Aaj Ka Goonda Raj

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Aaj Ka Goonda Raj is a Hindi remake of Chiranjeevi’s Telugu blockbuster, Gang Leader. The dishoom sound effects are quite subdued by Telugu standards but Chiru’s hair is even bigger than a regulation police hat and he goes all out in the action and dances.

Raja (Chiranjeevi) is an unemployed specimen and lives with his grandmother (Dina Pathak), brothers Ravi (Raj Babbar) and Amar (Parikshit Sahni), and Amar’s wife (Sudha). He dreams of being Robin Hood, but is more likely to get into a scuffle with the police on the way to the disco than righting any larger scale wrongs.

Admire his awesome moves, even as you may recoil at the sweat flicking and floor humping. Plus bonus Ravi Teja!

Raja takes a job to evict a squatter – Shalu (Meenakshi Sheshadri). She turns up at his house spinning a sob story, looking to move in. His family turn on him of course and take Shalu’s side, or at least feel they need to protect a poor defenceless girl all alone in the world blah blah blah.

Raja agrees to go to jail over a car accident to protect the driver, a father trying to marry his daughter off. Or something. He gets paid for the time served and the cash helps Golden Boy Ravi take the exams for whatever he wants to be. The father (Satish Shah) is actually the jailer. Oh so filmi. Raja is treated well while he is a jailbird. Except that they let Shalu in to see him as she says she is his wife so I think they failed in their duty of care towards him, although I admire her persistence and the power of her imagination. Who says Mass films are simplistic? I get conflicted all over the place.

Reluctant hero and pushy heroine can be very amusing or not at all, and this is a bit too slapstick for my taste. But once Shalu stops just obsessing about Raja she gets a lot more interesting and Meenakshi seems more comfortable in the role. She and Chiru have nice chemistry and Meenakshi certainly gives him a run for his money in the songs and in the drama.

Raja can’t win as he is criticised for not working and then berated when he does. His family love him but despair of him ever getting his life sorted out. He occasionally impersonates his deceased grandfather who ostensibly appears to ask Grandma to go easy on the boy. It’s all silly but the family are there for each other when it counts.

Amar sees something he shouldn’t and villain Tejpal (Prem Chopra) has him eliminated. Tejpal’s pet police officer Saxena (Dalip Tahil) has been trying to get Raja out of the way for most of the film, and finally marries his sister Ritu (Geetha) to Ravi. She is tasked with tearing the brothers asunder, but sorely underestimates the power of filmi bro-dom and the effect on her own psyche of being around decent human beings.

Finally Tejpal and his weirdo sidekick (a very creepy Sharat Saxena) stage a fatal accident using Raja’s taxi, and his friends. Raja goes to trial and is devastated to see what happened to his poor harmless mates.

Raja escapes, thanks to Shalu driving the getaway car and looking striking in huge puffy yellow sleeves. She tells him her sad story of how Tejpal killed her mother and then she shoots Raja’s handcuffs off. Most of Raja’s family are useful in a fight and Shalu gets in there, boots and all too. No one waits for Raja when they can do something for themselves, so the final confrontation is epic and random and had me cheering them all on. I do love a needlessly complex plan and the film obliges.

Apart from the murdering aspect (because it is wrong, even when Chiru is doing it), I liked that Raja simply stepped back and let Shalu deal with Tejpal. He didn’t take her revenge from her or make his own need for justice more important than hers. And anyway, he had Saxena so there was plenty of vengeance to go round.

Despite all the death and mayhem, it’s quite a cheerful and upbeat film for the most part. The songs are not as good as Gang Leader but they are filmed well and I can never be unhappy with Chiru dancing on giant props.

Aaj Ka Goonda Raj-Dragon

Side note: This wall decoration is in several Telugu films and now turns up here. Was it a common item in that day, or did some poor set dresser lug it around from house to house?

This was Chiranjeevi’s second Hindi film. It is hardly a stretch for Chiru but might have been a bit confronting for the mainstream Hindi film audiences of the day. I mean, he can actually dance. Mithun would have been spewing to have his moves put to shame so easily. And the action is energetic and athletic and a bit brutal although there is less fake blood than I recall in the original. It’s a good vehicle for him as it retains the mass flavour of the original and his heroics need no tweaking to be transplanted to Bombay. Sadly, I don’t think Bollywood was ready for this jelly. And that is their loss, as there was a golden opportunity for less of this:

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And more of this:

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See this for a ripping yarn of family and revenge, Chiranjeevi at possibly peak mullet, and Meenakshi as a feisty heroine. Then go watch Gang Leader! 3 ½ stars!

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Tum Mere Ho (1990)

Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla and snakes? Sounds like an excellent Nag Panchami Film Fesssstival subject. The film is pretty terrible, but is almost always So Bad It’s Good, and the songs are quite pleasing in both snakey choreography and energy. It may have lost something in translation due to the dodgy quality youtube version with no subs that I watched, but I doubt it.

