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.
A daku-drama in the iconic mold of Manmohan Desai—what could possibly go wrong? Not much, I am pleased to report, at least as far as the film itself goes. The people in it suffer plenty, though, especially Feroz Khan’s angsty dacoit tortured by amnesia and an inexplicable phobia of water-pumps. Writer/director Chand hits every masala note he can think of even if not much is done with some of them (religious imagery, for instance, seems thrown in there for no good reason). A young family broken up, lockets and tattoos, socially respectable but morally bankrupt villains, blood transfusions replete with filmi irony (get it? irony? sorry), plus all the standard dacoit movie delights (beautiful horses, black pagris, tilaks, golden earrings), and a great cast make this one a complete paisa vasool winner.
I have a love-hate relationship with this movie’s star Baby Rani and its director Ravi Nagaich. Baby Rani was so very cute in Hum Kisise Kum Nahin but so very monotonous and terrifying in the film which spawned the shortest review I will probably ever write. And Ravi Nagaich insists on making films in which the whole never quite equals the sum of its parts—parts that are so mind-blowing that the whole shouldn’t even matter, but somehow always does. This leaves me dissatisfied but also intent on seeing more of his output, which leaves me dissatisfied, and on and on. I guess it takes talent to be both cute and annoying beyond belief, and so imaginative and yet so boring. And that pretty much sums up how I feel about Rani Aur Lalpari, except in addition, probably because this is supposed to be a children’s story, it is ruthlessly miserable.
Fairy tale writers seem compelled to warn kids that life sucks, and sucks hard, especially if you are Baby Rani.
Fate has conspired to push snake movies at me from all angles this month; so be it. Until Doodh Ka Karz came along this was my topmost favorite of the genre and it is at least still tied for first. I love it for the ridiculous special effects, the Seventies style, the star-crammed cast and the shape-shifting, vengeful ichchadhari nagin Reena Roy. These things more than make up for the heavy-handed (at times) preaching on a wide number of subjects: marriage, wifely duty, religion, sacrifice, revenge, redemption. I was only planning to mine this for screenshots for my “Nahiin! Face Gallery” (coming soon), but I couldn’t stop watching once I began. There are lots of Nahiin! Face moments, but there are some surprisingly sensitive ones too. All in all it’s an odd mixture of things, almost none of them boring.
Mumtaz simply cannot be contained in a list of ten songs only: she had the good fortune to work in an era—and in films—with such great music, that I just find it impossible. Not only that, but because she was often the heroine (first mostly in so-called B-movies of the sixties, then as an A-list star in the seventies) she usually had three or four songs per film, unlike women who were confined mostly to dances or small supporting roles.
Had Ravikant (Ravee Kant) Nagaich ever asked me for career advice, I probably would have told him to stick to cinematography—he really does excel in that department. But as a director, he has an uncanny ability to take ingredients like this:
and make them into films which lull you into an uncomfortably bored stupor: uncomfortable because you are really justifiably afraid that if you fall asleep you will miss something truly wondrous. When I see his name in the credits, I am happy and sad. I adore Mr. Nagaich, truly, but he SO disappoints me. It’s confusing, almost as bewildering as his ability to convince audiences that his actors are dancing.
The Raaj Kumar love continues here with this lovely Muslim social drama about marriage and gender relations. A big thank-you to my friend Raja and his friend Bharat for getting the dvd all the way from India to my doorstep! Films about women’s status in society and the choices they are given (or not) often disturb me or just plain make me angry. This one disappointed me—it came this close to being a true winner, and then failed—but was better than most from this era all the same (I’ll talk more about it with spoilers at the end).
Mere Huzoor is justly famed for its songs by Shankar Jaikishan, and happily were also subtitled as the lyrics (Hasrat Jaipuri) are lovely too. A big reason I love Muslim socials are the sets and costumes, and they don’t let me down here either! Mala is pretty good until she lets it all hang out at the end (which is highly entertaining all the same), Jeetendra is handsome although bland; it is Raaj Kumar who makes this worth watching though. He is wonderful as the misunderstood and melancholic Nawab who lives life on his own terms. He is such a strangely attractive man, odd wig and all!
Manmohan Desai! How I adore you. And this sort-of-medieval swashbuckler with snake gods, sword-fights, dacoit Ranjeet, Bela Bose as a greedy courtesan, and Jeetendra and Shatrughan Sinha as brothers on opposite sides of that pesky line between good and evil has not changed my mind one little bit. The setting is gorgeous too, as the movie was shot on location at the spectactular Laxmi Vilas Palace belonging to the Maharajah of Baroda. It’s much less loony than the film it vaguely reminded me of (Dharam-Veer); I guess, my dear Manmohan, you hadn’t quite reached your full masala stride yet. Still, it’s an entertainer in your trademark style, with lots of action and well-drawn characters.
While writing my list of favorite Helen songs recently, I was reminded to look for this film and to my great joy I found it—yay, eBay! I have long loved Kalyanji-Anandji’s music from it; with a substantial part for Helen as well, and lovely Mumtaz starring, how could it possibly go wrong? Well, it doesn’t—and it does. It’s a very enjoyable film through the first half, but then it runs off the rails (more on that later). But the music is sublime, Mumtaz and Jeetendra are cute together and Helen gets to play a benevolent benefactor instead of her usual vampy bad-girl roles. There’s even an attempt to give a woman’s viewpoint its due! Ooh-la-la.