This is a very unusual and bittersweet film based on a Rabindranath Tagore story about the last few days of a dying boy named Amal (an unforgettable Sachin). Produced by the Children’s Film Society, I suppose it can be categorized as a children’s film, although as with most good children’s movies it is entertaining for adults too and a little bit dark. Children may not entirely understand what’s going on, although in my personal experience they understand a lot more than adults give them credit for. The movie weaves together fantasy and reality as lonely Amal—trapped inside the house by the local pandit-doctor’s (AK Hangal) orders—chatters with an assortment of passersby and villagers, and daydreams about venturing forth and seeing the world beyond his horizons. As the story unwinds fantasy gradually takes over from reality as Amal fades, much to the distress of his adoptive father Madho (Satyendra Kapoor). The sets are deliberately “stagey” and candy-colored which enhances the fairy tale effect, and the photography is lush, with lovely music by Madan Mohan (lyrics and dialogue courtesy of Kaifi Azmi).
I must above all thank Raja for subtitling this for me—if anyone has this film and would like the subtitle files, please let me know and I’ll send them to you. Thanks Raja!
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.
This is one of those films I watched early on and I will admit that it confused me hopelessly at the time. I did not understand the wigs, or Dharmendra’s facial tics and popping veins, or why Tariq was so manic. I was so ignorant and naive.
Now of course, although I still have questions, I know they can never be adequately answered.
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.
Hooray! A Hindi horror film that isn’t horr-ible! And it’s even a teeny bit suspenseful in parts (although I am easy to scare, admittedly). It contains all the elements essential for the genre: a cast of unknowns (except Helen! in one song, and Imtiaz, and Satyen Kappu) (oh! and Dhumal) (okay so not that many unknowns, except for the leads), some gratuitous sleaze, a large mansion, a careless if not mad scientist, creepy background noises, and a graveyard. The latter leads me to speculate that perhaps the dearth of horror films in Hindi cinema stems from the Hindu tradition of cremation, leaving only a minority of the population in India available to become zombies. There are also a few lovely songs which don’t intrude at inappropriate moments and a mostly coherent story with pretty minimal CSP interruptions. And the fashions and sets are Early Seventies Candy Floss at its most eye-popping.
So Yay! Ramsay Brothers! Yay! (Why didn’t you quit while you were ahead?)
I watched a lot of films early on because they were on lists of Hindi film “classics” that one should watch. Some I remember well, some I do not. This is one that I didn’t think I remembered, until I began to watch it again and realized: “Oh this is where I saw that!” Turns out that a lot of my memories from “some movie” are all from this one. I’m hoping that the memories got fragmented because Hindi cinema was all so new to me back then—I was absorbing so many things, many of which I can take for granted now so they don’t distract me. Otherwise, I need to worry about my brain, because this is a great movie. The script and the performances are pure gold. If I had to put it simply I’d say it’s a story about choices, and the things that influence those choices and shape a human being, and it is done with such finesse that I am left speechless (okay, not really; this is a long post, even for me). It is a brilliantly crafted psychological portrait of the damaged Vijay in particular, supported by simply stunning performances from Amitabh Bachchan and Alankar Joshi, who plays Vijay as a boy. There is nothing wasted—not a word, not a look, not a nuance, not a scene.
How could something that begins with this screen possibly be bad? Dharmendra as James Bond Agent 116! A great many more title screens follow, with more good news: Padma Khanna, a very young Rekha, Prem Chopra in a blond wig and pink rimless glasses—ooh! my man Ranjeet!—Jayshree T, Rajendranath, Agha, KN Singh…the list goes on. I settle happily in my chair, looking forward to some stylish and loony shenanigans. But I’m in for a little surprise.
A genre that I haven’t explored much (and by “much” I mean “at all”) in Hindi cinema is that of the horror film. This is not surprising since I dislike being scared, and even the cheesiest of devices employed by the worst directors can cause me several sleepless nights. Examples of movies that have terrified the bejesus out of me include Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and I don’t even want to discuss the ramifications of Jaws on my hygiene in 1975.
But if I’m going to call myself a true connoisseur of Hindi film (and I really really want to!) then I clearly need to suck it up; and since Suhan offered to hold my hand (via an online watchalong) I decided that Rajesh Khanna’s foray into the genre would be a good place for me to start.
This was a pretty good movie until the last half hour, when a different bad film was tacked onto it. Such is life. At least the bad one was only half an hour long. Until then, I was enjoying an interesting story with eye-searing ’70s style and the yummy goodness of young Amitabh, Shatrughan Sinha and our homegirl, Laxmi Chhaya. She got third billing after those two, and although strictly speaking she wasn’t the heroine, she had a central role and she was fantastic. Why was she not a star, why? Sigh.
The makers of Life…In A Metro apparently saw this film at some point, because one of the story threads in that was lifted from this (either that, or lending your boss the key to your apartment so he can cheat on his wife is a common practice in India—please say it isn’t so!).