Katilon Ke Kaatil (1981)

Some of you I imagine will scratch your heads and say: “This is the dubious production she’s choosing to review after so long?”

Many more of you will say: “Well of course it is.

To all of you I have only two words: Arjun Hingorani. I have seen a few films in the month since I last posted a review, but as nice as some of them were they simply didn’t inspire me enough to overcome the cloud of Callie-worry and work overload. I was positive that the letter ‘K’ loving Mr. Hingorani would have something up his sleeve to make my eyes pop out. And so he did. He always does.

A lot of this film is rather predictable if you have watched even a couple of Manmohan Desai films and the resulting copycat parade, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s poorly paced, with long stretches where the lead stars simply disappear (I assume because they had busy schedules elsewhere), replaced by CSP situations and stunts that go on a little too long. It is also chock-full of those convenient coincidences that you just can’t question or you’ll go mad. However: it is made with producer-director Hingorani’s undying enthusiasm for film-making and passion for boy-toys (sten guns, helicopters, explosions) which goes a long way towards making it entertaining. It’s punctuated by cameos from aging stars and character actors loyal to him; and the songs by Kalyanji Anandji (two qawwalis!) are fun. Plus, there are a couple of anipals who are smarter than all the humans put together, and with judicious application of the FF button the redeeming moments throughout are much closer together.

We begin with the evil machinations of a black-cat-stroking, black-clad villain named Black Cobra (Amjad Khan) who shall henceforth be called BC, because I am lazy. BC is after a solid gold chariot studded with precious stones used by wealthy Pratap Singh’s (Pradeep Kumar) family for puja, but unfortunately for BC it is equipped with its own ninja-inspired self-defense mechanism.

Thwarted, an angry BC escapes from jail pretty quickly and sets into motion a chain of events which end up with Pratap Singh dead, and his two sons Ajit and Munna separated from each other and from their Maa Radha (Nirupa Roy in fine teary fettle).

Around now, Mr. Hingorani makes his own inevitable appearance as a minstrel who sings the theme song about the virtues of being…well, virtuous; and how God will punish evildoers and comfort their victims even if He takes His sweet time about it (all this as Radha smashes her bangles and dons a white saree). It’s a very catchy tune, although not catchy enough to engage me the next fifty times he shows up singing it as the movie moves on. Khair. That’s what the fast-forward button is for. And, I must add, at least he doesn’t give himself an “acting” part in this one because he’s a terrible actor, bless him.

BC sends his henchman Michael (Shakti Kapoor) to retrieve the chariot from poor Radha and there is a lot of subsequent helicopter footage that Hingorani always gleefully spends a large proportion of his budget on (as opposed to, say, a realistic-looking communications panel or at least some bright Christmas lights to spruce it up). It all ends with a spectacular crash which ostensibly kills Michael and destroys the precious chariot.

Little Munna is rescued by a pickpocket (Mukri) who brings him up to become Rishi Kapoor and a chor in his own right. An amnesiac Ajit (who witnessed his father getting whipped to death and bumped his head afterwards, leaving him traumatized but not knowing why) is taken in by a Muslim woman named Nasreen (Ashoo) who has just lost her own infant son Badshah. She gives Ajit her dead son’s name, and he grows up to be a tired-looking Dharmendra, still tortured by paralyzing flashbacks and himself now a goonda of the first water.

We meet him as he fights two men on opposite ends of the color spectrum: a steroidal gora named John, and a guy with black or navy blue shoe polish on his face named Kaalu (surprise!). He also tries to explain his momentary lapses of concentration to his friend Laalu (?).

Soon after the two brothers meet in a gambling club, where Badshah observes Munna cheating at cards and then saves him from getting a beating at the hands of his victim (Keshav Rana)—only to rob him of his winnings afterwards. They part with grudging mutual respect and Badshah gets drunk on his “earnings”. That night he is awakened by a next door neighbor singing to musical accompaniment: she is Jamila (Zeenat Aman) and she is practicing for an upcoming qawwali competition. Badshah is instantly smitten by Jamila, although she of course will make him work for any reciprocal attention from her.

This is an excellent excuse for Dharmendra to don a disguise and for a rousing qawwali, which is never a bad thing and should never be limited.

