Jalte Badan

jalte_badan-Cover

Once again, I was sucked in to buying a DVD based on the cover. This time it was the bold quote above the title that said “Picture has a moral…” But I was finally motivated to watch it by Memsaab Story’s excellent and very funny review. What a delight – Jalte Badan is so wrong it has to be right. Ramanand Sagar subscribes to the ‘more is more’ style of direction, and he is not stingy with the sequins, drama, emotion and ridiculous consequences.

Kiran (Kiran Kumar) is an innocent country lad sent to study in Mumbai. Easily drawn to alcohol, drugs, loose women and hideous décor, Jalte Badan traces his journey into degradation, blindness and woe-is-me-ness.

Jalte Badan_KumKumJalte Badan_crisis of conscience

Kiran and Ganga (Kum Kum) meet when he shoots a bird and she tells him off, waving the poor red paint splattered pigeon in his face for emphasis. Stunned by her compassion or maybe her tiny outfits, he falls in love. She is swept off her feet by…um. I don’t really know. His forlorn puppy face. Or something.

Jalte Badan_Ganga and GaneshJalte Badan_Ganga and her brother

Ganga lives with her father and an assortment of snakes, including her brother and favourite accessory, Ganesh.

Jalte Badan_troubleJalte Badan_trial by fire

But the youngsters cannot get married and live happily ever after just yet. Ganga endures a trial by fire to prove her purity and to save her father’s reputation. Her dad didn’t actually want her to do that which I found pleasing. But the Snake God and propriety must be appeased so she prances about on hot coals, waving some very synthetic and flammable looking scarves.

Kiran goes to college and attracts the ire of the groovy students who don’t want to be shown up by a tall skinny nerd. He was already headed for trouble though – Malti (Padma Khanna), local nautch girl also relocating to Mumbai to pursue business opportunities, had her fabulously made up eyes on him.

Jalte Badan_the in setJalte Badan_nerds

All the women seem to resent his declared love for Ganga and set out to prove that he cannot be in love, as men never really are (they say). It’s silly and a bit unpleasant as the girls are quite strident and pretend feminism is doing what a man would do. But mostly it’s ridiculous. Malti is outwardly a cynic but she respects Kiran’s steadfast love for Ganga even as she tries to prove it is false. She is a softy under all the bling, spare hair and eyeliner. Despite his goody goody intentions, Kiran takes to iniquity like a duck to water.

Jalte Badan_drug cultureJalte Badan_the cure

Kuljeet (Kuljeet) is a sleazy sidekick to the Boss (Manmohan), Malti’s employer and owner of a club designed to get the kids drugged, fleeced and blackmailed.

Jalte Badan_off the railsJalte Badan_blind

They take advantage of Kiran’s complete inability to say no to anyone or anything. From then on the film is a parade of Kiran’s drug faces and poor decision making.

Jalte Badan_drug faces

Ganga and Malti are feisty and foxy B movie ladies, much more fun than any simpering good girl heroines. Both love Kiran and in their own ways do what they can to free him. Ganga comes to town to find him and is also lead to Boss’s lair.

Jalte Badan_Ganga and her dadJalte Badan_control your snake

Jalte Badan_Ganga and the BossJalte Badan_feisty

Where her snake clears the dancefloor, and she kicks the bejesus out of the boss. Her snake bhai Ganesh gives his life to save her which made me sad. A note on Kum Kum and the snakes – she is fearless! I know the snakes were probably defanged, but Ganesh (lead snake) often lunges at her and she never flinches, often making it seem like part of the scene. I would not have maintained my sangfroid in such circumstances.

Jalte Badan_Malti and KiranJalte Badan_always someone elses fault

Malti also takes things into her own hands and decides the Boss and the Boss’s Boss are not her kind of people after all. It is Ganga and Malti that eventually save the day and save the gormless Kiran.

