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.
(Click on the image above for a downloadable pdf version to play with!)
UPDATE: Eye-Searing Outfit Number Two
As most of you know by now, I think Ranjeet is HOT—and certainly he is one of the most stylish villains…nay, actors—in Hindi cinema.
What better candidate for my first Bollywood Paper Doll? I have managed to finish the doll himself and one outfit, but am overwhelmed at all the possibilities for outfits, wigs, moustaches and accessories. So I’m going to put this up here, and hope that some of you are creative enough to help out with clothing him.
I must credit the inspiration for the body and the first outfit (and probably more to come) to the wonderful paper doll creator Tom Tierney, whose work you can find here.
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.
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.
I don’t know if this film was made for children or not, given the number of cute baby animals etc. in it, but it is chock full of dumb messages like “Go ahead and pick up a wild baby lion cub even if its protective mother is lurking nearby!” and “If you are chased by a tiger, climb a tree because it can’t get you then!” all of which are followed by “…oh wait…ohhhhh.” Attention to detail is such that leopards are misidentified as cheetahs and the mama lioness has a mane. It is painfully stupid, over-long, harrowing to watch if you’re an animal sympathizer, and Nirupa Roy (as Dharam’s Maa) is the only sensible character in the movie!
So how and why did I make it through? Well, because I knew from the dvd cover blurb that eventually Dharmendra’s character was going to GET HIS from a mother elephant, and within the first five minutes of the film that became something I really wanted to see.
I got this film for three main reasons: Feroz Khan, Ranjeet and the title. Kashmakash. What a word! It just rolls off the tongue, na? I am informed by my friend Raja—who also subtitled it for me, more on that later—that it means troubles or problems. The people in this have plenty of them, not the least of which is putting up with IS Johar’s endless pompous and pointless pontificating (a problem for us too). Mitigating that, though, are the aforementioned Feroz and Ranjeet; cracktastic Seventies costuming and set decorations; a young plump Rekha (the best kind), a less insufferable than usual Shatrughan Sinha, and Memsaab favorite Rehman; very cool music by Kalyanji Anandji including a fab dance by Padma Khanna; plus an engaging murder mystery.
There is really only one compelling reason to watch Ponga Pandit: the costume designer (credited as Manorama Ralhan, who—judging from her other film assignments—I would guess was married to OP Ralhan).
This is a movie where an Elvis poster competing for wall space with a picture of a skinny fuchsia guy and a pair of teepee chairs are not the most startling visuals in the room. Plus, Go-Go Barbie goes practically unnoticed!
For a much better and way more progressive version of the basic story (if, you know, that’s what’s important to you), watch Mem Sahib from 1956 instead.
True confession: I really can’t sit still through an entire Hindi movie without getting up to fidget. I wake up Gemma and irritate pet her, check my email, pour another glass of wine. The films are just so long and my attention span so short. But during this one I didn’t want to MOVE—I was positively riveted to my chair. There is no romance, no hero-heroine (and only three songs, each one a gem): it is an ensemble film, and what an ensemble it is! The finest character-actor-villains of the time play cohorts in crime who are joined by thief Vinod Khanna when one of them betrays the others. It is stylish and suspenseful entertainment at its best.
It’s my understanding that this film was a big hit, and responsible for bringing both Rekha and Navin Nischol to the public’s attention. I am not really sure why, since it is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff; but Sonik-Omi’s songs are lots of fun and the second half did take an unexpected twist just as I was about to nod off. What got me through it were the large assortment of wigs (almost everyone wore them—including the hero—although Shyama’s were particularly fascinating), Jayshree T’s mad dancing skills, a lot of Woman Power, and young whippersnapper Ranjeet as Rekha’s slimy brother (Ranjeeeeeeeet!).