In the meantime, Munna’s adoptive father sends him to steal a diamond necklace from a couple (Manorama and Keshto Mukherjee) staying in a nearby hotel. What he doesn’t know is that another thief by the name of Reshmi (Tina Munim) has her eye on it too, and she has a distinct advantage in the form of her adept monkey Johnny. She sends him off to steal the necklace too, and Johnny neatly outmaneuvers Munna, making off with the necklace.

Such is the genius of Hindi cinema that a monkey outsmarting Rishi Kapoor isn’t even the best thing about this scene. Keshto, having spotted Johnny, gives an excellent impression of a cross-eyed Hanuman, and I am overcome by the magical harmony of wallpaper and furnishings.

And also: Manorama and the recently departed Phyllis Diller might have been sisters.

Munna manages to follow Johnny and Reshmi to the Oberoi Hotel, where he poses as the Prince of Zupto to catch Reshmi’s attention. I can’t make this stuff up, folks. In the song that follows (which I will just call the “Yakbayak” song for obvious reasons) Munna manages to steal the necklace from around Reshmi’s neck, replacing it with a fake which he somehow happens to have on hand. And I wonder: can anyone who was there in the early 80s tell me if this was the actual nightclub in the Oberoi? Because it seems awfully tasteless for a five-star hotel. Oh no, wait. Never mind.

Reshmi discovers his perfidy when she takes the necklace to a jeweller (Jankidas), who informs her that it is made of glass not diamonds.

Badshah wins Jamila’s heart after he somewhat improbably rescues her from the lecherous clutches of a Bruce Lee doppelganger (Bruce Le), who comes complete with nunchucks, yowling sounds and super-sweet karate moves.

Now we find out that BC’s henchman Michael wasn’t killed in that long-ago helicopter crash as we’d thought, but is living an ordinary life as a gas station owner with his wife Julie. He has turned things around, as evidenced by their collection of Catholic-themed tchotchkes. He is horrified to see BC pull up in his station for petrol, and does his best to remain unrecognized.

Alas! BC’s cat Jeanie (alternatively Ginny and Gini), who by my calculations must be well north of thirty years old if Ajit/Badshah’s adult appearance is any clue, does know who he is and alerts BC.

Michael had been unable to convince Radha to give up the bejeweled chariot, and since BC had told him explicitly that he would kill him if he returned without it, Michael faked his death by planting a bomb in the helicopter and parachuting out before it went off. He begs BC for forgiveness, but BC is not a forgiving man (although he is glad to find out that the chariot is still available).

I’m so glad you asked, Michael!

Black Cobra gives us Reecha’s back story:

I have barely grasped the implications of this when Reecha himself appears. You might think that a symbol of lunatic-bear love would be cute or at least a little bit cuddly, but you’d be wrong.

I have never in my life felt sorry for Shakti Kapoor, but I almost do now as Reecha snaps one of his legs like a twig. Julie comes running and grabs an axe to defend her husband; BC shoots her dead, calls off Reecha, and drives away, leaving a weeping and crippled Michael cradling his dead wife.

Radha now reappears in our story, many years older of course. She has never stopped searching for her sons, slogging from temple to temple on bare, bloodied feet, accompanied by her faithful servant (Hiralal). Oh, Nirupa.

Because he is now searching for the diamond chariot again, BC somehow knows her next stop and is waiting for her in the guise of a sadhu. He tells her that she is destined to find her youngest son the next day at a fair (how awesome is that! she’s going to FIND her child at a fair!), and that she will know him by a gold trishul around his neck. Of course, he is sending one of his own young henchmen with the necklace to fool her, but the wheels of fate are about to go into overdrive.

Munna happens to be there too, picking pockets, and he steals the gold trident from BC’s henchman. When Radha sees it around Munna’s neck she embraces him (to be fair, she also recognizes his eyes which is kind of sweet). Munna is not the type to let an opportunity go by!

Badshah, meanwhile, is trying to come up with a large sum of money to help Jamila, who owes some guy five lakhs. His pal Laalu sees an opportunity for him, because Badshah has the requisite qualification.

He and Radha are duly reunited, and, blissfully happy, she introduces her two long-lost sons to each other. They are not as happy as they pretend to be in front of her, of course!

Black Cobra has not given up his quest for the precious chariot, either. And a vengeful Reshmi shows up pretending to be Munna’s wife, so that she can get a share of this good fortune (having lost the necklace).

