We’re nearing the end of this old Hindi film story-telling. Just two more posts to go after this one. This time we journey past the letter Q to the two films in this collection starting with the letter R.
Leena Chandavarkar (LC) will soon be 18. Then she’ll inherit the huge property that her old man left behind.
For now the poor little rich girl feels claustrophobic. She wants to go out of that big house, see the world … and also let the world see her.
She shows up at the lawyer Vinod Khanna (VK)’s ‘s house wearing a kaamwaali dress. It’s easy to see that she’s rather voluptuous and VK is all eyes – much to his mother’s dismay.
So far so good. But somewhere in the middle of nowhere another young lady has stabbed a lecherous sethji to death, and … surprise, surprise! … she’s a Leena Chandavarkar too (LC2). So LC2 is on the run.
So LC’s cousin gets a great idea. Replace the LC at home by LC2, and make sure that the asli LC somehow dies. Then he’ll inherit all that property.
The rest of the film is about how the cousin’s goons try their hardest to finish off LC, but VK always protects her, with help from his assistant Mehmood and his clever moll Jayshree T.
It occasionally gets ridiculous, even absurdly ridiculous, but that seems to be the idea. So there are costume parties and wigs (an enduring puzzle is how wigs hoodwink the film’s villain, but never those watching the film in a cinema hall), there’s a daring get-away in a lorry, and there’s a free ear-cleaning offer outside the house gate so that VK is not disturbed in his reconnaissance mission.
In spite of all this effort to get as absurd as absurdity can permit, I quite enjoyed the nonsense on offer. Nitin Mangesh composed some decent tunes, and I have memories of singing these tunes even as we grappled with the treacherous final exams that I was doomed to take at Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta of the 1970s.
Sometimes I wonder why I spend over two hours watching an old (and often boring) movie. But then I wonder even more why I spend 20 hours watching a cricket test match that India always looks likely to lose.
So there’s no logic here. It’s just madness.
But one has to be really insane to see Rajkumar (1964). To be honest, it didn’t seem such a bad choice when I started seeing the film. It had Shammi Kapoor (SK), and it had the utterly beautiful Sadhana with her eyes still looking lovely.
SK is the prince of some unknown province in some unknown part of south India (Coorg?). The king is Prithviraj Kapoor (PK); so at least that makes sense. PK seems to think that he’s still a mughal e azam because he talks with the same resonance. Alas his powers are strongly curtailed by Pran (P), his second wife’s brother and his senapati. P’s plan is simple: bump off SK as soon as he arrives after spending 10 years abroad.
SK arrives by a tiny 2-seat aircraft that couldn’t have had a range of more than 250 km; so, he more likely took off from Madras than Madrid. After descending from the plane, he climbs on to an elephant. Somewhere on the way he sticks a loony beard on his face. The idea is to appear dumb so that P might decide there’s no need to kill such a buddhu.
But P’s man shoots anyway! The bullet would’ve pierced SK’s heart if he hadn’t worn a bullet-proof vest. When PK meets his beta, he agonizes to see his dear prince look so dumb, but doesn’t know what to do. I’ve never seen a king look so helpless and so bereft of ideas.
I’m not going to tell the rest of the story, because there isn’t much to tell. A secret passage from SK’s bedroom leads him to some tribal kingdom of which S is the princess. S soon becomes the queen because P shoots her baap dead and announces that the prince SK killed him. Everyone believes him although I couldn’t figure out why.
So S vows to kill the prince – the bearded SK – but falls in love with the clean-shaven SK. SK falls in love with S too and shows up via the secret passage as soon as she calls.
Eventually it all ends well. P is shot by S using her arrow (we have both guns and arrows!) and his suave villainy finally ends.
If the film merits any recall at all it is because of SJ’s music. Listen to the verve in aaja aai bahaar and the searing passion in dilruba. It is a pity that Shammi Kapoor also grew a beard in real life and became obese, and it was a monumental tragedy that the wondrous Sadhana first disappeared from public gaze and then disappeared forever from iss rang badalti duniya.
Rickshawala (1973) is a film that deserves to be quickly forgotten. If we still haven’t forgotten it’s because it was the first film in which Neetu Singh (NS) appeared as a young lady instead of a little girl.
NS looks fresh as a lily; more like a girl who hasn’t realized that she’s grown up. Randhir Kapoor (RK) is up to his mad antics. He has a certain charm that’s quite endearing.
I will only introduce the main characters. Anwar Hussain (AH) is the villain who’s running what we’ll call an escort service today. Ranjeet is his chief hitman. Pran is a good man caught in AH’s clutches; we’ll later know that he is NS’s father. Mala Sinha (MS) is pretending to be NS’s mother. Why? Because she gave the dying real mother a vachan.
I’ve often wondered how much more enjoyable Indian cinema would be if we didn’t have this vachan-kasam-izzat nonsense. And I’m baffled how, even today, most Marathi TV serials are dragged for weeks and weeks because some vow doesn’t allow you to reveal the truth and exacerbates confusion and conflict. Some things never change!
Rickshawala features frequent fights with chaakus, lathis and bandooks. There are threats, tears, screams and seizures – Pran gets these seizures which require him to instantly pop pills to revive.
The situation is so hopeless that even Pancham struggles to come up with decent tunes, although phoolon ki isn’t too bad. And maine kaha is pretty good too although the song could have been filmed with more finesse.