Ajooba (1991)

Sometimes I just have to ask myself if I live in a cave or something. Why have I not seen this movie before?! I could have seen it ten times by now! Why am I so late to this party?

But better late than never, especially to a party like this one. Beyond the endless (and largely nonchalent) WTF-ery there is a lot going on, much of it possibly unintended but tremendously engaging nonetheless. Hacking my way through the dense plot I spot references to the legend of King Arthur, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the Bible, Beastmaster, Alice In Wonderland, William Faulkner and so much more. I revel in Amitabh’s recyled outfit from Shahenshah and Rajasthan’s gorgeous Amber Fort. Best of all, I am led to ponder issues like “What is the lifespan of a dolphin, anyway?” and “What’s the point of having a magic talisman that turns into an elephant if you never use it?”

The subtitles are terrible (although occasionally funny too, as usual). For instance, protagonist Ajooba’s catch-phrase is the well-known Urdu couplet by author Agha Hashr Kashmiri (Mehboob Khan famously used it as part of his production company logo): “Muddayi lakh bura chahe to kya hota hai, wohi hota hai jo manzoor khuda hota hai.” It is badly subtitled here as “No ills can evil-doers perpetrate, all that happens is willed by the Lord.” This makes no sense as we watch the bad guys decimating the citizenry left and right, but keeping in mind the much more accurate (and blissfully short) translation “Man proposes, God disposes” it works a lot better.

Besides the poor subtitles and heavy-handed breathy 1990s-style dubbing, the only sour chord for me really (dare I say it?) is Amrish Puri’s one-note performance as the Vizier and his own stupid catch-phrase “Shaitan zindabad!” He gets on my last good nerve very quickly and I long for Ajit or Madan Puri instead. I wonder if Mr (A) Puri ever got fed up with playing the same uni-dimensional character in every film he was ever in? I’ll bet he did. In any case it’s unfair that the wicked Vizier gets to live and work (is villainy a job?) in my favorite room of all time.

But—onwards to all the Good Stuff! There is plenty of it. This will be a loooonnngg post (making up for my relative absence of late).

I am enchanted from the get-go when a bunch of astronomer-magicians send a magic star to the sweet little dollhouse fortress town/kingdom of Bahrestan to bless and protect the newborn son of the Sultan (a resplendently upholstered Shammi Kapoor) and his wife Malika (Ariadna Shengelaya).

Their previous five sons have been murdered by Queen Malika’s midwife on the orders of the evil Vizier, who wastes no time in offing his own people when they displease him too. But the magicians’ star has done its work well, and the little boy survives. The Sultan throws a lavish celebration and is pleased when his dear friend from the neighboring kingdom of Hind arrives. Amir Khan (Saeed Jaffrey) is a magician himself and presents the baby with the aforementioned elephant charm:

along with a magic sword for the Sultan which can cut through rock. The Sultan promptly tests this by shoving it into a marble column. Amir Khan watches in amusement as the Vizier tries to draw it back out without success, and eventually tells him that the sword can only be withdrawn by someone of royal blood. The Sultan is pleased and decides to leave it there for now.

Amir Khan’s plan to return home to his own pregnant wife in Hind goes terribly wrong when he is caught up in the Vizier’s plot to overthrow and kill the Sultan and his family. The Vizier imprisons him after taking his precious magical necklace (it keeps anyone who wears it from harm) and then sets his loyal soldiers onto the Sultan. The Sultan (being Shammi) has seen this coming and manages to flee with his wife and tiny son in a boat, where they are set upon by the Vizier and his brother-in-law Shah Rukh (Dalip Tahil) from a flying carpet. Sadly that scene is too dark to capture in a screenshot, but the boat is burned up and the Sultan, Malika and the baby all presumed drowned.

But no! The Baby Prince is nudged ashore on a piece of wood by a kindly dolphin, and comes to the attention of a kindly blacksmith. So much of kindness! Dil squish!!!!

Amir Khan is blamed by the Vizier for the death of the Sultan and his family, and the Vizier is declared the new Sultan. In his dark isolated cell, Amir watches through a magic ring as Malika’s brother Anwar (Tinnu Anand) asks the Maharaja of Hind (Dara Singh!) to punish Amir’s wife Zarina (Sushma Seth) for Amir’s crimes. Dara sensibly refuses, and Zarina gives birth to a daughter after she is saved from Anwar’s thugs by a lion, a leopard, a python and two elephants. In grand masala tradition, this film is chock-full of animals equipped with intelligence and a keen moral compass, who rise to the occasion when the humans fail to come up to scratch:

(sometimes gruesomely).

