Deo) has discovered old evidence of his superior’s wrongdoing in the form of a newspaper article, and he presents it to Premlal with a disapproving flourish.

Premlal explains that back when he was just an Inspector, then Police Commissioner Murad (who fortuitously escaped being blown up by lending Kalicharan’s laboring wife his car) asked him to entrap the local brothel-owner Bijlibai (Padma Khanna), who had connections to other criminals (mainly, Kalicharan). He romanced her as part of his job.

Premlal was forbidden even from confiding in his wife (Kamini Kaushal), so Kalicharan ensured that she found out about Bijlibai, and she took their daughter and left. Premlal has never been able to find them (this is the point where I felt the need to begin diagramming Kalicharan’s Bag of Bad Deeds).

Premlal now lives with his niece Neelam (Neetu Singh). She is friends with Ruby (Zeenat Aman) and brings Ruby home one day to ask Premlal for a donation to their college fund-raiser. Ruby’s mother (Kamini Kaushal!!) refuses to come in and stays in the car.

We’re not even forty minutes in, and already we have two fathers separated from their kids, one orphan, a wife separated from her husband, and they’re all just one little coincidence away from each other. This may also be the first film I’ve seen where the villain has managed to turn himself into a widower and lose his own child. That is some serious bad karma!

Premlal is charmed by Ruby but naturally has no idea that she’s his long-lost daughter.

Kalicharan’s henchmen are still after Heera and Panna, and several days later chase them into the theater where Ruby and Neelam’s fund-raiser is taking place. A song later, and Neelam is teasing her friend about Heera.

Kalicharan calls up his friend Panther (Amjad Khan). He has some priceless antique murtis stolen from temples, and Panther has a western contact to sell them to. Inspectors Arjun and Sawant are in charge of investigating the theft, and Sawant disguises himself as a laborer to keep an eye out for the thieves.

Kalicharan disguises himself as a blind beggar and lures Sawant into his underground lair (amongst the sewers) and kills him. He puts the body in a trunk which exactly matches the one containing the antique murti and instructs one of his gang members (Tun Tun) to deliver Sawant’s body to the Police Commissioner. He instructs two others to deliver the murti to Panther. Naturally, the two trunks get mixed up.

Tun Tun sees Heera and Panna on her way to the Commissioner’s.

She talks them into delivering the trunk to Premlal. They do so, and he is thrilled to get the antique murti back. Heera and Panna are heroes again! Panther, though, is not that thrilled to receive Sawant’s body instead of the gold and jewel-encrusted statue.

[Side note: Amjad Khan was getting very large at this point in his life, and green satin was a big time fashion no-no for him. Fire the costume designer! End side note.]

Heera and Panna spot Tun Tun and follow her to a girls’ hostel to ask questions about the idol. She disappears inside, and Heera goes in after her, but ends up in Ruby’s room instead. He flirts shamelessly with her and she pretends to give him Tun Tun’s address—but gives him her brother Jaggu’s (Ranjeet) address instead and tells Jaggu to beat up Heera when he arrives.

Panna meanwhile has climbed into a car he thinks to be Tun Tun’s, but it is Neelam’s. He falls asleep and wakes up in the garage the next morning, still in the back of the car. Inspector Arjun finds him there; Panna tells him that the car belongs to the idol thief. Arjun is Neelam’s brother and when the confusion is cleared up Neelam calls Ruby and explains what Heera was doing in the hostel.

Luckily one of Kalicharan’s men see Heera on his way to Jaggu’s, follows him, and is the one beaten up by Jaggu. Ruby is remorseful over misunderstanding his motives; she goes to Jaggu’s also to prevent Heera from being thrashed and romance blossoms with a song, “O Padosan Ki Ladki.”

Romance is proceeding between Neelam and Panna as well (she finally begins to like him when he slaps her for smoking a cigarette. Aaargh.). Then Panna is caught by Kalicharan’s goons and taken to his lair. Kalicharan slaps Panna around a bit, and then throws him into a cage with a tiger—the very tiger that Panna had de-thorned earlier. The tiger breaks them both out of the cage and they escape.

Are you as exhausted yet as I was? It’s not even an hour and a half into the film yet! If you want to know what happens in the next hour—do Panna and Heera find Panna’s father and Heera’s parents’ killer (who is of course the same man)? Does Commissioner Premlal find his daughter (who is his niece’s best friend)? His wife (his niece’s best friend’s mother)? Will Kalicharan get what’s coming to him for all those Bad Deeds?—then by all means watch it.

If you are a fan of David Dhawan (who also works without a script, I think) you might enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s a dizzying kaleidoscope of events that make little sense. But Shashi, Zeenat and Neetu are good eye candy, even if they seem equally bewildered by the whole thing. Randhir seems most at home with the buffoonery (along with Asrani). I think that sums it up nicely.

Edited to add: Here is the somewhat incoherent diagram that I made so that I could keep straight all of Kalicharan’s evil deeds and the characters’ relationships to one another. Yes, my handwriting is always this bad. Enjoy.


