Baghdad Thirudan (1960)

Baghdad_Thirudan

The opening credits play over an orchestral overture, jaunty and melodic, setting the scene for an adventure in the magical land of exotic fairytale cliche. Baghdad Thirudan is in the style of a Hollywood swashbuckler, and T.P Sundaram directs this rollicking yarn written by A.S. Muthu.

The film is on Youtube in pretty poor quality and without subtitles. There is no shortage of plot, but once you identify the Goodies and the Baddies (not hard) the story is easy enough to follow and bounds from incident to episode with great spirit. There is the kingdom that must be restored to rights, justice for the oppressed masses (maybe), a love triangle of sorts, DIY special effects and stunts, abundant songs and lots of excellent outfits.

Baghdad-Thirudan-Helen probably

The action opens with HELEN! Or someone who looks a lot like HELEN! She dances and a gaudily dressed man (T.S. Balaiah) can barely keep his hands off her. He and his wife scheme to depose the king and queen and take over the kingdom. He really has no impulse control.

Baghdad-Thirudan-S N Lakshmi

The king and queen are captured and the maid taking their baby son to safety has to get past…a leopard! She actually fights and kills a leopard barehanded. Without mussing up her outfit. But that’s not all. She duels with soldiers with the baby still tucked under her arm – finally being stabbed in the back and dropping the baby from a tower into the waiting arms of a fellow retainer who completed the rescue and drew the pursuit away. Awesome stuff. I read that actress S.N. Lakshmi was afraid of the leopard (and of cats in general) but still had to get in there without the luxury of a stunt double.  The baby (who never stops screaming, making stealth next to impossible) is eventually discovered and adopted by a group of people who are either forest dwelling thieves or a socialist dairy farming collective.

Baghdad-Thirudan-birthmark

They thoughtfully provide a clear view of his significant birthmark. Meanwhile baddies, assisted by their mole in the palace (S.A. Asokan) obtain an imposter baby to raise as the prince and legitimise their takeover as regents who will never retire.

The baby grows up to become Ali (MGR), a Robin Hood figure of laconic charm. He crosses paths with Zarina who is also a thief. Hijinks ensue as he tries to steal back his takings and Zarina matches him move for move in a game of wits. While trying to evade Ali’s pursuit she is mistaken for a dancing girl by the Pretend Prince, leading to a flimsy excuse for Zarina to dance for her life.  Which is absolutely excellent since she is played by Vyjayanthimala.  Not a purist classical number by any stretch of the imagination – but Vyjayanthimala dances with her customary precision and strength. MGR confines himself to comedic fumbling, posing as her backing musician along with his sidekick (T.R Ramachandran).

Ali sets up an accident so he can rescue the Pretend Princess (M.N Rajan). She is quite full of herself and the wrong kind of sparks fly.  But when he duels his way to freedom she is so impressed by his swordsmanship that the other kinds of sparks are evident, at least on her side.

Zarina seems to be living with a thief master type who demands she hand over money each day or else. He sells her at auction and Ali (in a bad disguise) buys her.  She doesn’t see through the face putty and tries to escape but is foiled – luckily his moustache falls off during a song and she realises she is not unhappy at all. However there are other baddies at large and one day, she is taken prisoner and used as a target for axe throwing practice. Zarina often gets herself out of trouble, but when she can’t she is fortunate to have the ever vigilant Ali.

But Ali is still wooing Pretend Princess, a woman of nasty temperament and a love of hats (even her maid is suitably bedizened). She shows him a secret treasure box hidden behind a door of spears and concealed in a fireplace. With all that security it must be something good! He ties her up – maybe just for fun – but then seems to tell her who he really is and gags her as she screams for guards and he escapes. Theirs is a crazy mixed up kind of relationship thing. The box contained the antidote for poison that had been spread into the water supply. So rather than being a duplicitous flirt it seems Ali was taking one for the team. He saves the people! And marries Zarina! So much to be happy about, and yet so much time left for things to go wrong.

