Hawas (1974)

I spent the entire running time of this film with a big angry WTF bubble above my head. It’s not that I shouldn’t have known: packaging which advertises Bindu as a nymphomaniac is pretty fair warning. Sadly, it is also irresistible enticement for someone belonging to the “How bad can it be?” school of risk management.

It’s bad. It’s REAL bad. It’s Haseena Atom Bomb bad.

I do enjoy the fabulous Seventies funk accompanying the psychedelic opening credits.

But I will soon discover that Usha Khanna’s music is by far the best thing about this sleazy trainwreck of a film. The track above is a fitting introduction to Mr. Natwarlal (Pinchoo Kapoor), a criminal with a den populated by ladies playing musical instruments behind a series of glittering curtains.

Natwarlal operates a gang of thieves and con artists who include Anil Kumar (Anil Dhawan) and Priya (Faryal—I adore this woman! Wish I saw more of her!) and this guy, who looks to me like a young Alok Nath (if there ever was such a thing). Update: He is the director of this atrocity, Sawan Kumar, and was also married to Usha Khanna at one point. Noooo!

Somehow they manage to avoid apprehension even though they basically use the same techniques over and over again to rob their foolish victims. Natwarlal (who is also always surrounded by a bevy of sad-looking girls draped over him) is very pleased with the way Anil manages these scams and calls him to come and collect a reward.

This annoys me. Women are people, you jackass. Not the equivalent of a huge stack of rupee notes!

The “most beautiful woman” is Rekha. She sings the seductively funky “Aao Yaro Gao” but I can’t say that I enjoy it. A seedy and exploitative ambiance has already begun to creep into the film, and I suspect that it is not intentional but a by-product of the mindset of the people behind it.

Natwarlal now sets his heart on a new bauble: a diamond necklace worth crores which belongs to the trophy second wife of a wealthy businessman by the name of Shailendra Singh (Pradeep Kumar, who is actually not the worst thing in this film). Mrs. Kamini Singh (Bindu) has a serious weakness which Natwarlal plans to use to his advantage.

Anil has no idea what a “nympho” is.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, especially when Anil still doesn’t get it, asking if the object of her lust is a Ministerial position or something. Eventually Natwarlal gets the point across, and we meet Kamini and her necklace at a party in this fabulous room which I’ve seen before. Does anyone know if it was an actual place? Or just a set? Very distinctive decor, in any case!

Her seduction technique is demonstrated (“You look like my childhood sweetheart, who died in a [fill in the blank]”) as she targets our pal Alok Nath Jr., who gets more than he bargained for—but not the necklace, to Natwarlal’s chagrin.

Clearly he is going to have to send in his big gun (no pun intended) Anil; but he warns Anil to stay away from Kamini (I guess the thinking is that Anil is too naive to handle her). Natwarlal devises a very silly plan to get Anil into Mr. Singh’s good books, then his employment, and eventually his daughter Neetu’s (Neetu Singh) heart. Anil carries out the plan in about two minutes.

This glib story setup has taken about 40 minutes, but now we are getting to the whole point of the enterprise. I already have the distinct impression that whoever is responsible for this trash is probably a sexually repressed Peeping Tom with Mommy issues who unfortunately had enough money to make a film, but it is about to get worse.

The focus now becomes Kamini and her uncontrollable urges. Deranged closeups always let us know when she has entered The Nympho Zone:

Men are both mesmerized by and fearful of her blatant come-ons. A vague attempt at garnering sympathy for her is made when, drunk and lonely, she calls in Dr. Bali (Vinod Mehra). He is sanctimonious and patronizing (although at least he doesn’t take advantage of her, which is something I guess).

And, apparently, a cold shower.

Oh, and this is useful medical advice when you are a pathologically needy alcoholic and compulsive liar:

This message delivered, all pretensions at not being soft-core pornography are dispensed with and the focus turns to Kamini’s hypnotic eyes, sweaty lustful brow and heaving bosom. The Nympho Zone!

The plot grows ever more incoherent and insane as an equally ever more insane Kamini sets her sights on Anil, and Natwarlal continues his attempts to separate Kamini from her necklace. Random characters like Vidya Sinha as Anil’s blind sister and Randhawa and Mehmood are dragged forth, but nothing even pretends to make any sense and it’s all just window-dressing for the sleaze anyway.

