Gudachari 116 (1967)

Long before Mithun Chakraborty squeezed himself into those tight white flares to play Gunmaster G9 in Suraksha, Superstar Krishna was the suave and debonair Agent 116 in this Bond-inspired tale of secret agents, evil villains and a fiendish plot against India. Or at least so I deduce, given that this was another adventure without subtitles. There are elements from a number of early Bond films, but Gudachari 116 seems to be very loosely based on Dr No with a few other classic sixties motifs that pop up from time to time. This was the first of Krishna’s forays into the spy genre and while it’s nowhere near as over the top as his later film James Bond 777 or other Hindi spy films I’ve seen, there are still a few fabulous moments and plenty of recognisable references to the Bond films.

Agent Gopi (Krishna), better known by his code number 116, is a typical James Bond character. He’s smooth and successful with the ladies, possible due to his natty collection of cardigans, sports coats and leisure shirts. (This may also explain some of his son Mahesh’s multi-layering and accessorising style).

However he has to leave his singing, dancing and romancing in the hills when news of Agent 303’s rather theatrical death reaches the head of their intelligence agency.

Agent 303 (Shobhan Babu) was shadowing a gang of men who were attempting to blow up a bridge. After foiling their plan, he managed to take pictures of the gang and their getaway car, thus ensuring he could track them down at a later date and find the boss of their organisation. Obviously this information is of critical importance for the security of the nation, but the intelligence agency seems to be operating on a tight budget so he drops off his pictures to the local camera store to be developed before visiting his sister.

Missions of national importance run a poor second to familial obligations for Agent 303, which mean that he is killed before passing on the information about the gang to his superiors. Gopi’s mission is to find the photographs, identify the bad guys and stop their plans to destroy India. Just in case that seemed to be rather a lot for a single man to accomplish, he does have a number of fancy gadgets and the somewhat dubious assistance of local man on the spot Simhachalan (Relangi Venkataramaiah) and his merry band of helpers.

On the way to his meet-up with Simhachalan, Agent 116 runs into the beautiful Miss Radha (Jayalalitha) and starts up a brief flirtation with her on the plane. However Radha is the daughter of Agent 116’s chief suspect for the role of evil mastermind behind the bombings which, luckily for Gopi, means that their friendship can be cultivated as part of his mission. Gopi ends up at Radha’s birthday party where he plays the piano for her in this song which reminds me of the Chordettes classic. I love the rather Christmassy decorations for her birthday which almost get tangled up with the backing dancers and the dancing couple in the bottle on top of the piano.

Simhachalan has given Gopi two of his men to help his investigation and they provide most of the comedy side-plot which as usual doesn’t add much to the proceedings. Ramana Reddy and Rajababu do however manage to provide Gopi with some assistance and with the aid of some helium balloons, a hidden microphone and of course a little phone tapping, Agent 116 discovers that Radha’s father (Rajanala) is only a front for the real villain.

Agent 303’s sister also gets involved in the action as Radha’s father convinces her that he is the police officer in charge of her brother’s murder case and enlists her help to trap Gopi. This involves her attempting to seduce Gopi in his hotel room by dancing and then drugging him before handing him over to the gang. He looks rather puzzled by her advances, although that may just be the combination of the wallpaper and the pictures which is rather overpowering. Gopi ends up in a rather drab and utilitarian secret hideout with a man intent on frying his brains as a means of extracting information from him but in true super-spy fashion quickly turns the tables and extracts some information himself.

The plot gets more convoluted as Radha is kidnapped by the evil mastermind’s men to force her father’s continued co-operation with their plans and Gopi tries to rescue Agent 303’s sister while foiling the plans of the real villain. These plans are never really clear but seem to involve a rather large factory and a team of scientists making poisonous gas for some nefarious purpose. The boss, a rather sinister Chinese-looking villain, communicates with a series of gestures rather than by using actual words so perhaps his main henchmen are all telepathic and therefore no description of the plot is needed.

Overall, Gudachari 116 keeps to the spy/action story without too many deviations into cheap special effects or ridiculous leaps of faith. The interiors are wonderfully decorated with some amazing wallpaper and curtain combinations and there are plenty of chandeliers making an appearance. In comparison the outfits are rather restrained (at least in comparison to the Hindi remake Farz) and Radha appears elegant and stylish in a number of beautiful saris. Gopi and the various other main characters are also all very dapper and it’s only the gang of hired thugs who appear in outlandish shirts and scarves.