Who will find it first? Will the brothers ever figure out that they are really brothers, and really Radha’s sons? Will Reecha reappear (yay)? Will Michael get his revenge on Black Cobra? And above all, is there anything Dharmendra won’t do for his friend Arjun Hingorani?

No. No I don’t think so.

68 Comments to “Katilon Ke Kaatil (1981)”

  1. Great review. Brings back memories of school days when I used to put on this video when there was nothing new to watch. Enjoyed banter between Dharam and Rishi and the songs. I tried to watch it again though a couple of years ago and just couldn’t sit through it.

  2. I remember watching this movie in the early 80’s and funnily the only character I remember till date is Reecha !

  3. Memsaab, I salute you! Your review is so much more than this film had the right to expect. Thanks for the non-stop giggles.
    ps: How is Callie?

  4. The mind reels. I couldn’t stop laughing–many thanks for making my day.

    Best wishes to Callie!

  5. I would LOVE to be remembered for something like this. :)

  6. Scratch that! I would LOVE to have a symbol of my love be like this film :)

  7. i watched it when i was a li’l kid….and my only memory for years was Reecha …..i was just too scared at that time…..Reecha emotionally scarred me for life !!….

  8. This is exactly why I am so drawn to 70s (and 70s spirited) masala: even though you know exactly how it will end, you have no idea how it will get there. I never in a million years would have expected a bear-human henchman. Ever. Or feeling sorry for Shakti Kapoor!

    What is with Rishi’s hair? It’s Anil Kapoor-esque!

    I must see this. I must.

  9. Memsaab, you make me laugh so much with your reviews…..The whole reecha bit had me laughing out loud…

  10. Reecha? A ‘bear-mad woman’ love child? O brother! Now I’ve seen everything!

  11. Oh, lord.

    But I like the fact that you’ve chosen to abbreviate Black Cobra’s name to BC – so much more appropriate for an arch-villain. ;-)

  12. Greta, Do you know the name of the actor who played Reecha?

    • I don’t, although he looks familiar. There were absolutely no credits in this film, except the music director and Arjun himself as producer-director…no cast or anything else. Not sure if it was edited out or if he just didn’t bother.

      • When I watched this movie in the late 80s, Mahabharata was playing on TV and I thought its Praveen Kumar (the actor who played Bheem in the serial). But on closer look, I realized it was someone else.

        I think he made another appearance in another Arjun Hingorani movie – Kaun Kare Kurbani(1991).

        • ‘Kaun Kare Kurbani(1991)’? !!! OMG! that is one and only film of the banner which should be avoided at all costs!
          Actually the only terrible/awful whatever film ‘Hingorani’s have done. it is also the last Arjun directed.
          The title of that film means ‘who will make the sacrifice’ and is a B grade film with a A grade cast.
          I like all Hingorani films except that one. I wonder if anyone can tell me anything good apart from the cast of that film.

        • HI Shashi

          Reecha is Praveen Kumar himself…

    • Reecha was played by Samshuddin. He went on to star in Yudh, Tridev , Khooni Mahal. IMDB has more info..

  13. I like this film and a good review. As far I recall any 80s film which Dharam starred with a 70’s heroine was decent like Zeenat Aman and Rekha. It becomes horribly bad when Jayaprada and Sridevi were cast opposite him. Imagine Dharam and Sunny are cast opposite Sridevi in 2 different films in the same year same month!! (it is true) It is obvious which one would be ‘unwatchable’. Infact ‘Sultanat’ of the ‘Hingorani’ banner had all 3 together with Dharam was rightly her father in law,and that was decent though it flopped apparently. I have to say that VInod Khanna – Sridevi pairing was good.(or maybe its me)

    • I don’t think I’ve seen very many Dharam 80s movies, and I really am not sure I want to :) I do love him so, and maybe it’s best to keep 60s/70s Dharam intact in my mind.

    • Chris – If I remember correctly, Dharam and Sridevi were paired opposite each other in only one movie – “Naaka Bandi” (1990). In all other movies, they were paired opposite other heroes/heroines. Correct me if I am wrong.

      Yes, Dharam and Jayaprada were cast opposite each other in quite a few movies, but she was the leading lady for Sunny in only two movies – Zabardast (1985) and Veerta (1993).

      Many more can also be added to the list – Dimple Kapadia, Kimi Katkar and Amrita Singh come to my mind immediately.