Hurray! Sadly, Amir’s ring is taken from him by the Vizier’s court magician and he is consigned to dark solitude in a dungeon cell. If I wanted to quibble about details (which I don’t) I would wonder why he isn’t just executed, but never mind.

As the Vizier-Sultan subjects his people to untrammeled bug-eyed oppression and tyranny:

the little Prince, now called Ali, grows up basking in the love of his blacksmith father and dolphin mother. He becomes the fearless Ajooba (Amitabh Bachchan), a fashion-forward Robin Hood with deadly fighting skills and the ability to catch arrows shot at him with his bare hands.

He meets up with his real mother Malika, now a blind beggar still clutching the little stone elephant in her hand, when she convinces the townspeople to refuse a bribe offered by Shah Rukh in return for information on Ajooba. When Shah Rukh whips her in retaliation Ajooba shows up and turns the tables. Malika eventually manages to stop him, but not until he’s given Shah Rukh quite a solid whipping as the crowd counts along with glee (this subtitle and context also made me giggle, for obvious reasons):

Ajooba takes Malika home and disappears, reappearing a short time later as Ali. They bond and Ali takes her to meet his “mother”—the dolphin. I can think of nothing except William Faulkner’s classic novel “As I Lay Dying” and the 5-word chapter within: “My mother is a fish.” Ali even says “Ma yeh, yeh machhli hai.”

I know dolphins are not technically fish, but I will never quibble when my people find their way into Hindi cinema (even unintentionally).

Ali/Ajooba’s best friend (who knows of his double identity) is a cheerful flirt named Hassan (Rishi Kapoor). It’s hard to blame Hassan for his philandering ways, since the entire female population of Bahrestan are dressed in belly-dancer outfits. But his roving eye finally comes to rest on the Vizier-Sultan’s daughter Henna (Sonam). He audaciously introduces himself to her and tells her he is a poor potter who can barely get two square meals a day. She is spoiled and clueless, a princess with no understanding of the peasant class: “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake!”

He is smitten and so, though it takes her a while to admit it, is she.

Meanwhile, poor Amir Khan is whiling away his time in the dungeon by sending birds with messages to Hind in the hopes of finding his lost wife and daughter. One clever bird tracks them down and fortunately daughter Rukhsana (all grown up into Dimple Kapadia) understands its billing and cooing (again, why quibble with something so fun?).

Her mother Zarina is not in any great shape either; she isn’t blind but she has a tricky heart or something, so Rukhsana sets off to find Amir by herself. In Bahrestan, she catches the eye of the Vizier-Sultan’s son Prince Altaf (Georgi Darchiashvili) who is out collecting taxes from his squeezed-out people and decides to add Rukhsana to the bounty. Ali’s sister Shehnaaz—Shah Rukh! Rukhsana! Shehnaaz! how I love Muslim names—watches it happen and runs back home to tell Ali.

Ali doesn’t much care about the kidnapping, but is happy to spring into action anyway with this startling pronouncement.

He finds time to rescue Rukhsana, who gives Ajooba a silver bracelet as thanks before he rides off after asking Hassan to take care of her. Garrulous Hassan fails to notice when four bandits snatch her off her horse as she rides behind him.

I love Sudhir! That flashing smile beneath that manly mouche gets me every time. All that is sadly missing is Ranjeet in a matching outfit.

The Vizier-Sultan is meanwhile ever more angry and frustrated at Shah Rukh’s inability to catch Ajooba.

Shah Rukh’s new ploy: kidnap Malika and hold her captive in the town square, forcing Ajooba to come and rescue her. Clever Ali substitutes the Vizier’s brother Ansari for himself; the Vizier’s soldiers shoot him full of arrows as he rides into the Square.

This brings us to the intermission—yes! we are only now at the intermission! And really the best is yet to come. With Rukhsana held captive by bandits; Malika now a target for the Vizier (I do have to wonder why the Vizier fails to recognize Malika, but I guess age and beggardom will change a person); Amir Khan still in his dark dungeon cell; Hassan in love with the out-of-his-reach Princess (or is she?!); and the whereabouts of the deposed Sultan still in question, things kick into high gear with ever more far-reaching flights of fancy, weird monsters, magic carpet shenanigans and lots of heart and soul.

