Toofan Rani (1985)

Toofan Rani-title

I’ve only been able to find this 1985 Hindi dub of the 1983 Telugu film Puli Debba, so I’ll keep referring to it as Toofan Rani. Actually, I have found this to be the case with a few Telugu B movies. For some reason the Hindi dubs have survived and are available online in reasonable condition, but finding an original is nigh on impossible. Why is this so? And forget subs. I had to make it all up as I went so please observe the usual Adventures Without Subtitles disclaimers that events may not have transpired exactly as I imagined.

K.S.R Doss has cobbled together another excellent masala entertainment chock full of his usual tricks, plus Silk Smitha, that guy Naresh who looks like someone else, Sarath Babu and assorted others, guns blazing, a handful of marbles, and some flashy karate moves. What is not to love? And Satyam’s soundtrack is funky and grungy, and just cheesy  and disco-fied enough.

Nalini and Manohar are childhood friends and spend a lot of time being dressed for school by their family retainers and frolicking in the sand dunes in their school clothes but don’t actually seem to go to school. Mahendra Chaudhury and his wife (Nalini’s parents) are murdered by a couple of goons who also set the house on fire to destroy the evidence. Side note – most of the victims have been instructed that the correct reaction to being shot is to throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care (jazz hands optional), so the death scenes can be strangely festive. The children are dispersed into the populace according to the Infant Distribution Laws of Masala Filmidom. Don’t worry if you miss this opening scene as it will be replayed several times.

Silk Smitha has the right confident physicality for Nalini, who is out to get revenge on the men who killed her parents and baby brother. Nalini has her childhood trauma flashbacks in lurid colour which may explain why her expression sometimes says migraine rather than revenge. But whether Silk is strutting her stuff in sparkly disco bike shorts or righting wrongs in a sensible khaki leather ensemble, she is ready for anything.

As she is in a film where anything can happen and frequently does, this is a very good thing. She even has to wear a saree. Killing is bad, but a heroine who looks at all the male posturing and just shrugs and takes control is good. I know I shouldn’t, but I cheered when Nalini shot someone. Naresh and Manohar were all for taking a punt on the court system but Nalini grabbed the gun and achieved her objective, refusing to be sidelined. And honestly if it had been left to the men, we’d still be chasing the baddies around the exploding hills.

Naresh is introduced at his college Karate championships in which he beats a variety of opponents with his Blue Steel approach to Karate. There is so much Karate face. It was almost as bad as actually watching Karate again. Naresh seems to be more than a bit of a narcissist. His house is full of huge pictures of himself in karate mode, including one above his bed. I was slightly sorry for Naresh as when he won the competition it sounded like only one guy bothered to clap, but maybe that was due to budget constraint in the sound department. Unbeknown to Naresh, Hariram who gave him the award was the guy who killed his parents and older sister. Do you see where this might be going?

Hariram’s daughter Archana likes Naresh. Unfortunately for the lovebirds his ma recognises Hariram and the match is OFF. Naresh broods in a most unbecoming fashion until she hits him with the truth. He then tells Archana and she tells her dad. No one really seems to understand the concept of oversharing. Hariram sends Uncle Fester to finish Naresh off. Karate ensues. In one excellent sequence Naresh kind of Harlem Globetrotters his way through a fight, using a book. Trouble is brewing!

Inspector Manohar (Sarath Babu) is now a grown up policeman, on the trail of a mysterious smuggler. He develops grave suspicions about Hariram Uncle’s revenue sources but has no idea his father was once a silver jacketed goon. Once his suspicions are finally aroused, he tries to investigate.

I could not fault Manohar’s enthusiasm for discovering whether his dad was faking paralysis but his methodology was a bit OTT, and potentially lethal. There is a vague romance between him and Nalini but it’s nothing to write home about, except they do seem to wear colour coordinated outfits. He doesn’t even twig that she is his childhood sweetheart until she tells him, and I’m not sure he should have been smiling goofily when she was about to do jail time. Maybe Manohar is just a bit rubbish at reading people

Doss pulls out all stops and throws in all the clichés from accidentally shooting your Ma, a significant birthmark, masala deathtraps, a concealed slide entrance into the lair, and skanky item stalwart Jayamalini dancing for “Arab” businessmen.

Hariram goes home from the club with that traditional filmi entertainment; the Man In The Boot. The man is allowed to escape from a well provisioned dungeon, with shirtless Simon now It as The Man In His Boot. If you were fleeing, wouldn’t you drop a stolen car off somewhere not outside your apartment? Luckily the apartment also houses Nalini! Even her boots are weaponised, and those powerful thighs can deliver a hell of a kick.

Simon attacks Nalini and in between bouts of acrobatic biffo in her stylish boudoir she tells him she is the surviving daughter of Mahendra Chaudhury and they are all In For It. He tells Hariram who tells the mysterious smuggler in the cave. Trouble is brewing! Again!

The finale is more exuberantly amusing than thrilling, but both Silk and Naresh backflip and ninja leap like crazy, there are explosions and dodgy disguises and the camera adds another layer of skewed perspectives and angles. And never forget those sensible wedge heeled weapon ready boots.

Toofan Rani-killer boots

I’m enormously fond of the Masala B Movie as they give a platform to the smaller stories and quirkier characters, all held together by the spirit of making it up as you go. Toofan Rani is loads of fun and I enjoyed seeing Silk carry a whole film rather than just do a typical bad girl dance and die. 3 stars!

James Bond 777 (1971)

James Bond 777 DVD cover

K.S.R Doss, Superstar Krishna, Jyoti Laxmi in a double role – James Bond 777 is enormously entertaining from the funky opening music (James Bond, Triple Seven! Seven! Seven! Seveeeeen!) to the triumphant finale. And did I mention the gang of dogs who are highly skilled and organised jewel thieves?

