Chingari (1971)

Apparently this film only released in 1989, but it was made in 1971 and clearly looks it so that’s what I’m going with. It’s a pretty entertaining potboiler, but even if it weren’t there is one compelling reason to see it: a scene with uber-villain Tiwari in a bright pink and white lace negligee admitting that he gets his kicks from cross-dressing. Yes, really. And it has nothing to do with the plot, either. The story itself is in service to a criminal reform message which probably didn’t play as well in the late eighties as it might have in the early seventies. It is weak in places, but there is a plethora of lovely songs (by Ravi, with lyrics by Sahir) and an assortment of fine character actors with lashings of clever humor (no annoying CSP!). Leena Chandavarkar, a feisty heroine I always love, is paired with Sanjay Khan and backed by Pran and Rehman as lifelong foes on either side of the law.

The film opens with a police Inspector (Rehman) chasing a thief onto a moving train. The thief Bhagat (Pran) is shot after he stabs another passenger but escapes by jumping off the train into a river (trains are always conveniently passing over rivers at junctures like this). He recovers, but his arm has to be amputated and he blames the Inspector, of course, his own part in it all notwithstanding.

He goes to the Inspector’s house to exact his revenge and finds the perfect means in the Inspector’s cute little girl, whose birthday is being celebrated.

When the nanny is distracted from her wee charge by her boyfriend, Bhagat seizes his opportunity—and the little girl.

He names her Reshma and teaches her at a very young age to pick pockets, and she grows up to be a very adept thief and a pretty young lady (Leena Chandavarkar).

Her friends are a local bar dancer named Shamli (Padma Khanna) and a little boy (Mehmood Jr, still wearing Mehmood’s outfit from Gumnaam). A local ruffian named Jaggi (Shatrughan Sinha) has his leering eye on her too although she dislikes him. She lives with her “father” Bhagat in a basti and supports them both with her thieving.

Meanwhile, her real father has become the Commissioner of the Bombay police force, and he’s worried about the increasing crime and the murder of an Inspector Kelkar in that same locality where Reshma now lives. He promotes a bright young police officer named Mohan (Sanjay Khan) to replace Kelkar, find his murderer and clean the place up. Mohan has progressive ideas about befriending the local populace instead of intimidating them, and reforming criminals instead of only punishing them. He’s a bit goody-goody for me, but of course I am usually more inclined towards the dark side.

The chief suspect in Kelkar’s murder is a goonda named D’Souza (David), who owns an illegal beer bar which is never shut down by the police (possibly they also enjoy the entertainment there). The dark side! It’s more fun!

When Inspector Mohan arrives the news of his presence spreads quickly, not only to D’Souza but to a local politician (Tiwari) and his fake astrologer-henchman (Jankidas). I always love to see Tiwari although at this point I have no idea what heights that love will reach during this film. He has pledged his help to the police, but in actuality he is totally corrupt and a smuggler to boot.

Reshma falls almost instantly in love with Mohan after picking his pocket at a gathering of Hare Krishnas (she returns his wallet to him, claiming that she “found it”). It’s pretty quickly evident that he returns her feelings and we are treated to a couple of lovely songs to further the romance (my favorite being “Main Kaun Hoon”).

Taking a break from love and disguised as a mute beggar, Mohan learns of the plot to kill him from the fake astrologer and arrests him. The politician Tiwari is meanwhile catching up on his schedule with his “secretary”—while wearing a frothy semi-transparent nightgown with what looks like orange chuddies underneath. It’s an eye-popping visual.

I giggle along as they drink to the importance of prohibition, although I am still distracted by his outfit and remembering that Dhumal wore a pink dress in Gumnaam too, which was never explained.

But fortunately for me his secretary is curious too.

I will never tire of watching this scene, never. I have no idea what the motivation is behind it, and I don’t care. Oh all right—I do secretly hope that Tiwari himself was in real life a cross-dresser and begged the producer to put this scene in here. There, I’ve said it. I’m sure it is supposed to demonstrate the tawdry depths of the politician’s morality, but it is just so very out there for 1971 India that I want there to be more to it.

Sadly our duo is interrupted by a phone call from D’Souza explaining that all their goods have been seized, and all their men arrested. I wonder if the makers of VAT 69 paid for product placement back then. Certainly they should have paid at least double for this one.

Tiwari is arrested the next day by Inspector Mohan while giving a speech on the national tragedy of bribery and corruption and I am reluctantly forced to move on from the rose-colored nightie.

