Long story short, the winner was . . .
And yes, it is a fabulous Rajesh Khanna film from 1970.
If you want a great rundown of the plot--as per usual I'll refer you to Memsaab's non-spoilery review. But all you really need to know to get excited about the film is that:
- Rajesh Khanna is a police inspector tracking a diamond smuggling ring and a murder on THE TRAIN!
- R.D. Burman turns out an amazing score.
- Aruna Irani dances and shows off her so scary--she could bend steel with them--ab muscles.
- Nanda doing her usual--when she's good she's boring, when she's bad she's awesome--thing.
- Helen is perfect and ACTUALLY has a significant role . . . and is easily the only smart character in the entire story. (Of course, it can't end well for the woman who's smarter than the hero.)
|Exactly, Helen. You're all knowing, so why the obsession with those who know nothing?|
Finishing The Train first was a lesson in itself in how my Hindi movie-watching tastes have evolved this year. I realized I would choose a film like this (a film that is undeniably silly plot-wise) over other more sophisticated stories because it is (in no particular order) . . .
1. Consistently smooth and stylish
The direction and cinematography are distinctly above the two shot/over-the-shoulder-shot repetition I've gotten used to in a lot of older films. Here, style is certainly the goal over substance. And because the stylistic choices are consistent enough and frequent enough, you never feel blindsided by the strangeness of it all. From beginning to end, you know you're supposed to be in a certain mood . . . and that's no small feat.
As far as I can tell, we probably have the director/DP of the film to thank for that. Ravee Nagaich was nothing if not bold . . . if I dare make any generalizations based on the experimental grooviness of the few films of his I've seen.
Thankfully, this film's grooviness leans toward Noir rather than the Bizarre (like a lot of late 70's masala and Nagaich's later so-bad-it's-good film also starring Rajesh and Helen, Mere Jeevan Saathi).
I loved all the slanted and swirling camera angles, the neon lighting, the shadows, and use of hallways and reflections for ominous effect. Sure, this photographic style is a little sillier in color than in the classic black and white Noir, but since it's a Hindi movie, my sensitivity to silliness is extremely dulled . . . and let's be honest, sometimes we really wish our lives looked this dramatic and cool.
Note: I was also lucky to find a really beautiful print (Shemaroo, obvs.) of this film--as it deserves to be seen in the right dimensions and crisp tones.
2. No childhood prologue
We start with adults . . . and end with adults.
Albeit, rather silly adults.
This song (Gulaabi Aankhen) may look silly choreography-wise, but beware, it's extremely catchy, nonetheless. Sometimes I also get a perverse pleasure from watching people play stupid-pyaar-mein, rather than better and prettier and more glamorous than I can ever hope to be. Cause really, most people in love skip more than than they glide, anyway.
I just want to state once and for all that I almost always hate masala childhood prologues. They wear me out emotionally, and by the time I get to the real story I'm overly raw and sensitive to otherwise mildly irritating and painful plot elements. (I'm pretty sure that childhood-prologue thing is one of the worst masala elements they could have put into Slumdog Millionaire . . .and kind of explains why I didn't like the film at all when I saw it a few years ago.) Honestly, I only want to see children being oppressed in Dickensian misfortune if the children AS children (like Joan Aiken's literary protagonists or these young Russian revolutionaries)
|The Elusive Avengers (USSR, 1966)|
. . .get to seek justice for themselves. If they have to grow up to get some of their own back . . . I don't want to see it. My favorite masala films (Kaala Patthar, Hera Pheri, Raja Jani), btw, do NOT beat me over the head with childhood misery at the beginning. They start in the middle of the story, and if they need to, briefly refer back to misery-gone-by.
3. No (major) character was unjustly imprisoned
OK, so Nanda's father IS unjustly imprisoned. But we don't have to spend any time in courtrooms . . . and since Rajesh's character seems to be callously taking the knowledge in stride, we don't have to let it bother us much either. If he can march to a public phone and turn his future father-in-law into the police the instant he sees him . . . well . . . as the audience we're obviously not meant to care more than the hero cares.
4. Fabulous item numbers and Helen numbers
First there's this Helen bit (that ranks high for me among "Helen bits" as my brother and I have begun to call her *ahem* item numbers): O Meri Jaan Maine Kaha.
In general, I really enjoy any Helen numbers picturized with Rajesh . . . she obviously simultaneously terrifies him . . .
. . . and brings out his own evil side beautifully.
I really want to see a movie where they try to take over the world together. That would just make my life.
And then there's Aruna Irani, my resident girl crush. So fabulous, so terrifying in her own aggressively sexy way.
|Watch her cleverly added (somewhat plot-necessary) item song here.|
5. This is a top notch Rajesh Khanna film
So count me in. Bottom line.
You probably know by now that I'm not that picky about Rajesh Khanna films. I watch bad ones, I watch good ones.
Honestly, I think I just accidently formed a habit of finishing Rajesh movies (despite flaws) at an early stage of my 70's film watching (my favorite brandy may or may not have eased the time passage originally) and it became a comforting tradition.
Thus, when I find one that's a touch above the rest, I find it extremely easy to finish (even sans sharab, as this viewing was).
But this is a good one. And an extra fun role. I love it when Rajesh doesn't have to play "perfect." He's really not that good of a person in this movie--in fact his character is really just a hardened lawman with a penchant for nice suits and pretty women.
Human feeling be-damned, he'll commit to his job any day over the two women he's got on the hook (Helen and Nanda).
He also doesn't give a damn about the comedian, er, witness he's supposed to keep safe from the murderous smugglers. He even turns in his own future-father-in law to the police without a second thought or even an apology. He's kind of a more law-friendly version of Rajesh's evil character in Sacha Jhutha . . . and I loved every second of it.
On the whole, this film is fun pretty much all the way through. I was never bored for more than a minute here or there, which is saying something! And it even meets the ultimate Rajesh requirement--the mustache moment.
In milestone thoughts summation, my year time-traveling to the 70's has been beautiful . . . a good deal because of the RK love.
I leave you with Helen ringing in the new year with a sparkly song, in a way only she can.
|Watch her New Years Sparkle Shimmy here.|
May we indeed, meet more often, the 70's and me.