Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rekha Month!

That's right: a whole month devoted to the ever-fabulous Rekha, inspired by Sujoy at One Knight Stands. The fun starts Friday and continues all through October! I'll be writing up (at least) Khubsoorat, Nagin, and omigod Khoon Bhari Maang! And, if I have any mental energy left, trying to get my brain around the song from Janbaaz.

Friday, September 24, 2010

less filmi, more Friday

Look. I've had a really long week (as it seems many people have - what in particular is going on in the universe to make us all so tired?) and there is no time or energy for watching, let alone writing about, any films. Very sad. But you know what is not sad? And is in fact glorious despite its lack of any real reason for me to include it on this blog? This.

Why, how do you do, Friday date?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Teesri Aankh

Warning: picture-heavy post. You'll see why.

Well said, Dharmendra. I enjoyed this fanatastic, full-tilt masala film too! Dharmendra, Shatrugan Sinha, and the forgettable Rakesh Roshan are Ashok, Amar/Sagar, and Anand, the younger generation of a family full of secrets and lost children.*Happy families! Lots of creepy inflatable toys!In fact, that top picture says it all: Rakesh is out of focus and in the background (i.e. completely unimportant) and Dharam and Shotgun are joking around with heart after some kind of skirmish. That's most of the movie right there. But of course I have a lot more to say than that.

This set-up brought to mind a sort of dystopic Amar Akbar Anthony. Right away in the "now" part of the film, the three brothers are reunited unknowingly, but instead of lying in a hospital giving blood to their Maa, they're drinking and fighting at a modern-day mehfil. Two of the brothers are rotten: Amar/Sagar is a thief in cahoots with the devil-worshiping villain Sheru (son of equally creepy Jabbar, both played by Amjad Khan in a two-generation double role)
and Anand is a pampered mama's boy quite content to steal from the family business, tangle with unsavory types, and indulge his taste for Rekha, a trashy dancing girl (Sarika).

He's reading a magazine called Debonair. It's very, I'm sure.

Ashok, on the other hand, is as upright and willing to enforce justice and righteousness as AAA's Amar, but Ashok doesn't have the badge to back it up and winds up having to bail Anand out of trouble and bearing heaps of criticism from their mother. Nirupa Roy (Malti) puts in a turn as...I don't know what to call it other than EVIL mother.

I'll pause to give your brain a chance to recover from that sentence.

You see, it turns out that little Ashok is not just an orphan that her husband Kailash (Satyendra Kapoor) brought home from the Shiva temple (nice contrast to the self-confessed stanism of the villain, eh?). He's actually Kailash's son by a first marriage she didn't know about, one that ended tragically as Kailash's bride met with disapproval from his family and fled, not to be seen again until Kailash and his friend Om (Om Shivpuri) find her dead at the temple, where she has just left their infant son in the lap of the god.

Kaliash has the bad manners to admit this on his deathbed, leaving Malti with no one to share the shock and pain of the surprise, and she takes it all out on Ahsok, immediately resenting his presence in her house. Why is Kailash dying, you ask? Because he testified against Jabbar, whose imprisonment was avenged by Sheru.

Worse, one fine Eid day, little Ashok and Amar go out to join the celebrations,

These balloons portend doom! Oh no, Sita-ji!

and Amar falls into a river and disappears. Even though the whole village shows up at the house to explain to Malti what happened, she blames Ashok and treats him accordingly for most of the rest of the film. I've seen Nirupa as less-than-saintly before, namely in Deewaar, but this is pretty hard to take. Malti is unforgivably horrible to Ashok, demonstrating the kind of behavior I'd expect out of a stepmother played by Nadira or Manorama.

If these scenes don't squish your dil, you are made of stone.
See what I mean? This mother, unlike AAA's Bharati, is only metaphorically blind and loves selectively and wrongly. Furthermore, when little Amar is rescued from the river, it's not by a kindly but differently-faithed tailor or priest but by petty thief Baba (Kader Khan, who renames him Sagar).
To complicate matters, the two major female romantic leads also have trials to face. Ashok is engaged to Barkha (Zeenat Aman), the daughter of Kailash's friend Inspector Om. Like Kailash before him, Inspector Om has also suffered at the hands of Sheru, imprisoned for two decades in the villain lair. Barkha has vowed to avenge her father, not realizing he is still alive, and thinks her secret quest will ruin their marriage. Ashok, of course, understands perfectly, and they fall in love and jointly hunt their common enemy.
Sagar's love is not a helpful doctor but Nisha (Neetu Singh), a wild child who wears trouser suits, gambles, and brawls.

