Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Knock of Om!

"That's the punch of Jesus on his face."
"The blow of Allah!"
"And the knock of Om!"

1981's Naseeb has clear links to Amar Akbar Anthony (sharing a director, screenwriter, and musical team), but its theme of inter-religious unity and brotherhood is depicted a little more, shall we say, aggressively?

The three heroes have been given rings with Christian, Muslim, and Hindu religious symbols on them, respectively, and punched the faces of their opponents. (These include henchman du jour Yusuf Khan, as Amrish Puri's hulkish son.When you Google him, you get references to Dilip Kumar, but while this Yusuf Khan had a short career, only 21 movies in 12 years, those films include Amar Akbar Anthony, Don, Karz, the Ramsay Brothers' Hotel, and Disco Dancer. Pretty impressive).

Naseeb (Destiny) tells the story of a group of friends who plan to share a lottery ticket. When it wins, two of them murder the others (although with Pran, they throw him in the river and don't make sure he's dead, which is always a bad idea). All four guys have kids who grow up and get into romantic entanglements, not knowing who the others are; evil deeds can't be hidden forever; revenge is sought, etc.

Oh, yeah, and it has the musical sequence that inspired the "Deewangi Deewangi" number in Om Shanti Om, with lots of stars playing themselves at a Golden Jubilee function where Amitabh is singing and serving drinks.

It's too bad that Naseeb didn't quite come together for me. At 39, Amitabh was sadly already looking a little old for this kind of thing, maybe because of the contrast with 1973's Zanjeer (which I just watched the day before, impressed by his intensity and startled by his hotness). By 1981, he's put on some weight, he doesn't have the same spark, but he's still trying to do the youthful role, and the script doesn't really give him much help. His John is like a maudlin version of Anthony, but it's not really a fun, full-of-life character. Nor is it a solid dramatic one like Zanjeer's Vijay. He's introduced with that lively, Anthony-like "John Jaani Janardhan" number, but then there's the cage-fighting and the self-sacrifice and the angst.

Hey! I just realized, I'm comparing his role to the ones in Amar Akbar Anthony and Zanjeer. The A to Z of Amitabh Bachchan!

Shatrughan Sinha fills in for Vinod Khanna as the sort of middle child hero, and while he was a plausible romantic rival for Dharmendra in Blackmail, here he looks more like a middle-aged businessman than a guy pretty girls would be throwing themselves into wells over.

Which leaves Rishi as the stand-out, managing to be utterly plausible doing blackflips in fight scenes, and getting some good comic moments early on (as does Hema in her role a celebrity pitchperson for cough drops). Well, if your standard for "utterly plausible" is as elastic as mine obviously is.

Speaking of the Dream Girl, with Zanjeer, this made two films in a row I've watched with climactic fight scenes where the heroines suddenly show up to save the day. In Zanjeer, Jaya played a girl with a knife-sharpening stand, and her skill at knife-throwing was established in her first scene. You'd think I'd have seen where that was going, but hey, there was a lot going on, so by the time she turned up when the bad guys seemed to have the upper hand, I'd almost forgotten there was even a romantic subplot to wrap up, much less that she'd be useful in a fight.

In Naseeb, all three heroines arrive, busting glass windows and flying through the air, on daredevil Hema's motorcycle. (She plays a famous pop singer, who had to escape from two separate hoodlum attacks before she even got directly involved with the storyline).

Naseeb has other pluses, including a great restaurant with a revolving floor, where there's a bartender inside a giant model of a whiskey bottle. No complaints there. (I know: it's been brought to my attention that I really need to start screenshotting). Conveniently, a crank can turn the floor up to speeds that will throw anyone standing on it flat to the ground. Well, that might not be so convenient for most restaurants, but it is when complicated factions of gangsters are brawling on it.

Oh, and the part where the bad guys smuggle drugs by lowering coffins into the ground, right down into their underground lair/crematorium, was also pretty awesome.

As for Zanjeer: it's famous for the great and obviously iconic performance by Amitabh as a driven policeman, but the movie is stolen right out from under him by Pran (who played his dad in both Naseeb and Amar Akbar Anthony). Pran is the tough gambling kingpin Sher Khan who, beaten in a fair fight by Amitabh's new cop on the beat, not only goes straight as an auto mechanic, but becomes the cop's best friend and right-hand man. He sports a full head of red hair, which he fluffs back dramatically at key moments, and a glittery vest I'd be expecting to see on qawwali singer.

It's great to see Pran get to play the hero for once, with a noble character, a bunch of fairly convincing fight scenes, and even his own musical number, serenading Amitabh's depressed Vijay with a song about the importance of seeing his friends smile. Awwww.


a ppcc representative said...


Must see Naseeb. It's in my pile. How can you imply that Shotgun Sinha is anything less than smoking?! Tut.

Anarchivist said...

I know, I've always found him hot before. Maybe I was just having an off night...