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.
Let’s face it: Dara Singh is reason enough for me to watch any film, and when the rare subtitled one comes along it’s practically Diwali in my household. So you will understand how much it pains me to say this, but Lootera is a really bad movie. How can a Dara pirate (subtitled “sea dacoit”) film be bad? I am not sure. But Dara and heroine Nishi have zero chemistry, unlike the better if rather less complete Nasihat, and the pacing is just abysmal. The writers keep writing themselves into corners from which they can only escape with overly glib plot developments, and the director fails to understand which parts of the story he should be lavishing time and attention on. It even manages to be sexist, and these sorts of movies are usually a refuge from that.
There were enough things to get me through it: Dara’s ruffled sea dacoit shirts, Prithviraj Kapoor, dancer Kammo as a female sea dacoit, lots of sparkle and terrible wigs, and lovely songs including a Bela Bose dance aboard a sea dacoit ship. Plus the subtitles, inept as they are, are often hilarious. And when I tell you that Memsaab favorites Hiralal, Jeevan and Rajan Haksar vigorously ply their histrionic powers you will understand that subtlety is no hallmark of the acting either (yes, I know I am putting that in the “plus” column, it needs the support).
I am very happy that this was not the first Chetan Anand film I saw, because it then may well have been my last, robbing me of films I really love (notably Aakhri Khatand Taxi Driver, but also Haqeeqat, Aandhiyan and Kudrat). I have only ever seen Priya Rajvansh in Kudrat and Haqeeqat, and although I liked her fine in both of those I gathered from comments that her reputation as an actress is…well. Let’s just say I understand those comments perfectly now. She pretty much single-handedly destroys this film with her nails-on-a-chalkboard performance. I have never been so irritated by someone’s voice and demeanor in my whole life.
Having said that, I will also add that even without her I would have found Hanste Zakhm disappointing. The story had potential to be path-breaking—I loved the beginning, and it could have developed into something truly thoughtful and interesting; but instead it took the safe (ie ultra-conservative) road and fell flat on its face.
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.
Since Mujhe Jeene Do’s seed was sown during the making of Usne Kaha Tha, it is only right that the latter forms a part of these memoirs. The making of Usne Kaha Tha was quite eventful for my father. Without going into too much detail I will just briefly touch upon the so called ‘events’. During the wedding scene (dad and Nanda’s wedding), he suffered an electric shock; then during the war scene his leg landed in a trench. There was a plank of wood placed on the trench which broke as he ran over it, and the last straw on the camel’s back was when he almost got trampled by an army tank. If Sunil Dutt hadn’t pushed him out of the way just in the nick of time he would have been—well I do not need add anything, it is pretty obvious what would have happened.
First, let me give you a brief history of the Memsaab’s relationship with this movie: “Ooh! Piece of candy! Ooh! Piece of candy! Ooh! Piece of candy!” I own about five copies of it—it has always struck me as a movie I really HAVE to see, but somehow I always manage to forget that I already have it, and I’ve seen it too. I start watching my new copy, and I’m all like: “Oh, this film again.” And I shelve it right next to all my other Ankhen dvds. This is my typically verbose way of saying that it is neither a cracktastically great film nor a terrible film, but one that seems like it ought to be one or the other. Instead it is a competently made spy film with fantastic songs (Ravi) and some eye-popping fashions but little else apparently for my memory cells at least to latch onto.
Despite my near-certainty that I should know better, I once again succumbed to the lure of the Mithun-Ravi Nagaich combo. Feeling that I needed something *fun* to do, I watched Gun Master G-9 battle the unnecessarily complicated maneuverings of Evil with equally needlessly elaborate gadgets and code names—all the while still failing to convince me that his lacklustre activities in various nightclubs could really be classified as “dancing.” Ahem.
The beauty of Surakksha lies in the triumph of imagination over economics. I pretty much have to love and respect a filmmaker who spends most of his spy-movie budget on wallpaper and furnishings. This lacks the yellow plastic locusts of its sequel Wardat, sadly, but compensates by making said locusts appear positively high-tech in comparison to what GMG-9 encounters here. And the cinematography, courtesy of director-producer Nagaich in a triple threat, is really interesting. Crazy angles, migraine-inducing lighting…it’s all there. This writeup is even more screenshot-heavy than usual, due to the spectacular visuals which have to be seen to be believed. No real attempt to link plot points together is made: the story consists mostly of random (stolen from Bond) events which serve as an excuse for plenty of action and accessories which are a cracktastic tribute to the Indian spirit of jugaad.
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.
Ah, what a film this is. If you have a hankering for something that careens wildly along, going from completely loony, to sweetly touching, to dumb and illogical, and back to loony again, look no further. I wouldn’t call it technically a good film, but it is highly entertaining. And I loved it! With features like Excellent Use of Helen, a zealous and melodramatic murderer named Snaky, a disfiguring cake, useful little white mice, lost and found family members, fantabulous songs (Azad in blackface!), plus Memsaab favorites Ashok Kumar and Rehman as friends-turned-bitter-foes, how could I not?
I have been longing to see this with subtitles, but didn’t think it was available except on an unsubtitled (and unplayable after ten minutes) VCD. Many thanks to Tom D (the most banned-from-YouTube-person-on-earth) (my opinion only, not backed up by anything resembling actual facts) (but still: I think it’s because he does what Indian DVD manufacturers can’t be bothered to do, which is to clean up the picture and sound quality, remove their intrusive and gaudy logos, and add subtitles, thereby making them look bad—as they deserve to—so they complain and he gets suspended, over and over again). Anyway, thank you my friend! for supplying me with this particular ginormous rock of crack.