February 13, 2013: Good cop, good cop

Our catching up continues…in the last months of 2012 we watched several films with good cops (two of them Aamir Khan!) and couldn’t help comparing them.

Julie M:  Finally finished Zanjeer (The Chain, 1973)…awesome film! Had everything: love, revenge, gangsters, fight scenes, and Amitabh Bachchan, looking hot in a police uniform. It doesn’t get much better…here’s the trailer, unfortunately not subtitled: 

Plot summary: Young Vijay (isn’t his name always Vijay in these things?) Khanna witnesses the murder of his parents one Diwali and as he grows to adulthood, his nightmares are haunted by an image of a man on a galloping white horse for some unfathomable (to him) reason. We know why, though…because the murderer was wearing a chain bracelet with a horse charm. Raised by a sympathetic cop, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) becomes a police officer, known among his peers for his unorthodox ways and steadfast dedication to wiping out crime in all its forms, which often gets him into trouble with his higher-ups. At a new posting he befriends, and reforms, the local gambling boss Sher Khan (Pran) and saves Mala, a damsel in distress (Jaya Bhaduri), although the actual amount of distress she was in is doubtful, since she’s pretty good at knife-handling. Here’s the meet-cute scene between Vijay and Sher Khan. 

Jenny K:  Did you ever see Amitabh in the film Dev? He and Om Puri have a great good cop/corrupt cop duel in that one, and it has the added benefit of being one of the few movies I couldn’t fault Kareena in!  BigB isn’t quite as young as in Zanjeer, but I think I prefer his older avatar in any case.

Julie M: I’ll take him any way I can get him…but so very handsome when young and that drunk scene in Satte pe Satta always cracks me up and makes me fall in love with him all over again…anyway, Vijay also receives anonymous phone calls alerting him to when shipments of tainted liquor are brought to town, and he becomes a local hero to all except for the criminals running the hooch, headed by a crime boss named Teja (Ajit).

After Teja menaces Mala and she barely escapes with her life, Vijay rescues her (again) and places her in protective custody with his brother, where she gradually loses her “street” ways and falls in love with Vijay. As the case against Teja grows, Vijay gets more and more determined to wipe him out…until the day he himself is framed for bribery, thrown in prison and gets kicked off the force. He knows Teja is behind it, and grudgingly accepts Sher Khan’s help to trap Teja into a final confrontation.

I love this scene where Sher Khan expresses undying bro-hood with Vijay:  Pran not being particularly graceful, it has that awkward yet mesmerizing improvisational quality of Tevye’s big number “If I Was a Rich Man” from Fiddler.

Despite some totally ridiculous hand-to-hand combat, Zanjeer is a mesmerizing picture of a man who must reconcile his past and present and somehow exorcise the bitterness from his soul in order to be truly happy. I highly recommend that people do a BigB marathon by watching (in this order) Zanjeer, Deewar and Sholay (although I was not a fan of Sholay personally, it’s important to see); it’s a wonderful snapshot of what makes Amitji a star and how he defines a cinematic generation.

Since this was so perfect I’m not sure I want to see the upcoming remake, although seeing Sanjay Dutt as Sher Khan would be terrific. Prakash Raj as Teja, Priyanka Chopra as Mala, and hunky Telegu actor Ram Charan Teja as Vijay (confusing) round out the remake cast. It looks like a very faithful update, down to the songs even, which makes me wonder why it even has to be done.

Zanjeer is available free on YouTube with subtitles here.

And speaking of squeaky-clean ACPs…

Julie MSarfarosh (Martyr, 1999) was definitely a treat! Great performances all around, with standout roles played by Aamir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. I can see why you bought this one…combines your two boys into an irresistible experience.