There is wooing to be done (and the male Kapoor tradition of looking hideous in drag to be upheld):

There is magic to be wrought:

And rescues to be effected, both by regular animals and by this startling Lava-Shelled Turtle-Lobster with a Foo Dog head (nicknamed by me “the FooLobster”)…

…sent by Ma the Fish of course (thanks, Ma!).

There are lots of Little People around too. Some of them bid on Rukhsana when the bandits auction her off and I giggle at their tart exchange:

This seems a good time to bring up the costumes: Maganlal Dresswala has outdone himself in this one! Wah! It is a steady stream of gorgeous fabrics and Arabian Nights fantasy meets Rajasthani Desert fabulous. I even love Ajooba’s outfit, although I think I may be in the minority there. I really like how beautiful the older women in this look too, without loads of makeup and overdone “aging” effects.

And the film is a treat for those like me who love the “unsung” of Hindi cinema. Rajendranath and Narendranath appear fleetingly as citizens of Bahrestan (who is the snaggle-toothed guy next to Rajendranath? He is so familiar):

Bob Christo is given short shrift by Ajooba:

Sapru’s lookalike son Tej Sapru plays Dara Singh’s son Uddam:

Dara’s curly ‘stache needs a little glue, but I love his velvet and ribbons and chunky jewelry.

Best of all, I now have enough screen caps to start my 90s gallery, mostly from this one film!

I have seen Ajooba accused of being a little “sloppy” in the special effects department; some who say this say it like it’s a bad thing, but I am delighted.

When Shammi is held captive by the surprisingly delicate fingers of the “Shaitan” I root for him as he stabs futilely at the creature with his tiny sword.

I could just go on and on and on even more than I already have, but if you are late to this party too just WATCH IT. Shashi—I know you lost a lot of money on this one, but thank you for making it from the bottom of my dil.

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75 Comments to “Ajooba (1991)”

  1. I think I live in a cave too, because I never watched this one either. But it sounds awesome. A real keepsake.

  2. Wow!!! That’s a lovely review, Greta. And the movie itself seems to be a wonderful revival of the fantasy movie genre that had been lost to Hindi movies in the 70s and 80s.

    I remember Shashi was very keen on making a fun movie for children. He felt that Hindi cinema at that time (late 80s) did not offer much for children (and he was right).

    I remember seeing this movie long back – around the time it was released. But I don’t remember much about it – I’ve got very poor memory.

    I do remember the scene of birds carrying messages and I do remember little people. But that’s about all I remember. So definitely worth a rewatch for me.

    I know that it was not a big hit but did it really tank? Must have had quite a budget, what with Amitabh and all the fantasy sets and special effects involved. Pity that a movie like this, so different from the usual run-of-the-mill stuff, does not become a big hit at the box-office. Maybe that discourages producers from making more such movies.

  3. A wonderful and thorough review, Memsaab, though I am personally wounded by your ill words for Amrish Puri. It’s like I’m a 13 year old girl and you just called Justin Beiber’s hair stupid. But, seriously, and on another note: Dara Singh! I saw this movie before I knew who he was, so now this gives me ample reason to watch it again. Thanks!

    • I’m sorry but Justin Beiber’s hair IS stupid (and that isn’t his biggest problem in my book). And Amrish was so irritating in this film. Dara is only in it for about a total of 1.5 minutes on screen so maybe it’s not worth watching it just for him, but it is SO WORTH WATCHING AGAIN for everything!

  4. Agree with Todd here, Amrish Puri was fabulous here and that catchphrase ‘Shaitaan Zindabad’ definitely deserves to be in a Masala version of Paradise Lost! And I love the fact that filmi maa’s can also be filmi animals like a dolphin of all things! But kudos to the dressman who did Ajooba’s tinfoil outfit and allowing the valiant horse to have a tinfoil mask as well!

    • I just cannot agree. By 30 minutes in I was ff’ing through Amrish’s scenes and cringing at every utterance of “Shaitan zindabad”. He only had about…ONE expression in the film, which is really true of most of his films.

