Jangal Mein Mangal (1972)

What’s not to love about a film which opens with animated credits like these? Very little! Especially when the credits probably cost more to produce than the entire rest of the film. This is a full-on Mod Seventies Cheesefest. I love cheese, and I love this film. It is loony entertainment at its best: a comedy-horror-mystery-romance dressed up in bellbottoms and vivid polyester, set to lively pop music by Shankar Jaikishan, and populated by a large cast of character actors, comedians and dancers.

Pran has a double role as a misogynistic ex-Army Colonel and as one of the Colonel’s charges Raghu, a campy effeminate type who nonetheless finds romance with one of the girls (when he isn’t busy combing his long hair). The girls are students of botany professor Laxmi (Sonia Sahni), a man-hating martinet, and her assistant Sister Sophia (Meena Roy). As with most Hindi horror genre films, there is a decidedly Christian bent (handy for grave-robbing situations). It was also filmed on location in a place I have visited, the Periyar Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala—very pretty and fun for me to see again.

The girls arrive with Professor Laxmi and Sophia and are settled into a guest house by Totaram (Paintal). Laxmi asks Totaram if there are any men around the place.

She is pleased only for a moment; but her students are thrilled when they hear a man’s voice shouting “Left Right Left Right!” and look out the window to see a group of young men in lockstep—discipline which comes to an abrupt end when they catch sight of the girls.

Their elders are much less happy at this intrusion on their respective group solitude and are soon arguing with each other and trying to keep the boys and girls separate.

I think Sonia Sahni and Pran hugely enjoyed themselves in this movie. Professor Laxmi and Sister Sophia quickly decide that they will have to move out of the guest house since the boys won’t budge, and to that end they ask local police officer Ratanlal (Krishan Dhawan) if he can advise.

The Thakur’s manager is not as certain that he will welcome guests; he tells the ladies that since the death of his elder brother the junior Thakur has been talking of selling up and moving. But Omkar Singh (UpendraTrivedi? Arvind Trivedi?), when he arrives, recognizes Sophia as the daughter of his late brother’s manager and agrees to let them move in.

On the way back to the guest house Sophia explains that her father committed suicide two years previously. She is unhappy at the prospect of staying at the Thakur’s house, and the boatman who is rowing them across the lake (Chandrashekhar) warns them against it too.

Now we discover that Sophia’s father, Thomas (Balraj Sahni), is very much alive and being kept prisoner in the Thakur’s dungeon (some might call it a cellar, but I prefer the drama of dungeon).

An old temple has been excavated in the area, and the senior Thakur had planned to restore the gold idols and other goodies found there to the local villagers. His brother Omkar then murdered him so that he could loot the old temple, but Thomas had already succeeded in hiding the treasure. No prizes for guessing that poor Sophia is going to be used now as bait to get Thomas to talk!

The villagers have petitioned the local jurisdiction to retain their right to the temple and its treasures, and the case is being decided in court based on Ratanlal’s recommendations.

Back at the guest house, the boys are trying to woo the girls into staying put with a lively song and dance. Luckily for them Sophia and Professor Laxmi have decided not to take advantage of the Thakur’s hospitality. Although Laxmi and the Colonel continue to keep disapproving eyes peeled, pairs begin to form: Rajesh (Kiran Kumar) and Leela (Reena Roy), Baldev (Narendranath) and Saroj (Jayshree T), and Raghu and Lata (Meena T).

The boys also have a run-in with some tribals who attack them, and a tribal woman is shot by a mysterious assailent behind a tree when they ask her why. Her water pot shatters and a stolen idol falls out. The dead woman turns out to have been one of the Thakur’s maids and an Inspector (Bharat Kapoor) pays a visit to the Thakur, who feigns ignorance.

