Kashmir Ki Kali

This is one of my favourite Shammi movies, although I’ve never been able to clearly decide why I prefer it over some of his other equally fabulous films. Maybe it’s because there is plenty of Shammi shimmying and trademark contortions going on? Or perhaps because Sharmila is beautifully innocent and the love story is sweet with a fantastic soundtrack? Whatever the reason, it’s always a film I watch to the very end and enjoy every second.

The film opens with Seth Rajiv Lal gaining control of his father’s businesses. He is a millionaire’s son and wants to give the business profits back to the people who actually do the work. His mother is appalled by this regrettable instability in her son and decides that the most appropriate way to curb his socialist tendencies will be to marry him off. Almost overnight, the house is full of prospective brides and their hopeful parents but Rajiv manages to get rid of them all by a not very convincing display of madness.

Deciding that he has to get away from his mother and thus avoid more potential brides, Rajiv leaves to visit the family holiday home in Srinagar with his friend Chandar (Anoop Kumar). Along the way he has to spend the night on the veranda of a small hotel as the rooms are full with Champa and her friends who have come to dance at a local fair.  Rajiv’s first meeting with Champa isn’t too auspicious as she empties a bucket of water over him and his smoking stove, but her kindly nature is revealed when she later takes him a  blanket to stop him from freezing overnight.  It’s not long before Rajiv has succumbed to her charms, but he is a wealthy man and she is a flower seller who has no time for the indolent rich. At their next meeting, he pretends to be a driver so that she will look more kindly on him.

There is a slight diversion here as the family caretaker Bola Ram (Dhumal) has rented out Rajiv’s house to a party of 3 girls and their guardian Rama Devi (Tun Tun). In an attempt to get rid of them all Rajiv reveals his true identity and then immediately has to pretend to be the insane friend of Chandar, who in turn pretends to be the real Seth Rajiv, to make sure that Champa doesn’t find out the truth. This allows for some mix-ups between the three girls, Chandar and Rajiv as the former try desperately to snare a rich man as a husband, Chandar enjoys the attention, and Rajiv only has eyes for Champa. Confusing? Well, not really, as most of the time Rajiv just acts insane unless he is with Champa, so it all makes sense – honestly!

This is a wonderful song where Rajiv romances Champa while sailing on the lake – only Shammi could get away with these contortions in a boat!

Just as Ravi and Champa are falling in love, intrigue is added as local bully Mohan threatens Champa’s blind father Dinu. Mohan is also determined to marry Champa and  warns Dinu that he will reveal the truth about her parentage if he doesn’t get his way.  The plot thickens as Mohan does some investigating and finds out exactly what did happen the night that Champa’s father lost his sight.

There are many complications on the way to the film climax but naturally there is an old family servant who reveals the truth just before she dies and almost everything is explained by the end. The obstacle of Mohan in the way of Champa and Rajiv’s romance does make for some great disguises such as this one at a local fair.

While the story is improbable at best, there is so much going on that the many plot holes don’t really matter. I adore Shammi in this film. He cavorts around with plenty of trademark hair twitching, and looks to be having the time of his life. And really, who can blame him when Sharmila looks so totally fabulous. This is one of her very early films and she does look very sweet and natural as a Kashmiri flower girl,  instilling her with grace and beauty which contrasts well with Shammi’s more over-the-top persona. She has a wonderful collection of massive earrings and hair adornments. I would love to know how she managed to dance without them either hitting her face or getting caught in her hair as this is a skill I’ve never mastered!

Pran is suitable slimy and conniving as the villain, although I do wonder how he always knew the right place to be lurking at precisely the right time. Nasir Hussain does a very good job of being blind Dinu here and in the flashback scenes is very convincing as the alcoholic father. I’m not entirely sure that Dinu’s blindness was enough of a reason for him to change his ways, but there were enough shades of grey in his later actions to make him a more plausible character. The comedy track with Chandar, Bola Ram, Rama Devi and the girls works well for me within the main story, although with so much else happening in the plot it probably was an unnecessary addition.

Another highpoint of the film is the soundtrack. Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bholse are perfect as the playback singers for the two leads, and the music by O. P. Nayyar is beautiful.

This is probably a film more for the Shammi fan as he really does throw himself into the role with great gusto and it might be a little too much for anyone not accustomed to his mannerisms. But Sharmila is excellent, the pair have good screen chemistry as a couple together and the story really does have almost everything. A 4 ½ star film for me.