  5. I TOLD YOOOOOOOOOU! :) Welcome to the Club of Hopeless Ajooba Lovers. Here’s your card.

  6. Wonderful post as usual! The guy to the right of Rajendranath is Manmouji, isn’t he?

  7. Just read that the art director of “Ajooba”,”Desh mukherjee” was no more. He died a silent death in November month, without making to the Headlines in the newspapers .

    What a co-incidence ! you have chosed this film for review. Thanks for the write-up.

    He has directed amithab starrer Imaan dharam(quite a good movie), which flopped miserably, and worked as art director for
    Teesri kasam,Deewaar(74),Kranthi, Roti kapda aur makaan,
    Gulzar`s Meera,Do anjaane,Yaadgaar(manoj kumar`s), Kabhie kabhie,
    Purab aur paschhim,Prathiggya(75),Doosra aadmi,Khan dost,Chunauti,
    Dus numbri,Jaanbaaz, dost(74),Raja rani(74)Dil diya dard liya,
    Raat aur din,Shor and many more.
    He had also produced one Movie called “Aathank” on the lines of Hollywood film “Jaws”, which released or not I don`t know, which starred dharmendra, hema malini.

    He was a good friend of Manoj kumar and writer Salim khan.

    • ‘Aatank’ released pretty late (in 1996). Its the last Dharam-Hema movie till date. Hopefully they should be making an appearance again in 2011.

    • Oh, and this was a total masterpiece of art direction!!!!! RIP Desh Mukherjee, and thank YOU too wherever you are now for making this film. It really cheered this Memsaab up in an otherwise pretty miserable time.

  8. Hmm, I am adding Ajooba to my shopping list!

  9. The movie was actually released in 1990. All the stars barring Sonam worked free of cost for Shashi Kapoor in this movie. Shashi agreed to pay Sonam her market price.

    In my opinion, it was a Manmohan Desai kind of a movie. However, it was not well accepted by the audiences.

    • I read that about Sonam, she probably couldn’t afford to work for free yet :) Must have been a long shoot—I read too that Shashi spared no expense spoiling the actors and crew as well, and good for him. It is MD-like in many ways, although it is also very Wadia-like. And how can those two things combined possibly be bad? Namumkin hai!

  10. I was barely 6 when I saw this movie on video, and it remains one of my all time favorites. The AB eye mask became the hottest item to own, and I remember distributing these to all the guests at my birthday party, and what pics we had :)

    We even had an ajooba game, where me and my brother used to take turns to play Ajooba, and the Vazir. We used brooms as swords, and ‘Shaitaan Zindabaad’ used to resonate in our house :) The big monster (Shaitaan) was awesome.

    The movie had everything and borrowed freely from everywhere including King Arthur, Moses, Zorro and even Manmohan Desai :). It was heart breaking to know that the movie tanked badly. For me it still remains one of the most kick assingly good movies.

    Shaitaan Zindabaad!!!!!

    • The only irritation I had were the songs. And as Im writing this I can’t seem to get “jaggum jaggum” out of my head :)

    • I can only imagine how this would seem to a child…I agree with you about the music, although it didn’t irritate me it didn’t really engage me either. The songs were mostly something to get through so we could get on with the rest of the movie (although they were picturized nicely)…

  11. Am really sad, that no character named Salman starred in it. After allt hey had Shah Rukh and Amir Khan!

  12. I actually saw this in a theater – here in the US (Atlanta to be precise)! I was an undergrad at Georgia Tech at the time and dragged a bunch of my ABCD friends to this thing. Oh, the expression on their faces as all this fabulousness unfolded on the big, wide screen…:-D

    Did I mention that back in the early 90s the only place in the metro-Atlanta area that showed Hindi films was a Triple X theater? :-0 Ah, good times!

    • I am sad to say I have never seen the inside of a Triple X theater…but it seems somehow appropriate :D

    • Shalini, the place I see Hindi films now, which is my town’s international/art film theater, used to be a porno place too! Transformations zindabad!

    • Glad to see the various ‘moods’ of the ladies :-D

    • Wow,finally some body else who saw Indian movies at the Buford Highway twin theaters in Atlanta Ga. Yes ,on the weekends on theater would show Indian movies and the 2nd would show x rated movies. I grew up in Atlanta and had an American wife whom I took to this movie as an introduction to the fabulous world of Bollywood. And this one didn’t disappoint. Frankly even I was surprised by the Sheer weirdness of the movie. I didn’t expect it to an Arabian Nights themed movie. I loved the movie, the wife not soo much. She never understood the whole Amitabah thing and Rishi was getting too fat for the lover part. My ex really liked Sunny Doel. By the way this movie didn’t play at the x rated theater but at the dollar theater in Taco Hill shopping center. It had a much bigger capacity and screen. I guess they were expecting a big crowed due to Amitabha’ presence.