Jalte Badan_you go girl

Girija (Alka) is a peripheral character but awesome. She is sold to the Boss by her addict brother and finds herself in the Pink Rape Room, the unwilling star in the Boss’s latest film production. She escapes after turning the tables on her ‘co-star’, and is then threatened with blackmail. Girija coolly tells the Boss that she doesn’t give a rats and he can publish the mildly indecent pictures of her if he wishes.

Jalte Badan_mummy and son at the shooting gallery

Almost no one in the film possesses any common sense. Kiran’s own mother (Sumati Gupta) takes him back to the club for an ‘injection’ as she can’t stand to see her son cry. He needs help because he has gone blind from the drugs so I do question the thinking. The ‘only in films’ medicine is quite remarkable.

Jalte Badan_fire in the discoRaza Murad plays student leader Shashikant and looks like he should be sensible. So I was slightly surprised to see him leading a mob complete with flaming torches as that seemed a tad dramatic for a dancefloor invasion. And I was not expecting a speedboat chase.

The Laxmikant Pyarelal soundtrack is groovy and melodic, although I never remember much about the songs. But they add a bit of unwarranted quality and I appreciated the drug freak out item interspersed with Ganga pining away in her (miniscule) virginal white outfit.

Will Jalte Badan change the mind of The Youth about recreational drugs? I don’t know but after looking at the interior design for a couple of hours, I needed a drink! 3 stars!

Chori Mera Kaam

A child is kidnapped, only to see the criminal Amarchand (Anwar Hussain) stymied by Inspector Kumar (Policeman PRAN!). Kidnapping was clearly Amarchand’s go to plan as before long, Inspector Kumar’s eldest son is also abducted. This tactic fails, as Pran announces he would sacrifice all of his children, not just one, to bring a crook to justice.

Oh dear, such a promise made to the filmi forces of fate can only mean bad news. Things happen, as they do, especially when guns, alcohol and revenge are involved. Young Munna is abducted, rescued, caught, menaced, rescued, abducted again and finally taken in by a thief called Mr John (David Abraham).

Years pass and Munna becomes Bholanath (Shashi Kapoor).

He leaves jail after a delivering a ‘fortunately/unfortunately’ style monologue that exercises his range of facial and vocal expressions. His on/off girlfriend Sharmilee (Zeenat Aman) gets out at the same time and this delightful Kalyanji Anandji song gives us a fly on the wall view of their daily rounds:

While Bhola has a heart of gold he isn’t the brightest crayon in the box, and gets by on charm more than planning. He understands people and can take advantage of their weakness and stupidity but he doesn’t ever seem to think too far ahead. Bhola has many of the traits of a stock filmi heroine and Shashi seems quite unselfconscious about playing dim and pretty. And yes, Shashi naysayers, I do think he was acting. He could have been dressed prettier though – the brown highpants are not good especially with the Kapoor thighs.

Sharmilee is smart and more practical, despite her predilection for ruffly outfits, and I never expected to see Zeenat stealing a chicken so that was noteworthy. Sharmilee has a sick father that she supports through her petty crimes, and she explains to him that her work is what takes her away. I liked this slight role reversal where the lady gets to come and go, citing ‘work’ and her responsibility as breadwinner. It isn’t a sustained element as she does get sidelined towards the finale, but it is fun to see the girl in charge for a while and Zeenat suits this kind of role. She directs Bhola during a break in and seems to coach him in what he needs to do to carry off a con.

Shashi and Zeenat have nice chemistry as the likeable criminals. They play out their scams with relish, and bounce dialogue back and forth with dash and enthusiasm. They also have some great outfits and Shashi scores some excellent shirts.

Escaping from the police after an attempted burglary, Bhola and Sharmilee make off with a briefcase which contains a manuscript called ‘Chori Mera Kaam’. They are spotted by the mysterious Shankar (Ashok Kumar), who has a history with Mr John and unbeknownst to Bhola, was instrumental in his early life. He also seems to be beloved by the wig department.

The obligatory comic relief  in this case is a protracted and very amusing scam involving Sharmilee being allegedly hit by a car ad killed. Pravinbhai (Deven Varma), the unfortunate driver is conned into paying compensation and digging a grave at the ruins near Borivili. By coincidence this is where Shankar hangs around. By an even more fortuitous coincidence, Pravin owns a publishing house.

