Dharam Veer is a masala TARDIS, holding waaaaaaay more R(ecommended) M(asala) A(llowance) of blinged-out boots, pirate shirts, Elizabethan doublets, Roman sandals, feisty gypsies, hand guillotines, romantic princes, creepy statues, sworn promises, lost relatives, baby-switching schemes, court politics, sword fights, naval battles, and eye-for-an-eye justice than you imagine could possibly fit inside its perfectly normal-looking DVD box - and did I mention it also travels in time?
There was no way this wasn't going to be superwow. I loved every minute. It's got all the fantastic time/place elements of Ajooba with a tighter, funnier script (though one of the same writers, the equally accomplished Masalameister Prayag Raj) and more masterly combination of RMA elements (sorry, Shashi). Dharam Veer has so much in it, plot- and look- and attribute-wise, that it can't fit into just one state of Masala Pradesh - don't fence it in, man! - and I think a time- and space-travel metaphor is the only thing that can properly suggest its vast ramblings. Or maybe Dharam Veer is its own state, too full of cultural, temporal, and RMA diversity to be integrated smoothly into an existing category. Rum, what say you? Whatever it's doing, and where/whenever it goes, it's at the top of its game, and I'm sure I can't do it justice - for starters, I'm bound to leave something out, but more to the point, it's one of those things that has to be seen to be believed. Actual information and deatiled affection have been ably addressed in Todd's most excellent writeup at Teleport City. Instead, in my capacity as Undersecretary for Education and Culture in the great Funkadelic State of Masala Pradesh, I humbly offer you a sampler platter of some of Desai's kid-in-a-candy-store-paletted wonders.
Yippee! BLB's favorite heroine and masala-requisite Kapoor, Neetu Singh!
Pretty, pouty, weapon-wielding princess Zeenat Aman in an outfit my inner four-year-old loves breathlessly.
Garam Dharam, sporting some highly questionable costumes of varying coverage but consistent sartorial hedonism
and tossing off smarmy lines with obvious glee.
And ruffly-attired Jeetendra
forming the other half of a jodi so fine that it's the eight wonder of the world.
As loopy good fun as they are, I occasionally wondered how this movie would have worked with Shashitabh in it, but I couldn't really imagine either of them in these roles and had to admit that other actors from the Shashitabh Epoch might also be competent in such projects. Technically I've seen Jeetendra before in Aasha, but the only thing I remember about that movie is that young Hrithik Roshan dances in it, so I'm going to count this as my first Jeetendra movie. Me like!
Alright, since I brought it up: Shashi has to play Jeetendra's role, obviously. Nobody would buy Shashi as a rock-crushing blacksmith, and nobody would buy Amitabh as the royal prince if Shashi is also on screen. Now try to get the image of Shashi in that shirtless black strappy thing out of your head. Haha, made you wince!
Wee Bobby Deol!
Oh yes, and there's also samurai!
Sheroo doesn't actually talk, sadly - this text is from a voiceover of Pran's letter to the royal family - but that's his only shortcoming. He ably participates in samurai (a term the movie uses to denote a body of knowledge about fighting and defense, a meaning totally new to me) and saves heroes in assorted ways.
Proto-Shaan inside-out disco ball lounge!
Yes. Let us be grateful for small favors. Actually, I really liked this guy (and I think he's the actor who played the thakur in Purana Mandir! Ramsay Brothers to Manmohan Desai in one step!). He's very empathetic to the plight of a woman who doesn't want to be in her marriage. Score some feminist points for the writing staff (some of whom already have a lot for their work on Parvarish). But then they're going to lose them again for the weird "Dharmendra ties up Zeenat and drags her around while singing to her" number.
The masala TARDIS comes with a very well-stocked wardrobe so that inhabitants can visually blend in in whatever temporal or spatial environment they may happen to land in. Elizabethan, for example.
I hoard craft books from the 1970s, and this looks like a mash-up from a segment on how to sew costumes for the school production of The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy plaid jumper + Scarecrow yellow fringe.
Out of all of the wonderful outfits and accessories, my favorite might be the boots. Dharam Veer is a nonstop parade of them, some of which I would, in all seriousness, gladly put on right this minute.
What is Martin Crane's armchair doing in the royal palace?
There might be a joke to make here. Generosity, gifts, packages, something along those lines.
The location of the subtitles doesn't help, does it?
Random leftovers too good to omit.
Ah! And the very useful life lessons of always believing in your friends and never, ever leaving a baby alone with Jeevan.
All this and much, much more awaits you in Dharam Veer - allons-y!