Needing to recover from the horror that was Hawas, I felt that a little bit of gentleman Dara Singh might go a long way towards soothing my ruffled feelings. Sadly, not much Dara is available with subtitles, but I figured the eye-candy inherent in a sword-and-sandals picture featuring also a young Feroz Khan, Ameeta and Mumtaz would doubtless be enough. And it is! Truly I have no idea what actually goes on in this film. The plot details escape me, but I can tell you that in true Dara Singh fashion, Samson is not only a strong-man Biblical type wearing a skirt and gladiator sandals, but also a Tarzan friend-of-elephants type, and he and Mumtaz share the best romantic chemistry I’ve seen yet in a Dara epic.
Plus, there is man-boobed King Kong, always a pleasure.
I simply love the way Dara is often pictured with small lambs or goats in his huge manly arms, and when he rescues a baby elephant from a pit surrounded by tribals menacing the poor agitated thing I melt into a puddle.
He and his pal (Mohan Choti) live with the elephants in the forest eating bananas and melons and dancing. What a life!
Unfortunately the haughty Princess Sheba (Mumtaz) does not melt as easily as I do, even after Samson rescues her from a runaway chariot.
I have no idea why she’s angry with him but it seems to be her general attitude towards everyone. She yells at her female guards and at her poor lady-in-waiting Laila (Ameeta, who is even prettier than Mumtaz here, maybe because she’s not glaring and shouting). Perhaps the problem is that her would-be Amazonian guards are actually quite diminutive and sort of cowed beneath their helmets, which are in their own way as ill-fitting as Dara’s curly wig.
Or perhaps the problem is that she is surrounded only by these meek Security Females and no men except one: an evil high priest named Rashid (B.M. Vyas) residing in the palace with her. He has a dungeon filled with magicians (chief among them Habib) dressed in bright orange and yellow Ku Klux Klan outfits keeping little men in cages who can do things like spew fire and hurricane-force winds from their gullets.
This is WTF-ery that I can get on board with! Rashid is concerned with the whereabouts of Princess Sheba’s brother Salook (Feroz Khan) although I’m not clear on whether he actually thinks Salook is dead or not, missing as he has been for twenty years. Salook is very much not dead, but romancing Laila.
When Sheba almost catches them together and teases Laila about being in love, a long discussion about love and hate follows. Later that night, Sheba turns restlessly in her bed, all pouting lips and heaving bosom, as she thinks about Samson.
It really makes her angry.
She goes off the next day to—shoot him? I am not sure what she intends (possibly she isn’t either):
but she is interrupted by stock footage of a tiger that I’ve seen elsewhere, and Dara wrestles a stuffed one to its ignominious “death.” Sheba faints during this fascinating event, and when a thunderstorm erupts Samson carries her in his manly arms to his treehouse where he almost succumbs to temptation a la the Manmohan Desai Hypothermia Cure.
But being Dara Singh and therefore a gallant man with superior self-control, Samson goes back out into the pouring rain and chops down a tree instead. I have to say, I’ve seen quite a few Dara-Mumtaz films, and this is quite the most breathtakingly romantic scene in any of them—which might not mean much since the hallmark of Dara’s films is not romance—but. Honestly, it is almost Blackmail romantic.
I swoon and so does Sheba, who was only faking unconsciousness by the end of the little interlude.
The next morning she says to him that there was a big storm the previous night, and he says thoughtfully “Yes, a very big storm.” (Melt melt melt again, and thank goodness for my smattering of filmi Hindi!)
Romance ignited and my faith in men restored, it’s time to get to the loony shenanigans we know must be coming.
Rashid now almost catches Laila and Salook together, although Salook escapes. He takes Laila into custody to force her to reveal Salook’s identity, but she refuses. Sheba entreats her to give in, but she gives a long speech (I think) about the strength of love or something similar. But of course Salook shows up to rescue her and he is forced to fight a big smoke-exhaling lizard monster with LED eyes while she slips away to find Samson.
Samson shows up in the nick of time and kills the lizard, but Rashid has lots more magic and critters up his voluminous sleeves, including this genie (who admittedly, when released from his jar, is pretty unimposing—tall, but really skinny, and certainly no match for our Samson).
Rashid also manages to cause a rift between Sheba and Samson (noooooooo!).
Will Sheba be freed from the clutches of Rashid? Will Rashid realize who Salook is, and that he is a threat? What will happen to Salook and Laila? Will Salook and Sheba ever realize they are bhai-bahen and Salook the true heir to the kingdom? And most importantly, will Samson and Sheba realize that their love is true true true?
As with all so-called B-movies, the music (by Chitragupta) is lovely. I particularly like the qawwali featuring guest Jagdeep and Mohan Choti in a frilly gingham frock and feathered headdress.
Many times when I watch unsubtitled films I feel that not understanding the plot is possibly a blessing, but I would really really like to see this one without a gaudy logo and with subtitles some day. I have a feeling it might be my favorite Dara movie ever in that case (so far). Please, universe, make it happen! Dara Singh deserves subtitles! I deserve subtitles!!
Updated to add: I have subtitles! If you leave a comment with your email in the email address field (not displayed to others) I will send you the subtitle files, which synch perfectly with the vcd. Please note that you will need to have the Samson vcd, I will not supply that.