Bhola becomes an overnight sensation, his illiteracy and lack of nous covered up by Shankar who blackmails Bhola and Sharmilee for a share of the proceeds. This manual on how to commit the perfect crime draws the attention of villains and the police. Amarchand aka arch-criminal Number 7 wants to find a mask maker as per page 165 of ‘Chori Mera Kaam’ so he can carry out even more heinous crimes. I love that the police seem totally mystified by how people keep getting away with crimes described in the book, although they also read it so surely they should be prepared. Number 7 does have an expensive looking lair to maintain, right down to the essential stuffed tiger, so I can imagine his cashflow was under some pressure.

And then the plot thickens.

There are cross and double cross manoeuvres, silly disguises and improbable schemes. So it’s all great fun but there is a pinch of substance. The film favours the ‘good’ criminals – those who steal because they are poor, have dependants and have no other means of making a livingl. These are the sympathetic and sentimentally appealing characters. Writer K A Narayan makes some observations about the hypocrisy of the wealthy educated criminal like Amarchand who has no such excuse for his choices.

Iftekhar as the Police Commissioner looks like he turned up on the wrong set but was too polite to just leave so stayed on and did his bit. I liked Ashok Kumar as a paunchy middle aged hero – he was smart, capable and took to the wigs with great enthusiasm.  Shetty made a flamboyant purple suited appearance so it was clear Number 7 had opted for the very best class of henchman. Raza Murad played Shyam, Pran’s policeman son, and didn’t get much to do apart from being a lot taller than anyone in his family. Urmila Bhatt’s small role as Amarchand’s independent and dignified wife was quite pivotal, and only once in her scenes did I yell ‘nooooooooo’ at the DVD.

Eventually Bhola finds out the truth about his parentage. His biological father and brother need help to clear their names and bring Amarchand to justice, and it’s a chance for the petty crim to change his fate. The final confrontation must have given director Brij food for thought – it involves Shashi, Ashok and Pran in disguise, rain, lots of mud, a tiger and a bucket.

You may imagine how these things combine to form a wacky but satisfying conclusion, or just go watch the film. 3 stars!

Doodh Ka Karz

I wanted to write something about the late Bob Christo as he was my first ‘That guy again!’ in Hindi films. He seemed to be in everything, often trying to kill Mithun which was considerate of him, and generally being menacing. I think I first noticed him as he was one of the small number of white guys that turned up over and over in a huge array of films. But later I started noticing the gleam in his eye as he flung himself around the set, pretending to be beaten half to death by the hero, and I enjoyed his apparent glee at being the baddest baddie. He played his villainous henchman roles with great enthusiasm and I always look out for his shiny bald head when the main villain appears.

Good friend and snake film aficionado jenni enthusiastically recommended this film. Several times. Her summary on BollyWhat was so persuasive. And now I ask myself – why did I wait so long? I can’t explain the story any better than jenni did, so with her kind permission I quote:

“OK.  The story goes something like this.  A snake charmer, who treats his snake as a son, witnesses the plunder of the local snake temple jewels.  He is then framed by the thieves (local thakurs one of whom is played by Amrish Puri of course) and is beaten to death.  The beating is witnessed by his wife (Aruna Irani), infant son and loyal snake.  It is left to the widow to build a pyre and perform the funerary rites as she contemplates her future as a destitute widow.  Loyal snake has accompanied them to the cremation and when the widow realises she is unable to care for him, along with herself and infant, she feeds him some breast milk, sings a song about him repaying the debt of her milk, then sends him away.  This part is really sad and the snake actually looks sad and lost and grief stricken as he leaves (and I cried).  Not a woman of forgiveness, the snake charmer’s wife then sets about avenging the death of her husband.   And she is still on task 25 years later.