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33 Comments to “Heeralal Pannalal (1977)”

  1. That was indeed a very confusing plot (or lack of one!)

  2. Loony event followed quickly by another loony event…you need time in between to take a breath and marvel at the craziness you’ve just seen. But there’s no time here!

  3. They really worked without a script? That sounds just delightfully absurd to my ears. (Plotting and logic are always overrated, if you ask me.)
    I must also look out for things by David Dhawan.

  4. I think a great many Hindi movies are/were made without a script. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others, though :-) David Dhawan has been known to brag about the fact that he never uses a script!

  5. Once I got used to the odd clothes Heera and Panna wear throughout the movie, I rather enjoyed it. It was bizarre, but fun. And definitely providing much eye-candy. I just wonder which child had to give up his toy train for the gripping climax. And the music is very good, it is among my favourite cheering up music.

    As for David Dhawan, I would recommed trying some earlier movies. His stuff seems to get worse and worse.

  6. The DVD quality (T Series) was so bad that it was sometimes hard to appreciate the visual aesthetics…you can tell from my screen shots that it was bad!

    But it was entertaining. Bizarre, as you say, but fun. LOL@child giving up his toy train :-)

  7. Can’t wait to see your Bombay Bomshell costume next year! Anyway,this movie looks crazy, but in a familiar hindi masala way. Love the pic of Kamini Kaushal. Thanks

  8. Yaayyy Randhir! I love Randhir Kapoor, he never really got his due in Bollywood he was such a masala and blobby actor like his dad Raj! Though Shashi does look gorgeous here in his Paris beret! The subtitles are hilarious here, “a thorn up his digits” is a great euphemism and should be a motto in the Masala Pradesh! It has Premnath and Randhir so i have to find this!!! Is Ranjit a rape-free villain here?

  9. This one was a bit like riding a roller coaster – its always more fun once the ride is over! I loved the songs especially Kahiye kahan se aana hua but I had the same T-series DVD as you, and the print took away half the fun! :-(

    I kept waiting (till the end) for the turning point in the story when the two would get into normal costumes. But their zany vehicle was rather cute!

  10. Oh yes, pretty exhausted. Was hoping to see your diagrams, perhaps they will make more sense. :)

    And what’s this about your Bombay Bombshell costume. Where, how, when? Please post.

  11. Stella_1: probably should start working on it now :-) I once was a Texas bombshell with a large beehive hairdo and false eyelashes longer than my nose, probably it will work along the same lines but with more eyeliner :-)

    Rum: Randhir is a bit like a pudgy teddy bear, but hero material he is not. The subtitles were often quite funny. And Ranjit wasn’t really a villain, more of a devoted brother. He only had a guest appearance (but he looked v.v. hot ;-)

    bollyviewer: Yes, a dizzying rollercoaster that’s more fun once it’s over indeed! PERFECT description! I loved the zany vehicle too, especially that Shashi had to do all the work keeping it moving :-)

    Banno: My diagram made no more sense than the film, a bunch of arrows and exclamation points :-) Maybe I will scan it and add it here later…Bombay Bombshell—see Parties, Sarees and Melodies for info (Halloween).

  12. This movie also has a song ( quite a popular song too) that goes “aaja mere pyaar aajaa”. Everyone thought that it was a song picturised on lovers. But just imagine the shock on finding when it turns out that this song is picturised on a father and his daughter.

    That disclaimer about the disclaimer of policemen is hilarious, but that disclaimer was atually required. The police is actually depicted as nincompoops and jokers in this movie.

  13. squarecutatul: I know, I can see why the censors asked for the disclaimer—Asrani was about as idiotic a policeman as you could ever hope to find. But they aren’t portrayed any more badly than they are in lots of other films. And my favorite thing about it is that the disclaimer isn’t really very apologetic or contrite. “We have been informed that we have been disrespectful” just smacks of more disrespect! Hilarious. Bureaucracy is the same the world over…

  14. I love this film! Saw it on TV several years ago and was compelled to buy the DVD as soon as I saw it available on Nehaflix… but what a disappointment the quality turned out to be. Damn you, T-Series! There has to be a better print of this film out there somewhere!

    You’re definitely right that it’s not boring and has a seat-of-the-pants feel to it. It’s not often I come across a story as confusing as this one. Love the sarcastic disclaimer and the rest of your screenshots. That shot of Ajit laughing in front of a skeleton – epic!

    I just found out the director, Ashok Roy, also made another film around the same time with Randhir/Neetu – “Dhongee”, which didn’t quite reach the wacky level of this one but was enjoyable nonetheless.

    The music is great as well; Burman never disappointed when it came to movies starring Randhir Kapoor – no matter how lame the film the music was always fantastic.

    There’s just something about “Kisne Dekha Hai Kal” that I find captivating. Is it all the wild intro, the bright colors, Premnath’s wacky outfit and hat, Amjad Khan singing in a gravelly tone, Ajit decked out in a white suit, a bunch of musically inclined dancing women, Ranjeet kissing a rock, or Zeenat in a pink dress… or all of the above? Loved it so much I had to throw it up on YouTube and share the zaniness.