Nisha is the daughter of Inspector Malhotra (Pradeep Kumar), who is also a friend of Om and on the case of Sheru. Here I am compelled to take a quick break from analyzing the setup of this crazy feast to say how awesome Neetu Singh is in this role. She gives Nisha wonderful and appropriate guts, earthiness, and one round of surprisingly realistic and mature reactions to a very filmi situation. I do not like everything about how Nisha is scripted - more on that in a minute - but Neetu knocks this role out of the park. Somehow her naturalness is a great fit for this elaborately constructed masala world. Dharmendra and Shatrughan deliver amazing performances too, but they come across, as they usually do, as stars delivering what they do best, whereas Neetu and her character blended into one for me. This is no small feat, given how Nisha develops from wayward motherless child to confident lover to a grown-up calling people on their crap.
How are these characters ever going to get out of this mess with so many odds stacked against them? Probably because my first taste of this film was watching the glorious "Salaam Salaam," in which Dharmendra cheerfully greets Sheru in song as he dishooms through the death-trap-rigged lair

and Neetu helps save the day by crashing a jeep through the wall to provide reinforcements

- well, and because this is masala in 1982 - I knew everyone would make it out with the necessary lessons learned and the families reunited, but I wasn't sure how exactly. I don't want to give the impression that
Teesri Aankh is dark, but it definitely has more shadows and obstacles than other movies we've seen. In Teesri Aankh, the hero's mother knowingly does not love him! Strange days indeed.I loved reading Memsaab's description of the busy villain in Heeralaal Pannalaal as "Kalicharan's Bag of Bad Deeds," but Sheru is way too evil to be contained to a bag. This is a character who breaks heads on his demonic idol
instead of the usual coconut, kills his own father to take over the evil empire, and threatens Inspector Om with "I will kill death and remain alive" in his quest to finish off everyone involved in putting him in jail. He is inventive and cruel, wielding curious three-pronged brass knuckles to make a stabby, spiked fist. In this shot, he leaps out from behind a statue in Kailash's house; after robbing the family, he attacks the father and leaves him for dead.

I know you can't see the weapon, but the shot of Amjad Khan flying through the air had to be included.
After breaking out of jail (sentenced for the murder of Kailash), he goes after Inspector Om. As Om talks to young Barkha about his sorrow at the death of Kailash, Sheru throws a lasso through the window and yanks Om, still holding Barkha's doll, through the window, breaking bars and glass, then drags him behind the jeep as he speeds away.
He locks Om in the lair for 20 years, whipping him whenever he needs a laugh. Om has right on his side, though, and refuses to let his spirit be broken. "I want to break his ego like glass," growls Sheru, slamming a bottle down on the bar. The bottle does not shatter and just bounces off to the side. This might have been a mistake with the props, but I thought it was quite telling - in Teesri Aankh, even the mega-villain's dramatics aren't easy.Also note Sheru's werewolf painting.

Most of the rest of this post is going to be pictures - as Fairy Filmi Ending said, this movie is pretty wacktacular and, in my opinion, must be seen to be believed, especially for its comfort in presenting a grayer world with a little bite of unfairness. My only remaining point of substance is, unfortunately, a report on once again seeing Neetu Singh's character find love in physical violence. Almost exactly as in Heeralaal Pannalaal, Nisha reads a slap in the face from a man as love. Look at this scene, if you can bear it. When her father yells at her for her public antics, Nisha runs to another room and weeps to a portrait of her deceased mother, wishing for her own death.

She speeds off in her red convertible, driving in true Kapoor fashion,

screeching around corners and heading for the most dangerous place she can find, the neighborhood quarry.

Sagar, who had previously tangled with her in the gambling club scene, has seen her speeding by and follows her, trying to stop her from harming herself.

It's possible his slap was more of the "snap out of it!" than the "I judge your behavior and punish you!" variety, but its effect is the same: kapow! pyaar!

She grabs his collar and says "I like you."

His confusion at this statement is met with an assurance that she means it.

"You are the first man who has beaten me. You have opened the closed doors of a smile in my heart." It hurts to even type these words. There's tough love, and then there's sickness. Even if she just means "bested," as he beat her at cards in the previous scene, it's still an ugly concept; apparently missing a parent means you must be controlled and out-maneuvered by someone who in theory is supposed to be your partner. All of this drama is quickly brushed aside as the admittedly adorable "O Babu Hamne To" follows, with Nisha careening her car all over Bombay as a fretting Sagar tries to keep them from crashing; eventually he gives in and joins in the love-fueled madness. It's really so very cute.

I've never seen Shotgun do a song like this and I ate it up with a spoon. He and Neetu are great together - as in Kaalaa Patthar, they are very well balanced in attitude and impact. As I write this, I'm realizing that in both these scenarios, each character is outside the typical hero/ine model, and maybe it is the idea of outsiders understanding each other and finding joy in recognition of like spirits that is so appealing. The only scene of conflict in their relationship made me genuinely sad. Sheru orders Sagar to steal some important papers from Nisha's father, and she catches him in the act. She understandably assumes he's after her family's money and tells him where to go while Neetu also shows Nisha's struggle to keep her own heartbreak under control. He is silent under her accusations, unable to tell her the truth. "Why are you standing there like a statue?" she demands. "Why don't you say something?" Ohhh it just hurt so much, that feeling of desperation for the person you care about to step up and offer a real reason for their behavior. He crumples under her disappointment, clutching the diamonds she has hurled at him.

