Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dreaming of Desai: Aamne Samne (1982)

If you're already tired of the Mithun/80's streak here, my apologies. I blame it all on watching Disco Dancer for the first time AND re-watching Remington Steele with my sis . . .  both of which have reminded me of how much I am entertained by the bizarre decor and grungy action of the era. Luckily, it's getting easier to watch things without subtitles, too . . . which of course opens a lot of doors, some of which lead to hidden gems.

Not to be confused with the rather dull Shashi/Sharmila film from about 15 years earlier, this Aamne Samne is, in my opinion, a jewel. And not just because of the glitter factor.


But have no fear (if you are wary of this era). Barring its disco sequences, Aamne Samne belongs more to the filmi 70's than anything else. I'm pretty sure whoever jotted down the plot simply decided to take his/her favorite elements from Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Parvarish, and (mostly) Sachaa Jhutha and remix them. Oh, and toss in an action scene or two from Raiders of the Lost Ark (copied almost shot for shot). Usually the blatant copycat masala annoys me, but I approve* of this particular example. Especially since this is the movie I kinda wanted Sachaa Jhutha to be.





















Getaways are hard work. You just try to drive at night in dark sunglasses.

Johnny is a disco dancer by night . . . and a society thief by night, too. And if that sounds familiar, I'll let you in on the Sachaa Jhutha "homage" . . . Yes, this movie has not one, but two Mithun characters.





















Don't be confused by the third in shot above. This is Mithun #3's only appearance. 

By day, Johnny hobnobs with suspicious (yet charmed) police inspectors, smokes, and lounges about in his underground lair. (Give him a break, he works the late shift.)



But, of course, it turns out that Johnny has both a masala PAST and a masala double. And both are about to catch up with him.

Johnny-look-alike is a simple village boy (Gopi) who, after incurring the wrath of the local landowner, has come to the big city to find work. He is immediately mistaken for Johnny by an orphaned waif, Raju. [He is adorbs! and extremely precocious for only 4 yrs old, by my count.] Raju is the son Johnny never knew existed, and has been searching for Johnny since his mother's death. Gopi doesn't have the heart to tell The Kid (similarities to Charlie Chaplin's film of the same name cannot be denied) that he's not his real father.


Soon he sets off to provide for his cute little acquisition. Of course, he can't get far before he is swarmed by a crowd of fangirls . . . led by Jyoti (Bindiya Goswami). They are overjoyed to "run into" Johnny, who they think is putting on some elaborate simpleton act (a la an elaborate Joaquin Phoenix prank).


Gopi has one thing in mind: FOOD (for himself and cute waif who he has already accepted as a "son"), and so he plays along. In the process, it isn't long before Johnny's crew also fall for the ruse, and bring Gopi and the kid back to Johnny's mansion.


Quickly realizing that the minions are going to bow to his every whim, Gopi decides to have a little fun with the crew and orders them to dance. [This has got to be one one of my favorite Mac Mohan scenes ever.]

But there are eyes everywhere. Via the mansion's sophisticated audio-visual surveillance system, Johnny and girlfriend Rita take a moment to enjoy the show. (It's little details/choices like Johnny's amusement instead of anger in this situation that make this film highly enjoyable.)




Of course Johnny immediately sees the angle. What COULD he accomplish with a look alike around to cover for his *ahem* other activities? The police have been extra hot on his trail lately, after all.




Gopi is quickly persuaded to stay and become Johnny's double because (A) Raju will be provided for, and (B) Johnny's lie about their work being necessary to protect "Hamara desh." As far as I could tell, the only rule of Double Club was "no communication with the folks back home." And of course, no talking about Double Club.

Gopi sets out to learn Johnny's signature moves, whether it be dancing (I found it side-splitting to see Mithun pretending to try to learn to dance) or marksmanship.


And straight out of Sachaa Jhutha's best gags . . .we have the potentially hilarious dilemma: What happens when nobody can tell Johnny from Gopi or vice-versa?

Since this is a Mithun movie . . . a brief fist fight, and then an energetic mirror-image lair dance. What else?


From here on . . .the movie happily throws in some some filmi blindness (Jyoti's character), "surprise" undercover cops, a Don nicknamed Supremo with a deadline for Johnny (emphasis on "dead") . . .