My DVD only had the strength to share its secrets once before expiring with a load of histrionics and a strange grinding noise. The movie, missing a few songs, is online in several versions of varying quality and length (Note I screencapped from YouTube – if anyone knows who put that revolting logo on the print, please feel free to go slap them into the middle of next week for me).

Young Kishore is left orphaned after the man who will become The Boss (Satyanarayana Kaikala) breaks into the family home and kills his parents. Kishore takes off after the baddie armed with righteousness and a handy carving knife, but is wounded and thrown from the speeding car.

One alarmingly abrupt edit later, a shirtless cowboy (Shirtless, Mahesh. Your dad was SHIRTLESS) with a scar is Superstar Krishna and the theme music suggests he is James Bond Triple 7! James Bond appears to be a catchall term for a spy or intelligence officer and there is no character answering to the name, although there is some familiar music at times…Hmmmm. Krishna flings himself around with as much verve as a laid back leading man can muster, easily evading the gang who can’t shoot straight and who then wait politely for him to shoot them all in turn. It turns out that was a training exercise and Kishore has passed with flying colours. He will now go in search of The Boss to both get revenge and make the world a safer place.

Kishore disports himself with a bevy of styled up lovelies but sadly no matter what they shake or how vigorously they shake it, they can’t make his dancing actually look like dancing. Although, Krishna’s fight style is a little dancey as it seems to mostly go punch-twirl-punch-twirl so maybe the fight and dance choreographers just needed to collaborate more. I expect it is quite hard to look suavely heroic on a swing but he does his best.

Sopa (Vijayalalitha) is introduced when she sneaks up on her dad and threatens to shoot him, all in jest of course. Her dad makes a trip to Chennai and is next seen dead, in a box in the police office. In a Get Smart golden moment Kishore finds a bug planted in his mouth. And in a classic almost every Telugu film ever moment, Sopa vows to get justice.

Boss is a high tech criminal. He has a lair with all the accoutrements – Vat 69, girls looking at screens, machines that go ping, and a full array of audio-visual equipment linking him to his minions. Luckily Kishore is wise to the likes of the old exploding phone trick. Kishore does have a few tricky techie tricks of his own, and I particularly liked the watch-phone and the exploding onions. And both hero and villain are happy to go old school and use silly disguises, sleight of hand and even that filmi classic – “Snake in a Box”.

Jamila (Jyoti Laxmi) is one of Boss’s henchwoman, and she operates out of a Beauty Paraloure. A very industrial looking Paraloure, one with a branded truck. Maybe Paraloure doesn’t mean what I think they thought it meant. There is another evil henchlady, Cindy who works out of her own mini lair. She has anger management issues and a confused fashion sense, as well as excellent canine communication skillz.

Sopa and Kishore cross paths on a train, but are too busy arguing about the lights on/off etiquette of eating fruit at night to realise they have a common mission. Of course they are also staying at the same hotel, across the hall from each other. Sopa is under cover as the dancer Miss Kiss Miss, and Kishore is…Kishore. At least Sopa is well equipped for the random dance item which is an essential part of her cover.

When the dogs break into Sopa’s hotel room and menace her with their smiley faces and demands for pats and ear scratches she runs away, straight into an ambush. Luckily, Kishore is in pursuit and handily enough catches her when she jumps off a cliff pretending to have been fatally shot. Unluckily for him, she steals his motorbike and leaves him stranded. Luckily, Jamila comes by and picks him up.

Cut to Sopa pretending to be a man while talking to Boss on the walky talky while the increasingly unlucky Kishore spins around on a rapidly revolving round bed, swinging punches at assorted baddies. That Jamila, such a minx. When Sopa is chased on her motorbike, she tricks the henchmen and doubles back to steal their car. She doesn’t seem to need Kishore for much, if at all. Although she does hitch a lift with him at the end, off into the sunset, so maybe he had his uses when it came to logistics.

I could describe in detail all the brilliance of the dogs breaking into a heavily secured bank vault with naught but their briefcases, an exploding toy dog, and a whole lot of licking at complicated door mechanisms, but you really should just watch it. Go. Watch. It.

 

As seems common in B movies, the women are feisty and independent and don’t sit around waiting for some bloke to arrive. Kishore spends the whole film working within police channels, where Sopa is more DIY in her approach, and happily executes on her strategy regardless. Jamila and Cindy report to Boss but have some autonomy when it comes to how they carry out the big evil plan. Any woman who can dance in a sparkly outfit may do so, and men are excused from all but the most modest gyrations. After seeing her in Pistolwali, I am not really surprised that the only worthy adversary for Jyoti Laxmi is herself, and her catfight as twin sisters Rani and Jamila is a highlight (not just for the outfits, but that certainly doesn’t hurt).

James Bond 777-a cunning plan

There are lots of familiar-ish faces in the supporting cast, although I can’t put names to all of them and IMDB is not much help. Cindy’s role was relatively small and segregated from Jamila and the Kishore/Sopa plot. Kishore has a sidekick who has a propensity for comedy uncle shtick but also does useful things. And there are squads of ostentatiously kitted out bad guys and the usual light sprinkling of law enforcement personnel.

If there wasn’t enough to keep you on your toes in the plot, there are scenes combining rapid cuts, spinning camera work, extreme zoom, crazy angles, and some outfits and sets that made me very thankful this is a black and white film. And if you didn’t care to watch the film, it is really worth a listen. The soundtrack is funky and slightly grungy with surf guitars and brass overlayed with exuberant vocals.

I love this style of low budget high ambition spy caper, and with a likeable cast and fab soundtrack, this is pure gold. Plus did I mention the robber dogs? 4 stars!

Also – go read good friend Beth‘s review. This film deserves some love!