Temple says: I like Shammi but I don’t think this is his finest work. Every time I watch this film I remember, just a bit too late, that I hate the first hour. Shammi is just so annoying with his zany animal noises Paagal Act!Ing! and Sharmila looks about twelve years old and that creeps me out a bit. But once all the characters are settled in Kashmir, things improve greatly. The location is one of the biggest attractions for me – I love being able to see places that I may never get to visit and the lake scenes are very pretty. The O.P. Nayyar soundtrack is beautiful and all the songs are delightful, especially Isharon Isharon which I think is a perfect romantic duet. After the first hour, for some reason Sharmila looks less like a schoolgirl, there does seem to be some appreciable non–creepy chemistry with Shammi, and her Kashmiri costumes are beautiful. Shammi drops a lot of the OTT mannerisms and goes for brooding romantic instead which is more successful and more appealing in this kind of story. Well, he does wear a hot pink burqa in one song but cross-dressing is par for the Kapoor course. I much prefer him in ‘Evening in Paris’, ‘Rajkumar’, ‘Bluffmaster’ and ‘Teesri Manzil’ where he is a bit less self consciously whimsical and more character focussed. The story is the typically convoluted romantic comedy blend with none of the surprises actually coming as much of a surprise to anyone but the lead pair. See it for gorgeous scenery, lovely costumes, a wonderful soundtrack and count your blessings that on DVD you can skip the boring bits! 3 stars


As a suitable end to silly season, we sat through one of the most ridiculous films we have found in recent times. While we have to conclude that it was immensely silly, it was also quite fab!

Surakksha features the exploits of Agent Gopi aka Gunmaster G9, (Mithun Chakraborty) a Bond inspired character with a memorable theme song.

There is a plot, but it hardly seems relevant as the director/producer Raveekant Nagaich and writer Ramesh Pant seem to take their favourite scenes from a number of Bond movies (as well as a few other classics) and string them together in no particular sequence. These random episodes are glued together with some outlandish effects (more on those later) and usually showcase Mithun in the tightest whitest flares he can squeeze himself into.

While we’re talking about the pants,  they did inspire some lengthy discussion. Not only are they incredibly tight, they also have the largest bell bottoms we have seen. Surely this must make sneaking into buildings, cemeteries, warehouses and various other assorted locations difficult – not to mention the problems caused when dancing on the beach. And we suspect a constant flapping noise from the enormous flares would have undermined his attempts at stealth, even if the yards of fabric remained unseen. However Mithun seems unconcerned by this choice of clothing, while we feel it may explain some of the dance moves. Or then again, maybe not. We concluded that Amitabh is a man who can wear tight white flares and actually carry them off. Mithun can’t.

In fact, generally the outfits were rather wonderful with an abundance of pleather in various shades and some nifty pantsuits. We owe this bounty to Bhanu Athaiya and their team! Mithun also seems to be either waxed to within an inch of his life, or perhaps is just not a particularly hairy man. For whatever reason he really was quite shiny in his (fairly frequent) shirtless scenes. Since we didn’t have to keep track of the plot (the writers hadn’t so why would we?), we had time for this philosophical pondering.

Other highlights of the film are the amazing leaping animals and their sound effects. Who knew that sharks can both sound like dolphins and growl (well OK, other than anyone who has seen Chatrapathi) as they leap from the water in search of their prey. There is also a diminutive snake that manages to make impressively athletic lunges at Mithun as he ably fends it off with a dish lid.  Sadly the snake doesn’t growl, but does manage to leave considerable damage in the plasterboard thanks to its amazing leaping skills and velocity. It was sad to see the snake dispatched by means of a pillow and a toilet – that snake deserved better than being flushed.

We don’t think ‘enjoyed’ is the right word to describe our reaction, but the nightclub dance number featuring Aruna Irani and some fabulous decor is very memorable.



Overall the effects are spectacularly bad with any number of toy cars and trucks being employed to demonstrate the amazing properties of Gunmaster G9’s chosen mode of transport, the talents of the design team and the effects of combustion.

Although G9’s car is small, and rather impractical considering the number of women he attempts to fit in at the beginning of the film, it does boast the usual accoutrements essential for any spy about town. There are pop-up guns, a device to pour oil on the road, one to squirt soapy water on a pursuers windscreen, and of course a parachute for those moments when you find yourself driving off the edge of a cliff because you haven’t been looking where you are going. Doctor Who fans will also be delighted by the appearance of what looks like a sonic screwdriver (but sounds like a jackhammer), a particularly useful device if you find yourself interred in a polystyrene grave.

