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.
How many dvd versions of Sholay does one need to have? Depending upon your level of OCD, it could be three or even four. Sadly, there is no definitive version—they all have their issues, plus there are two different endings: the theatrical release with a censor-imposed ending, and the “director’s cut” with Ramesh Sippy’s original—and much much more powerful—one intact. Plus, none of the dvd versions have subtitled songs, one of my biggest pet peeves. I have no idea why the Sippys or anybody else have not bothered to try and do something wonderful with this film, but nothing surprises me when it comes to the Indian film and dvd industry anymore.
Even though I have already watched an Eighties film this year, I decided to risk another since this looked basically harmless and kind of fluffy. And indeed it mostly does resemble a stuffed animal: cute on the outside (Vinod Khanna in mechanics’ overalls, Reena Roy in bright sarees, Ashok Kumar as a kindly benefactor) and comfortably squishy on the inside (story elements we’ve seen a gazillion times before). Even villain Amjad Khan is too well-fed and portly to seem threatening. It’s Bhappi Sonie at the helm, after all: he’s generally benign.
Until the end, when a woman’s honor is deemed more important than her happiness or her safety. Sigh. And Nirupa Roy turns on all the waterworks because she has ruined her own life, although naturally she blames fate and not herself. Sigh again. But I don’t expect much else from the era, and up to that point there is fun—and plenty of eye candy—to be had.
When I look back at pictures of my younger, prettier and thinner self and then look in the mirror at the me of today, I feel the way this film would probably feel if it could look back at Hum Kisise Kum Naheen: the same old thing, but wearier, more bloated and not any smarter or more mature. It is the middle-aged incarnation of HKKN after bad plastic surgery, making it occasionally fascinating in an “I want to look away but can’t” kind of way. Mostly it’s just dull, though, and I might not have bothered to write it up but for my friend and fellow Hindi film music fan PC over at Third Floor Music. He has waited patiently for me to gather the courage to go through this eyesore again for screencaps, and we are doing a tandem music-review post. He has uploaded the RD Burman soundtrack for your delectation, so grab it here and read on!
So. For days now I’ve been prancing around singing “Prooooooo-feeeeeeeee-ssor PYARE-lal!” I can’t stop, and it’s seriously beginning to make me want to kill myself. Perhaps I can purge myself of it if I write the film up and share a shortened version of the title song here to move the voodoo along. Sorry—but it’s a last-ditch effort for some peace! Hoo Haa!
On this film’s plus side are that it is an homage to (some might say stolen from) Masalameister Manmohan Desai, and it contains my Beloved Shammi with the Always Utterly Fabulous Nadira by his side, villains Amjad Khan and Jeevan, flanked by an assortment of sideys like Sudhir, Yusuf Khan and Narendranath, Dharmendra (he may be older, but he is in FINE shape), Simi, whom I inexplicably love, and the catchy (sometimes too catchy, see above) tunes by Kalyanji Anandji.
Ooh, yeah. This is a rarity in 1980’s Hindi cinema, a masala film that’s complete paisa vasool! It starts off with a bang and continues to entertain thoroughly right up to the end: a rollicking, swashbuckling good time. The screenplay was written by Jyoti Swaroop, who is one of those people I’d really like to find out more about, but whose presence on the web is mostly confined to the hilarious film Padosan, which he directed. He’s known to me also for directing the delightful Chorni, and also for writing Satte Pe Satte and Inkaar—two other Memsaab favorites. In any case, the fun quotient is greatly enhanced by the droolworthy presence of Vinod Khanna and Danny Denzongpa as bitter rivals who *might* also be long-lost brothers, and by some zany subtitles.
I would be hard-pressed to choose my favorite Manmohan Desai film were I ever forced to. But Desh Premee would be near the top of the list. I loved this film; once again the great director has given us a sprawling and complex story encompassing themes of compassion, unity, justice, patriotism, faith and love. He uses leprosy both as a metaphor for the corruption eating away at his country, and as a message of non-exclusion, and the unwavering courage and integrity of Masterji both destroys his happiness and saves his loved ones at the end. There are many moments of humor and silliness, of course, but the movie’s overall tone is quite serious as compared to some of his other work.
I think I’ve finally put my finger on why I love Desai’s films so much. Like me he has a cynic’s view of the world; and also like me, a romantic soul underlying that cynicism. That juxtaposition between often harsh reality and what we wish were real instead is present in all his work, and he always lets the “wishing” side win. Even when the ending is somewhat sad (like Roti) we are still left with a sense of hope. Plus, his imagery and plots are just so FAB.
Ah, testosterone. It pours out like a river from the screen during Qurbani. One fistfight leads to another, and another, and another. Punctuating the fisticuffs are doses of male bonding and declarations of undying friendship. Also many many (not necessarily testosterone-related) Poor Decisions are made.