Aamir Khan is Ajay Singh Rathod, a squeaky-clean ACP newly arrived in Mumbai with a tragic backstory that made him drop his dream of being a doctor to devote his life to wiping out crime, particularly terrorist-related activity. Rathod is good–too good–his reputation precedes him and the bad guys in town scramble to cover their tracks. Nevertheless, with luck and skill he manages to penetrate an international gun-smuggling ring that reaches deep into the ISI–Pakistan’s version of the CIA. Meanwhile Rathod is dealing with his higher-ups’ prejudice against his man Salim (Mukesh Rishi), a Muslim whom they suspect to be sympathetic to the terrorists, the sudden reappearance of his college crush Seema (Sonali Bendre), and an unexpected friendship with his ghazal-singing idol Gulfam Hassan (Naseeruddin Shah) facilitated by Seema, who is his agent in Mumbai.  The action of the film centers on Rathod’s outsmarting of the criminals and bringing them to justice, but rather than being about one guy’s quest it’s almost an ensemble piece with some really outstanding performances.  And the guy gets the girl in the end.

Things I loved:

1) you meet and get to know Ajay in a sweet homey setting, kissing his Maa, playing with his nephew and getting all excited about scoring tickets to see Gulfam perform, then flash back to his college relationship with Seema as “Ajay Singh”, all the while seeing scenes of brutal terrorism in the present day. You think, OK, this ordinary guy is somehow going to be involved, maybe he’ll get kidnapped by the terrorists and end up saving the day, when BOOM, in almost a throwaway scene you learn that he is in fact the feared “Rathod” that all the goondas have been discussing, and just like that, Aamir’s face suddenly gets more mature, more serious, and you just know that he is going to be the hero in more ways than one. This is his Raakh character, only with a badge.

2) They get Aamir wet–not just wet, but DRENCHED–in the obligatory erotic love song. I mean, wow. Aamir just doesn’t do that in his later films. You’ve already fallen in love with him because of his character, and now this? It’s almost too much to take. 

3) Naseeruddin Shah. He gets two great speeches, one in each half of the film, and delivers them perfectly. But why (spoiler alert) did his character have to bite the ear off a baby goat?! ew. (end spoiler)

4) Gritty realism without gratuitous violence. I read that they did a lot of research on the actual cross-border arms trade and many of the details are scarily accurate.

5) Mukesh Rishi. He overacts in one scene, but otherwise I liked the presence of this giant–or maybe relative giant, because Aamir is such an elf. Apparently he was in Koi…Mil Gaya and I didn’t notice him.  Here’s his big scene with a bit too much intensity: 

So I guess my overall opinion is YES YES YES! I understand a Sarfarosh 2 may be in the works…with or without Aamir…???

Sarfarosh is available free on YouTube, in 16 sections, with 1 commercial per section. (sorry)  Here’s part I:

 

Oh–and about the title–still trying to figure out who the martyr is. Is it Ajay, who destroys his youthful dreams in order to defend his country? (spoiler alert) Is it Gulfam, who kills himself in the end so as not to destroy his own reputation (which Ajay seems to have protected after his death anyway)? Is it Salim, who alienates himself from other Muslims to do what he thinks is right, which is protect Ajay and India? (end spoilers)  Lots of martyrs in this film.

Jenny K:  Perhaps the title is a more generic “Martyrdom”? With all those examples, I’d bet it is. Glad you liked it. It’s always been one of my favorites, and I’d have bought it, even if I hadn’t been trying to own all of Aamir’s films at that point in my mania.

I really think that Sonali Bendre is lovely in this one…a real vision. I’m surprised he hasn’t done more with her. I also love the cinematography, especially the shots of the camels in the desert.  (aside to readers:  we review two more films with Sonali Bendre in a future post)

Julie M:  “Martyrdom” would be “Sarfaroshi” or is that more like “Sacrifice”? patriotic song Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna from The Legend of Bhagat Singh and similar. Maybe the title is more like “Sacrifice,” then.  Ajay sacrificed his personal desire, Gulfam sacrificed his nationality (remember he was upset that in Pakistan he was always a refugee).

Jenny K:  Speaking of cops, I can’t believe that I haven’t reviewed Talaash yet!  What a delinquent I am!  I saw it the first weekend out, and it was a really effective piece of suspense film making.  Here’s the trailer.  