It seems of late that Aamir has distanced himself from his pre-Lagaan career. But I say let him be known for his heroic role as Shiva the hairy-chested snake charmer who saves his lady love Paro (oh so young and pretty Juhi) from a crazed Snake Queen (Kalpana Iyer).

The film opens with Thakur Chaudhary attempting to steal a Naag Mani by using a very flawed contraption. In the process, he kills a snake and draws the ire of the Snake Queen on his own household.

 

She declares that as he killed her child, she will kill his. And off she goes and bites the young lad as he sleeps.

The weeping parents, with the Snake Queen laughing at their grief, put their son’s corpse on a little raft arrangement, and he is sent off on the currents of the river. Of course he washes up at the feet of the one man who can reverse a death by snake bite. The child lives and grows up to become Shiva (Aamir). He learns to use magical powers that involve him waving a bone and a skull around, and doing lots of fist clenching emoting.

 

He has his uncle, his snakes, a daft sidekick, and is being pursued by the village skank belle. He also has a waistcoat with a snake motif for special occasions.

Everything a boy needs!

Shiva goes into the village for some reason, possibly to deliver a snake, and sees Paro at the fair. He impresses her with his snake, and she is immediately full of dreams of love as well as thoughts of garam garam jalebis and thandi thandi kulfi.

 

My Hindi vocabulary is small and selective so I may not have captured all the nuances of her romantic fantasy. Paro is the daughter of local bigwig Chaudhary Charanjit Singh and is out of Shiva’s league.

No one wants these youngsters to get together and this leads into not entirely boring Romeo and Juliet territory. I was concerned the snake theme may dissipate, but Shiva uses snakes as part of his courtship ritual which was an interesting approach. Paro can’t stop thinking about him, his snake, and possibly those jalebis and so love blooms.

They’re so young! So pretty! He’s in a floral blouse!

Romance blossoms despite Paro’s father arranging attacks on Shiva using black sorcery, beatings and guns.

 

Of course, merely locking Shiva in his room cannot keep them apart, not while clever snake Naga Raj is there to unlock the door.

Shiva’s people want to keep him away from Paro too as they can see she is trouble for their boy.

Shiva and Paro scamper around the forest looking like the poster children for young love and carefree premarital fumbling.

Until the revelation that Paro has been married since she was 3 years old to some unseen Rajput scion. Guess who that boy was? Sigh. Shiva has to perform at her wedding (oh the tragedy!) before Paro is sent to live a widow’s (I’m guessing the widow bit as she wore white, no sindoor, and cried non-stop so it was quite funereal anyway) life at her in-laws and mopes around a lot.

Note: Re the village belle –  Despite her clothing usually erring on the correct side of the fabric to flesh ratio for a snake, she does fail other snake tests and is a Fake Snake.

Anyway Paro’s change of address propels Shiva back to his family home and into Snake Queen territory. He does a lot of pining and trying to lure Paro out with his snake music, which is just asking for trouble.

Naga Raj saves his human from the Snake Queen which made me wonder about the Snake Code and what did a snake have to do for other snakes to turn against it, and did they have to show just cause if they were opposing a more powerful creature?  And also, what were her responsibilities towards lesser snakes? Was she justified in attacking them? It raised so many questions.

I did like this song where the Snake Queen impersonates Juhi, but is caught out by her excessive accessories (compared to the pristine white of the real Paro). She misses a couple of easy bites. I really had to question this whole selective bite placement thing that filmi snakes seem to have.

It emerges that the uncle snake charmer knows Shiva’s real identity. Shiva’s father rejects the idea as some attempt at magic although I wondered if that was really to protect his son given that the vengeful snake was likely to still be around. All unaware of this peril, Shiva and Paro return to the forest and I think they sort of get married. Wedding rituals in the snake charmer village seemed quite straightforward, and there was a robust approach to courtship. Basically, if you can catch your person and subdue them, you’re as good as married.

Having set Naga Raj to wait outside (after a bit of a chat about the privacy required on one’s wedding night), Aamir and Juhi are alone. He does lots of nuzzling and she looks like she has passed out. But the Snake Queen takes the opportunity to attack.

 

Can Shiva’s magical powers save Paro? Will there be flying snakes? Will it involve a ritual both very silly and slightly icky? Will someone go up in a ball of flames? Will people just learn how to get along? What do you think? (If you really have to know, I can’t help you thanks to Shemaroo – who don’t care enough to release decent quality DVDs but will stop you watching this on youtube. Sigh)

This is not a good film but I was entertained enough and don’t regret the time spent. I can’t say that for every film I see! Tahir Hussain hasn’t created a masterpiece but he has made a pretty solid snake revenge romance. The soundtrack by Anand-Milind is pleasant, and there is some nicely energetic dancing. And you know, Aamir, Juhi and those snakes. 2 ½ stars!