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
What they both have:
- Royal brothers separated at birth
- Clever animals who save the day
- Indrani Mukherjee (love her!)
- Ranjeet (hot!)
- Pradeep Kumar
- Jeetendra/Shatrughan Sinha (J in DV, and SS in AS: I consider it kind of a wash, although others might will probably disagree)
- Two kick-ass heroines who are (unfortunately) mostly decorative
- Many sword-fights
- The medieval Europe-ancient Rome dichotomy (although in DV’s case many other eras are factored in as well—probably AS director Harmesh Malhotra is at least marginally less crazy than Manmohan Desai, although he did make Nagina a decade later)
- Very nice music courtesy of Laxmikant Pyarelal
In any case, on with our tale. Traitors Shamsher Singh (Pradeep Kumar) and Nahar Singh (Jeevan) kill the heir to the throne and his wife, and then the old king himself, taking over his kingdom. Unbeknownst to them, however, the Yuvraj’s two young sons have not died. The older one, Shakti, has been rescued from drowning by a band of nomadic gypsies; and Amar has been saved by his nursemaid Leela (Indrani Mukherjee) at the cost of her own son’s and husband’s lives.
Shakti (Shatrughan Sinha) is brought up by Sardar (Om Shivpuri), the chief of the gypsy tribe. Sardar treats him like his own son, to the jealousy and chagrin of his actual son, Hameera (Ranjeet). This jealousy is further complicated by the fact that both Shakti and Hameera are in love with Chamki (the delightful Manjula), who loves Shakti. I love Hameera’s mutton-chops. Those are some serious side-burns!
Shakti is old enough to remember his parents being killed, and has vowed to avenge them when the time comes.
Leela has brought up the younger Amar (Shashi Kapoor)—who remembers nothing of his former life—as her own son. Her brother-in-law has trained him to be a master swordsman. Their village is periodically harassed by the the now-king Shamsher Singh’s men.
Five villagers are taken prisoner since they can’t pay the tax. Amar hears about a sword-fighting tournament for which the winner’s prize is 500 rupees—just enough to spring his neighbors from prison. He signs up despite the fact that the previous five years’ winner is the cruel prince of a neighboring kingdom, Ranjit Singh (Roopesh Kumar), who kills his opponents and eats them (no, just kidding, he only kills them). He also wants to marry Shamsher Singh’s daughter, the Rajkumari Sunita (Sulakshana Pandit) although she’s not as keen on the idea.
Sardar has decided that the gypsies should attend the festival surrounding the sword-fighting tournament too. Let the games begin!
Shakti and Amar brush past each other as they arrive, as they should in a good soul-stirring masala film. Amar challenges Ranjit to fight, and wins too—although the palace guards step in when Ranjit is defeated. Sunita (who is pleased to have someone other than Ranjit win, especially if that someone looks like Shashi) saves the day.
Amar hands his prize—a bag of gold coins—over to one of the king’s men, and his fellow villagers are freed from the prison. Hameera then steals the bag from the king’s man, but as guards close in on him he throws it at his father’s feet. Sardar is arrested for theft along with Chamki. He is tortured on a rack-wheel thingy and Chamki is forced to sing and dance for the king’s advisors, while Shakti works on a plan to free them.
Does anybody know anything about the actress Manjula? I liked her in this: very feisty, good dancer, pretty girl too. She even helps Shakti overcome all the guards when he finally busts through a window to get her. They get Sardar out too, who is pretty pissed off at his actual son Hameera for throwing him into the soup, as it were.
The torture has weakened him (the rack-wheel thingy is more effective than it looks apparently) and he dies not long after after naming Shakti as his heir.
Meanwhile, Amar meets Sunita accidentally-on-purpose in a temple, and thanks her for supporting him at the end of the tournament. They flirt with each other as Hameera lurks behind a pillar.
When he thinks Amar has left, Hameera tries to grab Sunita’s jewelry—but Amar hasn’t gone far, and he returns and bashes up Hameera. In gratitude, Shamsher Singh makes Amar a commander in his army—sworn to protect the very man who murdered his parents.
Amar woos Sunita further by disguising himself as her music teacher and singing with her, as would-be husband Ranjit looks on. Much of Sunita’s furniture would not look out of place in the Poconos, especially the round, plush pink revolving bed.
Meanwhile, back at the gypsy camp Hameera has challenged Shakti for the chieftainship of the tribe. They decide to fight it out according to tradition.
Shakti wins this battle waged over hot coals, and banishes Hameera from the tribe. He then declares war on Shamsher Singh: it’s time for him to take revenge for his parents’ murder and the usurpation of his throne.
This puts him on a headlong collision course with Amar, who is promoted to an even higher rank (Emperor of France? Drum major in a marching band? Chief girly man?) in the king’s army.
What will happen when these two meet face to face again? Will they ever get to know that they are brothers? Can Shakti defeat Shamsher Singh, or will Amar stop him? Will they find true love, or will Hameera and Ranjit cause trouble in paradise?
Watch Amar Shakti to find out (and to see a scene lifted straight out of Ben-Hur). It doesn’t have the grandeur and ambition of Dharam-Veer, but it also doesn’t have the OTT lunacy which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (although: why?). It’s a lovely fairy-tale with a well-crafted story and screenplay that moves along swiftly, with plenty of heart-warming masala dil to boot. A very enjoyable way to spend a rainy or snowy afternoon!
And because I realize that my screen-caps unfairly excluded him (yes I was distracted by Ranjeet and Shashi), and I know that some people would likely be upset about that, here is Shakti-Shotgun in all his mustachioed glory.