  15. I know; the quality of the print really really sucked. I’m not that picky either but it was very distracting.

    You didn’t give us a link to the YouTube video you uploaded! :-)

  16. Whoops, how forgetful of me! That’s what happens when I ramble on too long, lol.

    I’d call this a microcosm of the entire film and all it’s madness:

  17. ^ Er… its, not it’s, but you all knew that. :)

  18. Randhir looks a lot like Raj. And that’s all I have to contribute to this discussion. LOL Oh, and I admire you for taking the time to diagram the whole thing!!!

  19. Sy—that song is quite cracktastic, especially with RDB singing playback for Amjad Khan :) And the girls remind me of Robert Parker’s backup “band” in the song Addicted to Love…

    ajnabi: yes, poor thing. I’m adding the diagram soon although it really makes no sense either. Well, to me it did, at least after three glasses of wine.

  20. lol memsaab, on the bottom right hand corner of your diagram, does it say “KK = naughty!?” ?? lolllllllllllllll

    I think Kalicharan (if that’s who KK is) would be described as a little more than “naughty” for all the deeds that he did!! :-D ~And yes, that disclaimer was *hillarious* — it makes me want to think that the makers were actually intelligent and knew what they were doing, but the rest of the movie seems like an incoherent mess!! (or a supersized bowl of masala, depends on how you look at it!)

  21. Ranya, no the KK there is Kamini Kaushal. I want to know who Ranjit’s father is, since she didn’t have a son when she left her husband but he apparently is Ruby’s brother :-D

    Of course, he could be a rakhi brother as opposed to a blood brother…

    Kalicharan is pure evil. And it is a supersized bowl of masala! Ha ha!

    • Speaking of rakhi brothers (I had a couple who are today as lost as we could’ve been in a Kumbh Mela), `Dadabhai Navroji’ was the term sometimes used to describe the turn this relation could take. No disrespect intended to the `Pitamaha’ of India ( Chapter I in History Text Book, Std III), but using this term meant sometimes, at a very young age, a girl could have a rakhi brother and sometimes the relation changed to matrimony, when they grew up!!! I was told by friends (I have not heard of that happening where I grew up but my best friend in college begged to differ and would refuse to name names from her neighbourhood.).

  22. Lovely woman! I am celebrating! I hope you are! I watched the acceptance speech live and cried!


  23. Oh you bet I am!!!!! *Snoopy Dance* :-)

  24. hey
    hii to all of you
    this film is a happy go lucky type of film
    this movie is really fantastic
    its not fully masala movie
    its a paisa vasool comedy movie with good acting by all
    coolie, suhaag,mard,n david dhawan films are really bad
    please dont insult d cast and crew of this superhit movie of 1978 by comparing with other complete faltu movies

  25. The disclaimer is truly hilarious. I had watched the movie in a theatre and I had noticed the disclaimer at that time. To the best of my knowledge, no other movie in Bolywood history may have been subjected to this kind of arm twisting by the censors.

    Of course, the producer deserved it. And he got away lightly, by incorporating this disclaimer. It shows that the makers of this movie had a sense of homour. Only if they could have used that sense of humour during the making of this movie.

  26. I know! I’ve watched hundreds of Hindi movies, and never seen this kind of thing before. Loved it :-) And he did get away fairly lightly, maybe it shows that the censors had more of a sense of humor than they get credit for?

  27. Where did you find this on DVD?

    PS – stumbled upon your site and we love it!

  28. I think I got it from Nehaflix.com :-) The DVD quality is very poor though, as you can probably tell from the screen caps. And thanks! Glad you found me too!

  29. OMG – I spent an hour on your site instead of doing work! I’ve been slowly catching up on my old skool Bollywood films (my Netflix queue has about 50 of them).

    Have you watched any films by Hrishikesh Mukherjee? While I prefer my Hindi films full of bellbottoms, improbable fight sequences and Zeenat …Mukherjee’s films are heartwarming and poignant …and I don’t think I’ve seen a bad film by him yet. His pacing and camerawork remind me of early Orson Wells.

    Also, I just saw that our site’s partner Pardon My Hindi is a big fan of yours too. Great Minds Think Alike!

  30. Well turbanhead, I just visited YOUR site and love it!!!! I almost died at the sight of those little boys dressed up like Gandhi *so much cuteness* Wish you allowed comments though (hint hint)…

    I have watched lots of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films although maybe haven’t reviewed them here (I saw them early on in my filmi watching career, way before I started this blog)…Looks like we share all kinds of taste, I really like Pardon My Hindi too! Great graphics :-)

  31. absolutely love this film,the director ashok roy made quite a few gems esp with shashi kapoor,nobody but nobody can match ajit in his elements,ranjeet was wasted in this movie,the songs are damn good,another must watch movie is zakhmee–reena,rakesh and sunil dutt.

  32. I heard that this movie flopped, if Iam not mistaken

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