It’s a showcase of sorts for Bindu, but I have to wonder at the pressures or motivations that made her do this film. I can’t even imagine what she might have thought and felt while making it: she is objectified, vilified, and exploited. The men behind the scenes making sure that no view of her physical assets is left unexplored clearly intend for the audience to buy into their fantasy of an indiscriminately and sexually voracious woman. Without exception the male targets of her lust are portrayed as helpless victims: she and she alone must be punished for her desires. The refusal to take responsibility for what is really no more than the filmmaker’s own prurient desires and the implicit judgment of the woman “at fault” infuriates me.

Women of Hindustan, beware! Evil temptation lurks outside your borders and may just influence your weak minds!

Neetu tries valiantly, and looks beautiful, but Anil with his shaggy hair and double chin (channeling Fardeen Khan) is not in any way a worthy foil for her. Also, she is way too young to be involved in a project this creepy and I want to grab her hand and make her run far, far away.

Randhawa is never a Bad Thing, but his considerable charm and flowery speech patterns can’t save this disaster either.

The look of the film is very stylish; it is not a low-budget endeavour, which to my mind almost makes it worse. It certainly doesn’t help.

(Above screencaps for Shweta and Sitaji, respectively.)

These minor blessings are all far too small to negate the misogynistic trashy degrading awfulness of the final product.

I can only bang the palm of my hand against my forehead at the end too (um, spoiler, if anybody cares) when a dying Kamini asks Anil to grant her a last request.

Dear God. You mean…these eyes?

But they’re the entrance to The Nympho Zone!

Ugh. UGH UGH UGH. This pushed every one of my feminist buttons and left such a horrible taste in my mouth that I think I’d better have a drink. An alcoholic drink. Please make it a double.

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88 Comments to “Hawas (1974)”

  1. I hate to bring this up but Haseena Atom Bomb is the greatest movie of all time. Every planet.

  2. ‘The Nympho Zone’. You’ve coined another one, Memsaab. Great writing, as usual… ‘WTF bubble’ had me lol-ing right off the top, and I didn’t stop for the whole post. I’ll join you in that double…what are you drinking?

    BTW….how’s that book coming? ;)

    • Every time they zoomed in on her eyes and brow perspiration I heard the Twilight Zone music in my head as I cringed in fear and disgust.

      I’ll drink whatever’s at hand, basically :)

  3. I remember only the song “Teri galiyon mein” (Rafi) and a few nympho scenes of Bindu from this movie.
    It would be interesting to know if Bindu talked about her role in this movie. Maybe there is an interview with her somewhere on this.

    I like Faryal too. I remember her very well from Apradh. And I think she was in Kashmakash too but I could not find her name listed in imdb for this movie. I saw this movie ages ago, so I could be wrong. That was another “interesting” movie.

  4. Gee, if not for your spoiler, I never would have guessed that the woman who is forward with her sexuality dies at the end of this Bollywood movie. Quel surprise! Obviously, what the people who made this movie need is for Kim Cattral to go to their country and throw condoms at them.

    I’m sorry, I want to see this. Which is not to say that I don’t doubt that it is every bit as execrable and offensive as you say. It’s just who I am. By the way, are those meant to be giant pills in that third-to-last screen shot, or giant Jelly Bellies?

    • Todd….*shakes head*

      What kind of Hindi cinema fan are you when you don’t recognize Hindi Film Balloons when you see them? Crazy speckled balloons are a hallmark of every single fair or beach scene and many cabaret songs as well.

      I love the Kim Cattrall idea!!!!! LOVE!

  5. Forgot to say that this is another fine example of how a horrible movie can inspire some truly awesome writing. “Nympho Zone.” Love.

  6. How come no mention of the song “Teri galiyon main na rakhenge kadam” which is the only noteworthy scene/song/shot in this movie?

    • I was so focused during that song on the truly hideous male specimen to whom Neetu had just been engaged (Jugnu) that the song passed by without me really noticing much else.

      Thanks for reminding me that I must add a screencap of Jugnu, he was one of the high(low)lights!

