Hum (1991)

The late director Mukul S. Anand made 3 films with Amitabh Bachchan in the early nineties; Agneepath, Khuda Gawah and Hum. Although my favourite is Khuda Gawah I do have a soft spot for Hum which has a veritable who’s who of actors from the time including Rajnikanth, Govinda, Kimi Katkar, Anupam Kher and Danny Dengzongpa. The story combines the angry young man from Amitabh’s heyday with the sensible and authoritarian father figure he went on to portray in his later movies  and he does a good job of transitioning between the two personas. The film was a big hit at the time, and although it does drag a little in the middle, it’s still a great performance by Amitabh as the man whose past comes back to haunt him.

The movie starts as fairly typical masala fare. All round bad guy Bakhtawar (Danny Denzongpa) rules over the docks in Mumbai, treating his workers as slaves and killing anyone who dares to go against his despotic will. Despite his general dissatisfaction with this regime, Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan) extorts money from the workers for his father Pratap (Deepak Shirke), who in turn works as an enforcer for Bakhtawar and struggles to keep the peace between his son and his employer.

Tiger is in love with Jumma (Kimi Katkar) and the two have a rather stormy relationship, although we don’t get to see very much of them on-screen together. During one rebellion Tiger’s best friend Gonsalves (Romesh Sharma) is killed by Bakhtawar and in the subsequent fall-out Tiger’s father and step-mother also die, leaving two young step-brothers in Tiger’s charge.

Tiger immediately sets out to kill Bakhtawar in revenge but is stopped by Inspector Girdhar (Anupam Kher) who has his own agenda, and has set up the whole situation by playing Gonsalves and his revolutionaries against Bakhtawar and his gang of thugs. Girdhar intercepts Tiger and convinces him to fulfil his dying step-mother’s wish and take care of his young brothers while leaving the police to deal with Bakhtawar. In the confusion Girdhar and his faithful sidekick Havaldar Arjun Singh break into Bakhtawar’s safe and steal everything. To cover up their crime they set fire to Bakhtawar’s house, killing his wife and children in the process. At the same time they arrest Bakhtawar and send him to jail, while finally Girdhar blows up the train carrying Tiger and his brothers to eliminate any possible witnesses of his crime.

It’s all action in the first half of the film! Amitabh plays his classic role of the angry young man as only he can, even though he looks his age here and actually looks older than his supposed father and step-mother. But there is so much emotion and energy behind the character that apart from moments where the angled lighting shows up the wrinkles, it easy to put aside disbelief and accept Tiger as the slightly tarnished but still heroic saviour of the poor.

The first half of the film also features Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s classic song Jumma Chumma De De. Chinni Prakash won the Filmfare award for best choreographer in 1992 for his work on this. I’m not sure why the men have mugs of foam, although I presume it’s meant to represent beer and the water hose does seem a little excessive, but do enjoy what is actually a good song.

The second half of the film shows an older Tiger (we can tell because he now wears spectacles) who goes by the name of Shekhar and is a respectable farmer and timber merchant in Ooty. Kumar (Rajnikanth) is a police officer and is married to Aarti (Deepa Sahi) with a young daughter Jyoti. The youngest brother Vijay (Govinda) is a student pursuing Anita (Shilpa Shirodkar), the beautiful daughter of General Rana Pratap Singh (Kader Khan). Neither of the two brothers seems to have any memory of their time in Mumbai and both regard their step-brother as a rather staid and authoritarian figure, whose rules they generally ignore.

Meanwhile, Jumma has managed to overcome her early life and is now a successful actress while Girdhar and Havaldar are living well on their stolen riches and selling tanks from their base in Bombay.

The middle part of the film tends to drag as it concentrates on the unity of the family and a rather involved romance track with Vijay and Anita slows the pace considerably. There is an unconvincing and unnecessary thread where Girdhar finds a duplicate General as the original has refused to buy his tanks and the whole character of the renegade Captain Attack would have been best avoided.. But things pick up when Bakhtawar is released from jail, still wearing his now rather grimy white suit, desperate for revenge on Tiger for the death of his family. As Shekhar’s past catches up with him, everyone ends up in Bangalore together before somehow managing to get back to the Bombay docks in record time for an exciting and action packed showdown.