By then, the boy has grown up to be Jackie Shroff (Suraj) and he falls in love with (you guessed it), the evil Thakur’s daughter (Neelam).  Loyal snake has returned to both protect (his family) avenge (his enemy), and pay the debt of the milk, just like his (human) mother would have hoped.  There is parental opposition (both sides) and romantic complication (both sides).  Also a corrupt priest who is handy with snake lore himself.  And Bob Christo in a smooth talking, double dealing,  diamond smuggling minor role.  And let’s not forget, the THRILLING SNAKE FILLED CLIMAX”

The Snake represents all that is good and moral and he is the hero of this film, regardless of what Jackie Shroff might think. Sadly, he was never named which seems remiss considering his important role. The Snake is loyal and protective, has sound family values and judging by the number of friends and relatives who turn up for the final showdown, he must have been a nice snake.

There was genuine emotion in some of The Snake’s scenes and I have to say the editing was outstanding in making it seem that The Snake was reacting to the drama around him. I also have a mental picture of some poor sod standing just out of shot, dangling a mouse or other tasty treat to get The Snake’s attention. And who knew that snakes could emote?

Sad Snake

Forgiving

Righteous

Judgemental teetotaller

There are always concerns about animals in films but I think the instructions to the snake wranglers went along the lines of ‘Chuck ‘em in and stand back’.  I am hoping that some fake snakery went on in a couple of scenes.  And the mongooses seemed quite chipper in their special appearance. Certainly more enthused than the mongoose wranglers were! I know I wouldn’t have lasted long as an extra on this film.

The human actors go about their supporting roles quite successfully, and I did find the story very engaging.  Aruna Irani nails the vengeful widow role and raises her human son to be as strong as iron, although takes her time in telling him why. The scene when snake and widow separated was quite moving, although I didn’t cry. Perhaps I was too startled seeing breast milk expressed on screen and in close-up. I did find myself singing along with the recurring title track though. Goga Kapoor and Raza Murad make an impression in their smallish roles.  Amrish Puri as the Thakur didn’t put up much of a fight before he was persuaded to turn to crime, and was a villain of the weak and greedy type rather than a creatively dressed megalomaniac. But the allure of the jewels was just too much for him as was the notion of taking the easy way out of his self created problems. And he is backed up by Prem Chopra so you just know how that’s going to work out.

My mind did wander a bit during the songs though as the only thing that seemed to happen was Jackie pawing at Neelam. And it’s a snake film so it’s mostly snake music and that can get a tad monotonous. Meanwhile The Snake was slithering the countryside in search of his father’s killer who he would recognise by a distinctive necklace. That’s something to think about before borrowing jewellery.

When Neelam is bitten by the vengeful loner, she faints gracefully and is spared the sight of Jackie sucking her toes to extract the venom. Dear reader, you will not be so lucky.

Bob Christo has a small yet pivotal role as a venal Englishman who represents all that is bad and stupid. He is a diamond smuggler called Angrezi Master so maybe the script writers had just given up on character names and it wasn’t an anti-snake thing. Bob wants the stolen temple jewels but is afraid of the snake that is reputed to protect the temple, and demands to be shown its corpse. Oh Bob. So many films and still messing with the gods…Finally, Bob has to decide what is more important to him.

The snake gave him a choice, and Bob chose wrong. I also learned that when white people are bitten by snakes, we turn green. This should be a very helpful diagnostic tool in future.

The snake filled climax is really filled with snakes. Bucketloads of snakes. The Snake may not have been wandering the woods alone for all those years. Here’s a little taste of the mayhem, with Bob doing some very fine acting:

I have to say, I really enjoyed Doodh ka Karz. I like a good snake revenge film, and this is very snake-centric and vengeful. Ashok Gaikwad kept the story and editing pacey and there is stuff happening all over the place so there is never a dull moment. There is pathos in the snake charmer family scenes, and Aruna Irana is excellent. The only thing missing was a proper snake dance. This is a great ripping yarn, and a fun way to remember Bob Christo. 3 and ½ stars!

Edited to add: Here is a link to Beth’s round-up of ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’ posts. Go have a look!

http://bethlovesbollywood.blogspot.com/2011/04/bobs-your-uncle-late-great-bob-christo.html