    • That was the main reason I wanted to see this film… such a lovely song. Greta, thank you for warning me off; I’ve been trying to find Hawas for a few years now, simply because I thought a film with a song like that (and Neetu Singh!) must be at least entertaining.

  7. OMIGOSH this is hilarious..I’ll make sure I don’t go anywhere near this…sounds like those C-grade films of the 70s. Better a thousand miles from them!! Nympho Zone!!! fabulous!!!

  8. I was going to bring up Bindu’s role in Imtihan (1974) then realized you have already reviewed that one. That film had the song ‘ruk jana Nahi’…it’s interesting that these popular songs came from exploitative B-movies.

    On another note, I just re-watched Zajeer and realized thanks to “missing reels” editing effect that a lot of scene involving Bindu are actually censor cut.

    P.S. I finally managed to go though the awesome stuff you sent me. Thanks again!

  9. They had the same red chandelier (screen cap #4 from the bottom) in Chalkaye Jaam (Mere Humdam mere dost) and Aaj Galo Muskurarlo (Lalkar). Must have shown up in lots of movies.

  10. Why Bindu, why? Looks horrible!

    • Yes, WHY Bindu? We want to know!

      • Bindu received a Filmfare nomination as Best Supporting Actress for this film. You have to wonder what the voters were like in 1974, especially since they didn’t vote for Usha Khanna’s music or Rafi’s playback singing for this film. Asha Bhosle did get a Filmfare nomination for singing the song “Ye Hawas Ye tu kya Jaane.”

        • Well if letting yourself be subjected to lingering closeups of your cleavage, staring maniacally into a camera, and spouting suggestive dialogues is acting, then she certainly deserved it. But Supporting Actress? The film was all about HER. Surely Best Actress should have been the category. I have no problem with Bindu’s actual performance, it’s what she was asked to DO that I have trouble with.

          Usha’s music is fabulous—I love the background score especially. Far, FAR outshines the film it is part of!!

          • It’s a touchy subject among actresses as to whether they should be considered for leading or supporting acting awards. Both Vyjayantimala and Reena Roy supposedly turned down Filmfare Awards as Best Supporting Actress after they won for Devdas (1956) and Apnapan (1977) respectively. Maybe Bindu thought she had a shot in the supporting category, since Neetu was the heroine of the film.

          • Neetu was onscreen approximately 25% of the time that Bindu was, and the story wasn’t about her at all, making her NOT the heroine, is my point :)

  11. You forgot the bit with Neetu’s lesbo-tastic picnic song – nymphos do as nymphos may, but properly innocent young Hindustani virgins like teh ladiez. I now look back upon my teen years in an entirely different light and deep suspicion.

    If you thought this movie was outrageous when subtitled, you should get the full effect in Hindi. It’s everything times ten. And I’m sorry, but I enjoyed every bit of it. It was fabulously hilarious. I knew it was going to be extremely creepy and it was and yes, it was horribly, cringe-inducingly exploitative, but at a level so beyond comprehension, it comes out the other side of the looking glass and becomes this whole thing in a class by itself. And maybe Haseena Atom Bomb.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that when I was looking up stuff for my Bindu post, she mentioned Hawas as a role she was proud of because it required so much acting to pull it off. Pun not intended.

    • I found it funny for about 45 minutes, albeit also creepy, but by the end I just wanted to poke my eyes out with sharp sticks. I guess I don’t find that level of exploitation beyond comprehension—I know that it exists, that it’s out there, and I’ve had that type of thinking forced upon me, shoved in my face, and I just can’t find it funny. It just perpetrates an attitude towards women which does me no favors! I’m sure Bindu was a tough cookie, but so am I and it still bothers me even though I can and do defend myself.

      I didn’t forget Neetu’s lesbo picnic, but I couldn’t bring myself to screencap and talk about it. Also I thought maybe I was guilty of western projection (I know that Indians tend to be more expressive with their friends than my people are) :)

      • Speaking of lesbo soirees and matinees, have you seen Hema and Parveen Babi in Razia Sultan–http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SD_0FpVM8Fs

        In the early 80s, this was Outre even by Holly standards.

        • Sophy – omg! yes! Although I don’t remember the dangling gold fish that starts off the festivities.

