I quickly grew tired of the plot (Pran evil, Mumtaz helpless, Jeetendra clueless, I.S. Johar painful), but remained riveted to Mumtaz’s Disney princess wardrobe and accessories.
I love the elegance of the Art Deco era of the Twenties and Thirties. Of course my mother points out that I would have probably been at the back of a bread line dressed in rags, but I prefer to picture myself draped in chiffon and pearls, languidly smoking from a long cigarette holder and lounging in a posh Park Avenue mansion. Thanks to Prem Kahani, that vision has been altered slightly to one of gold-edged sarees and cocktail shakers; a quartet of musicians playing in my Marine Drive home as friends and I rehearse for a benefit we’re holding for the poor and needy (the people actually standing in that bread line of Mom’s).
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The film’s title is actually Lalkar (The Challenge) but I never did figure out what the Challenge was, other than getting through the Comic Side Plot interruptions and tepid romantic interludes which kept intruding on the otherwise fun espionage plot. Rajendra Kumar and Mala Sinha get top billing, so I was hoping to collect some Nahiiin Face additions for the Gallery but they were fairly restrained. They are supported by a stellar cast of character actors led by the inestimable Shyam Kumar as the eye-patch wearing Japanese villain, Dharmendra at his peak, saucy Kum Kum, some really special special effects, and a host of small details that made it eminently watchable.
Even with subtitles, I probably would have fast-forwarded through vast stretches of this film; without them I spent much of my time bewildered by the plot and bored by its meandering. I might not have bothered to write it up either except for there’s an absolute dearth of material about it out there, and it does have some very redeeming qualities. It seems to have had a decent budget: there are a lot of well-known character and comic actors; the costumes and sets are lush and colorful; Helen and Laxmi Chhaya each have dances. I suspect though I can’t confirm that none of the money lavished on it went to a script writer, however. Mohammed Hussain is a director whose name I am always happy to see in the credits, but he might have been rather worn out or bored himself by the time this was made. It lacks his trademark lunacy, and that craziness is sorely missed.
Khair. Enough quibbling, let’s talk about the good stuff.
This article is written by my friend and film historian Arunkumar Deshmukh, who previously has shared here his knowledge on actors Parshuram and Bhudo Advani. I am very honored that he asked me to publish this here, and I am thrilled to find out more about the beautiful actress Indurani of 1930s and 40s fame, her family (including her sister, actress Sarojini, and niece Azra—always a favorite of mine), her career and her life. I know you will be too!
So proclaims Bhanu Singh (Vinod Khanna) in English at about two hours into this epic, leading me to reflect that if I’ve learned nothing else from Hindi movies, I do know that an unhinged mind and a Rajput heritage are not as mutually exclusive as he thinks. Still, this is possibly my favorite line ever spoken in the history of movies, with the bonus of an unnecessary but hilarious subtitle: “I am not insane, I am a Rajput!”
Actually, the subtitles are one of my favorite things about this movie, and there are a lot of favorite things.
As many of you know, I tend to avoid films with titles like “Woman” or “Daughter-in-Law” or “Sister” or “Bride” like the plague they generally are. But after my dear friend and devoted Rajesh fan Suhan sent me a link to one of the songs from this, I investigated further and discovered that, besides a very young Rajesh, the cast included a very young Feroz Khan, the lovely Nazima, PRAN! and a host of other stalwarts (Padmini, Lalita Pawar, Leela Chitnis, Mohan Chhoti, OP Ralhan, Baby Rani—OH Baby Rani. How I love/hate you). I figured with these people and the lovely music by Ravi maybe I could survive the Red Mist that I would likely be afflicted with, and I am so glad I took the chance.
I found it unexpectedly sweet and funny, and if the story went a bit overboard in places…well, such is life. Plus, no Red Mist at all! Or hardly at all. While it is certainly true that Padmini sacrifices early and often, her actions make sense and she is no weeping helpless pushover.
Finally, someone has done what really needed to be done: written a book about my talented and gorgeous Indian mother Edwina and her background dancer friends, who appeared in pretty much every film from the 50s throughout the 1960s. She worked with all the greats from that era. Here’s a message from the author, Professor Surjit Singh, an avid film historian whose website I discovered early on as a treasure trove of information.
Dear Edu fans:
As you know today (July 22) is her birthday. You will be pleased to know that on this occasion a biography of Edu has been published. The book is ‘Edwina: An Unsung Bollywood Dancer of the Golden Era’ by Professor Surjit Singh.
For more information, please visit my website.
For buying in US dollars, please visit:
If buying in Rupees, go to Pothi.com.
I have read the book, and he begins with some really interesting information about the history of music and dance in Hindi cinema, and about the Anglo-Indians who worked in the industry from early on. He has included a lot of stories in Edu’s own words, and she as many of you know is very funny indeed. It’s a treat.
Have a very very happy birthday, dearest Edu!
I was telling my friend Suhan the other night that I have stopped writing reviews mostly because I felt like I was endlessly repeating myself, and my threshold for lunacy had become so ridiculous that very little made me sit up and say “OOOOH!” any more. But lately I have been missing my daily masala dosage, so when this Feroz Khan-Vinod Khanna starrer appeared on my radar I couldn’t resist it. It is—not unexpectedly—a predictable and formulaic film, but it moves along at a fast clip thanks to relegating large portions of the action to narration by the characters (often to each other via telephone) after the fact (“Shankar and Shambhu have escaped from jail!” “We have kidnapped your daughter!”) instead of actually showing it to us, leaving details like “How?” “Why?” “Where?” and “When?” up to the viewer’s imagination. Screen time is largely devoted to Ornament with a capital “O”: a mish-mash of dacoit hideaways, corrupt rich people mansions dotted with crazy, and eye-popping disguises. This is okay with me.
The story I can make up; the insane set pieces, wigs, and outfits not so much.
I know I promised a post on my recent trip to India, but I have not managed to finish it yet because of very sad events in the weeks since I came home. My beautiful little dog Callie was sick when I returned, not eating and having trouble breathing, so I have been quite worried about her. Last Wednesday her breathing was so difficult and she seemed so frail that I took her in to the emergency room at my local animal hospital. They admitted her to the Critical Care Unit where she was put into an oxygen tent while they tried to figure out what was going on. On Saturday, after no real change and being told by the very good ER vet that there was nothing else to try, and seeing that she was in quite a bit of distress, I made the decision to help her go into whatever is next for us all.