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Tear-drenched and saturated in melancholy
Mohan and Manu are childhood sweethearts. They grow up and become engaged. Mohan goes off to the city to buy jewellery for the wedding. He gets attacked and robbed and is taken to hospital where he remains unconscious for nearly a week.
Back in the village, folks are becoming worried. The wedding date is impending and the groom's a no-show. (Apparently, it doesn't occur to anyone to go and find out what may have happened to Mohan). The Panchayat (village court) accepts the lies of the villainous Mahku and his sidekick, Kalva that Mohan must have run off with a city girl.
Despite the protests of Mohan's father and the distraught Manju, the Panchayat decides that if a date has been set for a wedding, then a wedding there shall be. Makhu knows just where to find a groom; a rich contractor whose sister is looking to get some free home help. For a few rupees, Makhu does the deal with her.
The marriage takes place. Neither the bride nor the groom see each other's faces until after the ceremony. They are not a happy couple. The groom is an old man with a heart condition and four young children. He didn't expect a young bride and promptly has a coronary - but manages to force Manju into promising to be a mother to the children.
Mohan returns from the city but he's too late and this tear-drenched, melancholic drama eventually reaches an improbable conclusion after much recrimination.
Even dedicated fans of Indian cinema are likely to find this movie hard to sit through. The camera remains rooted to the floor and the studio sets make it look like a filmed play rather than a motion picture. Even so, it does have compensations. The lovers' mating call is hauntingly beautiful and there are plenty of other songs (though the endless close-ups of Nargis' tear-streaked face do become a bit wearying by the end).
Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988)
You'll need more than just a seat belt to survive THIS bumpy night !
In films like "First Love", the rotund, gravel-voiced Eugene Palette used to do a great turn as a man who watches with detachment whilst his wife and offspring made fools of themselves. Eventually, his bottled up indignation would explode to good comic effect. In "Biwi Ho To Aisi " (roughly, "a wife should be like this") Kader Khan (or Kadar as he is credited here) is cast in the Eugene Palette role. He does a fine job of humouring his ill-tempered wife, whilst consoling her victims and confiding to the audience with direct-to-camera asides. Bindu, playing the domineering wife, roars round the house like a tornado, heaping high volume invective and scorn on all in her path whilst Salman Khan makes an energetic debut as a pop music loving teenager (in a sub-plot involving a deceitful girlfriend).
Farooq Shaikh (here credited as Farouque Sheikh) shows again what a fine actor he is. His role calls for him to be submissive towards his mother, pally with his father, tender towards his adopted sister and romantic with Rekha. Their scene together, as they take refuge from the "battle of the bindis", is particularly sensitive.
Rekha is at her best, playing a sort of Eliza Doolittle character. We see her first, dressed in a gorgeous South Indian costume, routing a village bully in an extended comic scene. Later, transplanted to the Bindhari household we see her circling her foe physically and psychologically; sizing her up during the battle of wills with Bindu. She also gets an opportunity to put her yoga training to good use in another action scene.
The usual, final plot twist is here made all the more enjoyable for being so deliciously implausible. Altogether, very entertaining.
Sadaa Suhagan (1986)
Not a brain implant anywhere to be seen
The words "Sadaa Suhagan" can be translated as a wife's constant state of happiness whilst her husband is alive. It's a concept not universally experienced.
The film opens with Rekha waking up next to her still sleeping husband (Jeetendra). Perfectly made-up and without a hair out of place she ritually blesses him before rising. Having washed, she lays out his clothes, polishes his shoes, readies his shaving kit, puts toothpaste on his toothbrush, gets his breakfast, organises the servants, attends to the religious devotions, rouses the children, gets them dressed, and sorts out their breakfast. And all to the accompaniment of a song that includes the lyrics " my home is like heaven my husband is my lord ". It makes the Stepford Wives look like a bunch of anarchists.
The story rolls along nicely upon conventional lines and is what Halliwell was wont to call a civilised entertainment for those who have dined well though one suspects that this was not one of Rekha's favourite roles.
Khoon Pasina (1977)
Plenty to see and think about
On one level, Khoon Pasina is an action-packed revenge saga with knockabout violence, some shoddy production values and (in the case of the abbreviated DVD) a rather incoherent narrative. It is also a fashion House of Horrors. Flared trousers of truly epic proportions are paired with some of the most ghastly clothes ever created. Even at a distance of 30 years and a continent or two, it's hard not to cringe at Vinod Khanna's wet-look leather two piece with leopard skin trim.
