Sadly this isn’t a film anymore, but the last gasping remnants of one: a collection of random scenes (or partial scenes) strung together incoherently with big gaping wounds of missing content (and sometimes, sound). There are barely two seconds of footage together anywhere not punctuated by a skip or a jerk. That it still manages to be kind of fun to watch is a testament to…something, although I am not sure I can pinpoint what that Something is. It might just simply be Dara. Or Ajit, Randhawa, Nishi, Helen, Madan Puri, Bela Bose, Madhumati and some perfectly scintillating songs and dancing.
Well, there you go: I have pinpointed It.
I can only hope and pray that a better print is lying around somewhere because I had a sneaking feeling while watching this poor convulsing thing that were it not so terribly sick and distressed it might well be my new favorite Dara film. The fragments which remain offer glimpses into a rollicking, swashbuckling tale of romance and separated brothers in a colorful historical costume-drama setting (lots and lots of pretty galloping horses!).
I will tell the story as I managed to piece it together (besides lots of it being missing, and the sound regularly going AWOL, it is very lamely and mostly unintelligibly subtitled—actually, in an unusual twist, the songs are better subbed than the dialogues). In any case, as is usual with Dara Singh’s oeuvre, it’s all about the action (and giant cutlery!).
Ajay (Ajit) and Vijay (Dara) are brothers belonging to a band of gypsies who have decided to give up their nomadic ways and settle down in a kingdom plagued by a band of dacoits led by the mighty Roopa (Randhawa).
Ajay and Vijay are pretty mighty themselves, and prove it when Ajay is smitten on sight by a pretty dancer named Bindia (Helen) at a fair. She is harassed by some guy and Ajay punches him; this leads to a wholesale fight on the part of all the audience members, to Bindia’s great delight, during which Vijay materializes in defense of his brother as well.
Soldiers appear and arrest Vijay, but overlook Ajay who has been knocked out and is lying under some broken furniture. Bindia tosses some cold water on Ajay, who comes to and flirts with her, then rides home to get reinforcements to break Vijay out of jail. Sadly, this mission goes unseen, but is evidently successful since suddenly it is evening and Vijay is sitting in a cart and asking a girl in his lap who she is before being set upon by bandits.
This girl, it transpires, is Kamini (Nishi), and she is the unfortunate (so she seems to feel) object of dacoit Roopa’s affection. This results in her being kidnapped by him time and again, although once she is captive Roopa seems inclined to leave her alone and she always manages to escape. I kind of like Roopa, myself.
Ajay meanwhile brings Bindia home to his Ma, Bhavani (Veena, in extra-emoting mode, God love her).
Ajay and Bindia settle into comfortable bickering domesticity and Helen dances to a song with no sound while Vijay falls in love with the beautiful Kamini (and she with him), and she too finds refuge with the tribe between kidnapping adventures.
This does not go down well with Roopa, naturally, and sets the two brawny men at odds with each other. I must say that I love Nishi in (what’s left of) this film. She looks very pretty and is a good dancer, even matched up with Helen (and I love, love, love this song).
Why is GS Kohli so ignored as a music director? Why?! I just don’t get it. I absolutely always love his music when the sound isn’t missing (Faulad, Char Dervesh, Shikari, and so much more!).
More trouble enters the picture now in the form of the Rajkumar (Madan Puri), whose enmity is roused when Vijay kills a tiger which the Prince was aiming at himself. He demands that Vijay give him the poor dead cat. Vijay refuses, and then thrashes the Rajkumar’s burly aide, no doubt a wrestling colleague of Dara’s. Huge logs are tossed around like sticks and swords clash, etc. etc. Very satisfying indeed! The Rajkumar and his men chase Vijay back to his little settlement where Bhavani asks if they might be allowed to live peacefully in his kingdom. The Prince says no.
He also gets a good look at Kamini and likes what he sees, and it’s no wonder: look at that tower of red hair! I am not sure if everything they possess actually is wrecked because, you know, whatever happens next is missing. But eventually Kamini is kidnapped again, this time by the Rajkumar’s men (one of whom wears an eyepatch, which is awesome).