Mohan’s romance with Reshma isn’t slowed down by all his policewala activity. And she is beginning to wish she could give up her profession once and for all—a profession she has never really cared for. Things come to a head when she is caught by a train passenger (Jagirdar) who doesn’t turn her in: instead, he begs her to reform. But Bhagat is not about to let her give up stealing. He pours on the parental guilt in huge doses until she caves, sobbing.

This leads to a most excellent song: Reshma gets drunk at D’Souza’s bar and sings the lovely “Pighali Aag Se Saagar Bhar Le.” Luckily the songs are subtitled in this film, because the lyrics are as moving and important as one expects from Sahir. Also Leena’s performance (and Asha’s singing) as the sad Reshma in her cups is quite wonderful (and we get a lively intro courtesy of Padma!).

Then Mohan takes her home to meet his ailing Ma (Durga Khote), who welcomes Reshma with a warmth and affection she cannot remember ever getting. Ma is a sweet and very devout old lady and we are treated to a wonderful duet (sisters Asha and Usha) in the form of the bhajan “Meri Baari Re Banwari.”

Ma is rejuvenated by her new would-be daughter-in-law and Reshma also meets and bonds with the Commissioner, who is not only Mohan’s boss but also a close friend of his family. At home, though, she is forced to continue stealing for her fake one-armed Bapu, who is now determined to make Mohan go away permanently. Would-be suitor Jaggi is not pleased with her blossoming relationship either, determined to make her his own.

Will Mohan discover that his beloved Reshma is a pocketmaar? Will he be able to forgive her if so? Will she ever be reunited with her real father? Or will Bhagat (and Jaggi) stop at nothing to keep Reshma with them? For all the tears, drama and self-recriminations to come, watch Chingari. It’s not great art, but it is chock full of Good Things and most certainly entertaining—not to mention surprisingly progressive.

Update: People were sad that I omitted a screencap of the hero, which I admit too was a big *oops* (and not done purposefully). So here you go: Sanjay Khan in all his handsome glory!

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44 Comments to “Chingari (1971)”

  1. Ohh my god, I think you sold me on Tiwari in a girlie nightie! That is hilarious and I may say it looks fabulous on him too! But I love how he explains his reasons, this is another villain I’m sure to like after Goga Kapoor’s Shaitan in Toofan! I think I just died of laughter this morning!

  2. I think this is one of the rare reviews where we don’t get to see a picture of the leading man of the movie. How come?

  3. That rocks my world.

  4. Wah! Nice review, Greta. Thanks.

    Have never heard of this movie but if it released only in 1989, that’s not surprising. I was totally off “new” Hindi movies by then.

    “..but escapes by jumping off the train into a river”. Indeed this is another common scene in Hindi movies but it had never struck me till now. Full marks for noticing and pointing it out. :-) And maybe it is not such a strange real-life occurrence either. I have travelled a fair bit by train in India and invariably you come across a rail-bridge, though the river below may not be quite as majestic (and, in today’s India, unfortunately also possibly largely dry) as those shown in these scenes.

    Those scenes of Tiwari in a negligee are just fantastic. :-) And orange undies? Did not know he was a Holland supporter. ;-) I wonder whether they were planned as orange or he just happened to be wearing orange that day and only changed into the negligee. Hmm..people are probably now wondering why I am wondering. ;-)

    Anyway, I must say, after the initial shock, Tiwari in a negligee actually sort of grows on you – and it is almost like it was meant to be. :-) Not everybody can pull it off – so full marks to Tiwari.

    Btw, who is the girl with him? I think I have seen her in some movie.

    I don’t think I have heard the songs of this movie but am going to try to catch them on youtube now. Sahir’s songs + Ravi’s music = “must listen”.

    • All the songs are on youtube, search Chingari 1989 and you’ll find them. They are lovely lovely lovely.

      I think the girl with Tiwari is Anjali Kadam maybe? Not positive though. He is SO pretty in pink :)

    • In defence of jumping off the train into a river, even Sherlock Holmes (2012) could not resist the ruse.

  5. love ‘main kaun hoon’ – always play it at wedding’s!!! The role suited Leena perfectly! – I am also in love with the colourful costumes – all except the pink nightgown :O

    The plot is beautiful, the music is fantastic – This is such a good film!!

    • It is very good time pass, and I love these Leena roles. She is a really good actress actually, although of course towards the end she is required to chew up scenery with the rest of them. But it’s very entertaining stuff…David is great in this too—very funny as the basti Dada. Great cast.