The students’ involvement continues when they realize that the villagers are in danger of losing their claim on the temple property because of police corruption: Ratanlal is firmly in the Thakur’s pocket. They track him down at the Thakur’s place, being entertained by Padma Khanna (yay!):

and ask him very politely to please do the right thing by the villagers.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love the Raghu character. Pran minces around in these eye-searing outfits, having a blast.

And at long last, the Professor and the Colonel fall in love as we knew they eventually would, when Laxmi jumps into his arms because of a snake scare. This is celebrated with a cracktastic song:

and a little smidge of feminism:

Can it get any better than this??

It can and it does.

As the fight over rights to the temple treasures escalates, people begin dying at the hands of a mysterious bhoot. Can our gang of boys and girls figure out who and what is behind it all? Will they still have time to dance around a bonfire? (Yes, thank God: my favorite song from the film is “Ae Bagh Ki Kaliyon”.) Will Sophia be reunited with her father? Will the temple treasure be restored to its rightful owners, the public?

I seriously can’t think of a better comparison for this film than Scooby Doo and Friends, except without…well, Scooby Doo. (And I mean the 70s TV show, not the film.) It’s zany and cute and engaging; if you are a Pran fan especially you should not miss it. And look up the songs even if you don’t see the film: they are FAB.

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59 Comments to “Jangal Mein Mangal (1972)”

  1. This seems to be a real entertainer! I wanna see this movie baa baa (crying) after reading your review. Yep Thekkady (periyar reserve) is awesome indeed – went there in Dec 2007

    BTW, I saw Amar, Akbar Anthony last night and had a blast seeing all the famous character actors (other than AB’s fantastic performance, songs and MD’s madness). I was wondering if the actor who played rishi’s dad (ie the muslim guy who raises him) is Mulchand. I am now rushing to ur artist gallery to find out!

    • Moolchand plays the caterer who Jeevan hires to send over the priest and the musician (Big B and Vinod Khanna disrupt this by stealing their costumes).

  2. Why is paintal’s face totally black?

  3. Nah that was not moolchand. I think he is Karan Deewan. Could you please add him to your 70s gallery? You may be able to get his screenshot from ur AAA DVD. Sorry I don’t have one.

    BTW, I think moolchand and Polson are sort of similar in build. Polson also was a character actor in 70s.

  4. Moolchand has a very distinctive silhouette—a huge belly. Polson is just fat all over :) I seem to remember that Rishi’s father in AAA was played by Shivraj? although I don’t remember offhand for sure. I would have to dig out the dvd to look at him again.

    This is just a crazy film, lots of fun. Why is anyone’s face ever painted black/green in Hindi films? :)

  5. I saw this movie TWICE when it came out. I fell totally in love with Kiran Kumar, and mooned over – Tum kitni khoobsoorat ho.. wah wah.

    That GHOST … ahhhh.. he was sooooo cute.

    It was FUN FUN FUN FUN.

  6. Kiran Kumar also starred in the very fun “Aaj ki taaza khabar”. I always thought he had “it”. :)

  7. Total timepass, feel-good movie. And this review brings back lots of memories of schooldays. Everything about this movie was crazy and fun. The songs were good too – the one that I distinctly remember (and was the most popular song of the movie at that time) was “tum kitni khoobsoorat ho”. I remember vaguely (it WAS a long time ago :-) ) there being another song like “hum jeet gaye tum haar gaye” types.

    • I loved the songs. The “Tum Kitni Khoobsurat Ho” song is lovely, pictured on KK while Pran and Sonia moon at each other :D

    • Just watched the songs on youtube and realised that the song “hum jeet gaye tum haar gaye” is actually “aye baag ki kaliyon sharam karo”. I remember seeing this movie in the 1970s and this particular song had got stuck in my head. :-)

      • Did I get the name wrong? I usually look them up on earthmusic.net to make sure I get the spelling right…It is my favorite song in the film. Just beautiful, and lively, and the visuals are fantastic :)

  8. I saw this as a kid on DD. It surely has some good songs. But I can’t remember any at the moment. Which is that song with Kiran Kumar (isn’t he Jeevan’s son?) playing the guitar? Atleast in my memory it is good.

