I like to be entertained by films, whether they’re thrilling, provocative, dramatic, poignant or purely for fun. Just don’t bore me. Shikari may not be a work of genius but it is wildly entertaining – garishly colourful with a cast committed to ignoring the WTFery, packed to the brim with visual delights, lots of good dancing and a pleasing array of ‘special’ effects.
Mr Kapoor (Bir Sakhuja) owns a circus that is on the brink of financial ruin. They simply cannot compete with ice skating chimps and Russian Ballet on ice.
His business partner Jagdish (Madan Puri) suggests they go and capture King Kong, thus ensuring their financial success. It’s a simple plan. What could possibly go wrong?
Jagdish, Kapoor and his daughter Rita (Ragini) are joined by comedy Professor Sharma and Chandu the clown. After a pit stop at the Malabar Hotel which allowed for a dance item by Madhumati and Rani, they head off in search of a guide called Ajit so he can take them in search of Otango.
Taking a range of increasingly smaller boats, which did flag a logistical problem in the event they caught the giant ape, the plucky and garishly dressed group make their way into the jungle.
Rita falls out of the bucket in which she is crossing a river and swims away determinedly is swept away from her father and crew. She lands in what appears to be a private zoo with a small but geographically diverse collection. Surviving a river misadventure only to be swept into the jaws of a cranky tiger. Poor Rita! But not for long.
Love blooms between Rita and her rescuer, timber plantation owner, hunter and all round bloke’s bloke Ajit (Ajit). Unfortunately that leads to excessive romantic dueting on mountains, near waterfalls and the like. For whatever reason, Ajit’s high pants and gumboots don’t say ‘soul of romance’ to me. Ragini is lots of fun as Rita and despite a tendency to simper she usually seems to be the most competent of the town folk.
Let them be happy while they can. We’re still in search of King Kong! Thanks to the jungle drums everyone finds everyone else and off they go.
They meet friendly villagers who make Rita dance in a fabulously eclectic tribal kitsch setting.
They get caught up in a fight with brightly painted tribal folk who accessorise with fluffy arm bands and feathers.
The preferred fighting style of almost everyone, Rita included, is ‘hit them with a stick’ so the dishoom sound effect department were working overtime.
Apart from that, they do a lot of walking around pointing at things.
Finally, while crossing a river of lurid pink lava they see Otango. Rita is startled and falls, dangling perilously close to the molten lava.
Luckily Ajit is there to save her again. I really do think she has a subconscious death wish. She certainly looks horrified after being rescued, but that may be because she has caught sight of her pants.
Just because you work in a circus … Rita packed an impressive wardrobe for a giant gorilla hunting expedition.
Finally, they are taken into the compound of DR CYCLOPS!
His lair includes a well appointed lab and series of caves. Dr Cyclops (KN Singh) was a reputable scientist who faked his own death so he could continue working on his dubious experiments.
The film loosely combines King Kong with the Island of Dr Moreau, even including some philosophical conversation about the role of science in bettering humanity. But do not fear – it doesn’t stay sensible for long. How could anyone think deep thoughts when the decor includes a pathway framed in giant ribs and mushrooms, a man/gorilla experiment, a giant lizard (man in dodgy plastic suit) and so much more!
Helen is Dr Cyclops’ daughter Shoba. She is a nice girl, given to over accessorising in lieu of having anything like a life. She knows her father is bad news and is a bit sweet on Ajit so decides to help the hunting party escape. I always like seeing Helen with more than just an item to explain her presence in a film. Rita misinterprets the nature of the affection between Shoba and Ajit so does a bit of flouncing. It was all rather silly except that in her angsty concussed state she dreamt up this fantastic dance off with Helen!
Jagdish wants the money and Otango and nothing less will do. Dr Cyclops, an expert biologist, has recognised that he has certain wants of his own and decides to marry Rita. He and Jagdish collude to achieve their goals and foil the group’s escape attempt.
Rita in approved heroine style insists she would rather die. Dr Cyclops has anticipated this and will not kill Rita – opting to either shrink her father to a mere 6 inches tall (demonstrated in a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ scene) or throw him into the snake pit. It is a very well appointed lab!
Despite all the good guys being tied up and all the baddies being free to roam, you know it’s only a matter of time. Shoba distracts Jagdish as only Helen can, and Ajit frees the captives. They set off to stop the forced wedding and encounter those pesky painted tribals again. Is it just me, or does Ajit look a bit bored by the whole situation?
But just as the comedy sideplot dudes finally do something useful, Otango arrives to do his jerky zombie shuffle of destruction.
Can it be the end? Don’t be ridiculous! But do watch the movie to find out how, what and who. I will just say – karma has some big gnarly toes. Know what I mean?
Mohammed Hussain directed the screenplay by Vrajendra Gaur and the film rattles along in a joyful parade of crazy. GS Kohli’s dance songs are lovely and the picturisations made excellent use of Helen and Ragini. It is the perfect B movie – low budget, committed to entertainment and not too fussed about the details. 4 stars for fun, entertainment, and colour and movement!
Download it with subs via Memsaab Story or watch the unsubtitled version on Youtube.