Hackneyed fairy-tale featuring a lost prince returning home? Check. Shrill Saira Banu opposite preternaturally youthful Dev Anand? Check. Portly Premnath as an evil Senapati? Check again. Did I like the film? Oh hell yes! What’s not to love about a movie that advertises a cast of “about 500 Indian & International junior Artistes” and delivers on that promise? Who cares if the plot is silly? Not I, given a frothy sixties travelogue with ports of call in a Middle East populated by blonde belly dancers and stoned hippie extras. I love to see my people in Hindi movies. Plus, Shankar Jaikishan provide some seriously catchy tunes to accompany all the onscreen antics.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that when two male friends love each other in that peculiarly intense way of Hindi film heroes, the women in their lives will suffer. It would just be better all around if the two guys set up house together and called it a day, na? Rajendra Kumar and Feroz Khan would have such lovely children.
This entire review is nothing but a giant spoiler, because the ending especially is So Many Kinds of Wrong that I cannot do anything but tell you all about it. My sister pointed out that if Rush Limbaugh and his ilk were to make a film this might very well be it, a sentiment I fully agree with. It spouts the same judgmental and self-righteous crap that those people do and is just as egregiously dumb, although clearly many people don’t find it as obviously stupid as I do. It’s a typical Manoj Kumar venture: everything modern (or progressive) is evil and can only be redeemed through the influence of traditional (and repressive) values and mores. It sums up exactly why I hate his “Mr. Bharat” persona.
If you are in the mood for a cleverly plotted swashbuckler a la mode indienne, reach for this one. The dialogues are written by Abrar Alvi, always a good sign, and the screenplay by Javar Sitaraman; the story is intricate, entertaining and witty. If Rajendra Kumar and Ajit are a *little* too old to be playing men in their twenties, it doesn’t really matter and they look just fine opposite Vijayanthimala. She is beautiful, even sharing lots of scenes with the younger and equally gorgeous Mumtaz, and she shows us all once again that GIRL CAN DANCE. Amazing. Shankar Jaikishan’s music is catchy and pretty, and the host of supporting character actors all seem to be having fun—Jagirdar especially, as the dacoit Ram Singh. Plus, a loyal horse and clever elephant companions: what’s not to love, really?
I think this film was subtitled by someone with narcolepsy who kept suddenly falling asleep and upon awakening would simply continue working without going back to see what he had missed. Only about a third to half of the dialogue is subtitled, so I am not sure if my finding the plot difficult to follow was my fault, the narcoleptic subtitler’s fault, or the filmmaker’s fault. In any case, despite this handicap I found this highly entertaining. First of all, the Shankar Jaikishan songs are beautiful (although much of the background music is from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf—which is not a bad thing); secondly, it’s one of Nutan’s first films and she is lovely; and her hero is Nasir Khan (Dilip Kumar’s brother) in the first leading role I have seen him in. It also succeeds pretty well as an atmospheric mystery-suspense-thriller (it was given an “A” certificate by the censors).
What’s not to love about a film which opens with animated credits like these? Very little! Especially when the credits probably cost more to produce than the entire rest of the film. This is a full-on Mod Seventies Cheesefest. I love cheese, and I love this film. It is loony entertainment at its best: a comedy-horror-mystery-romance dressed up in bellbottoms and vivid polyester, set to lively pop music by Shankar Jaikishan, and populated by a large cast of character actors, comedians and dancers.
Pran has a double role as a misogynistic ex-Army Colonel and as one of the Colonel’s charges Raghu, a campy effeminate type who nonetheless finds romance with one of the girls (when he isn’t busy combing his long hair). The girls are students of botany professor Laxmi (Sonia Sahni), a man-hating martinet, and her assistant Sister Sophia (Meena Roy). As with most Hindi horror genre films, there is a decidedly Christian bent (handy for grave-robbing situations). It was also filmed on location in a place I have visited, the Periyar Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala—very pretty and fun for me to see again.
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!
At a run time of almost three hours, this film is about two hours too long. This can be blamed on two things: Mehmood, and the fact that it’s crammed with every melodramatic cliche in Hindi film history. In point of fact, Mehmood should be credited as the main star of the film, with Shammi as his co-star and sidekick. Not only is entirely too much time spent on the irritating—and predictable—CSP (Shubha Khote as Mehmood’s love interest, with of course Dhumal as her father and the rather startling spectacle of Leela Mishra in a brown wig as her mother), but he figures in the main plot far more than Shammi does too. His character reminds me of the animals in Manmohan Desai films; he is smarter than all the humans combined, and loyal and true to a fault—and he is everywhere. Additionally, we are treated to all these various plot points: communal harmony, the bhai-bahen rishtaa, the rape-suicide trope, blindness, bad western-influenced girls turned into good sari-clad ones, bromantic pyare-dost, the saving of an atheist’s soul, and much, much more!
Why would anyone sit through this even once, you ask—let alone several times? Shammi, my friends, Shammi. Plus the initial sparkle of a rifle-wielding and stylish Babita, the joy of Lalita Pawar as identical twins, and Shankar-Jaikishan’s songs, which are lots of fun.
With all due respect to the film’s title, it is the mother and father of all Hindi family melodramas. A tangled epic of misplaced loyalties and self-sacrifice, it still has something which lifts it above regulation fare, at least for me. There is a slightly more complex plot—actually there is just a lot of plot; the film goes on forever (as does my post: you’ve been warned!). Also it doesn’t descend into the truly histrionic until about an hour or so in; up until then it’s an interesting story. It’s also blessed with some very good performances—Padmini as a proud street dancer and Ashok Kumar as a wealthy patriarch torn between his conscience and his pride are the standouts. The songs by Shankar Jaikishan are nice, and a Helen dance plus Pran’s usual slimy villainy don’t hurt either.
After reading a fine review of this movie over at Dusted Off, I had to see it. Nargis’ last film! Young Feroz Khan! Laxmi Chhaya! Ted Lyons & His Cubs! And truly it is an interesting and fun filmi noir, dominated by a fine performance from Nargis as a woman with a split personality. The music by Shankar Jaikishan is absolutely fabulous. My favorite song from the film is the lively “Awara Ae Mere Dil”—it’s going to be in my head for a few days, I can already tell. It’s picturized on the lovely Laxmi (it’s one of my picks for her top 10 songs) with my favorite band providing the music. The main quibble I have with the film is that it’s a Criminal Waste of Young Handsome Feroz—but hey, at least he’s there!