          Have you ever seen Rajnigandha? There is this scene in which Vidya Sinha’s friend straight up jumps her in bed and says she’s not used to sleeping alone ever since she got married. The first time I saw it, I honestly thought I was about to watch my first lesbian rape scene.

          • I haven’t seen Razia Sultan yet (although I love love love the music)…but I have seen Rajnigandha and LOL@Amrita! I wondered about that myself!

      • I think “comprehend” was a poor choice of words on my part. What I meant was similar to a point I once made about racism – that sometimes the depiction is so outrageous, normal reactions simply don’t apply.

        Perhaps it’s a personal thing, but once matters reach a point where it’s not just a scene here or there or a specific issue that crops up now and again or an iffy POV, but the whole product itself that’s just blatantly all shades of unapologetic wrong, I find it much easier to let go of any anger it might otherwise have sparked and just go for the ride and watch it as a curio. Or turn it off. That works too! :D

        • I do know what you mean, and I was tempted on numerous occasions to turn it off! But some masochistic mechanism kept me going. I think the difference for me is that it didn’t actually strike me as being so outrageously out of the norm that it veered into ridiculous, it was too somehow EARNEST for that: the people who made this made it completely honestly—they really bought into the message that they were selling. Something like “Porky’s” I can’t take seriously and it really isn’t meant that way; this felt different to me. Totally f**ked up, but at the same time a look into the minds of people who actually think this way.

          I love your “blatantly all shades of unapologetic wrong”—that is a great description of it!!!! :)

  12. This looks absolutely terrible. LOL at “a young Alok Nath (if there ever was such a thing)”.

  13. I am so glad that the term nymphomaniac is no longer used. But Bindu sure has beautiful eyes. It would be fun if Hawas 2 were made with Anil’s blind sister as the new n**

    • Bindu does have gorgeous eyes (I’d take ’em!) :) and she looks quite beautiful in this too, except when she’s writhing all over the floor or some disapproving guy. I thought of the sequel too—Vidya Sinha as Nympho 2 just doesn’t seem like it would really take off though. Thank GOD. :)

  14. Poor Neetu Singh. She was dragged into all kinds of projects, during that crucial ‘from child-star to heroine’ stage, including some very sleazy photos that did the rounds, and were then ‘exposed’ in ‘Stardust’. Thankfully, she got her dues, and became a A-grade heroine quite soon.

    But of course, it’s so easy for women to be exploited in this industry, and not even understand it.

    It was definitely easier then, when most women themselves bought into these stereotypical images. So I can just imagine Bindu thinking it would be a great role.

    • That’s part of what really made me so sad and disgusted by this, knowing that it wasn’t that far off from how men probably viewed women in general, and especially in the industry (and women too, as you rightly point out). I wonder how it was marketed—as a serious film about a growing problem with modern women (“They’re coming to emasculate us!!!”)? The sleazefest that it actually is?

  15. Loved
    “In India it’s a taboo”
    I don’t know why, but I feel very embarassed when I see such movies.
    It is the people involved in the movie-making who should be feeling embarassed!

    How many whisky bottles did you need this time?

    • Well if I drank whiskey it would have been at least one entire bottle :) The people who made this should be ashamed of themselves, but I’m sure they thought they had created a masterpiece. Ugh.

  16. “Deranged closeups always let us know when she has entered The Nympho Zone:” ROFLMAO!!!!!!! Haha what a movie!! I am now going to spend the dayominously staring at strangers and whispering loudly She has entered……. THE NYMPHO ZONE!


  17. You know the worst part? Usha Khanna was married to the jerk who made this movie – Sawan Kumar Tak. :-(

  18. I think I have heard a couple of songs from this movie – Rafi’s Teri Galiyon Me Na Rakhen Ge Kadam and Asha’s “Apne dil me jagah de jiye”. The songs are good to hear. We should thank you for warning us off this movie. Neetu Singh was indeed very young at that time – perhaps trying to get a foothold as an adult actress – so grab what ever role is offiered must have been the compulsion.

  19. Yep Shalini is right about Usha Khanna being married to Sawan Kumar Tak but i think she left him in the end. Usha Khanna gave some melodious music to many of Sawan Kumar’s movies.

  20. Hallo Memsaab!

    …..and “young Aloknath” is Sawan Kumar who produced this horrible film…

    • Ah HA! Thank you for that! Now I know what a Peeping Tom with Mommy issues looks like!!!!