    • Is he Jeevan’s son? It wouldn’t surprise me, actually—he looks quite a bit like Jeevan! The guitar on “Tum Kitni” is really beautiful, although he isn’t shown playing it.

      • Yes, he is indeed Jeevan’s son (last name Kaul). Kiran Kumar is another actor who started off as a hero but acquired more prominence as a villian.

        I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t seen “Jangal Mein Mangal.” Where did I go wrong…?:-D

  9. I have seen this one. A must for fans of Pran.

  10. O, the awesomeness of that butterfly! This goes to the top of the queue!

  11. I did a double-take there while reading thru – but yep, there’s a very young Reena Roy there with Kiran Kumar in the couples pics.
    I’ve only seen her huge successes (Naagin, Kalicharan, Apnapan and Aasha) so I didnt realize she had started out in smaller roles…she looks pretty cute there.

    • I know, I’ve only seen Reena in a few later things myself. It was like seeing Rekha when she was very young and had some baby fat still :)

      • Reena did start out as a heroine but in B films like this in the early 70’s, because producers felt that there was a slight facial resemblance to our favorite actress Asha Parekh. It says a lot about Reena’s talent and determination that she sped past most of her unknown leading men like Kiran Kumar to become one of the top heroines for several years.

  12. I watched an unsubbed disc of this when I was in bed with pneumonia, and basically all that I remember about it is hippie Pran. Still, your Scooby Doo comparison sounds very apt.

    • If there had been a Great Dane named Moti, it would have been a near-perfect viewing experience.

      The subtitles were at least half the fun, too…hilariously bad (though good enough to help me out with the plot).

  13. Ha!! Have seen some bits of this movie [and that other one “Aaj Ki Tazaa Khabar” – remade recently as Golmaal Returns :(]

    Saw that cracktastic song that you mention – that was some surreal stuff with Pran and the actress. And that double role was just plain ludicrous – and Pran played it perfectly.

    Fun times :)

  14. You know that you are the Best!

  15. yes great movie indeed, indeed kiran kumar is jeevan’s son, his carer got destroyed because of “rumors “of him being gay according to my aunties :-), he also has a brother who is a giant literally, he played the character of ghatotkach in the BR chopra’s massive series mahabharat on TV. Kiran Kumar is now a big TV star.
    I love these bubbly comedies of 60’s and 70’s. Pyar kiye jaa, padosan, johar mehmood in hong kong, teen bahuraniyan and do jasoos are my other favorites.
    Btw i dare you to watch the movie Clerk with drunk manoj kumar, jingoism gone really wrong.

    • Ha ha! I wonder what it says about me that several people have “dared” me to watch Clerk. I hate Manoj Kumar’s jingoistic films. Hate them. Even the “good” ones…so I am not sure I will ever torture myself with Clerk.

      • although i can understand why you hate them, most of his films were commissioned by government to increase patriotism during war times and they worked during 60’s, but in clerk he was addicted to alcohol so it was a huge mess. however he has had a lasting impression on indian minds. he is kinda like the david lean of indian cinema, very pro india.

  16. oh no….i haven’t seen this film or i never heard about this film too….but your reviews really making me crazy watching the film….oh i want to see that Padma Khanna dance…..and i want to see Sonia Sahni and Pran too………oh but i dont have the DVD of this cute film…………mamma (crying and shouting)…….!!!!

    Memsaab can you please say that the song Main Haseena Naznina from Baazi is picturised on whom….its an duet song sung by Lata and Asha…..its an Waheeda Rehman and Dharmendra starred film….if you know so please inform me…….

  17. The mind still boggles when you consider how absolutely brave Pran was to play a hippie chick (sort of) in Indian cinema. One of Bollywood’s biggest risk takers our man!