Julie M:  I know, I was supposed to see the same weekend as you, but sorry, I got sick!

Jenny K:  Aamir Khan plays another noble police inspector, Surjan Singh Shekhawat, who  is standing against all corruption.  Could we expect anything less?  But he’s suffused with an air of melancholy, that we discover is caused by the death of his young son in a boating accident.  Both he and his wife Roshni (Rani Mukherji) blame themselves for relaxing their vigilance and letting him die.

Work is the only thing that distracts Surjan at all, and it begins to put more and more distance between himself and Roshni, especially when he begins investigating the death of a famous movie star in a crazy, apparently drunken, car crash.  To Surjan, the details just don’t add up, and he begins digging into the sordid underbelly of the red light district, looking for clues.  He’s helped by the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold, Rosie, (played by Kareena Kapoor) who nurses Surjan along the path to the right answers, and heals him, as well.  But things just aren’t as they seem…not at all.

Julie M:  She’s a hooker AGAIN?  Wasn’t Chameli enough for her? I guess she didn’t have a heart of gold there, but still.  

Jenny K:  The performances in the film are uniformly good, particularly Aamir’s and Kareena’s, who establish a palpable chemistry that I haven’t seen between them before…and I don’t see often with KK, at all.  Props to her, she knows just how to strut it and burn with a teasing warmth that captures Surjan and doesn’t let him drop the case, even when he knows he should, to keep his sanity and his marriage.  There’s a tangential plotline with a poor denizen of the brothels, Tehmur, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who is in love with one of the whores, and he is determined to free her, at any cost.  Nawazuddin, as you know, is one of my favorites…though why he plays so many crippled characters, I’m not sure.  Got to get The Gangs of Wasseypur and see whether that one is a stronger personality.  I loved him in Kahaani as that semi-corrupt police inspector and he just burned up the screen.  He doesn’t, in my opinion, ever give a bad performance.

Julie M:  I don’t have enough experience with him to say whether he is one of my faves, but I loved him in Kahaani, so I will take your word for the rest!  Although Gangs of Wasseypur is not on my list.  Anything with “Gangs” in the title I avoid on principle.

Jenny K:  You definitely should see Talaash though. Even if I don’t like AK’s moustache in it, hides too much of his face for me, but it actually made Pat like him more. She says she can now see him more as a husband than as a boyfriend-type. I like him any way he comes, and it’s nice that he doesn’t seem quite as angry as his more recent films have portrayed him. I particularly enjoyed seeing Rani on screen again. It’s been too long!

Julie M:  Found it on YouTube but without subtitles.

September 28, 2011: Amitabh ~ Changes and The Guard

Julie M:  Eklavya:  The Royal Guard…the only thing I can say is thankfully it was short (only 108 minutes), otherwise I don’t think I could have taken the high emotional level–unbroken by levity of any kind–much longer. This film plumbed just about every dramatic trick in the canon: death and mourning, secrets, loyalty and duty, father- and mother-love, admiration, jealousy, romantic love, intrigue, suspense, conspiracy, and, oddly, marksmanship. And beautiful countryside, stunning traditional costumes and jewelry (in a film set in contemporary times), and the coolest old fort ever.  Here’s the 60-second (non-subtitled, but you get the emotion) trailer:  Exciting, yeah?

Jenny K:  I liked Eklavya when I saw it in the theaters… a period visual treat.  Not that I remember that much, except for the “surprise” reveal toward the end. BigB was good, and as you said, and the cast is great, with Saif and his mother playing royalty (such a stretch!) but they did it well.  Vidya was good, as per usual, and you got to love a cast that has Boman, Sanjay, Jackie Shroff and Jimmy Shergill, who I usually like, even though he WAS in Mohabbatein. The producer/director Vidhu Vinod Chopra is often associated with quality productions, 3 Idiots among them.