There are one or two instances where obviously model cars and planes get blown up, but mainly the effects are limited to radio receivers disguised as books and knock-out gas in a cigarette lighter which seem fairly plausible. Perhaps the most incredible invention is a method of restoring burnt paper back to its original pristine condition and retaining the written message but everything else is within the realm of possibility (at least for a secret agent).

The songs are another highpoint and the music by T. Chalapathi Rao seems to suit the general sixties ambience. This is probably the best – a fusion of traditional music and rock and roll that lets Jayalalitha show off a number of dance styles.

Gudachari 116 has a convincing storyline written by Arudra with much influence from Ian Fleming and the Bond film franchise, and is capably directed by M. Mallikharjuna Rao to give an entertaining spy adventure. Krishna is excellent as Agent 116 and the role of the sophisticated spy suits him well. Despite the lack of subtitles and an occasional unfunny ‘comedy’ scene I really enjoyed this film and I’d recommend it as an excellent take on the spy genre. 4stars.

Temple says:

This is the first of Superstar Krishna’s Bond style forays and I don’t think he had quite hit his stride in terms of the balance of serious spy action and parody that the later films do so  much better. The Bond of Ian Fleming and that of (most of) the films are quite different characters, and this film sort of falls between the two. At times it was a bit closer to Get Smart than any credible spy thriller as the low tech gadgetry was so badly made that I could have done better with a shoe box and a couple of bits of wire!

The lead actors are good and Krishna fits the suave man of the world style. His knitwear was horrifying, but it was the late 60s so I am just thankful the film is in black and white. Apart from the instantly recognisable ears, he also seems to have passed on some of his dance mojo to his son, as that lanky frame and the laid back style was very familiar. Jayalalitha is a feisty heroine and some of her outfits are very eye-catching indeed, so she earned her screen time. The comic sideplot is bad enough, but Ramana Reddy’s hamming is the last straw. He really is terrible and I have grown to loathe the very sight of him.

The music is a real mish-mash. There are fragments of the Addams Family theme used at dramatic moments (more comic than dramatic for me). There are hillside cavorting love duets as well as a blend of 60s rock n roll with whatever else took their fancy. It’s entertaining even if the choices are bewildering!

The story is not particularly credible or thrilling as it is bog standard ‘good guy against ill defined villain’ and the pace is very slow, especially considering national security is at stake.  I enjoyed this mostly for the retro charm, excellent visual excesses, and the very entertaining songs.  I greatly prefer James Bond 777 (which is available on Youtube), which has a fab funky soundtrack and a gang of bank robbing dogs that compensated for the plotholes. Gudachari 116 is nice to look at, but you could just watch the songs and skip the narrative and you would still get a feel for the style of the film. I don’t think I would re-watch this, while other films in the spy caper genre have become favourites. 3 stars.

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18 thoughts on “Gudachari 116 (1967)

  1. Krishna movies from 60s are so much fun! He is always too genuine, have funky moves and comedic gold (even for laughing AT them for styling).
    If you guys liked this, I am sure you will be entertained by “Ave kallu”. It is not exactly international espionage, but good detective story with great villain.
    Also, birthday decorations like Christmas thing is a Telugu thing I guess. I have seen real life birthday parties in 80s decorated like that.

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    • Hi Violet,

      Thanks – I did really like Krishna in this, especially in comparison to Jeetendra in Farz :)
      Thanks also for your recommendation – I’ve found a copy of Ave Kallu (although with no subtitles – sigh) and will let you know.
      I think maybe the Christmas style decorations is a general Indian thing as I’ve seen it in Kolkatta for a birthday celebration too :)

      Cheers
      Heather

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  2. Yeah Ave Kallu is ok.

    Thanks for the review Heather. I had almost forgotten this film. I just remember Agent Gopi but not the title of the film.

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    • Hi Sasank,

      I think (from Wikipedia) that he made a few with the theme of Agent 116. I’ve seen James Bond 777 but not any of his other spy films, but based on this one I think they would be fun!

