Dhan Daulat is not a good movie. I really wish it were - it's going to be a low point in Neetu Singh-Along, that's for sure. I can give you no reason to watch it, not even as a completist for Neetu. A dull mix of separated family members, "we thought you were dead!", and lessons on the perils of wealth and greed, Dhan Daulat somehow manages to avoid much charm of any kind. (Though I do give it a few points for having its initial "lost" happen when Mala Sinha temporarily hides her baby somewhere safe while she goes in search of milk...except that "somewhere safe" is actually a truck, which of course drives off. I'm sorry, but who leaves their baby unannounced on an unattended truck? Why didn't she just take the baby into the shop? This is just Darwinism in decision-making: if you leave your baby on a truck, you do not deserve to be a parent. Bas.) Usually the inherent cuteness of the lead romantic pair (Neetu and Rishi Kapoor) would provide some sparkle, but the only good jodi in this movie is...wait for it...Pran (Bajirao) and Prem Nath (Mangat) as Rishi's two adoptive fathers (and the drivers of the truck infant Rishi was left in).
In fact, they are by far the best part of the film and provide the funny moments, with both in bad wigs, the former as the brains, and the latter the brawn.
Let me return to that point about the film focusing on the evils of wealth and greed. I cannot remember a 70s film that batters home this point with less elegance or subtlety and fewer distractions or side plots. The basic plot is that Lucky (Rishi) wants to marry Shanti (Neetu) but her dad (Madan Puri) objects based on Rishi's unknown family history and lack of income (he's jobless). Lucky races home to ask his dads about his dead mother, to which they reply with the story about the truck. At the same time, Lucky's previously successful match company is sabotaged by competitors (led by Mr. Saxena, Rajendra Kumar). The double whammy of love and income lost drives Lucky into the always-creepy arms of Mr. Chopra (Prem Chopra), who also happens to hate Mr. Saxena and takes him in as an up-and-coming smuggler and evil-doer, assuring him that once you have money, no one will care about your past.
One by one, Lucky alienates all the people in his life by trying to impress them with his new wealth, and none of them will have anything to do with it, less because of the new class and liefstyle differences and much more because he's a whiny, snot-nosed jerk who seems to think all his old friends should participate in his filthy lucre and ignore his snobbery.
Side note: my distaste for Lucky began earlier in the film when he goes to his dads for a loan to start his match company. When they remind him they are but poor truck drivers who cannot give him 10,000 rupees, he has the gall to say that he will never dream big again and will just resign himself to driving a truck like they do.
Horrible! This is how you treat the people who raised you? In the scene above, Bajirao is so upset by Lucky complaining that their lack of loanable income has squashed all his hopes for the future that he cannot even look at him. LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO PRAN, YOU JERK! Mala Sinha, who has returned as a friendly neighbor woman (Vasudha), hears this conversation and gives him a tight slap and verbal beat-down. Later, when the dads mortage their truck to get him the amount he needs, he criticizes at them for this gift-of-the-magi exchange; when he huffily fusses "Who asked you to mortgage your truck?", it was all I could do not to yell "YOU DID." He does not literally ask them to do this, but his cluelessness of their livelihood, which has supported him for 22 years, is staggering and insulting.
Okay, back to nasty-rich Lucky. Everyone (rightly) accuses him of trying to buy their love - his dads, Shanti, and even Vasudha, who has figured out that she's his real mother but won't tell him because she is ashamed of his ass-hat behavior.
Fair enough, I say. Just because you locate your long-lost child doesn't mean you have to let it be known. (Though to be fair, it would be nice to apologize for leaving him on an unattended truck. You know, just to clear the air.)
It takes some seriously ass-hat behavior to get disowned by two dads! And "You're dead to me! [Ptoo!" is one of my favorite lines in any language.
Not to spoil it for you, but Lucky gets over his ungrateful jerkiness
and learns his lesson - on Bajirao's deathbed, no less.
Then there's some pretty good rambling dishoomery as Mr. Chopra's schemes and family allegiances become clear. Even if it weren't Neetu Singh-Along, I would have to point out that the most exuberant thing that Neetu gets to do in this whole film is participate in the brawl - she throws rocks,
and even grabs control of a crane.
The crane is a clever nod to a song earlier in the film that I will get to in just a minute. Also awesome in the brawl: the two dads decide to forgive Lucky and join in in his defense by throwing themselves down a hill like human sleds,
crashing into some baddies at the foot of the hill, and Lucky tries to save his biological father, who is splashing around in the ocean chased by Mr. Chopra in a boat, by hovering a helicopter close enough to throw down a ladder (after Shanti's attempt to reach him with the hook on the crane fails).