 

Julie M:  I’d do a plot summary but there would be too many spoilers, so I’ll skip it.   The fact that the film started with a Shakespeare sonnet should have been the tip-off that the action would be very Shakespearean in its layers of plot and emotion. And it was, in spades. Amitabh Bachchan’s performance as Eklavya, the man torn between love and duty to his royal employers, was mesmerizing–I literally could not take my eyes off him. Saif Ali Khan as the young Prince was likewise excellent and mostly kept his shirt on. Vidya Balan as Saif’s almost offhand love interest did not have much to do except moon after Saif and lip-synch a pretty song, and her most dramatic speech was given as a voice-over, which I thought was a waste of a perfectly good actress.

Here’s Vidya’s song, “Chanda Re”: 

Even if you don’t understand Hindi, you can tell how dramatic and loaded the film is.  Lots packed into a short running time.

Sanjay Dutt had an all-too-brief role as the police chief who admired Eklavya at the same time he was resentful of how his family had been historically mistreated by the royal family. I think more could have been wrung out of that situation. Boman Irani was a little over-the-top, but still excellent, as the vengeful king, and Jimmy Shergill could have amped up the acting a little more as his jealous nephew–I know he’s up to it.

Normally I am not a fan of EFD, but that’s mostly because it usually takes a tiny bit of normal and perfectly understandable emotion and spins it out endlessly to no real point–we get it already. This was crazy-unusual emotion–the kind that nobody ever has to contend with in real life because, come on, who is ever in the position of having [spoiler alert]your son whom you can never acknowledge murder your beloved royal employer, and have it be your sworn duty to kill him in return? This is what movies are for, actually.

And I have to put this in even though there are no subtitles, because Saif is shirtless and for once it’s not gratuitous: 

 

Jenny K:  Not sure about that…Never seen the main celebrant shirtless in a Rajasthani funeral.  Only in the South.  Maybe it’s a Brahmin thing. 

Well, I’m glad to see you can handle Eklavya‘s EFD if given the right encouragement!   It’s occasionally worth the effort.

Julie M:  This one definitely was.  If Shakespeare would have decided to set a tragedy in India, he would have come up with something very similar to this, except in Shakespeare Eklavya would have killed himself in confusion, Saif would have been driven insane with remorse and Vidya’s character would have wailed over the end credits.

As it was, the ending was almost uplifting: [spoiler alert again] Eklavya declares his duty to be wrong (!!!), Vidya’s character forgives Saif’s character for killing his own father (!!!!!!) and Saif, throwing custom, tradition and royal protocol to the winds, publicly acknowledges Eklavya, a commoner, as his father (!!!!!). I mean, sure, it was set up that Saif felt stifled by all the tradition and custom of his homeland and position and had escaped to London to avoid it, but in that situation doesn’t the typical Indian film end with the son coming back, assuming his royal duty and realizing with pride that the old ways are there for a reason?  And the ending also seemed wrong for Sanjay’s police chief character. If he was so resentful, why would he be so happy to [spoilerscover up the misdeeds of the family who did his family bad? [end]

But despite all that, my verdict: Excellent–one of my faves.  It’s available on YouTube with English subtitles.

I couldn’t find any clips with English subtitles, and the dialogue is so important to this film—you’ll just have to watch the whole thing!

And to balance it out…as an older BigB movie, I really liked Abhimaan (Arrogance, 1973). It was weird (as always) to see Amitabh in a romantic role, but then as the film went on it all made more sense why he was cast. And he and Jaya have huge chemistry together.

 

Jenny K:  I saw this film in 2005 when Amitabh picked it as one of his twelve favorite films when Lincoln Center wanted to do a retrospective of his work. As I couldn’t go, I chose a few of them to watch and liked this one best. IMDb says that Jaya and Amitabh liked this film so much that they helped bankroll it…which must have been quite a stretch, as they had only been working in film for about five years, at most, and Zanjeer was the most famous film he’d done to date. Sholay and Deewaar hadn’t happened yet. Here’s the whole movie with subtitles for those who haven’t seen it.