      And also: he played the ONLY guy in the film whom we actually saw taking advantage of Bindu’s advances. He has dialogue (in the form of thoughts) which basically goes along the lines of “Well I might as well take what she’s offering, why not?” I think he has/had some serious emotional problems. Serious.

  21. I know exactly what you are feeling memsaab.
    I had a similar experience one fine late evening in Australia.
    After having put the children to bed I settled down to watching television and happened upon a film .. as the next – supposedly the highlight of the evening, called Basic Instincts.
    Being backward in my knowledge of Hollywood films I thought it would be something about the primitive man of stone age or something like that.
    Imagine my shock and , disgust. I didn’t watch it till the end, but what i saw was enough.

    For days after that I wondered at the sick minds that can cook up such stories. I thought this fellow who made it, who wrote the story, and those who acted in it needed immediate help.

    I wonder if it is thought that such films are ‘art’.

    • I’ve never seen Basic Instincts…but a lot of Hollywood films I see make me think: yup, made by seriously gross men :) I am not prudish by any means, but I really hate the attitude which treats women as objects or playthings, as lesser beings. There is a lot of that out there, everywhere.

  22. I saw “Fatal Attraction” on the big screen in Thailand years ago and walked out in the middle!

  23. Memsaa Memsaab, I think Hawas has another melodious Asha number “Darde dil badtha jaaye, saree saree raat neendh na aaye”. From the lyrices I can imagine how the song must have been picturised. However it is enjoyable on the radio or tape or CD!

  24. If you hated Basic Instinct then stay far far away from Showgirls (I consider it so bad that it is actually entertaining) but Paul Verhoeven at least is an equal opportunity exploiter.

    Memsaab, thank you once again for a great review that probably more entertaining than the film itself.

    Also on an unrelated note (since you have connections with the right people) when will the 3 Idiots dvd be released? Do you know?

    • I didn’t hate Basic Instinct, I never saw it. Was not remotely interested in Showgirls either :D

      The 3 Idiots dvd should be released sometime this month I think. It’s almost finished :)

  25. Oh the first comment was to pacifist (sorry for not making that clear)

    And thank you so much for the info. I’m really eager to watch it.

  26. I love this movie! anything from the 70s w/ drugs in it is delightful. especially, as pinchoo notes, since “In India, its taboo” And the chandelier is duly noted- thanks and sorry for the delay!

  27. @memsaab – One thing that most people can agree upon is that the music of this film is pretty good. As for the film itself, while many of the points you make seem valid, one must view this as a product of its times. In the 70s this (probably) was released as an ‘A’ (Adult) film made for a specific audience who generally frequented certain (seedy) theaters. They had some expectations of such films and got what they wanted. As far as the sanctimonious and moralizing lectures that many such films include, I read somewhere in an interview that such scenes are added to avoid problems with the censors and the moral police.

    • Even viewed as a product of its time, it is repulsive. Certainly if it was made for the types of people who frequent so-called “Adult” films then those people may have liked it, but I still don’t and don’t find it excusable on those grounds. Interesting about the censors—were they really fooled by such speeches? I doubt it…but I guess it could make them feel better themselves about enjoying such garbage :) Like Rush Limbaugh and his fourth wife and their “family values”…actions speak louder than words ever will.

      • Love the way you use Rush Limbaugh as an example :)
        I too doubt that censors would really be taken in by these scenes, but maybe this was just mentioned in the interview to justify such scenes. Talking of censors, did you know that Vijay ‘Goldie’ Anand, a filmmaker of note (Guide, Jewel Thief) advocated very liberal ratings for Adult movies when he was the Censor Board chief and had to resign due to differences with the government.

        • Well Rush is the same kind of person (*hypocrite!*) :) I did know that about Vijay Anand. I don’t mind “adult” content; it’s the misogynism and hypocrisy in this one masquerading as content that I can’t stand :D

          • Well certainly, misogyny or misandry for that matter, ought to be condemned.

            Sorry if my earlier comments sounded rather pompous. Who was I talking to? Of course you would know all about Vijay Anand.