I liked Ali and Zarina. They had a nice dynamic in their relationship, and while Ali was clearly The Hero who would save the day, Zarina wasn’t dumbed down. She wasn’t very skilled with a sword, but she would still have a go at hacking her way through guards and other obstacles. It was nice to see the couple so playful and happy to be together, and the actors’ rapport came through in their less fraught scenes. I think the secret of their happiness might just have been that MGR refrains from much dancing and wisely lets Vyjayanthimala do the choreographic  heavy lifting. MGR has a nonchalance that makes Ali likeable and not too overbearing. He does leap onto the soapbox and speechify a bit, which suits Ali’s character as the man of the people, but he isn’t too pompous. Vyjayanthimala gives Zarina feisty energy with a resilient core, a good match for MGR.

Baghdad-Thirudan-bloomers

In the latter part of the film he changes his look and gives up the fez and harem pants in favour of jolly little Elizabethan style breeches so that was amusing.

The Pretend Princess allows herself to be kidnapped with an eye to getting her claws on Zarina. Zarina ends up in the dungeon but Ali gets wind of her situation. There is much plotting, and a wonderful Batman-esque wall ‘climb’ to rescue Zarina that has MGR using all his overacting skills.

Not to be out-emoted,  Zarina paints his portrait in blood as she sings a dirge. And the baddies celebrate I’m not sure what exactly with a big tribal production number featuring Gopi Krishna.

The final action sequence takes place in almost every room of the palace.

Baghdad-Thirudan-clockwork thingie

There is an excellent pointless clockwork contraption that can have no function other than being a Masala Death Trap.

Baghdad-Thirudan-Princess and Zarina

The Pretend Princess is delighted to find out that Ali is the real prince, and fancies she is in with a chance at keeping her tiara and getting her man. Will he forget Zarina? As if!

See this for the vintage charm, the ripping story that requires little analysis, and the pleasure of seeing MGR and Vyjayanthimala take on all comers and emerge victorious. 3 1/2 stars!

Baghdad-Thirudan-the end

Trip to Moon (1967)


trip-to-moon_1967
Chand Par Chadayee
or Trip to Moon is a 1967 space opera featuring Dara Singh and Anwar Hussain along with a bevy of lovelies (Ratna, Padma Khanna, Helen, Kanchanamala to name a few). Director T.P Sundaram didn’t let lack of technology or the laws of science stop him. On those rare occasions when Dara Singh takes a break from wrestling, there are loads of fab songs by Usha Khanna.
It’s a long but engaging interplanetary caper complete with super special effects. Well done to Neo Filmo Crafts (credited with the set properties) and the design team! And yes, there will be lots of screencaps.

I saw this on an unsubtitled VCD so I have made up a lot of the story but I do not feel a void where the details were missed. I wish there had been a void where the ‘Friends’ logo obscured much of the picture.

Trip to Moon_eminent scientistTrip to Moon_Padma

Eminent scientist fellow (S Nazir I think) leaves the top secret research tent to follow a bright light – clearly a torch in someone’s hand as they run behind the papier mache rocks. He is taken aback when a vampy lady appears and sings a typical filmi nightclub song, and also surprised when she transforms into Padma Khanna as a moon girl with a ray gun. There is a nice touch of Marvin the Martian at Christmas about her outfit. He is abducted in a cardboard spaceship and never seen again.
In response, the government calls on their best agent – Captain Anand (Dara Singh). You know he is the best man for the job because he wanders around the office wearing this:

Trip to Moon_Anand at the office
After thoughtfully going home to tell his Ma he is off to space on a mission, he and unfortunate comic sidekick Bhagu (Master Bhagwan) arrive at their own cardboard spaceship only to find moon men trying to sabotage it – by pushing it over. The fight begins like this:

Trip to Moon_at the rocket site
And ends like this:

Trip to Moon_after the fight
And that establishes an enduring costuming theme.
Anand and Bhagu are taken to the Moon (where they were going anyway) as prisoners.

Trip to Moon_its a trapTrip to Moon_Barahatu and the balcony of destruction

They pass by another planetary base (maybe Mars) where Barahatu (Anwar Hussain) fires missiles from his balcony. Fancy flying – hard when you’re piloting something as aerodynamic as a cupcake- sees the ship safely to the moon where Anand meets Shimoga (Ratna).

Trip to Moon_Ratna and balloon treesTrip to Moon_matching outfits 1

The moon has balloon trees! After a bit of slow motion moonwalk (the Neil Armstrong kind), the locals put special anti-comedy soles on the Earthmen’s boots and they can walk normally.
Anand and Bhagu are jailed and forced to wear matching romper suits.