  6. My eyes r popping out w/ the onslaught of the pink nightgown! omg! I cannot imagine tiwari doing this, and yet, there it is! Bollywood cant produce anything to top this- no movie industry can top this.
    im so kicked :)

    • He was so casual and matter-of-fact in the scene too. It lasted about ten minutes or so, and only at the end was the big elephant in the room brought up. I wasn’t even sure it was supposed to be unusual (given what I’ve seen other men wearing in other films) but it was blowing my mind for sure. He seemed quite comfortable and at home in it though! :) Love him for it, love love love.

  7. All those screenshots are just brilliant.

    Look at that bed. Perfect for an official meeting between boss and secretary. :-)

    And the way he is chugging that VAT69 bottle down his throat.

    And that last screencap with that typical red phone.

    Btw, I think I have seen that portrait in the background (the 2.30… screenshot) in another movie of the same period. Just cannot remember which movie.

  8. I did not see the movie at all, I dont know what my young mind would have thought of the nightie, in 1971. The issue of ‘upbringing’ vs ‘genes’ was utilised in other films too, like Parvarish. Usually, ‘genes’ won out and the girl from the ‘good’ family returned to it even though the villian tried his best to do otherwise.

    • Yes…I’ve seen quite a few of these “criminals aren’t born they are made” films. Which is true, to a point! It’s not a message I object to, although sometimes I feel hammered over the head with it :) But that is true of most *messages*…

  9. Tiwari looks pregnant in the 2nd to last screen cap. He should take it easy on the VAT69 – can’t be good for the baby!


  10. Everybody indulged in such orgies of self-condemnation that if they weren’t clearly enjoying themselves (especially Leena), I wouldn’t have been able to bear it! Plus, while I do love Sanjay Khan, I must admit that I thought Leena had more chemistry with Rehman and Durga Khote! ;D

    PS: Do you think this is the only 70s example of female dosti?

    • Yes, there was a lot of self-recrimination…but mostly only at the end. I just loved everyone in this. David and Tiwari were so gleefully and unrepentantly BAD. Shotgun was such a creepy sleazebag…really the cast made this one good. And the songs. Love love love the songs. And Sanjay was fine in this, but yes—Leena had better chemistry with Rehman and Durga, and also Pran!

      • and ps…no I think there was lots of female dosti in the 70s. I loved when Reshma went to Shamli to get drunk and forget her woes, and Shamli tried to take care of her, it was such a cute scene…it was something I would do with my friends!

        • Isn’t it tragic how rarely a Hindi film heroine gets to drown her sorrows in drink?:-( I might see this movie just for that scene…and block my ears during the blah songs by Ravi. :-) Sorry, couldn’t resist.:-D

          • It is it is. Probably why I always relate better to the vamps. And oh, I feel so bad for you that you can’t appreciate the awesomeness of Ravi ;-D

  11. >searching Nehaflix for this film<

  12. I still can’t believe what I have seen!
    I think I have watched the Tiwari in nightie screen caps ten times. It hurts everytime but I return everytime!

  13. Wow!!! The Cracktastic Villain Tiwari in a nightie?!!!! Really surprising and awesome too. Really now i am dying to watch this film. I guess its available on Induna. So can’t help myself anymore as this cute screen caps are not enough for me. Well Padma Khanna is something really delicious which never ever disappoints me like Helen and Minoo Mumtaz. The fourth thing which never disappoints me is the awesome music by Ravi. I always adore his music a lot. So this film is of course something very interesting to watch with the very gorgeous Leena of course in bonus. So make new posts on Minoo Mumtaz and Padma Khanna soon. As i just love and adore them a lot too the way i love Helen.

    • It’s readily available on dvd (Shameroo in case you missed the obvious)…love the songs, and really it is a fun fun film :) Tiwari was just the bright pink frosting on the cake.

  14. Hey I m big fan of 70’s too…..Curious to know abt Yusuf Khan..{Hercules/Zebisko} in Amar Akbar Anthony…..

  15. OMG, wish I commented on here sooner!

    Let’s face it, Tiwari in a pink nightie dominates over all much in the that Zippy overshadowed the likes of Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand in “Insaniyat.”

    Anyway, I laughed so hard on this review. This along with the “may worms eat you” line from “Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya” elicit laughter from me to this day ( probably always will).

  16. hey mam….u dint replied me…hey please update about other charecter actors like Kaesto Mukherjee,Jayashree T,Ifhtekar Khan,Shetty fight master…

  17. ok…..I thought u know so much of the 70’s bollywood,u might be knowing where these great talented actors went….?

  18. From the very first time when I heard song main kaun hoon in 90s I was dying to watch it.movies is good,music by gr8 ravi and Mk`s song is so beautiful.spl thanks to shemaroo dvds.

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