  13. Welcome to caveless living! This is one of my all-time favourites. They just don’t make them like this anymore *sigh*. I long for the fab fun of awful ‘special effects’–maybe we should campaign for a revival of Bollywood men in tights, capes, and gold masks.

  14. I love this film – its just so endearingly bad. I had an argument with the guy at the DVD shop about why I would want to watch it, and why I was buying 2 copies (one was for Heather). He had no idea! I love your description of the well- upholstered Shammi. He reminded me of a very fancy ottoman in this film :)

    • Ha ha ha ha!!!! I love that the dvdwala didn’t want you to see it (he was probably like my friend Sarita who watches Hindi films and writhes around saying “these are my people” in a total agony of embarrassment). I love this film SO MUCH. I don’t even think it’s bad—there are some issues like some of the sfx (although some of them were pretty good!) and some plot holes, but overall I just loved it in all its WTF glory.

      Beth’s description of Shammi as a Mughal beach ball made me LOL too :)

      • Though I wouldn’t “These are my people”, i understand your friend Sarita verrrry well!
        Greetings to her!

      • I often run into the “My people…what are they doing!” embarrassment, but hey we all have that to deal with in one way or another. One of my favourite very silly things about this was Ajooba’s secret training ground – reached through a labyrinth of secret passages etc…and conveniently located in the empty field next door. In the open air. Where anyone could see them. And yes the Mughal beachball is very apt! On an almost serious note, I thought this film might also have been inspired by the resurgence in sword & sandal type fantasies that Hollywood churned out in the 80s (Krull etc) but just missed the boat in a few areas – timing of the release and sfx particularly

        • Yes we all def. have “these are my people” issues to worry about, LOL! And amen to the secret open air public training ground :D

          Might have been Hollywood-influenced, but the sword-and-sandals genre has a long (if not as honored as it should be) tradition in Indian cinema as well…

  15. Good review! But I actually liked Amrish Puri’s one-dimensional performance… Yes, the SBIG thing. And the art direction is worth a mention, too. The special effects — though kinda “sloppy”, they were actually pretty advanced for Hindi cinema of that time… Mogambo is pleased.

    • I know I’m in the minority on the Amrish thing, but it’s just gotten SO OLD. Maybe if this were the first Amrish Puri film I ever saw it wouldn’t have irritated me, but he never really does anything else and there are NO NUANCES at all to mine for. I think some of the sfx were really good, as I said above, although clearly there were some last-minute ones done possibly by someone’s kids or something.

      But I love this movie, and not as a SBIG either :)

  16. I had seen this movie on TV: I was ten years old, and it was an evening teatime movie- I had just woken up after an afternoon-post-heavy-lunch siesta(during the summer holidays). I have very fond memories of evening movies in the holidays- when I woke up I used to walk out groggy eyed into the living room, and see my parents and grandparents watching the movie while sipping coffee/tea, and a plate of Marie biscuits on the centre-table.
    Kids in our colony used to make an Ajooba mask out of hard transparent plastic(that usually came with readymade shirts), and wooden swords(covered with cheap silver paper, and golden paper for the handle) bought from the balloon-seller :-)

    BTW, is that character next to Rajendranath Dhumal?

    • I’m glad to hear that so many kids loved this movie, since Shashi made it for kids. What a great way to remember it too, thanks for sharing that :)

      No, neither guy next to Rajendranath is Dhumal. I think that he probably is Manmauji, I just need to confirm :)

  17. Now that you say it, I would put my money on Manmauji as well!

  18. I remember this movie fondly!!! So glad you blogged about it! I don’t know why people weren’t on board – I thought it was awesome.

    Though what I remember the most is the Rishi-Sonam song “Mein Maati Ka Gudda Tu Sone Ki Gudiya” …

    • Yes this movie has found a solid place on my favorites shelf :) I think the songs will grow on me…I didn’t dislike them, although I didn’t love them either, and I did love the picturizations.