 

Julie M:  Plot summary: Subir Kumar (Amitabh Bachchan) is a well-known pop singer with tons of fans, nice house, doting manager/companion, and a hip wardrobe (for 1973). One day he decides to visit the aunt who raised him in the small village she lives in, and meets Uma Devi (Jaya [Bhaduri] Bachchan), the neighbor’s daughter, who also sings, albeit shyly. They fall in love, marry in the village and he takes her back to Mumbai. At their wedding celebration they sing a duet, and although Subir’s manager is excited to have them start singing together, a well-known musician warns against it. Then, of course, they are blissfully happy for a while afterwards. 

Jenny K:  I especially like the scenes with them together in the bedroom. Very sexy, without actually seeing anything. Wah, wah!  What chemistry! Lovely to see them young and in love.

Julie M:  They record a song, and it is an instant hit. They are hired together for concerts and playback, but slowly she becomes more popular than he is. Subir starts resenting her, drinking heavily and spending increasing amounts of time with his friend Chitra (Bindu), who adores him. He also quits singing in a fit of pique, but doesn’t tell her. Uma eventually realizes what’s going on and can’t watch him throw his talent away; she quits singing too and returns to her village, where she finds out she is pregnant. Ultimately she suffers a miscarriage and sinks into a deep depression, which finally rouses Subir to go and bring her home, where she doesn’t get any better.

Subir finally understands that she blames herself for his unhappiness, and realizes that the only thing that will make her happy is if he starts singing again. He hires a hall and schedules a concert–she perks up while he is on stage alone but when he starts singing their duet she bursts into tears. He brings her on stage, they finish it together, Chitra (sitting in the front row) realizes that he and Uma are made for each other, and the film ends with the audience’s applause. Here’s that final scene:

 Jenny K:  This film always reminded me of an Indian version of A Star is Born…the young wife gradually surpassing the older established husband… but with more of the religious aspect to it…and, of course, a happier ending, which actually, seemed more realistic than ASIB‘s. Beaucoup melodramatic, with James Mason walking into the waves and Judy Garland singing her solo to him onstage…”I am Mrs. Norman Maine!” Applause…Tears…Applause… I can’t believe that Karan Johar hasn’t remade this one with the genders flipped and SRK quavering that teary statement at the end of the film. Can’t you see it?

 

Julie M:  Oh, I can TOTALLY see KJ remaking ASIB. There was a whiff of that in Taal, perhaps, but to go whole hog…yes. SRK plus…who? Madhuri? Rekha?

  

Jenny K:  Would have to be someone like Rekha, who is older than SRK, if we were to do the whole gender flip thing…but I really think Dimple would be better for him…more sympathetic and believable. Madhuri is actually younger than SRK.

 

Julie M:  Anyway, I really liked this portrait of a man with a gigantic ego getting knocked down and finally learning to put that ego aside for the sake of his marriage.  Very moving—and unconventional for a man of that era—yet he is utterly convincing in all the emotions he is called upon to portray. And, as I’ve said before, ’70s fashions were made for his body type: even the most hideous shirt patterns look good on him. At one point he wears a beautiful rust-colored silk kurta over white pants that almost made me swoon.  

Have to say that this is quite the negative role for him. He is a spoiled brat, his manager is an enabler, and even though it’s part of Indian culture for men to assume women will keep the males’ needs as primary in the family, his character really fell apart when she started winning all the awards and getting the attention. One could read this as a frustrated diatribe against women’s liberation by the male establishment, but the ending is a realistic portrait of the compromises that everyone has to make in a marriage and how personal pride has to be put aside sometimes.

Also, this is only the 2nd film I’ve seen “young” Jaya in, and I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that both times she played very shy and subdued characters, or if it’s the kind of role she is drawn to. Just once I would like to see her doing a character who is happy. When she wasn’t in the frame with BigB she was very flat; again, can’t tell if that’s the character she was playing (a woman who only comes alive in the presence of her husband, in which case, ick) or if it’s her normal mien.