Oh but Vijay can save her! Especially when he’s equipped with a large horsewhip. At least, I guess he rescues Kamini, although that bit is missing too and we are transported to one of the best dance fragments I’ve ever seen. Bela Bose and Madhumati dance convulsively with men in blackface, wearing fezzes and emerald green satin harem pants, and it is FAB. No lyrics, only music, and not very long, sadly, but seriously awesome nonetheless.
There are lots of little dance segments like this throughout, which by themselves are reason enough to rescue this movie.
Bela and Madhumati are dancing for the Rajkumar and his father the Maharajah (Randhir). Vijay and Ajay are escorted in, and the Rajkumar welcomes them warmly on behalf of himself and his father.
The King has apparently heard about these brave brothers (if not his son’s dushmani with them) and he asks if they will help him get rid of Roopa. The Rajkumar tells them that he had kidnapped Kamini to test their bravery. Vijay demurs: they are pacifists, it seems. I laugh and laugh. But when his beloved Kamini is abducted anew by Roopa and Vijay has to rescue her again, he changes his mind and agrees to help the King get rid of Roopa once and for all.
But we know (because he’s Madan Puri, duh) that the Rajkumar is playing a
double triple game: he calls Roopa to court and warns him that the brothers are coming for him, and promises that the soldiers whom the King has given Vijay and Ajay as backup actually are loyal to HIM.
Then he instructs his one-eyed lieutenant (Kundan) to watch the mayhem and bring any survivors (including Roopa) back to him under arrest.
(No, I do not have a super-human ability to read those subtitles, but it seems logical from what subsequently happens.)
With the help of the double-crossing soldiers under the Rajkumar’s command, Roopa now has Ajay imprisoned with the idea that Vijay will be willing to exchange Kamini for his brother. But he isn’t, so Roopa challenges Vijay to a duel instead and later tells Ajay that regardless of the outcome he’ll be set free (not an option for poor Kamini though!).
The next development isn’t much of a surprise, but of course it is good fun. Roopa’s fiercely mustachioed father Balwant Singh begins talking with Ajay, and Ajay tells him that he is the son of Man Singh Thakur—a name Balwant Singh clearly recognizes.
Through a lengthy flashback from which the sound is missing but for which there suddenly and mysteriously are fairly readable subtitles, we learn that Man Singh Thakur (Tiwari), was a respected and extremely brave chieftain in this very area years before. Everyone in the place seems to have been as quarrelsome then as they are now, and Man Singh defeated a neighboring clan called the Chauhans. Roopa’s father Balwant saved Man Singh’s life during the battle, and as thanks Man Singh had given Balwant Singh a sword for his then two-year-old son.
Besides Vijay, Man Singh and Bhavani had younger son as well, an infant. After their defeat, the Chauhans snuck back into the village at night and set fire to everyone’s homes, and in the mayhem that followed (during which Man Singh was killed) Bhavani rescued Balwant Singh’s young son but misplaced her own baby (although she managed to hang onto Vijay, the elder). Balwant himself managed to rescue Bhavani’s infant boy, and afterwards, thinking Bhavani and Vijay to be dead too, decided to raise him in place of his own lost boy.
So Roopa is Vijay’s real brother, and Ajay is actually Balwant’s son! Balwant frees Ajay, who rides home and tells Bhavani that Roopa is her long-lost youngest son. The Rajkumar overhears this conversation and sends his soldiers to arrest Roopa and Vijay, who are in the middle of their swordfight, with Kamini trying vainly to stop them. He also tosses Bhavani, Bindia and Ajay into his dungeon, where he has already incarcerated his own father the Maharajah and taken over the kingdom (he celebrates the occasion with Bela and Madhumati again!):
Roopa and Vijay are kept separate from the rest of the prisoners and remain unaware they are brothers; they are to be pitted against each other like gladiators the next morning for the Rajkumar’s pleasure. It will be a fight to the death for one or both, in this chhote chhote castle.
Can Ajay and company escape in time to save them from killing each other? Can they save the kingdom from the evil Rajkumar? Can someone please, please save this film?
Oh I beg you, Universe, make it happen.