There were also a couple of toy boats that looked Significant, but we never did learn their fate as we had a few technical difficulties. Despite the best efforts of the DVD player and computer to spare us the full film, we managed to soldier on. With two copies of the DVD and Temple’s technical skills we were not going to be beaten by some inanimate electronic equipment!  The copies we had also suffered from being a VCD with no subtitles, but as we mentioned, the plot really didn’t seem to be the point of this film anyway. It did lead us to discover that Mithun mumbles – he was really very hard to make out, while the other actors were much clearer although still never really made any sense.

Iftekhar plays the head of the organisation Mithun works for and checks in periodically to see what his spy is up to; generally warning him to stay away from women, and fretting when he doesn’t call on time. Mithun’s love interest is ably played by Ranjeeta Kaur who does a good job of keeping a straight face throughout the more bizarre of Mithun’s dance moves. At times we did wonder what the choreographer’s direction could possibly have been!

The story involves the hunt for G9’s colleague, Jackson, kidnapped by the nefarious Hiralal (Jeevan obviously enjoying himself as the villain and bearing a resemblance to Dick Dastardly in this screencap) and his glamorous sidekick Neelam (Mala Jaggi). These two are mere lackeys of the real bad guy – the mad scientist Dr Shiva (?) who lives in an underwater lair seemingly surrounded by giant goldfish. The lair is very well appointed, complete with a robot controlled by the buttons on Dr Shiva’s metal hand and amazingly ineffectual female guards armed with red plastic guns (or hairdryers).

To ensure everyone turns up for the final showdown, Jackson’s wife and son have been kidnapped along with Mithun’s trusty sidekick Kabari (Jagdeep as the comedy relief). We have yet more action as air ducts are explored (children do have their uses) and crutches are reassembled into a ‘machine gun’ (hello Day of the Jackal!) – although it looked much more like a shotgun to us but what do we know. We are not the Gunmaster G9. Like any well schooled villain Dr Shiva pontificates about his plans for world domination using his death ray thingy that appears to be able to cause gigantic waves. Or something. It really doesn’t matter because we know that Gunmaster G9 will save the day, get the woman and exasperate his boss.

Everyone spends a really long time explaining their secret plans to anyone who will listen, before a dance off between G9 and Hiralal to settle the question of…well, we don’t know for sure, but we do know Jeevan lost. Mithun then has to fight several champions in several fighting styles (hello Bruce Lee!) although no one seemed particularly committed to the biffo.

The music is by Bappi Lahiri and is really quite terrible although often unforgettable as we tried to work out which song he had copied so badly. This was such a terrible film we have decided we absolutely must have a better copy with subtitles to really be able to get the full effect and to fully appreciate our favourites, the snake and the shark. And we both love a good lair and a death ray thingy contraption:

Many thanks to the people who inspired us to watch this masterpiece: take a bow Shalini Akhil and Memsaab! An absolute classic of the So Bad Its Good variety!

Temple says: I can’t think how I have gone so long without seeing this. Really – it has everything and more, and yet sort of adds up to so much less. I love the film makers determination to make a Bond film with no Bond, no budget and no idea how to replicate the style, and it really is very entertaining. I am a fan of Bond, and could happily pick out scenes lifted from Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and Live and Let Die to name a few.  Heather had to put up with me cheerfully predicting what was to happen and I have to give this to Ramesh Pant – he knows his Bond too. Iftekhar was excellent as the equivalent of M and Jeevan excelled as the evil flunky.  There is something delightfully optimistic about a death ray thingy made mostly from tin foil and tupperware and that just makes me happy. Unfortunately the VCD we had didn’t allow for good screencaps so we can’t show you the real magnificence of the set design and the ‘special’ effects. I think you’ll just have to watch this for yourself! 3 stars from me, maybe 3 and 1/2 if I’d had a glass or several of wine.

Heather says: This was a fabulous fun film for all the best reasons. There were super sets and seventies decor, amazing outfits, dreadful choreography and the worst special effects I have seen for a very long time. I really loved some of the lights and lamps, and at one point there were exactly the same tiles as my parents had in their bathroom back in the seventies – just fab! I’m not such a big Bond fan as Temple – I do like the movies but the last time I watched most of them was years ago –  but to me, apart from the lack of cocktails, this film had every bit of 007 squeezed in. A bit like Mithun and those pants – no more could possibly fit! There were time bombs, listening devices, a machine that spat out strips of paper for no apparent reason and of course the end-of-the-world-death-ray-wave-maker machine. This film really deserves no stars whatsoever – it actually is that bad, but I give it 4 stars for the whole experience. One to watch with friends who can appreciate the finer details!