. . . and necessarily, more disco. Happily, this is 1982, and the picturization still feels semi-new and shiny.


Also there's a lot of cuteness to be had. I don't think I've rooted for a little familial trio this much since Aa Gale Lag Jaa. This screencap doesn't do them (or this song) justice. 

But how long will it take for Gopi to realize that Johnny is engaged is some pretty shady stuff . . . stuff that might send him to prison AND endanger Raju's life ? Will Mithun have to fight himself for real this time? 

What happens when the police and/or Supremo start to catch Johnny in his own craftiness? And will Jyoti and Rita ever get it on? (I mean in a girl-fight, gosh, what were you thinking? I'll let you in a small detail, I laughed for a full minute at one point at the shameless subtext. It might be the most hilarious girl-fight, and the least subtle, I've ever seen.)

Honestly, I loved this one. Sure you have to like Mithun (there's a lot of him to be had here, obviously) and I happen to find Mithun extremely easy to watch even in bad movies (and this is a good one). But I'm sure you'll understand the attraction of a masala flick that spends very little time with weepy Ma's or goody-two-shoes police detectives, and just gives you what you want most: 

1. Capers. Ok, mostly rumors of capers. But the over-all feel is caper-y at least.  
2. People impersonating other people and lots of mistaken identity gags.
3. A chance to see the hero play both good-suave, and bad-suave at the same time. Who doesn't want to see that? 
4. Flared trousers-so-tight-they-should-be-illegal. (They even found a way to make flares even more figure-hugging than usual. . . but I won't spoil it for you. Let's just say that the final showdown is revealing in more ways than one). 
5. Dancing, dancing, disco, disco. 

As a Sachaa Jhutha remake (which this is, officially or no), I totally miss some of the fabulous characters from the original film. Evil Rajesh avatar always makes my day; and Mumtaz's spunkiness, Vinod Khanna's sleuthing, and the Moti the Wonder Dog's heartwarming antics are all lovely. But the separated family, evil stepmother character, and a few other Desai stylistic choices really drag the film down for me. Aamne Samne, however, didn't have the same sour aftereffect. 

This film is just pure fun . . . with just enough heartstring-pulling/pathos to keep you caring about the main characters. It uses a lot of elements from the aforementioned Desai films that I loved, and yet makes those elements easier to digest by tossing out the extensive moral hand-wringing. Plus, it jumps into the action with the first frame, only dedicates about 45 seconds to various characters' pre-history, and from there on moves pretty fast (all of which I love). 

One hears a lot about how the cinema of the 80's had to deal with a rapidly modernizing public, a public that didn't want to sit through long poetic soliloquies, a public changed by the growing presence of cassette players and television and Western pop music. So it's nice to see a film from the era in which that high-speed commercialism works in favor of the story, rather than the other way around. 




















I leave you with my promise to myself before writing this post. "I will not entitle it 'Double the Mithun, Double the Fun.' I will not. I will not." And I didn't. Even though, it DOES seems like a good rule to live by for this particular time period.

*Note: Since I have not seen this with subtitles (but thank you, Youtube for having it at all!), feel free to correct me if I misrepresented something or failed to notice something unforgivable.

2 comments:

  1. I scrupulously stayed away from Mithun's movies when I was younger, though I watched Disco Dancer. :) Yes, what I do remember of him are his tight trousers - I used to wonder how he fit into them before lycra and spandex. *grin* My BIL would kill me for this, but when he was younger, he looked like Mithun. (He hated us telling him that - he and my husband were, in my huband's words, 'South Bombay snobs' who looked down on Hindi movies.)

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    1. What can I say? I love the tight trousers as long as the fellers can pull them off. (Though I don't know how they literally pulled them off after shooting, lol.)

      Oh, it's too bad brother in law can't take a compliment. For it is a compliment in my book! Sounds like those two are a difficult congregation to influence in the good filmi path . . . I don't envy you that ;) It's always weird to me when people can accept silly Hollywood stylistic choices and illogical stories, but not those of Bollywood. I was talking to an NRI friend the other day, and he was trying to convince me that fare such as Rambo (the original movies) was better quality somehow (and less "silly") than south indian action/masala. That amused me greatly :)

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