This sort of quiet emotion from Shotgun minus any of his typical swagger is new to me, and it's wonderful.
And now...on with the clip reel! Here is a glorious example of characters being aware that they are in a masala film. Ashok asks Baba if the baby he found all those years ago had anything with him.
Yessss! Thank you, o Maha Dharam, for knowing to ask for a sign of the found child's identity! And you wisely did not specify whether it should be a tatttoo or necklace or a favorite song. Now that is clever!
Other dialogues are full of masalalicious irony.
Sagar is only pretending to be long-lost Amar in the second shot - that's how bad he is!


"Yep, I'm all that."
Does Rakesh remind anyone else of Napoleon Dynamite? I think it's the combination of beige 80s clothes and regrettable glasses.

Check out the pintucking on his trousers!

A bathrobe based on Warli paintings!
And a very lackluser dancing girl outfit.

Poor Sarika - she is so pretty and her clothes in this film are so blah (and her role has maybe six sentences). At least she gets to put her shiny, shiny lipgloss to good use by spending a whole song blowing kisses at Rakesh. (Quite possibly the worst job in this film.) Nice bumblebee sweater and chiffon scarf, Garam Dharam.

But not as nice as your running shorts.

My thoughts exactly.

There is a ton of leaping and jumping in this movie. I have no idea why, but it's fun.

It should be pointed out that Dharmendra was 47 when this movie was released (so a bit old, I think, even by Indian hero standards, to be whining to his mother when she says she wants him to go live at the family farm instead of in her house), and not only does he still have amazing legs, he's really bouncy and energetic and moves with finesse. RAWR.

Ranjeet! Playing a bad guy named Ranjeet! Doing the kinds of things you'd expect him to do!

Random goodness, like disguises and fun typos

great funny lines from Sagar, which Shatrughan delivers with effortless humor,

a cheerful communal song at Eid,

Nirupa with a leopard-print throw,
Just like Amjad Khan had in the last film I saw him in! Told you she was evil!and Shatrughan mirroring the pose of the cuddly-wuddly kitten in the poster behind him.

The big fight at the end goes on for so long that I honestly cannot remember exactly how it started. Much of it rambles through the song "Salaam Salaam " (embedded above) but as Sheru escapes and sets the lair to self-destruct behind him, it continues outside, where of course we find ourselves at the Shiva temple where little Ashok was abandoned all those years ago. It's a dark and stormy night, with the temple bells clanging.

You'll notice Shiva is missing his trident in this picture; I bet you can figure out where it went.

Gripe: Barkha's desire for vengeance with Sheru is just as deep-seated as Ashok's, but she is hardly in this finale at all.I'm saving the best for last. This is one seriously fantastic lair. It has cheesy art,
Calling Dr. Freud! Why does the grown man have a painting of the stages of female development, of course stopping at the "hot and mostly naked" age?
at least three bars (one of them is in the shot above of Sheru raging about breaking Om's ego),

glowing eyes,
skulls and many other menacingly-mouthed creature features (one of them day-glo and surrounded by naked women who have blood dripping over their torsos!),

various rock formations and grottoes (some of them covered in blue glitter),
dancing girls with sparking nails led by Helen in a horrible wig,

henchmen in skull-emblazoned jackets, and an unexplained taste for owls.

The lair also provides the stage for two wonderful songs, "Salaam Salaam" already mentioned and "Dilbaron Ka Dilbar," which we should just call "Superman" because that is the lyric that will get stuck in your head. Ashok and Barkha infiltrate Sheru's HQ by disguising as Superman, an otherwise unnamed consultant Sheru wants to work with. I have no idea what happened to the real Superman, but as this scene from the prologue will indicate, Ashok and Barkha have been fated since childhood to be successful at this particular mission.

I love the inflatable shark on the right side. Too bad it isn't part of the lair later!
When they're all grown up, both of them can fly!

Sheru's reaction to this song that combines toreador capes, references to Superman, spaceships, and aliens that look like they came from the set of Do aur Do Paanch's "Prem Se Humko Jeene Do" is priceless. I don't even care if this is what the Hindi dialogue actually is - I love it.

"Mister, I am happy seeing your antics. You are jovial but look to be useful." If that ain't meta-masala, I don't know what is.

Phew! Take your do aankhen and hurry up and watch Teesri Aankh. It's a shadowy but still gleeful and giddy masala romp. Apart from the heinous "You hit me? You love me!", there is nothing not to embrace: some unexpectedly complex characterizations, careful and spirited performances from Dharam, Neetu, Shatrughan, and Nirupa, some satisfying and spectacular songs, and a lair that dreams are made of.
And everybody's favorite lightning bolt to boot!
* How many times in the last week have I typed something about lost children? Masala zindabad indeed!