Thursday, October 10, 2013

Raaj Kumar Week: Sure it's exotica, but still . . . Lal Patthar (1971)

It's Raaj Kumar Week at Filmi~Contrast . . . 

Yep. I know. It's nice to have a week all to yourself, isn't it? 


You know that feeling you get when you're watching a movie that isn't exactly something you would recommend to someone else, yet you kinda of really like it all the same, and kinda want to keep it all to yourself?

That was Lal Patthar (1971), for me.


This film's appeal lies mostly in the realms of sexiness and exotica and sensationalism. Not exactly the usual stuff of a respectable classic, but still . . .























If you're in the mood for such things, you may quite enjoy yourself.

Hema Malini takes every available opportunity to plaster herself against Raaj Kumar in this film. I can see why. 
In a nice turn of fortune (for me at least), the excellent pacing of this film places it a notch above other bolly-bodice-ripping exotica. I am guessing this must have something to do with the screen-writing contribution of Nabendu Ghosh, who was responsible for the screenplay of Devdas (1955) and Parineeta (1953), and quite a few other respected films. (It was also a remake of a 1964 Bengali film of the same name. Not sure how much of the dialogue and scenes transferred, but the plot seems pretty similar from the summary.)

You can really see the excellence of the screenwriting and dialogue in the top-notch and pithy interactions between minor characters, all of which served to bring a lot of non-stereotypical layers to the film.
In lieu of a point-by-point plot summary (which I tend to dislike so I will spare you), I will at least tell you that this film chronicles the obsessive tango of a mad king and his jealous mistress, and the fate of the two innocents caught between them. What about that doesn't sound fabulous?

Also, the four leads in this film are: Raaj Kumar (as the aristocrat/tiger hunter/king) . . .



Hema Malini (his tigress, er, long-time mistress) . . .



Rakhee (as the aging king's virginal songbird bride) . . .

You know it's the middle of the film when Rakhee's in her bridal suite.

and Vinod Mehra (in full rosy-cheeked cuteness mode as Rakhee's childhood sweetheart).

This was an adorable song. Probably up there among the best fake-piano playing songs I've seen.
Kishore Kumar's caramel-ly tones combined with Vinod Mehra's candy-cane charm gave me a cavity, I think. 
These are some of my favorite people, AND my two most adored filmi actresses . . . so once I realized that, I was like, "Let the games begin."

If there was ever a film that showcased the love of a man and his tobacco, it is this film. Raaj Kumar chain-smokes his way through almost every scene. And he looks good puffing away, I'm not gonna lie. From my limited research, I'd guess that Raaj Kumar jumped at the chance to portray an old-fashioned aristocrat who in most scenes can be found doing one or more of the following:

(A) Smoking. Smoking. Smoking.



(B) Reading poetry or history (while smoking).

Notice the book he's reading about the Mughal-fort/palace complex. This will come in quite significantly later. Kudos to the writer or Raaj Kumar for setting up some lovely foreshadowing moments in the early part of this film. 








(C) Listening, enraptured, while other people perform for him (hopefully while smoking).




(D) Hunting tigers or playing with guns or doing both on a horse.

I'm pretty sure this tent was manufactured out of my grandmother's living room wallpaper.  Not really sure what the otherwise classy production team was thinking. And yes, Raaj's poor gun-safety habits here do factor into the plot later. 

(E) Romancing both the goddess and the whore, and often forgetting who was who. (Heck, I forgot who was who in this one. You just don't root for the people you SHOULD root for.)



This simply vocalized song's lyrics were rather shocking coming from Rakhee's virginal character. 

(F) Delivering (his apparent trademark) deadpan dialogue.

Spoiler. These characters won't get one.
Although, I think Hema Malini upstages Raaj Kumar with her own one-liners in this film. 

As much as this is Raaj Kumar's film in the sense of pure screen time, the other three leads, esp. Hema Malini, are soooo very good here.

This beautifully tense meeting between Hema, as the ruling mistress, and keeper of the household for ten years, and Rakhee's new and shiny bride, was just pitch perfect.


Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that this film did not exactly end the way I expected it to. Normally, in Hindi films, those who have all the sex and vice (especially the women) don't make it out of the film unscathed. But here, the leads are both kinda "bad," and they got off a lot easier than I expected. As much as I'm all for karmic comeuppances, I really enjoyed the fact that for once, just once, someone didn't have to go to prison.

Next in Raaj Kumar week: Waqt (1965)

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