  14. The major attraction for me in this movie was what was touted as the duplicate of Bruce Lee, named as Bruce Le, but when I watched the movie, I was highly disappointed to find that he did not resemble Bruce Lee at all, except that he was a Chinky actor who was supposedly from Far east. I am not so convinced now ever since I saw “Chinese” restaurents in New Delhi employing Chinky looking waiters hoping to appear “Authentic” Chinese restaurants. These waiters were very much desis from India’s North East States, Uttarakhand etc.

    This movie takes the cake as far as my forgetfulness in concerned. I do not remember anything at all about this movie except the fact that it had Bruce Le in it.

    Your review is far more fun than the movie could ever aspire to be. But then you can notice humour from barely noticeable scenes the way a ruthless taxperson can extract tax even from unlikely sources. :)

    • Ummm…thank you? :D

      Actually, according to imdb (not that they are always accurate) Bruce Le is from Taiwan, and he worked in a lot of Filipino films and some Hollywood as well. I thought he was a pretty good imitation, as close as anyone could ever get to Bruce Lee, who is basically a god.

  15. @Memsaab – Nice review as always. I remember seeing it when it was released and it was pretty alright. Dharam Zeenat, Rishi & Tina, a couple decent songs, few good fights, a smart monkey, “bear-man” Richa and Bruce Le. I guess one could not ask for more.

  16. I enjoyed this film as a kid watching it. I still li9ke this film. Especially the 2 songs by Kishore Asha – nice music by Kalyanji Aanandji – Yakabayak and Cahe Bazar Mohabaat Aise Karte Hai.

  17. Yay, the ‘BRUCE LEE’ bollywood movie! I remember, when I was in school (around 84, 85), we would have countless debates on Dharmendra’s (legendary!!) fighting skills (it was all real to us, then), and this was THE MOVIE to end all debates.

  18. I’ve forgotten everything else about the film. But not Reecha. Time to watch it again, remote in hand. :) Glad to know that Callie is holding up.

  19. Arjun Hingorani and his K series were amongst the stellar highlights of those years. (Yak ba-yak, BTW, means “suddenly”. Just so that any souls traumatised by this sudden introduction of a new word in the language are soothed).

  20. Memsaab thank you so much for this review. Missed you lots (you are my favorite reviewer) and this one is a classic, made laugh out loud.
    Again thank you.

  21. Lovely & Funny review! :) Makes up for the lost time!

    BTW Manorama’s screen shot could go into another “nahin” favourite :)

    My best to Callie and you :)

    • Oooh what a good idea! Along with everything else I have been falling down on the keeping-up-the-galleries front :( Thanks for the suggestion and the good wishes :)

  22. Lovely review! Makes up for the lost time of not posting… :)

    BTW Manorama’s screen shot is worth another “nahin” favourite!

    My best to Callie & You :)

  23. Just saw the poster of “Katil Kaun?” in background in a screen grab from “Kaatilon ke Kaatil”. I am guessing Kaatil of the former gets killed in the later??

  24. I’m thrilled to learn that kung-fu movies somehow intersect with Bollywood! I recognized the screen cap of Bruce Le even before I’d read the title of today’s post. Thank you so much for bringing this movie to my attention. It sounds tremendous!

  25. Memsaab,

    Thank you for reviewing this gem which for some reason I knew nothing about!

    Reecha has quickly become one of my favourite film characters of all times. Wish someone would do a Spin-off story with this social outcast and the tribulations that he faces daily

  26. I cam across a compilation that has some disastrously funny scenes from Bollywood movies like Sau Crore (1991), Tum Mere Ho (Aamir Khan) The Bollywood Jaws Aatank (Dharmendra)

  27. I stopped watching Hindi movies in the eighties but this one sounds like a Great one. I think the director made all of his movies with Dharmender in the seventies all with three words and starting with K. Khani kismet ki, khel killary ka. This one has Dharm in drag?

  28. The actor who played Bruce Le was Mr. Tadam Lida from Dumporijo, Arunachal Pradesh.

  29. Loved this review. As an eight year old watching this in theatre, I remember my mother putting her hand over my eyes when Reecha comes on screen. After reading your review, I can’t stop laughing at that incident. Thank you for this wonderful piece.

  30. I just discovered this site. Jan 1, 2021, what an awesome new years gift! Where have you been all my life??! Laugh-cried so hard I’m in pain. Now I’ve to read all your reviews, maybe even watch one of these gems again. So happy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: