Call me shallow, but I have trouble taking a hero who wears more makeup than the heroine and vamp together seriously (except Shammi in Junglee, because he is just so handsome despite the blue eyeshadow and coral lipstick). As much as I adore the Wadias’ output, they seem particularly fond of making heroes look girly: Mahipal in everything, and now Manhar Desai in this, although most of the time Manhar doesn’t look like a girl so much as a really creepy doll. Ironic that they also gave us the fabulously kick-ass Fearless Nadia; I guess perhaps I should rejoice in the gender reversal tactics, but a pancaked hero just doesn’t really work for me.
It doesn’t help at all that the character is a gutless wonder with the logic of a two year old. With a story aspiring to be a Romeo and Juliet style tragedy, an obnoxious immature mime-hero doesn’t provide the necessary viewer investment in the romance to make it work.
Still and all, Madhosh has many moments of good fun, at least until the last 45 minutes. Meena is mischievously beautiful until her brain dies and she falls in love, and the film is so full of bristling mustachioed machismo that the hero’s misspent hours at the vanity mirror are somewhat mitigated. And Madan Mohan’s music is lovely, with wonderful song picturizations. But the ending is so ridiculous (as in really stupid) that I rolled my eyes most of the way through it, although it is supposed to be tragic.
Sajalpur is a pretty town ruled by two families who have long been enemies, the Manes and the Jadavs. Chief Rambhaji (Kuldeep Akhtar) is a cruel and arrogant man, and the townspeople aren’t shy about their preference for the benign and kindly Bhujwa (Mubarak)—to Rambhaji’s ongoing fury.
In the marketplace one day, Rambhaji’s young son Raya clashes with Bhujwa’s feisty daughter Soni; Raya (who is as arrogant and spoiled as his father) likes her spirit, but Soni is unimpressed by Raya.
Also in the marketplace that day is one of Rambhaji’s men, Shakriya (S Nazir), who has been injured in a fight. Rambhaji refuses to give him any aid and even whips him; Bhujwa rescues him and with his wife Janaki (Jilloo) and Soni’s help treats his wounds. In gratitude Shakriya gives Soni a family heirloom, a necklace with magical powers.
Years pass and Soni grows up to be the beautiful Meena Kumari. Raya (Manhar Desai) has meanwhile grown up elsewhere (school?), and his long-awaited return coincides with a festival. Not recognizing the supercilious stranger (on a lovely white horse, credited as Rajput), Soni and her friends make fun of him (songs are sadly not subtitled, but I gather they are making fun of his outfit and general demeanor) in the lively “Pagri Pehan Ke Turredaar”.
Raya is clearly still smitten by the disdainful Soni, who doesn’t appreciate his teasing and his arrogance any more than she did as a little girl.
I think we are supposed to admire him, but the clown makeup and entitled attitude do not endear me to our hero one little bit; we are led to believe through their banter that Soni might be developing a soft spot for him though I cannot understand why for the life of me.
Rambhaji is thrilled to have his son (the “apple of his eye”) home again, but Raya is quickly bored and sneaks away that evening with one of the servants to see a renowned dancer perform. She is Raina (Usha Kiran) and the daughter of Shakriya, who now lives in the forest with his gang of outlaws and is a fierce enemy of Rambhaji. This is a wonderful excuse for a tribal dance complete with a large cast of dancers, drummers, and tiki torches: the sort that the Wadias so excel at.
Raina is instantly attracted to Raya for some mysterious reason, and he enjoys her dance and the attention she pays him but the proceedings are cut short with the arrival of her father and his burly bodyguard (a very young and beefy Habib!).
Shakriya boots Raya out when he discovers who he is—he has not forgiven Rambhaji for kicking him when he was down all those years ago. He also notices his daughter’s interest and…um, discourages her.
Meanwhile, Soni ruminates on Raya’s behavior towards her the day before, leading to this delicious—if unintentional—irony.
Her musings are interrupted by her mother, who informs her that someone named Anand is coming to visit. This is clearly good news for Soni, who quickly puts on her best sari and jewelry and goes off to meet him along the road from the station. As she waits for the station tonga to come into view Raya appears and assumes that she’s all dressed up and waiting for him.
He is quickly taken down a few pegs when Anand arrives and Soni runs to meet him with evident delight. His ego is soothed when Raina shows up soon after and makes her feelings towards him perfectly clear. He responds to her advances initially but his heart isn’t in it and he backs away, giving her the excuse that he doesn’t want to get her into trouble with her father. Raina is clearly not one to give up easily, though.
Neither is Raya, and he happens upon Soni and Anand together the very next day. Soni insults him but her father steps in and chides her gently for treating a guest so rudely. He offers some water to poor thirsty Rajput, Raya’s horse.
Bhujwa’s dhoti also causes me to reflect that India’s finely woven cottons are sometimes a little TOO fine.
He further extends his hospitality by giving Raya Soni’s beloved pigeon Sharbati. Poor Soni! As she mopes, so do Raya and Sharbati, and Raina continues to throw herself at Raya without getting very far. Eventually Soni and Raya find their way to each other, inexplicably to me at least—but I am not the only one who doesn’t get it.
Janki, Soni’s mother, wants her to marry the faithful Anand. Kindly Bhujwa is willing to approach his old enemy Rambhaji for the sake of his daughter’s happiness, but Rambhaji insults him and throws Raya out to boot. Bhujwa withdraws his approval for their marriage in the face of Rambhaji’s implacability, and Rambhaji decides that the only way to get his son back is to kill Soni. Plus, poor Raina is imprisoned and then whipped by her father Shakriya when he discovers she has continued to meet Raya.
What will happen to her? Will she discover that Raya loves Soni, and not her? And what will become of Soni and Raya, now at an impasse with their families?
From here on there are *SPOILERS* so don’t go much further if you want to see this without knowing how it ends. I did enjoy the film for many things: Meena before she falls in love (and Usha Kiran is lovely too); the company of actors like Jilloo, Mubarak and Kuldeep Akhtar; the settings and the costumes and the songs. And the horse Rajput! What a beauty he was.
But. (Stop reading now, those of you who are spoiler averse!)
I think perhaps poor editing (on whose part we will probably never know, but the dvd is only slightly over two hours long) contributed, but the end of this is so facilely illogical and poorly constructed that it blows me away. In a nutshell, Rambhaji’s manservant attacks Raya to drag him back home and the police—who are represented by two hilariously bad-Hindi-speaking goras (zindabad!)—try to help him, resulting in Raya killing one of them accidentally.
This puts the whole police force on his trail (little things like “accidental” not being worth a second thought). Raya manages to escape with Soni and marries her (with Raina’s help, after she sees her family heirloom around Soni’s neck and embraces her as a bahen). Although he has done all this voluntarily, as has Soni, Raya then decides that it’s best for Soni to leave him and go back to her family (since he is now on the run). Of course he doesn’t actually tell her that, but instead pretends to be drunk and evil (and, since he actually hits her and inflicts a lot of emotional abuse it doesn’t strike me much as “pretence” although he doesn’t seem to worry about that) in order for her to stop loving him. Of course, it doesn’t matter what he does to Soni, she still worships him as a God. This would make no sense even if I had found their romance believable, but the fact that I just don’t get what she sees in him to begin with renders it simply AWFUL.
There are other people suffering from their own mistakes too, for whom we are supposed to feel bad (I don’t).
Umm…not unlucky, Rambhaji. Try cruel and stupid and self-centered.
Well, maybe if you people had actually supported your poor daughter (no matter how unappealing her choice) you wouldn’t have to wonder!
When finally the sensible Raina and Anand (this subtitle sums it up nicely, the line being spoken by Anand):
intervene and make Soni see some sense, she does leave Raya—but he can’t stand it and seeks her out again (although first he tries to get Raina back, even telling her that he needs a substitute for Soni! Massive eye roll). This strikes me very much along the lines of Raj Kapoor’s dreadful Aaaaaaaaah, where all the “noble pain” inflicted on the poor unwitting heroine goes for nothing when the self-absorbed baby of a hero can’t tolerate his own resulting pain—which, you know, is the consequence of his own actions.
So at the end when the two of them die together, I can’t help feeling that really they (especially Raya) brought it all on themselves; and instead of the tears this scene should have wrought from me, I only feel relief for little Sharbati the pigeon, who can hopefully now fly free, and for me because my torture is over too.
To cleanse the palate, some things they got right:
Feisty, pretty Meena at the beginning.
Jilloobai and Mubarak!
Songs, especially Usha’s—and I am pretty sure I would have liked them much better with subtitles. They had that feel to them.
This may be the actor Bismillah, for whom I have been looking (Bismillah is credited as playing a character named Narayan…I never heard anyone called Narayan mentioned by name in the movie, but this guy was Raina’s faithful servant and one of the larger parts which I can’t match to an actor):
If anyone can confirm this, then even sitting through the whole thing would have been worth it!