There are some things that are just never explained. Why there is a giant stuffed dodo in the army officers’ lounge, or a type of puffer fish above the bar we will never know.

Amitabh suits the role of the older Shekhar much better as he finally looks the correct age. His realisation that his somewhat shady past has finally caught up to Shekhar is brilliantly portrayed and the re-emergence of his Tiger character is excellent. Who knew that all it takes to become an efficient and competent fighter again is a shake of the head and a tiger’s roar! While Rajnikanth has a limited role as Kumar, the scenes where he faces off with Shekhar are excellent and the two actors are very natural together. Govinda is good as the more innocent Vijay, but as his character is there more to add comedy and some light-hearted romance he makes less of an impact. However he does have the best ever disco dance/fight scene and I do like his Crocodile Dundee inspired outfit.

Danny Denzongpa can always be relied on as a villain and here he brings depth and character to the role of Bakhtawar. He contrasts the money obsessed businessman with scenes of the family man, although even here his basic nastiness is still clear. As the revenge obsessed ex-prisoner his conviction that Tiger is still alive somewhere is perfectly shown as the driving force behind his increasingly agitated behaviour. The whole character of Bakhtawar is very well written and I like the way flashbacks to his family’s deaths help humanise him and make Bakhtawar more three-dimensional than the typical Hindi film villain.

Anupam Kher’s Girdhar is a much more buffoonish character and although his initial scenes as the police inspector are good and at times almost menacing, he becomes more irritating and cartoonish as the film progresses.  Deepa Sahi is the best of the actresses and also has the most convincing role as Kumar’s wife. Her attempts to look after the entire family struck a chord, although I wouldn’t have been as happy as she is to be fobbed off with the very annoying song that the family sing together at opportune moments. The music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal is generally good, although apart from Jumma Chumma De De none of it is particularly memorable.

This is a masala film that reaches back to some of the classic Amitabh films of the early eighties and he delivers a great performance throughout. Although there are some flaws in the film, particularly in the middle section, there are plenty of great action scenes and excellent performances from the rest of the cast. Worth watching for Amitabh and Danny Denzongpa who steal the show. 3 ½ stars.

Temple says:

On paper, this looks like it should be really good. It has a great cast and many of the required masala elements. And I really like a good socialist masala. Sadly, it fails to live up to that promise on almost every count. Mukul S Anand directs with a leaden hand and what little zest resides in the story is overwhelmed by clunky plotting and some poor casting.

Amitabh didn’t really convince me as Tiger – not just on his physical appearance, but his performance. He had some great moments, especially when Tiger was just hanging around shooting the breeze or drunkenly trying to warn Jumma’s brother, but he sometimes looked like he was just going through the motions of his patented Angry Young Man. Shekhar suited Amitabh’s air of authority, but was so relentlessly dour. Rajnikanth is cast as an airhead policeman, too dumb to know if the gun he lets his daughter play with is loaded. He just isn’t frivolous enough, and Kumar doesn’t get much to do. Rajnikanth and Amitabh share a nice rapport, but what a waste of a fine actor. Govinda’s role was totally unnecessary and I wondered if Vijay was added in just to have a dancer in the cast. Kimi Katkar is introduced by having her chest heave into view and that is all you need to know about Jumma. The only thing I recall about Deepa Sahi is a scene where she apologises for her inability to cope with the brothers’ demands and they basically reassure her that she’ll get better at housework with practice. There is a terrible family song, and many trite ‘together we five fingers make a fist’ speeches. I’d rather be an orphan! Danny Denzongpa is excellent but Bakhtawar is sidelined for the middle of the film so the best bad guy is largely missing. Anupam Kher is both comic relief and villain, and does neither well. The comedy track is hammy and misguided, and he doesn’t portray Girdhar with enough menace. The plot goes off the rails a bit when Girdhar carries the story and Anupam Kher’s performance does nothing to help the situation.

Hum is tedious and ponderous where it needed to be a fizzy blend of melodrama, action and humour. It’s a sad misuse of some excellent talent and resources. 2 stars.

Sheshnaag

Sheshnaag is an excellent masala snakefest starring Jeetendra and Rekha, with a starry supporting cast and the added delight of Danny Denzongpa as the EVIL Aghoori. The Laxmikant Pyarelal soundtrack is mostly snake dance related, which means lots of snaky dancing! And I think director KR Reddy captured a vintage feel with Sheshnaag which doesn’t seem like a film released in 1990.