 

Jenny K:  I haven’t seen that many of her films, but she always seems to find roles with gravitas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a light role, unlike Shabana, who takes time out from angst to do a comedy every so often. And Jaya took a good amount of time off to raise the kids. As I’ve said before, she’s always the one who can make me cry, no matter how many times I’ve seen the scene…”He just made a mistake, Naina…he was a good man!” Sniff, sniff…just thinking about the church scene in KHNH…I get all teary.

 

Julie M:  Gravitas is one thing–Shabana and Manisha do gravitas–but making a name for oneself out of absolute stoicism and blank expression, particularly in one’s youth, is completely different and kind of a risky career choice.   I read that it was doing this film that tipped Jaya towards taking that many-years-long acting break when she started having kids–to avoid the breakdown of the marriage.

 

Jenny K:  I see what you’re saying about Jaya, but only seeing five of her films, I don’t want to make that assumption that she let herself be pigeon-holed. She was the top actor in her graduating class, over the men, even… Hey, found this article on Amitabh’s appeal by the fabulous David Chute who says if we want to see Jaya as a “diminutive firecracker” and a “headstrong teenager” we should look for Guddi and Mili, both by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. 

 

Julie M:  I have to say, for a story that has music at its core, I really wasn’t all that moved by the songs. They all sounded very similar and were quite slow, and although I know she’s a national treasure, something about the quality of Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in these songs really grated on me.

All in all, both Eklavya and Abhimaan amply show what star power BigB has, and has always been.

 

Jenny K:  Just goes to show that whether you swathe him in lurid polyesther or bury his magnetic mug in birds-nest-crazy facial hair, Amitabh Bachchan will always emerge the quintessential star…some things about him will never change.

September 9, 2011: Two Bs: Big and Little/Past and Present

Julie M:  For the long weekend, I only got three Hindi films: Sarkar, Dhoom and another BigB one from the olden days, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat.

Sarkar was pretty good. Amitabh showed his age, which was appropriate for the story, and the film was an interesting mix of EFD and gangsters, a combination I hadn’t seen done well to this point. Abhishek was sufficiently intense and you could see his internal conflict race across his face when the time came to decide whether it was more important to him to build a life for himself or to continue his father’s brand of justice. KayKay Menon was also excellent as the bad son. I know there is a sequel, Sarkar Raj, but although it too is supposed to be good I don’t feel I need to pursue watching it.  In fact, I did see The Godfather, upon which this was modeled, and I thought Sarkar was better. 

I can’t find any scenes with English subtitles, and posting an all-Hindi clip doesn’t do justice to the excellent dialogue, so we will have to go with just  images. Very intense.

Jenny K:  My heavens!  Better than The Godfather!?!  What praise!  Being the only person in the Northern Hemisphere who hasn’t seen the Francis Ford Coppola Gangster Masterpiece, I can’t confirm or pooh pooh this statement, but I know I wasn’t quite as enamored of  Sarkar as you seem to be.  Not that I found it bad, in any way, just a bit average, and I thought the B’s, father and son were a bit cold and non-emotional in this film, for an EGFD (Emotional Gangster Family Drama – new hybrid category). 

I still prefer the Mani Ratnam Godfather tribute, Velu Nayakan with Kamal Hassan starring.  It’s sort of early Mani (1987, eleven years before Dil Se…), so it’s a bit rough around the edges, with nowhere near as much polish, but a lot of gut energy about it.  Most of it due to Hassan’s transformation from young upwardly mobile thug underling to the old patriarch…though his Marlon Brando homage, complete with cheek padding makes me giggle a little when I watch it.  Check out this clip and see what I mean, best at 1:39-ish. 

The whole movie is here on Youtube in ten pieces, with subtitles, but it’s the original Tamil, which I know you still have a problem listening to…so you might want to wait until I send you the Hindi dubbed version. 