The shots of Lucky "flying" the helicopter are plenty ridiculous, but I enjoyed this quite a bit (swim/boat/crane/helicopter chases being a new experience for me), though possibly because what had preceded was so boring. The whole thing ends with one of those classic final shots where all the major players are reunited and stand in a line to demonstrate their togetherness.
Four fathers but only one mother! A symbol of the supremacy of Mother India, perhaps?
Nobody ever does a proper group hug in these, do they?
In addition to Pran and Prem Nath, the highlights of this film are R. D. Burman's songs. "Ho Jaaye Phir" is cute mostly for its bus-top view of Bombay.
As Lucky pursues Shanti around the city - remember, stalking=love! not doing as asked=charming! - she hides in a barrel, which he then swings around with a crane. I don't know about you, but I don't think I'd want to be on the business end of a crane operated by any masala star. I also like the addition of "crane" to the list of modes of transport used in songs. "Khudhkhushi Karneh Ka Dil Mein Irada Kar Liya Maine" (that might be the longest song title I've run across yet!) is a fantastic no-frills qawwali in which Lucky threatens suicide if Shanti won't return his love,
ending with a near-miss on the train tracks. Which, to Shanti's credit, does not melt her heart.
"Hey!," Rishi's gesture and facial expression say. Heehee! Dhan Daulat is a long way from the best performance I've seen from Rishi Kapoor (or anyone else involved, for that matter), but when he's in form, he's very energetic and his antics entertaining.
"Jeena Kya Aji Pyaar Bina" is a joyful dance by everyone in the neighborhood celebrating the formation of Lucky's match company, in which they have all invested financially. Communal ownership to the rescue - and contrasted with the evils of Mr. Saxena's and Mr. Chopra's largely self-generated wealth later in the film. As you will see, Shanti has a softer heart for Lucky once he grows up a bit and makes some sort of plan for himself. Watch at 2:45 for the guy balancing on long staff who then appears to fly over the crowd.
And the best for last: "Woh Jinki," the song in Mr. Chopra's evil lounge that welcomes Lucky into the world of easy but dirty money, features very strangely attired...I don't even know what to call them...cabaret girls? dancing harem? Billowy white genie pants with slits up the side (okay), tunics with a white bodice and downward (fine, though not at all glam) topped by black sparkly sheer puff sleeves and high necks (huh?),
and GIGANTIC WHITE BOWS. I cannot overstate the size of these bows.
These poor women also suffer the indignity of locomotion-ing around the room as Lucky sings.
If this film were better known, I would totally make these outfits for a Bollywood Halloween party. SO WEIRD. And if you can tell me the name of the dancer in the blue ombré dress, I'd be eternally grateful.
Bollyviewer reminded me in an email last week that one of the dominant features of Neetu Singh's career is that she has been so woefully underused, and never have I felt more rage on behalf of her talents than this stupid movie. Shanti is basically just a subject for Lucky's affections and has nothing of her own to do. Apart from her lit-up face and typically exuberant dancing in "Jeena Kya Aji Pyaar Bina," Shanti is mostly crabby - and who wouldn't be, with Lucky either stalking her with love or money when she has plainly told him to cut it out? These are the faces Neetu has to make:
This last picture is from a swanky party at Lucky's new house, where he has plonked her down without warning, asked her to serve as host, and demanded her to sing in front of a bunch of people she doesn't know. See? Ass-hat!
Another things that really bothers me about this film happens in a totally throw-away side plot in which Shanti, trying to duck Lucky's attentions, points at a passing army officer (Kader Khan) and says that's her older brother and that Lucky will need his approval to marry her. This is, of course, a wild goose chase, and as Lucky goes home with Kader to talk further, Kader reveals that his little sister is in fact not Neetu but Preeti Ganguly. So we get the oh-so-wacky side scene of Preeti being so obviously hideous that it is unthinkable that Lucky would want to marry her. Okay, so she's no Neetu Singh, but who is? That scene made my blood boil because you can tell from Rishi's reaction that he is horrified when in fact she is completely normal looking and not some hideous abomination on the name of womanly beauty. The double-standard is also irritating; Rishi himself is already pudging out in this film, and he's only 28 years old. A hint of moobs is beginning to show, especially when he dances around in a polo shirt. A harbinger of knitwear doom to come, no doubt. Anyway, fat=funny is insulting to both comedy and the non-slender, especially when it's completely hypocritical.
Other bits of note.... It's that pool (last seen just the other day in Maha Badmaash) - around which Lucky rides a horse!
A cool shot of working docks.
Lots of late 70s ties
Note the cool afro poster!
Love these lamps especially.
Sigh. That is all the good I could find in this. I just hope the rest of my Neetu Singh-Along projects improve...and with one with Shashi too, I think the odds are with me.