Allow Aghoori to describe his origins as a creation of the devil and show you around his cave:

 

 

My DVD has the worst picture quality but the most marvellous subtitles. Aghoori is hunting a nagin couple, Pritam and Banu, who unlock a treasure trove every lunar eclipse using amazing special effects.

They give the wealth to the needy and hold the key to immortality. Aghoori is obsessed with power and filled with venom, determined to become more powerful than the gods.

Identifying the snakes in this film is very easy as they are a) not shy and b) one of them is Jeetendra (ref The Jeetendra Effect).

While this epic battle between good and bad is being waged, there is evil afoot in the human domain. Champa (Rekha) is left to look after her mentally backward brother Bhola (Rishi Kapoor) and her horrible husband (Anupam Kher) after her father dies. Bhola is protective of all animals including snakes and he can charm any animal by playing his flute. He falls afoul of Aghoori’s henchman when he saves the female snake Banu (Madhavi), thus winning her gratitude. Champa’s husband wagers her mangalsutra and then her person in a game of cards – he is really vile. After calling on Krishna to help her escape a rape attempt, she runs away and leaps from a cliff to escape her pursuers. Just as I was bemoaning an appalling under-utilisation of Rekha, Banu uses her powers to transform into a replica of Champa and come to Bhola’s aid to repay her debt. They move into a nicely decorated mansion with excellent snaky decor and are set for the good life.

 

Jeetendra joins the household as a servant so he can be close to his wife and help look after Bhola. The rest of the story is then a crazy race to see if Aghoori will take over the world.

I really disliked Rishi’s acting, character and storyline in this. Bhola’s under-developed intelligence would have been challenging for any actor, but Rishi just opted for flattening his hair and mugging for the camera.

There is a romance track for him, as Kamini (Mandakini – not a snake despite those eyes and some questionable outfits) is driven into his arms by a startling bear attack. She’s a hunting, shooting type of gal from a family of animal hide dealers but clearly life had not prepared her for finding a small person in a bear suit humping her leg.

It doesn’t seem to be a good match, and Bhola’s utter stupidity doesn’t help matters. If you knew someone wanted to hunt game, would you call more of your animal friends to stand in front of the armed lunatics? Honestly. It’s a revolting episode and apart from all the fake blood pouring from animals, I think Rishi stepped on a pigeon for real. Bhola wins Kamini over with his gormless vapidity, and takes from her intended, a creepy gun toting cousin.  He swaggers around, confident that his sister will always protect him. When Jeetendra decides to make Bhola a warrior to protect everyone…well I’m sure you can imagine. Beth queried whether headbutting clay pots was a documented snake fighting technique. I suspect the technique was chosen as Bhola’s head was solid wood.

Rekha is a powerful actor and being a vengeful snake allowed her to unleash her forceful side. I question whether it was really worth jeopardising your immortality and powers just to save a backward fool. On the plus side she gets some awesome outfits. I preferred Madhavi’s dancing, but Rekha does handle the venom spitting (her venom strips paint) with aplomb and has mastered The Look.

 

Banu/Champa’s resolve and certainty drives much of the action and she takes responsibility for her family in both her human and snake roles. When Bhola drags her human husband back and expects Champa to accept him, she is unrelenting and cold despite the combined anger of the men.

I mentioned Bhola was annoying? Even allowing for times and morality having changed, how could anyone demand someone they love take back into their household a man who brutalised and humiliated them? It’s all wrong, and not helped by the bad acting. Rishi was lucky he had Anupam Kher in the same cast as it makes Bhola look marginally better. Anyway. Back to the snakes.

 

Rekha’s scenes with Jeetendra are sometimes quite touching as Banu/Champa is aware of the consequences of committing to helping the idiot human, and knows they are in danger from Aghoori too. They also get some more of those special effects. When (WHY?) she decides to sacrifice herself to save Bhola I was quite upset. WHY REKHA WHY???

Jeetendra is there. He really doesn’t have all that much to do apart from dancing, flying, biffo, biting, duelling and housework. He is not the dominant snake in the marriage and I think it’s safe to say that Madhavi/Rekha wears the lurex pants in the relationship. I swear he’d never seen a broom until this film, and he seems to torment Bhola more than he does anything else in that household. Jeetendra got some excellent snake powers including an array of coloured lighting effects and a unique fighting style.