Back to Sarkar, she segues…I do remember liking Tanisha’s debut.  She isn’t quite as electric as her sister, Kajol is, at least not yet, but she has a quiet sweetness in her.  I also enjoyed KayKay Menon, as you did.  Also, thought that Amitabh looked rather good in the film, as usual these days.  But, unless they are doing comedy together, I find when Amitabh and Abhishek work together, LittleB comes off a bit muted by the Very Big shadow of his sire.  However, in comedy, they bounce off each other delightfully.  I felt the same as you did and skipped Sarkar Raj as seeming a bit “been there.”

 

Julie M:  Dhoom was refreshingly mindless, although not as stylish (or decorative! No Hrithik!) as Dhoom 2. John Abraham was thoroughly unbelievable as a master thief–too baby-faced and did not give off the smart-planner vibe. Uday Chopra was funny and can he dance! LittleB’s best scenes were the comic ones, like when he was faking drunk. I got a little tired of all the motorcycle chases, which went on too long. Esha Deol was cute and looked just like her mom. Overall a fun late-night treat for a holiday weekend while it was playing, but afterwards I felt that Dhoom 2 was overall more successful and more fun.

Here is a clip showing Uday’s twinkle-toed talent, and it’s a “wet scene” to boot: 

And this is pretty much the sexiest I’ve seen LittleB: 

Jenny K:  Now, I can’t comment on Dhoom directly, because I haven’t seen it, either.  I’ll agree that LittleB is attractive in that video, but from the two clips you gave here, may I say just three words…Daisy Duke Distopia!!!!  Horrible, Horrible Costumes!  Gag.  It may be why I have an almost allergic reaction to Esha Deol (except in Yuva/Ayitha Ezhuthu, where she did quite well with her roles in both languages, and was disarmingly wholesome).  Just before they began shooting Dhoom, Esha had hit the gym and lost her baby fat and was most annoyingly aware of her svelte-ness in all the clips that I have seen.

And though Uday can certainly dance and that clip did show it (of the generation, I think I still prefer Viveik) , I still find him insupportable.  I’m sure this is solely due to severe over exposure to one of his early films, Mohabbatein.  See if you can even get through this clip, much less 216 minutes of it. 

Julie M:  Finally, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (A Rainy Night) was pretty good, not the best but entertaining enough. It pits BigB against Amjad Khan (“Gabbar Singh” from Sholay) again, one of their more successful pairings, and unlike in Sholay, he gets a real reciprocated love interest. It is refreshing for once to see Amitabh sweetly in love, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t kick some bad guy butt along the way. And we revisit the beautiful scenery of the Himalayas, last seen in Professor.  It’s kind of an obscure one in BigB’s catalogue, and although it feels formulaic it is nevertheless charming, so I’m going to do a spoiler-ful summary.  I won’t put in all the songs, just the ones I thought were particularly interesting.

The setting is a rural village, where there is a corrupt merchant-smuggler and his hotheaded son, Kaaliram (Khan), who takes pleasure in bullying the locals and kidnapping whatever girl takes his fancy, and a police officer whom they have paid off to ignore their antics. There is also a tea plantation, whose manager is an honest man with a blind daughter Rajni (Rakhee Gulzar). One day a tall stranger (BigB) wearing a rockin’ green leisure suit and floppy hat rides into town on a mule, humiliating Kaaliram en route, and does a deal with the merchant for some contraband gold bars—we are to understand that he is a rakish rule-breaker.

Over the next few days the stranger and Kaaliram clash again and again, with the stranger winning and leaving Kaaliram fuming. Here’s a cute song that occurs after the stranger and Kaaliram have a drumming contest and Kaaliram loses (one of many humiliations Kaaliram suffers): the stranger and the entire village make fun of him. And BigB dances, after a fashion.