          • Not at all, there are lots of things I don’t know anything about! Vijay Anand though is not one of them (I’ve written about quite a few of his films here…he’s one of my favorites :)

  28. @Memsaab – Could not help noticing that you’ve continued on your Rush Limbaugh tirade in the comments for Pehchaan as well :)
    That said, I suppose we have flogged this issue long enough… Meanwhile I’ve been peeking into other sections (such as Stardust 1978) of your blog and am liking what I’ve seen so far.

  29. Damn, but I do love the occasional film made by people with dubious mindsets though… Tempted!

  30. Ah, my kinda couple then. And yeah, it’s a great score, and I love the Aao Yaro Gao picturisation :)

  31. Hey,

    ‘guy, who looks to me like a young Alok Nath’ is actually Sawan Kumar Tak, another gem from Hindi film industry. You must check his noteworthy contributions :)))..

  32. as “FILMIBUFF” said asha bhosle`s “dard-e-dil badtha jaaye,saari saari raat neend na aaye” is not from HAWAS, it is from film “BUNIYAD”, which is picturised on Bindu & Rakesh roshan(music composed by laxmi pyare and another very good song from that film is lata,kishore`s duet “pukaaro,mujhe phir pukaro” picturised on shathrughna sinha & farida jalaal”.

    Further somewhere in a film magazine called Star & style, Sawan kumar tak said that he had made the film “Hawas” on the basis of “nymphomaniac trait ” he has seen in the personality of late actress Meena kumari, whose close associate is Sawan kumar tak. I don`t know what he is talking.But he actually talked about that.
    You have to see his another directorial venture called “SANAM HARJAI”, (I seriously want to recommend the above film to you.You will come to know about his atroscious an sadistic story telling sense.) His other directorial ventures:

    1.O bewaffa(nazneen,anil dhawan,yogita bali)(another film portraying female character in grey shades)
    2.sajan bina suhaagan(nutan,padmini kolhapure,rajinder kumar)(tearjerker)
    3.sajan ki saheli(rekha,nutan,vinod mehra,rajinder kumar)(contrived story of a mother and daughter)
    4.sanam bewaffa(salman khan,pran,danny)(muslim story,which became a hit)
    5.bewaffa se waffa(juhi chawla,nagma,vivek mushran)(he is obsessed with the concept of “SOUTEN”)
    6.southen:(rajesh khanna,tina munim,padmini kolhapure)(which became a super hit)( you have to see a song of this film, how he is hell bent on showing tina munim`s physique in a pervert manner)
    7.southen ki beti:(jeetendra,jayaprada,rekha)(obsessed again with “southen concept”
    8.mother -98:(rekha,randhir kapoor,jeetendra,rakesh roshan)(long in the making film , which also have a strange story)
    9.khalnaikaa(jeetendra,jayaprada,annu agarwal,mehmood,varsha usgaonkar):another strange story
    10.naunihaal(sanjeevkumar,indrani mukherjee)(I haven`t seen the film)
    11.saawan(salman khan)(I haven`t seen the film)
    12.gomati ke kinare(meenakumari,sanjay khan,mumtaz)

    I mentioned all sawan kumar`s films, so that you can see his career graph and his strange story telling sense and his disgusting habit of exposing young heroine`s body without any shame, whether story demands or not (he always introduced new female faces alongwith established actresses in his films.eg.sanober kabir,deepinti,neetusingh,) But his all films got excellent music by his (now divorced)wife “Usha khanna” and Ved pal”. Yes I was also shocked , when i came to know that ushakhanna is this “jerk`s” wife.

  33. Great review! I saw this on the satellite tv not too long ago and I thought, who the hell made this movie. Sometimes you know its bad when you see “lyrics, written, produced, and directed by…” But props to Usha Khanna with the awesome title and background music. Totally awesome. I think it’s one of the few times that Indian music gets totally funkdafied.

  34. Never seen this movie, never will! It beggars belief that Bindu, an established actress by then who was already married (and Indian society was much more conservative then) actually agreed to do this movie.

  35. For those interested, there is a picture of Saawan Kumar and his ex-wife Usha Khanna here: http://saawankumartak.com/gallery_files/pg0029.html

  36. Saawan Kumar launched a film called Mr. John with Dev Sahib which never really made except the muhurat and some shoot. Is this pic from the same shoot.

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