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One of the highlights of Dev Anand's later career oeuvre, Gangster is also known for being one of Ajit's last screen appearances. The movie is a classical Dev Anand film - technically very bad, atrocious screenplay, all round bad acting, cacophony music, and weird focus on people's underwear - and in spite of all this, a masterpiece! This time around Dev has chosen to remake Dumas' "The Count of Monte Christo". Dev plays a noble Portugese padre - Father Ferriera - who is framed for a graphic rape-murder of an tribal woman by cruel landowner Ajit and his foolish henchman Joginder. Released from prison 20 years later, the padre changes his identity to Dev's "Johnny" identity - as an uncle returned from the UK, and uses his ex-con skills to destroy Ajit, Joginder and Ajit's luckless and corrupt family including several new Dev discoveries in their classical Dev style debut and final screen performances all in the same film.
The highlights are of course the heartfelt performances from Ajit and Joginder who breathe life into their stereotypical characters and who, I must confess, brought tears to this reviewer's eyes with their fine acting. Joginder in particular makes a rare appearance and provides his usual raw and gritty performance - why he never won accolades is well beyond my comprehension, and a black eye on Indian cinema for all time.
Another remarkable sequence involves people being locked in a bathroom for several weeks until they confess their crime to Dev's accented Hindi spouting uncle from the UK. I believe this is the first time this has been done on film worldwide. All in all, this film is a fitting tribute to the pulp-fiction of Dumas Pere and miles beyond such trash as the recent US film of Count of Monte Christo featuring Jim Caviezel or Depardieu's numbingly looong version of the same novel in French. Thanks for showing the kids with their hand-held cameras how to do it right, Dev-saab! In a bizarre turn, Dev has also chosen to add a very graphic snuff style rape murder in the first ten minutes of the film that includes unprecedented frontal nudity by the victim, and some strange accompanying expressions from the 80-year old Ajit.
To learn how this made it through the Indian censors, please see Dev's next masterpiece "Censor". Shahkaal has reviewed this work separately for the benefit of all you fans of the evergreen matinée idol and my own personal idol - Mr. Devdutt Pishorimal Anand.
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