Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bolly retro

A dull day exploded into life when I happened to switch on the TV and caught the last half-hour of a mid-1980s film called Insaaf Kaun Karega. Astonishingly, I couldn’t remember anything about the film – and here I was thinking I had an encyclopedic memory of every gloriously kitschy title from that unforgettable decade. Now I’m on territory that other bloggers, notably Great Bong and Megha, have made their own, but I’ve been having many nostalgia conversations with friends about our movie-watching experiences of that time and how they might have warped us for life. (This reminds me of something very funny I read recently about how many Indians born around 1976-77 have been cursed with emotional insecurity issues because their parents had been having "Nervous Sex" around the time of the Emergency.)

Back to Insaaf Kaun Karega. At the point where I come in, Jaya Prada, dressed in garish purple-and-orange kothewaali costume, is performing a dance number for leering villains including Amrish Puri. Bindu plays with a tinful of money in the background. A tiger in a cage bares his fangs indifferently for the camera. The tuneless song reminds me of why we were so quick to press the fast-forward button on our video players back in those days whenever a song sequence came on (what a great conceit that seems when I think of it now – it was like saying, get the songs out of the way but the rest of this masterpiece deserves to be carefully watched. And of course, that was how we felt).

The song finishes. Jaya pulls out a dagger and tries to plunge it into Amrish P’s black heart but another baddie disarms her and carries her off. "Nahin, nahin!" Then who should come to the rescue but Pran (playing one of his embittered-but-goodhearted, doddering old men). He shoots the evil Bindu three times in the stomach region; each time she looks with renewed astonishment at the spot where the bullet entered and emits a short scream; she throws a quick glance off-camera (where the film’s director is standing with a cue card) and collapses spectacularly.

I see Shakti Kapoor and Gulshan Grover running around, shouting. Just as I am beginning to wonder whether this film has any leading men at all, Dharmendra paaji (latter-day Dharam in his Badle ki Aag phase, red-eyed, at his dog-blood-sipping finest) appears on horseback to knock a couple of villains off with his huge fists. Five minutes later the inimitable Rajnikanth announces his presence by somersaulting off a terrace. (What film is this, I’m asking myself in amazement, and why did I never record it in that little notepad I used to carry around everywhere as a child?) He engages Amrish in hand-to-hand combat while Dharmendra does the same with the very uninterested-looking tiger. Just as the tiger (almost in spite of itself) seems to be getting the upper paw, it catches a glimpse of a medallion with a photo of Durga Ma on it. Claps of thunder appear on the soundtrack, split-second shots of lightning are seen. The tiger backs away, mewling.

The villains are vanquished but all didn’t end well: one of the good guys (Pran, who else?) has sacrificed his life to the larger cause. The other good guys stand around in a group, weeping noisily, looking out at the audience with their faces all screwed up. Cut immediately to the last shot, as the closing titles roll: paaji on his knees singing another tuneless song while Jaya dances in garish outfit, looking more or less as interested as she was when performing for the villains.

I miss the ’80s.


  1. thanks for dredging up some forgettiable memories.

  2. "why did I never record it in that little notepad I used to carry around everywhere as a child?"

    you really did that?!

  3. Oh yes darling - wish I'd held on to those notebooks (filled up quite a few of them as I recall). Interestingly enough, I used a complicated "star rating" system for the movies - and I'm quite sure this was before I had ever seen a movie review with star ratings. Weird. Must've got the idea from the stars teachers would put on our homework assignments.

  4. Stars remind me of TOI-let paper and the grand fatuous old lady of Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. You'll know better! ;)

  5. That was priceless, Jai! I apparently missed this gem, but now thanks to you, I'm all caught up on the best parts ;)

    Oh and by the way, you have company in the little-notepad-keeping :)

  6. your reviews are just terrifically funny :) i love the dog-blood-sipping-finest description....(it amuses me to imagine "dog-milk-sipping-finest" :-p) and those of the poor tiger's half-hearted attempts to be scary...
    those 80s films were gold! especially the horror assemblage of cliches with some mandatory disrobing scenes from plump nymphets. hah!

  7. What I find interesting is how the concept of the attractive body has changed.

    Most of the 80s stars would now be put on enforced diets and, in the case of the guys, be told to shave their chest hair.

    It's one of the clearest sign of how we've changed from a food-deficient society -- until you're 20 years beyond the threat of imminent mass-starvation, your beauty standards don't move from the ample to the ripped.

  8. Aaahh! Finally you stoop to my cultural level. Very pleasant to find you writing about a film that even I can look down upon.

    And laugh.


    (but your word-verification gets longer and longer ...)

  9. Interesting! you actually dared to see that movie... :-o

    brings back memories of those Video-on-rent days when we watched those movies (which today we classify as horrible) one after another all night long along with entire neighbourhood, and enjoyed them as well.


  10. what a fantastic movie! how did I miss this? thanks for this great write up. now shall channel surf with vigor looking for this one.
    and have you seen 'jeene nahi doonga' with Sharam and shotgun shatru - rakha and shakha respectively - or is it the other way round? is my all time favorite - every single scene a masterpiece.

  11. This whole notepad thing worries me greatly. The rest I can accept, but...a notepad?
    *edges away slowly*

  12. I saw a few minutes of this movie the same time as you did. There was this scene where Rajnikanth was berating Dharmendra for bringing Jaya Prada into his house. I won't forget Dharampaji's reply in a hurry: "Mujhe maa chahiye, bhai chahiye ..."

    The lost art of film-making.

  13. i miss the 80s terribly......

    there was this recent movie, Elaan (with the inimitable Mithun da) that reminded me of the 80's. Good stuff, that......see it if you can.

  14. Got the details of Insaaf Kaun Karega from a friend. It's even better than you think.

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  16. Yes, scorn away to glory guys.. The same things if you see in an english movie and you would gawk in surprise and would even recommend it to your friends.. I have observed one thing is that they wouldn't mind recommending a shady english movie to friends instead of a hindi movie.. wonder why??

  17. I remember a dialogue from the film

    Rajnikant : Mujhe Kunfu - Karate aata hai. Tujhe kya aata hai ?

    Dharmendra : Mujhe Alu - Paratha aata hai.