On another level, the film is alive with contradictions :
· the opening voice-over expresses patriotic sentiment - but this is a state that completely fails to protect its citizens from the deprivations of criminals; · a schoolteacher tells his pupils they are to become the lawyers, doctors, farmers etc. of the future. But the film's heroes are men who talk with their fists, lack any kind of regular employment and dispense vigilante justice with impunity; · we are led to admire the courage of those villagers who face down an armed thug but when one of the heroes lets a tiger out of its cage in the middle of a crowd (to impress a girl) we are supposed to view it as just jolly good fun; · loving ones mother is one thing - but trying to beat up your wife is not an acceptable way of proving it; · we are invited to deplore contractors who exploit their workers but when one of the heroes destroys a farm in pursuit of a criminal gang, there is no suggestion that he ought to apologise or compensate the owners.
On the acting front, the less said the better. Stacey Keach lookalike, Vinod Khanna, considers himself to be dead since losing his boyhood friend. His acting accords strongly with his self-perception - except during the action sequences which are wildly implausible.
You watch Amitabh Bachchan with morbid fascination. It's not the acting, it's those appalling clothes. Rekha cannot help but look gorgeous but has too little to do. Mercifully, by wearing traditional clothes, she is spared the worst sartorial excesses of her co-stars.
Despite all the above, I still found Khoon Pasina fun to watch and the moment when the two protagonists discover each other's true identity is a classic (albeit of a familiar kind).
Ek Hi Bhool (1981)
She Just Looks So Good
Versatile, reliable, ubiquitous and pleasant that's Jeetendra an actor who can do everything quite well but seldom seems to exude enough charisma to avoid the "lightweight" leading man tag. To be fair, he was an energetic dancer in his younger days but he has little opportunity to show it in Ek Hi Bhool ("Only One Mistake").
Here he plays George Brent to Rekha's Bette Davis. They both get top billing but there's never any doubt upon whom our eyes will alight. This is a Rekha star vehicle. A thin plot has the star suffering in saris of every conceivable colour (over 40 costume changes in all ) as we follow her from cheeky young thing to betrayed wife to determined single mother and eventual reconciliation. If the audience is supposed to ask itself whether a wife should forgive her husband's adultery, it is definitely not invited to wonder how a single mother, working as an invoice clerk, could afford such a fabulous wardrobe.
Lots of close-ups allow us to admire and empathise with a sad Rekha, a wistful Rekha, an angry Rekha, a pensive Rekha, a soulful Rekha, a smiling Rekha and so on, whilst not allowing the actress to display her formidable talents to their fullest extent. But when she looks this good who cares ?
Anokhi Ada (1973)
A formula Bollywood product of the '70's
An evil villain, a handsome hero, a glamorous girl, romance, fights, songs and comic interludes combine to unfold a story of greed with an unconvincing double identity twist.
Rekha looks like a dark-haired Diana Dors from the mid sixties and will be almost unrecognisable to those who only know her from Silsila and later films.
The movie is available on a double DVD with Sadaa Suhagan but has been heavily cut to fit. The English sub-titles often display an eccentric turn of phrase but despite this, it is possible to follow the story without too much difficulty.
Worth seeking out for fans of its stars
In this movie, Terence Stamp plays a film director who has scored a tremendous hit with his first film. But after that early success he finds himself depressed and lacking in ideas for a new project. Since the film was made during a low point in his own career, it is possible to imagine that Mr.Stamp found some resonance in the character he plays to himself and his own career. Certainly, fans can amuse themselves by spotting (presumably, unintentional) self-references in the dialogue to movie-making and the state of mind of those who make them. Corinne Clery, in one of her earliest roles, does a fine job playing an out of work actress who sparks Stamp's imagination.
It's a long way from being a masterpiece but it will maintain the interest of its stars' fans if not of a wider audience.
Amo non amo (1979)
Only for Bisset and Schell fans
If, like me, you spend and time money tracking this movie down because Terence Stamp is in it, then you're going to be disappointed. In its VHS version known as "Together", Mr Stamp makes only two brief appearances, the second of which is without dialogue.
Fans of Jacqueline Bisset and Maximilien Schell will fare much better but may struggle to find much to enjoy. The pair snarl and bark at each other in an "I don't care, if you don't care contest" in which they both use third parties to antagonise and provoke each other whilst displaying some uncertain parenting skills.
Fade In (1973)
Interesting despite its flaws
The setting of this film is unusual. The story takes place during the real life filming of the movie "Blue" and we catch glimpses of the stars and crew at work on that picture. It begins brightly. Terence Stamp makes a star's entrance, in a sports car, roaring past lines of wannnabe extras that include Burt Reynolds who is trying to get a job as a driver. He's taken on and soon meets Barbara Loden who plays the part of an assistant editor. Their romance quickly blossoms but unfortunately, like the film itself, seems to have nowhere to go. There are signs of some ferocious editing with several abrupt changes of mood and music and the scene in which Loden shows Reynolds how to edit a film is presumably either unintended irony or a despairing editor's in-joke. I read somewhere that it was never given a theatrical release in the USA and the removal of the director's real name from the credits indicates conflict having arisen amongst its makers and backers. Even so, despite its shortcomings, it's not wholly without interest.