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.
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.
This movie is what would happen if Hrishikesh Mukherjee somewhat absent-mindedly directed the first half and then handed the reins over to Brij so that he could take the film off the rails in his usual bombastic style. It started off in rare style: I was willing to live with the fact that our pre-Partition setting of 1944 looked exactly like 1978 (Gaudy Clothing, Bad Hair); I even found Raj Kapoor’s presence delightful! In fact the performances in this were quite wonderful, all of them. It’s great fun to see Nadira, Tom Alter, Protima Devi and the only thing that kept it from completely self-destructing finally was the acting.
When the Curse of the Second Half hit, it hit hard. From a tentatively sweet Capra-esque story about regret and living life to its fullest, it ballooned with over-ambitious ideas until we were left watching a hapless director and his writers grabbing at straws to wind things up. Overdone tropes and ham-fisted preaching did not accomplish the job satisfactorily, I am sad to report.
I am a pretty big fan of director-producer-writer-actor Arjun Hingorani’s work. His listing on imdb is probably incomplete, but the films he made that I’ve seen (four of them now), I have really enjoyed despite some issues. Those issues are very small in the face of his laboriously tangled—but coherent—storylines, stylish camera work, fabulous music, and the people he loves to cast: Dharmendra, Ashoo, Hiralal, Shetty, Jankidas, Keshav Rana and more. I also appreciate his penchant for casting himself in his films, not always in a heroic light but always in a terrible wig. In essence, his movies are solidly entertaining and a real delight to sit through if you are willing to overlook a certain glossing-over of logic and moderate level of preachy melodrama (which I am).
I have no idea what the plot of this movie is—seriously no idea—but I know that I love it. Even if with subtitles it became a maudlin, sexist melodrama (which I doubt) I would still love it. Why? Well for one thing it is extremely shiny. Premnath has a lair made completely out of mirrors, and not in a pretty Mughal-e-Azam kind of way but in a spectacularly gaudy disco kind of way. The songs by OP Nayyar are delightful and the cinematography (VN Reddy) is gorgeous. The cast is a veritable Who’s Who of character actors. And a still-dashing Sunil Dutt makes a dacoit I can really root for, although he does seem a little old for plump young Rekha. The story is liberally sprinkled with dacoit-drama masala ingredients: greedy moneylenders, long-lost daughters, flashbacks, dozens of people named Singh, pretty pretty Marwari horses, and real ruffians lurking beneath a veneer of respectability and draped with scantily-clad gori extras. I felt totally sated by the end.
Did I mention the mirrors? Lots and lots of mirrors.
When I was a kid I dreaded the words “Let’s have a picnic!”. Picnics were nothing but an ordeal to get through: weather (the Beiges never let a little cold rain stop us), poison ivy, bugs, indifferent food. My father did not know or care to know how to barbecue so it was always sandwiches, which I could have just as easily eaten indoors where ants weren’t crawling on them.
Little did I dream in those days that halfway across the world beautiful people were picnicking in STYLE—even at night!
This film is exactly what I would picture a big long LSD trip to be like (because of course I have no actual knowledge of one). Although if it were an acid trip, I’d probably be dead now. It is that crazy: I have a pretty high tolerance—some less charitable might even say need—for eye-popping candy-colored visuals, but by the abrupt (and non-existent) end of this my head was exploding. Truly it is a dizzying kaleidoscopic bombardment of Cracktastic that never lets up. Low on budget it might be, but the heights of jugad are certainly scaled.
I also really love the cinematography (Shyam Shiposkar): the camera angles are fantastic. Much of the candy color is probably a result of film deterioration, but here that sad state only adds to the charm.
My mother, bless her, likes to watch Indian movies with me. Dhund has been on my short list to watch for some time now, and given our mutual love of mysteries it seemed a good pick—and so it was! We both really enjoyed it, and were mystified as to how it would end right up to the end. Based on an Agatha Christie play called “The Unexpected Guest”, it’s an atmospheric ensemble piece where everyone involved gets to shine (as much as the pervading fog will allow). Besides the main whodunit plot, there is also a charming and unusual effort to portray the police as competent and not-corrupt, one of whom is Madan Puri of all people.
Plus: a new/old mystery hotel!
Here we have another formulaic daku-drama, by which I mean I loved it. So many throbbing neck veins (Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Ajit)! So many ferocious eyeball-to-eyeball staredowns! So many lines spat out through clenched jaws—and Prem Chopra nowhere in sight! So many manly men named Singh!
It is chock-full of Man Candy; pretty, pretty horses; the usual assortment of terrible wigs that do nobody any favors; men in hoop earrings; and that love which passeth all understanding—the unconditional bhai-bhai rishtaa. Hema Malini provides the Woman Candy and is the feisty catalyst for the eventual showdown between brothers and rivals. Plus, wonderful music from Kalyanji Anandji, including some funked-up title music!
The only reasons that I don’t completely despise this film are that it finally enabled me to identify the location of The Room (details are in that post), and pretty much every moment in it is a Screencap Waiting To Happen. It is a scarf-fest of unbelievable proportions. I guess I can also finally say that I have seen a Mahendra Sandhu movie, although I detested it so much that I may never be able to forgive him (I’ve not been able to watch a Tom Hanks film since he inflicted Forrest Gump on me).
Madhosh seems to have grand pretensions of being a modern look at valuing women, but its subtext (and not really very “sub” at that) is so relentlessly sexist that it is mostly just a rehash of that dehumanizing goddess-whore form of female oppression which masquerades as respect. I gather that the word madhosh means drunk or intoxicated, which perfectly describes the people who made this if they really thought this film had anything worthwhile or different to say.