 

His first fight with Aghoori is hilarious, and he also has a nice line in venom spitting (his is flammable).  His dancing…He is not good at partnering the ladies in their dancing. Luckily they seem to manage to navigate around him. He also did an interpretative vengeful Snake Dance which was memorable.

Madhavi had a much smaller presence in the film than Rekha, but her dancing is lovely and she had some fabulous snaky accessories.

She and Jeetendra employed a fighting style that involved jabbing the victim with their fingers rather than biting so I think maybe they had venomous manicures.  The outfits for all the snakes really are worth a look.

 

Danny Denzongpa owns the film. He is insanely evil and in cackling good form as Aghoori. I loved this performance and I cheered extra loud when Aghoori sent Bhola flying with a few well placed kicks. Not everything an evil person does is necessarily bad!

And what happens? I really can’t say. But I do give the film 3 1/2 stars!

Dabangg

Masala is back in Bollywood! Oh yes!

After what seems to be far too long, here is a Hindi film with all the elements we fell for in the first place – songs, melodrama, romance, over the top fight scenes,  good guys, bad guys and lots and lots of explosions.

Salman plays Chulbul Pandey, a somewhat corrupt cop, but one who loves his mother – so we know at heart he must be a good person.  Chulbul’s widowed mother Naina, in an small but significant role by Dimple Kapadia, married Prajapati Pandey (Vinnod Khanna).  Together they have a son who Prajapati favours over his step-son Chulbul. Our hero grows up feeling like an outsider and determines that when he is older, he will be the one with all the power and influence.

Fast forward 20 years where Chulbul is now a police officer with enough money to buy and sell his step-father many times over (that moderate corruption we mentioned), and a rather thin moustache.

Chulbul has a strained relationship with his step-father and spineless, self-centered step-brother Makkhi; Arbaaz Khan with a more robust and unruly moustache and an appalling selection of shirts. Makkhi is desperate to wed Nirmala, but her schoolmaster father cannot afford the dowry Prajapati insists on. Meanwhile Chulbul falls for the enigmatic Rajo, the daughter of a drunk.  This is the debut film for Sonakshi Sinha and although she was very lovely there really wasn’t very much in her role for her to work with.  But the relationships with her father and brother seemed genuine which added a fuller dimension to her storyline. She did have some very beautiful costumes too!

Along the way, Robin Hood Pandey, as he renamed himself, makes an enemy of the chest baring Chhedi Singh. Sonu Sood seems to be making a career out of playing the manically evil antihero – something he does so well – and we do not mind the shirtlessness one bit.  Singh is the youth representative for Anupam Kher’s political party, and Chulbul’s policing  is cutting into his supply of money from running various shady deals.

There is a wonderful item song featuring Malaika Arora Khan choreographed by Farah Khan.  This let Salman ruin Sonu Sood’s night while indulging in some excellent uncle dancing and Malaika did what she does best, so this was great fun to see.  We applaud a film that condenses political confrontations into a dance.

Various plots are hatched and foiled, loved ones die, marriages are arranged and un-arranged, peoples’ values are put to the test.  Finally it culminates in a chance to blow absolutely everything up, bare some more chests and let Salman save the day.

This is Salman’s film. Perhaps it is the presence of Arbaaz as producer, but Abinav Kashyap really seems to have drawn every last bit of charisma from Salman and used him to best advantage.  The action sequences choreographed by S. Vijayan are brilliantly filmed, and manage to give a nod to many great action sequences from recent Hollywood and South Indian blockbusters.  Despite having Helen in the family, Salman has never been the greatest dancer.  The choreography by Raju Khan and Shabina Khan has cleverly allowed Salman to showcase what he does do well, and the colour and movement of the backing dancers disguises the fact that he really isn’t the most nimble person on the floor.

The film does lose momentum after the interval, but soon picks up the pace and the finale has enough action to appease our South Indian accustomed filmi taste.

This is a great entertainer of a film. We give it 4 and 1/2 stars! It gets extra points just because we have been suffering Bollywood Masala Deprivation Syndrome and this may be the cure!