 

The stranger also meets Rajni in the village and saves her from tumbling over a cliff, and falls in love with her.  He goes to find Rajni’s house and stalks her a bit as she sings of how much she loves him:

Back to the action:  Kaaliram and his father clash with Rajni’s father, whom they feel owes them money, and Kaaliram becomes so irate (and drunk, and filled with lust) that he breaks into their house one rainy night and tries to rape Rajni. Luckily the stranger arrives in time to save her, and after a failed attempt at justice with the local police, the stranger (who, as you remember, has set himself up as a shady character) reveals himself to be Abhijeet, a regional police inspector sent to clean up the cross-border smuggling activity.  Kaaliram is arrested, convicted and sent up the river for five years, and the corrupt police officer is fired. Rajni’s father is distraught over his daughter’s dishonor and Abhijeet offers to marry her, clearly no great sacrifice on his part, but Dad is grateful and relieved. Abhijeet is promoted and transferred to a different sector.

Five years pass and Abhijeet and Rajni are blissfully happy, awaiting the birth of their first child. Cue sappy song about how much they love each other; I’m leaving that one out. Kaaliram is released from prison and vows revenge, which he takes as soon as he finds out where they are living. He decoys Abhijeet away and on another rainy night, abducts Rajni but leaves her lying by the road when he hears Abhijeet coming back. Rajni is OK but loses the baby because of the shock. Abhijeet vows revenge on whoever did it (vowing revenge is a common theme in this film) and, after finding a clue indicating the perp, goes after Kaaliram, who runs him off the road in a jeep crash from which Abhijeet is thrown from the car. Kaaliram thinks he has killed Abhijeet and relaxes his guard. The locals find the unconscious Abhijeet, fix him up and smuggle him back into the village in disguise as a member of their folk dancing troupe.  Here’s the number, and (since he’s the tallest person around this tiny village) you can see it’s not much of a disguise.  I love the Tibetan costumes and drums.

Jenny K: Sorry to interrupt your synopsis, but, the costumer in me must comment.  Colorful the dancers’ garb may be, but like the denizens of the similar scene in Professor, the hybridization with the Bollywood ideal of female desirability definitely fractures them.  Do a Google image search for “Tibetan National Dress” and paint half of me black and call me a penguin, if there is one example of midriff or arms bared amongst them.  Heck, you’d think that it’s cold in Tibet or something!  End of rant.  Back to you, Julie…

 

Julie M: Kaaliram, who is a bully but no dummy, recognizes the drumming talent that totally schooled him five years ago, and there is a confrontation after the show.  After a scary and exciting fight/chase scene involving a very high rope tram, a jeep and a river, Abhijeet apprehends and then drags Kaaliram back to the plantation display him to Rajni (blind though she is), roughing him up in front of her and her father. Kaaliram’s father, attempting to shoot Abhijeet as he’s smacking Kaaliram around, kills Kaaliram instead. Abhijeet and Rajni embrace and there is a sudden long shot of them taking a scenic walk along the river. GOOD PREVAILS OVER EVIL; AAL IZWELL.

The whole movie is on YouTube, albeit without English subtitles. Here is Part I, with the green leisure suit.  

Jenny K:  Wait…someone tell Bette Davis, I just found her hat!  Fasten your seatbelts, etc.

 

Julie M: My only real unhappiness with this film was that, similar to other older Bollywood movies I’ve seen, it ended rather abruptly once the villain was foiled.  I kind of like a story to wind down and wrap up a little.

 

Jenny K:  Sounds like you had fun with it, though. I love Amitabh in any era. Especially the one I just sent you, Abhimaan, with Jaya, his wife. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is the director and he is much more realistic in style than most of the other directors working in the 70s. And there is one scene with the two of them as newlyweds in the bedroom (Egad!) that is the hottest scene I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film without actually seeing anything, except in their facial reactions…fade to ecstasy. I’ll be interested to see how you like it.

Amitabh did almost as many movies with Rakhee back then as he has since done with Jaya or Hema. Not to say I always understood why they cast her, but in BKER she looks sweet, not insipid, which she sometimes can appear.  Though that may be caused by having Rekha as a rival (Muqaddar Ka Sikandar) in many of them.  La Rekha would blunt any mere mortal’s impact. In any case, I’ve always felt that Jaya was the better actress, perhaps of all three, and she sometimes outdoes her hubby.

It’s always best to end on a Semi-Sacrilege, isn’t it?

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