Saturday, February 07, 2009

Post 531 : Bordering the surreal and absurd - Bull in Economic Times

From Economic Times on 7th Feb 2009.
Anti-Climax by Bull

FOR ALL the new wave Bollywood directors who claim that they are making hatke films, here is one Hindi movie that they would do well to see. It is wild, whacky, inspired, ludicrous — one could run out of adjectives trying to describe this movie. Welcome to the bizarre world of a movie that goes by the name of Rani aur Lal Pari (1975). Having watched the movie years ago, I am still not sure which of the following is true.

The director of this film, Ravi Nagaich, made this while he was smoking some really potent stuff or else he is a twisted genius of a kind who conceived this phantasmagoric celluloid rendition. Cinderella, Gulliver, Lilliputtians mermaids, parees, Yamraj, the god of death all in one film is not something that the aam director could ever imagine.

The story bulls you into ‘Oh my God another one of those tearjerkers’ given its innocuous beginning. Asha Parekh, whose husband is away, and her young daughter Rani, are being tyrannized by her relatives. So when Asha Parekh meets with an accident and is on her way to Yama’s abode, you are all set to turn off the DVD.

But as the old saying goes that there is no gain without pain and here is where the real action kicks. Rani decides that she will bring her mother back from the dead. The problem is she does not know how. Enter little boy who is Rani’s friend, who tells her that the way to heaven is from below the earth. His logic for why this is possible is one of the highlights of the movie so I am not going to be a spoiler. Anyways cuckoo Rani follows chubby boy’s advice and decides to take a walk into the deep sees (literally) and make her way to Yamraj. In the course of her journey she encounters Cinderella, played by Neetu Singh. The Cinderella sequence is one giant song sequence (It lasted at least 10-12 minutes.

Diclaimer: I might have been delusional by this point) and the entire story is enacted by Neetu Singh and Jeetendra, who plays Prince Charming. Don’t ask me what the child is doing in the entire thing for by the time the song started I was like Alice in Wonderland, too dazed and confused. Then there is the Gulliver bit (also set in a giant song) wherein Feroz Khan reprises Jonathan Swift’s most famous character with Jagdeep as the king of Lilliputians!

The animation is hideous and you wonder what great satire this might have inspired Swift to. Add to all this is an allusion to The Little Mermaid but with Padma Khanna being the mermaid, little is perhaps not an apt prefix to mermaid. If you are wondering where the Lal Pari is in all this, then well you have Reena Roy, with a wand and wings clipped to her back popping in and out of frames.

Invariably Lal Pari is busy smothering the child and weeping with her. The show rolls on through all these escapades/misadventures/accidents call it what you will as the kid continues her journey towards Yamraj. The special effects are a scream, the scary creatures/demons a riot and the sheer ‘badness quotient’ of the film makes you marvel.

Finally, Rani does get to Yamraj-played by Premnath, who is forced to reveal what must be one of the ugliest of paunches and revolting of upper bodies ever sported by a male in the history of Hindi films. Nevertheless, the God of death tells the girl mama cannot come alive and she must ask for something else. The kid says she wants a younger brother. Premnath laughs like a man possessed about being tricked by Rani. Rani’s return journey is uneventful and naturally when she reaches the hospital her comatose mother with patti (bandage) is revived and her father, Rajendra Kumar, is back. For once I must say that words are never going to do justice to a movie such as this and while I have tried my best, seeing it is the only way to believe how bad, bad really can be.

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