  19. Shashi Kapoor did not like acting in what is popularly termed as commercial or mainstream cinema. Time and again he expressed his displeasure at having to work in meaningless films, just to earn some money, when he would have rather done some meaningful roles on stage, but there was no money in the latter those days. Actors and directors often spent money to stage a play and earned nothing from it.
    When he earned enough money he decided to produce some meaningful films beginning with Junoon, followed by Utsav ,Kalyug. He however lost a lot of money in these films. He was so disgusted by the audience reaction to his films that (I read somewhere) he decided to go commercial with a vengeance with Ajooba. It was an Indo-Russian co-production. I personally love all this fantasy, fairy tale kind of stuff. Very entertaining indeed.

    • Oh dear so Shashi will probably not have any respect for me for loving his film :D Ah well. Such is life. I like a great many of his “meaningless” ones as actor too. I liked Junoon although it was a bit slow and more than a bit depressing so I won’t watch it over and over like I will this one…I don’t remember much about Kalyug though, and haven’t seen Utsav.

      • You knew I would have to pop in again! Kalyug is one of my very favorites and Utsav is fabulous too, though I did have to watch it twice because I found the set-up/introduction (narrated by Amjad Khan!) to be super confusing.

        But more importantly: his work in so many different kinds of things is probably my favorite thing about Shashi (curls and eyelashes aside for once). It doens’t seem that very many other people have even wanted to do that, let alone done so repeatedly. I mean, the man did Junoon AND Ajooba AND Pretty Polly AND Shakespeare-Wallah AND Shaan! Vah! :D

  20. what a coincidence, i saw this post right after catching some bits of ajooba on tv. it was one of the films we hired a vcr for. of all the films sashi produced this is probably the least exciting. do see vijeta, one of the finest hindi films, and made by sashi. kalyug and utsav are among my favourites as well

  21. Omg Omg OMG! I love this movie and I think I have seen it at least a gazillion times!

    And as a kid, I also remember being terrified of that ugly ‘Shaitaan’. Gave me nightmares for days at a stretch :D

  22. Really Memsaab – this film was such an embarrassment when it was released. After all the hullabaloo publicity – the special effects were so clunky and laughable. I only watch it on TV (when I don’t have to ‘pay’ for it) as my wife and daughter seems to like to see it every time it is re-telecast.

    • Ha ha, well I am with your wife and daughter. I think this film is so much fun, and some of the effects are pretty well done (and the ones that aren’t….well….they only add to the charm for me). I just love the story, and the performances, and the fantastical films it pays homage to :)

  23. I have always loved this movie as has my dad. The only problem is: I just can’t believe that it was made in 1991. It’s like a mid 80’s film transplanted into a completely different (cinematically) decade! No film maker since then seems to have any interest in making a ridiculous, fantastical and silly movie that warms your heart, makes you laugh and lets you know from the get go that everything will fall into place! Movies with Arabian Nights themes and Sultans and princesses seem to have died out just before the 90s began! As with the lovely ‘dakus’.
    I really wanted to recommend Bundal Baaz to you, but it looks like you’ve already watched it. :)

  24. This film is means so much to me. It instilled a life-long love and admiration for dolphins, Amitabh Bachchan and Arabian Nights.

  25. Revisiting AJOOBA after all these tiresome year of my life was truly & b’fully NOSTALGIC and I can’t thank MEMSAAB enough for holding a RESTROSPECTIVE of this great work of art andf fantasy. As a child, i remember how I made life miserable for my folks, who had to bow down to the child pressure and Voila , here i had the AJOOBA VHS in my little hands. I enjoyed it immensely and did a rewatch several times. I’m one of those lucky souls who watched it in its prime and youth.

    P.S : I’ve a speacial term for for these movies, a la , ‘ COoL CRAPPY ‘. Akshay Kumar and Gang’s JAANi DUSHMAN remained my most favourite in that genre` until Dev Saab’s last offering (peace be upon him), CHARGESHEET changed all that !! Have a Dekko, if u must… its going to be REAL FUN, I TELL YOU !!

  26. Amitabh At his FB page put some interesting note about movie :

    Tuesday Memoir – “Ajooba”

    This is Shashi Kapoor the director in the film ‘Ajooba’, a fantasy film on the lines of Ali Baba and Flying Carpets and Gini’s, made in collaboration with a Russian Production – a co production of sorts, with a mix of Russian locations, artists. I believe this is a picture taken on the sets of the film in Russia, then Soviet Union, when we were shooting at that wonderful world renowned location of Yalta, on the Black Sea.