Trip to Moon_Shimoga visits the prisonersTrip to Moon_Space gorilla

Shimoga visits Anand in jail but he refuses to cooperate. After a tribunal hearing of some sort, Anand is sentenced to trial by Space Gorilla Wrestling, followed by being dragged by (space) horses. Of course Anand wins, and Princess Shimoga is delighted.
It turns out Barahatu wants to marry Shimoga and is at war with the Moon people. Space becomes just a backdrop for a standard two guys fighting over a girl story. There is also a fair amount of moon lady interest in Captain Anand and they are not shy about showing their mettle.

Trip to Moon_Dance offTrip to Moon_dance off 2

Dance offs including that thing where they make a portrait with their feet!

Trip to Moon_Duel

DUELS!

There is double crossing, slapstick, jetpacks, kidnapping, guys in animal suits, more kidnapping, robots and fights galore. People casually hop in and out of rockets and nip across space with no more effort than catching a taxi. It all plays out as you would expect although not always exactly as logic might dictate.

Trip to Moon_matching outfits 2Trip to Moon_Dara and Padma
Among many highlights, Dara wears some fetching outfits. He has many many many wrestling scenes.

Trip to Moon_space rhinoTrip to Moon_robot
Some are more surprising than others.

Trip to Moon_Barahatu and Shimoga
Barahatu is not totally evil. He seems to want Shimoga to like him, or at least accept marriage (I think). Unfortunately he takes advice from Master Bhagwan( in a duplicate role as Barahatu’s comedy sidekick) so success is not likely. He gets Helen in to do the twist, in a mistaken belief that what gets him in the mood will work on her.

Trip to Moon_photo1Trip to Moon_photo2
And I enjoyed this photoshop effort when Barahatu was having a tantrum over Anand and Shimoga getting cosy.

Trip to Moon_Shimoga and AnandTrip to Moon_space dance

The lovely Shimoga (Ratna) also has lots of fetching outfits and makes the most of the fab Usha Khanna soundtrack. Shimoga is a determined young lady so she doesn’t just sit around waiting to be rescued. She goes after Anand and I think points out that if he marries her he can ensure peace between worlds, but whatever.

Trip to Moon_SimiTrip to Moon_bad girl
Padma Khanna is lots of fun as Simi, the scheming sidekick to Barahatu. She seems keen on Anand and wants to help Barahatu get Shimoga so she can swoop on the lone earth man. I may have made that up but she did seem to take extra care when drugging him unconscious. She kidnapped Anand’s mother and sister so that may have hurt her prospects. But really – her ‘disguise’ screamed bad girl so Ma should have been suspicious.

Trip to Moon_Palki and her menagerie

She shares a lot of scenes with Palki (Kanchanamala). Poor Palki ends up married to Bhagu and is instrumental in saving the world. It’s tough being a female sidekick in space, even if you do get to keep a zoo in your bathroom (or at least a lion and a leopard). She and Simi have a knock down drag out scrag fight in a pivotal scene. They really tried to get wrestling in as much as possible.

Trip to Moon_Master BhagwanTrip to Moon_Bhagu
Bhagu gets silly hats and a comedy song with excellent outfits. Master Bhagwan is fairly amusing but the slapstick was repetitive and the film is already a bit too long. But I liked that he and Anand depended on each other and he helped more than he hindered.
The Moon King gets some great outfits too.

Trip to Moon_KingTrip to Moon_King in his club clothes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The set design is charming in that almost everything looks like it was designed to be in another film –a nightclub, a grand house, a castle dungeon, an office chair – but they tried very hard to ‘space’ it up. I really loved Anand’s secret space hideout.

Trip to Moon_Moon rocket baseTrip to Moon_control roomTrip to Moon_the ships controlsTrip to Moon_technology 2Trip to Moon_technologyTrip to Moon_secret hideout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Moon is highly entertaining even if the fights are repetitive. T.P Sundaram gave Dara Singh a range of wrestling scenarios and wasn’t stingy with the song and dance either. If you enjoy films with likeable characters, good music, a dedicated hat department and lots of miniature spaceships and buildings, this is for you! 3 stars!

Trip to Moon_happy ending