      Cheers
      Heather

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    • Hi Sasank,

      I think it is on Youtube, but I have a DVD copy from Boomboxindia on ebay. I watched the other film I mentioned – James Bond 777 on Youtube after Temple found it online :)

      Cheers
      Heather

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  3. Dear Heather and Temple,
    I must have seen this movie as a kid, and dont remember much of it. I did enjoy your review thoroughly (and your reviews of other telugu movies too). btw.. the artist who played Radha’s father is Nagabhushanam, while Ranajala plays the “rather sinister Chinese-looking villain”.
    Best
    Pallavi

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    • Hi Pallavi.
      Thank-you :)
      And thanks too for the correction on the actors who played Radha’s father and the chief villain :) I’m slowly starting to recognise some of these actors but still get some of them confused.
      I really enjoyed this film and I’m looking out for more of Krishna’s earlier films, including more of his spy genre. Sadly most that I have tracked down so far don’t have subtitles but they’re still very watchable :)
      Cheers
      Heather

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      • Dear Heather,
        sorry for the typo about Rajanala :-P
        I am not a big fan of Krishna, but I do enjoy some his earlier movies. I havent watched too many of his spy/thriller movies except for this one and Ave Kallu. I would recommend (that is if you have not already seen them) Sakshi (available on youtube), Raja rajeswari vilas coffe club, Alluri Seetharamaraju, Meena, to name a few. He also made (rather remade) Devadas which, according to me, is a decent remake, considering nobody can beat ANR in his version. Ofcourse, there is Mosagallaku mosagadu, Krishna’s first western movie, which was a super hit.
        Hope you will be able ti find them with subtitles
        Best
        Pallavi

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      • Hi Pallavi,

        Thanks for all the recommendations :) That’s fantastic!
        I do have a copy of Mosagallaku Mosagadu but it doesn’t have subtitles and I’ve only managed to watch the first 30 mins. Thanks for reminding me I have to finish it!
        I did see Krishna’s James Bond 777 which is also on Youtube but I will definitely have a look for the other films you mentioned. I love getting recommendations as most of these actors seem to have made hundreds of films and since there is very little written about any of them it makes it difficult to decide which to try and find :)

        Cheers
        Heather

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      • I second “Shri rajeswari vilas coffee club”. It is a ‘Bapu’ movie and so the visuals are nice and artistic. Fashions are more realistic.
        IIRC, Temple isn’t a romantic fluff fan, so “Meena” is more in that category, complete with a “Tight-slap administration required” heroine.
        “Alluri Seetharamaraju” is a must watch, Krishna just glows in it!

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      • Hi Violet

        Thanks for the recommendations and the info :) I’m trying to track down some more Krishna films including these so will see what I can find – probably not with subtitles though :(

        Cheers
        Heather

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  4. off the main topic. I remember Rajanala from several films. There is one in which he sort of dances and was quite nimble which I watch off on. From Satya Harischandra, 1965 “kulamulo emundira”. The lyrics are very ood, singing not so good, may be meant to suit some body drunk. The video is a bit smudged. The kannada version is clearer with Rajkumar replacing Rajanala. The kannada version seems very popular still. I posted the links in
    http://gaddeswarup.blogspot.com.au/search?q=nimble+feet
    The first one does not work now. For those who know Telugu, the lyrics are great.

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    • Hi gaddeswarup

      Thanks for the link – I wouldn’t have recognised him at all!
      It’s a good song even when you can’t understand the lyrics :) Rajanala doesn’t dance a lot, but he does seem able to move his feet pretty well when he does start moving. It does give the impression that he’s been drinking – I haven’t seen the film or even heard about it before. have you watched it?

      Cheers
      Heather

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      • Heather,
        I watched the film long ago. I was working in bombay at that time and was home on a holiday sometime in the sixties. It was one of those old fashioned theaters and I do not even remember which village or town it was. What all I remember was that the screen seemed to light up when Rajanala came in and he outshone all others. But these are memories. I do have a DVD of it which I have not watched yet, usually busy reading stuff. If you are in Melbourne, you are welcome to borrow it. My e- mail address is
        anandaswarupg@gmail.com

        Like

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