    Politically and historically known, because of the famous conference that took place between the Allies and USSR during World War II, but also climatically known to be a great health resort because of its climate, environment and the ‘air about it’ … Especially for asthmatic patients. A location where the leaders went for rest and relaxation.

    I took a flight to Simferopol, I think and then drove to Yalta, a couple of hours, past the ‘Bear Mountain’ – a huge chunk of mountain, which looks like a bear stooping down to drink water at a water body … An amazing sight ! Did the Russian symbol of the ‘bear’ come from this ? I wonder !!

    One confirmation that the picture is taken in Yalta, USSR then, now in Ukraine, is the missing stick in the hand of Shashi Kapoor ! In Mumbai when we started shooting he would move around with a stick on set, gathering his troops and bringing them to order, and generously using it if indiscipline occurred !! He lost the stick in Russia !! Thank God !!

    My Mother’s role in the film which had Dimple Kapadia opposite me, was played by a top Russian actress. She spoke her dialogues in Russian and we in Hindi … And we did quite well. The film was released in Russian and Hindi.
    Many fond memories of the film and indeed of the entire stay in Russia and the friends that we all made, still remain so recent and fresh in our minds …

    On a pleasant and cold evening while taking a walk by the seaside, I noticed a man from a small shop looking at me and making gestures with his hands, that looked like he was rotating something, and then would quickly switch to his fingers as though they were flicking a coin ! I wondered if he was inviting me to a game of roulette !! But when my interpreter asked him what he was doing it was revealed that he was acknowledging me as an actor of the film ‘Sholay’ .. !!!

    The rotating action was the rotation of the film reel in the projection room, and the coin flick … Well do I really need to explain that ???

    Source : https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=565420866825040&set=a.452056338161494.108384.449082841792177&type=1&theater

  27. Love this film. One of my fav’s and I remember as a teenager looking forward to this film – it was forever in the making. I had a collection of published articles from gossip magazines, interviews etc. And one in particular was an article by Sonam from G magazine in which she ranted about everybody and everything about the film. The best bit was in her response to Rishi Kapoor’s comments about her… “If Rishi Kapoor thinks I stink than he must have come too close…” Classic stuff.

  28. As a child I loved Ajooba! In 90s we had lot of fantasy and mythological shows on TV such as Alif Laila, Chandrakanta, Vikram Aur Betaal etc. Ajooba was trip to fantasy world of kings, queens, superheroic princes! I watched it on Doordarshan on a Sunday afternoon. I and my younger brother loved it. We would also chant “Ajooba! Ajooba!” Like the crowds in this film. Dolphin being mother like is epic! :D

    I loved Amrish Puri in this and feel he is the only one who can carry off any kind of get up, has old world aura and is naturally scary with those eyes, big teeth, haggard face and booming voice. I even watched the atrocious Haatim tai several times just for Amrish Puri’s act as evil wizard!

    I like Dimple in this one. Her aggression is attractive. She is one of the few actresses who had the gravitas to match Amitabh Bachchan’s aura.

    Ajooba failed at box office. Unlike other Amitabh Bachchan films it does not even have at least a record opening to talk of. Amitabh is said to have done this film for free for Shashi Kapoor.

    But now it has popularity among 80s and early 90s kids and is one of Amitabh’s popular films on television.

  29. Horrible movie. Amitabh wanted dimple to be his heroine in this film just to spite his rival rajesh. The direction was by shahsi kapoor who could not sustain as a solo hero for long & was the eternal younger brother of Amitabh. His direction, like his acting, was pathetic.

    Poor rishi kapoor, he looks lost. No wonder, the film bombed big time.

  30. Amresh puri my foverite is like you

  31. Yes, Thanks a lot to Shashi Japoor for making this fairy tale type film! It’s really a treat for the lovers of mythological magical films!

    I loved costume and presentation of Amitabh Bachchan as Ajooba!😍💕❤️👍

    The movie was later appreciated for its special effects (in those times) and large scale production. But when released, it was criticized and Amitabh as declared as Aajoba (old man in Marathi!) by a leading newspaper!

    But, it’s a fun movie, bit scary for kids …. Go for it!😍💕❤️👍

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