    • I died of joy every time “Raghu” was onscreen. Hippie chick is a perfect description! :) Just fantastic. I think this was about the time he started asking for non-villain roles, having gotten tired of playing them…

  18. I remember a thing from one of Kiran Kumar’s early movies called ‘Raja Kaka’. Every now and then when Kiran Kumar makes an entry, crows start going KakaKakaKa. And the song goes ‘Kaka Raja Kaka’. Hilarious.

    These days Kiran Kumar stars in ‘Karan THE Detective’ on national broadcaster Doordarshan. I guess it it popular, for it has been running for years now.

  19. memsaab who is Rum………??????????? and how’s Rum my separated sis………….???????

  20. one of the best,well directed and having a well defined storyline was the ramsay classic dahshat 1981,it can be seen as a thriller in itself,quite diffrent from the usual haveli,tahkana,etc etc movies which had the same story essentially.to top it all it had nadira playing a drunkard (would come naturally to her),and om shivpuri preluding jack nicholson in the wolf,sometimes resembling devito as the penguin…a genuine camp classic!

  21. Thank you Netflix for supplying me with this one, pronto. I think of Kiran Kumar as the scenery chewing villain in one of my favorite Sanjay Dutt movies, “Thanedaar.” It took me a moment to recognize him in this one, since he’s so fresh and youthful.

    Does Balraj Sahni make a special appearance because of Sonia Sahni? I know it’s never a good idea to speculate about relationships using last names. But, he’s usually in–for lack of a better word–classier films.

    One of Pran’s outfits, an orange print shirt with a big keyhole cutout for bare chest and medallion, reaches a screeching pinnacle of awesome.

  22. Ooh, never thought about any Sonia-Balraj Sahni connection (Sonia I know is Feroz Khan’s wife Sundari’s sister). And now I must re-watch Thanedaar!

    And the whole film kind of reaches a screeching pinnacle of awesome doesn’t it, which by the way is a great description of many things having to do with Hindi cinema :D

  23. Just watching Jangal mein mangal on the net…
    All those who have not seen Reena roy much, dont miss the social thriller “Badaltey rishtey” stg Jeetendra and a velly cuuute Rishi kapoor with great songs and strong story line and shock ending ( feel good ending, but!)

    Love this blog..I am retro crazy movie buff myself..Check out my blog too…


  24. JANGAL MEIN MANGAL was somewhere around 1972,since I could not understand cinema then This was again rereleased in 1978,I saw it then,and since then it has remained apersonal favourite (I hope no body to try its remake,if possible rerelease in new format with enhanced sound,even now in todays times it can run for few weeks,such is releavence of it today,fourty one years after its release,A total fun movie with message,a pleasant actual locations,All most whole new cast then and seniors being Pranda and Sonia shahni aunty,Kiran sir,Reena madam,two real life sisters,Jayshree/Meena aunty,togther they both do have appeared in some movies,Song writter Gulshan Bawara,and so on all gave such memorbale performances,that all happenings look real.Not to forget it was double role for Pranda,and he gave aneffortless performance .Even if todays generation watch it along with AAJ KI TAAZA KHABAR(1973) both from same filmmaker(late RAJINDER BHATIA)they will be able to differciate between comedy and todays buffornery,sensless and idotic.RAVINDER MINHAS,JALANDHAR CITY,PANJAB,minhas35@yahoo.com.

  25. We just did a group watch of this on PKK to celebrate its first birthday.
    What a fun movie!!! And with fun songs too.
    And it is always fun to read your review after watching a movie. :-)

  26. Hahaha. Seems like raja got here before I did, to do the same – read your review of it. :-)
    A thoroughly enjoyable film, made even more enjoyable by the accompanying comments from everyone.
    My favourite scene was the fear caused by the poor snake slithering somewhere. What followed had me chortling.
    And the clothes!! Oh my, the clothes!!! Pran was just too cute. :-)

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