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.
If you are enticed by a story built on more than a few ludicrous suppositions and where skin color informs character, you might enjoy Gora Aur Kala. Or you might think—as I did more than once—that the racism inherent in all of it is so despicable that even Madan Puri atop a Disco Throne (before disco!) and the delicious irony of medically separated Siamese twin princes being separated again by fate hardly make up for it. But then again, it is all so very very over-the-top that I giggled at least as much as I cringed.
Regular readers here know that by and large I adore Manmohan Desai and his films and can mostly forgive him for anything except Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. It has long been my great sorrow that two of his movies, Shararat and this one, are not available with subtitles. Manmohan Desai’s complicated plotting has always seemed daunting without them and though I have had both films for a long time I never quite had the courage to watch them. So imagine my great joy when I finally sat down with this one and (despite no doubt missing many nuances) could actually follow what was going on. There is a lot going on!
As is usual for him, he sets up the many characters and plot threads masterfully. Creating a web of relationships torn apart by misunderstandings and loss, he carries us along breathlessly rooting for our protagonists to *just stop already* missing each other by mere inches and find their way back to the lives they should be leading. As is also usual for him, the last 45 minutes or so go completely and a tad disappointingly off the rails into Crazy-land, taking the focus away from the pure emotional joy of the reunion(s), but never mind.
I watched two films this weekend with plots completely lacking in any sense or logic. One of them was a mainstream film (Akeli Mat Jaiyo) starring Meena Kumari and Rajendra Kumar and I am not going to write about it because, frankly, it was dull and stupid and Dusted Off has already said all that needs to be said about it. The other was Spy In Rome; and despite its very thin shoestring budget, nothing of which was spent on a writer, it managed to keep me pretty entertained. It firmly occupies a seat at that rotating bar where people with seemingly no aptitude for filmmaking—and no money for it either—down a lot of imagination-fueling substances and then stagger off to make their dream projects.
For my favorite expert Tom has done what no dvd manufacturer has even attempted (and if they had, his would still be better because he actually cares about things like video and audio quality)—he has made a Bela Bose compilation dvd! Tom has gone to great pains to do justice to Bela’s delightful career, in collaboration with fellow blogger and friend Ava. She has beautifully translated the unsubtitled (or badly subtitled) songs for those of us who don’t speak Hindi but know that the poetry in every song is something we sadly often miss out on. Bahut bahut shukriya Ava!
Sometimes a film’s music is so fabulous that you don’t even care if the film itself is bad. But when you get a soundtrack like that and a film that is highly entertaining if a *teeny bit* flawed, then life is good! So it is with this one. Kalyanji Anandji have delivered what may be my favorite of all their many awesome soundtracks—every single song, and the background music, is sublime. Toss in Dharmendra, the Indian Luke Perry, a young Shabana Azmi and a very fine Masala Death Trap indeed (operated in part by Helen), and let the fun begin! Just listen to this:
I sometimes think of Manmohan Desai’s films as being like a rodeo saddle bronc ride: as they erupt from the gate, the rider (i.e. director) is in control of the horse (i.e. story), and excitement builds until the rider is either tossed off or jumps off after his 8 seconds are up. Either way it ends with an out-of-control animal loose in the arena and the cowboy sprawled in the dust. In Gangaa Jamuna Saraswathi the rider is tossed off about halfway through his 8 seconds. Up to that point, the movie entertains with its twists and turns and stunning visuals; but the second half goes haywire until it tires itself out and limps to its conclusion. Too bad! because it had real potential.
Despite a silly plot filled to the brim with irresponsible adults and many creepy (as in “ewwwww” creepy) developments, I could not help but find this entertaining. As noted in my previous trivia post, the film featured all of the best dancers of the era in several very fun songs: Laxmi Chhaya, Padma Khanna, Bindu, Faryal and Jayshree T, along with the inimitable and legendary Helen (who appeared as herself, and was given a well-deserved tribute in the dialogues). Hema Malini and a very young Neetu Singh had dances too, and Madan Mohan’s music along with the plentiful eye candy—both human and inanimate—conspired to prevent me from running away screaming as I should have, in all honesty.
Warning: Post below contains many screen shots of dancing girls, so if they are not your thing you’ll need to use your scroll bar (although I must ask: how could they not be your thing?).
Regulars here know by now that I adore Vijay Anand. So I was very happy to find him circa 1972 in a film with a title that promised some intrigue and action, and a very young Rekha costarring. Well, the early 70s style did not disappoint, including a groovy RD Burman background score and songs. Rekha did not disappoint, either. But.
The story made no sense at all until the end, when it copped out completely. What a mess. I expect more from my Vijay (he didn’t direct, but he did write the screenplay and star). My notes on the film are mostly scribbles along these lines: Her belt! That vest! WTF??? OMG rekha so fat! Green walls! Huh? Those shoes!