Sunday, 18 December 2011

But A Short Time to Live

So I saw Majboor.

In the 70s you would get compilations of stories, I think by Readers Digest, which often had stories of innocent folk in peril (think The Desperate Hours). These apparently provided fertile ground for Hindi cinema of the time for Majboor is one such film where Amitabh Bachchan is at work plucking petals - I am innocent, I am guilty, I am innocent…..And what’s the verdict?! Here goes!

Let’s play look for a trope! For the beginning of this film is full of them.

The man himself is Mr Ravi Khanna, the only name allowed for heroes in the 70s, a travel agent in pomaded hair, Tinopal white shirts and flared pants. He mans a desk with a colleague and is Mr Efficient. Ah innocent times when people booked on Air India and flights went to Perth!

Mr Ravi Khanna  has a dysfunctional family – I kid, I kid – they are fucking super loving OK! His mother is a widow in white with no name apart from Maa and played by Sulochana. His sister is a girl in a wheelchair called Renu played by Farida Jalal. His kid brother is played by Master Alankar and you know in your bones that he will have a song which he will sing in the voice of an aged female singer because she is so fucking popular that she sings for everyone except the hero. And they all love each other massively and play sweet games and rib each other and the mother always has a sweet, saintly expression and if ever anyone is sad - especially the girl in a wheelchair who can always be teased and who will ALWAYS FORGET THAT SHE CANNOT WALK and will then be reminded that she can’t walk and will then weep beautifully and for a long time - then everyone will sing a song and be happy and complete domestic bliss shall reign. I am thinking hard about this, Family why do we not have a FAMILY SONG?! How can we ever be happy without it!

Mr Ravi Khanna also has a girlfriend called Neela (Parveen Babi) who is DEEPLY ANNOYED with her man because he is always late or standing her up or forgetful or something. But this was way before He’s Just Not That Into You and Totally Into His Family so the silly girl is all happy after some random folk have sung a song (this movie is SO REAL they ACTUALLY got paid to sing-ex boyfriends who never realised this can we time travel for the sadak chaap serenade!). Then again, Neela has it right, a girl must never pass up petting time (that’s what they did in the 70s, pet, you know like I am petting a dog right now and he is a canine). Also Neela girl, I don’t care if it’s the 70s but ginormous bright yellow flowers are NOT earrings!

Now we have An Inspector Calls. Fuck me, why am I so surprised that it is Mr. Iftekhar! Hey man, haven’t seen you in ages - well at least not from the time when I was 13 and my mother dragged me to Hindi movies - looking good, nice voice, if I was 22 and an obsessive, I would totally have you up there in a list of supporting actors who were strangely hot and ignored by idiot women mooning over Mr Rajesh Khanna. His sidekick is perennial policeman, Mr Jagdish Raj. Anyway, back to bijness. Mr Inspector is back because a man who went missing a few months before is now DEAD IN A DITCH. Ravi has been questioned before as he was the last person who saw him alive. Mr Surendra Sinha (Rehman aka Fat Flashman, my dear girl I am averting my eyes, all that excellent evil depravity has gone amiss, I am shattered!) had dropped by to collect his tickets and as it was bucketing outside, offered Ravi a lift. Ravi got off to ahem pick up MEDICINES FOR DEAR MOTHER and then went home but not before noticing that Mr Sinha has a massive rock on his fingers. Turns out some time after that Mr Sinha went missing, a ransom note was sent to his brother but he stayed missing and is now a bloated corpse.

Ravi, sensible man, goes to meet his lawyer. And on the way is overcome by the Mother of All Headaches. The audience is thinking BRAIN TUMOUR but Ravi is thinking that was one mother fucking migraine and let me go back to being loving son and marginally less loving boyfriend.

Another migraine later Ravi, sensible man, is also meeting his doctor. A few X Rays later, the doctor is shaking his head. We called it! The doctor is Science thou art WONDERFUL! Human Body, can I keep studying you! Now let’s see shall I do a world first operation and leave this man an invalid or an idiot or should I just let him DIE! For Ravi, yeh tumour ek khatarnak bomb hai! Faced with this dispassionate analysis, Ravi naturally chooses his own annihilation and hey man sensible of you for it’s better to cease to exist than wear orange safari suits! BUT WHAT OF MAA, BEHEN AND BHAI who are all dependent on him?! Their life now looks like a veritable vale of tears.

Ravi goes to Neela’s house and sings a song on our fucked up lives where NOTHING GOES TO PLAN and we must all submit to our fates. Inexplicably his audience is looking happy instead of thinking that’s it, sod all, I shall drain all these bottles of whisky especially since it’s on the house and pass out and never wake up.

Random conversation in office only so dim audience can know that any one who catches Mr Surendra Khanna’s khooni shall get Rs 5 Lakh from his loving brother Narendra Sinha (Satyen Kappu-good or bad, what would 70s experts think?!). Then Ravi has a PLAN. He shall plead guilty to the crime of killing Mr Surendra Sinha and collect the money so MAA, BEHEN AND BHAI can live happily ever after. KYA IDEA HAI, Sirji! So an elaborate plan later which includes setting up a kidnapping scene in some ruins, Ravi is all I kidnapped but did not murder Mr Surendra Sinha and the baby brother is also in the court because you totally want a young lad to sit through a murder trial and soon Neela’s father (Sapru) who is the clerk, NO THE JUDGE! says Dafa 302, Sazaye-E-Maut and its time for a bitter laugh and Ravi is sent to the clinker and Rs 5 Lakh is with his lawyer .

Maa goes to plead with Mr Narendra Sinha to lessen Sazaye-E-Maut but he is like Mataji, its tit for tat in these parts! So of course baby bro is now THE MAN OF THE HOUSE and singing in an old female voice, quelle surprise!

In jail, Ravi has another head fucking, forehead popping migraine which goes on for a very long time so audience can think THAT is ACTING! He’s sent off to his old doctor who inexplicably operates on him after previous dire warnings. The operation is a success and Ravi is completely cured (what was that, a tumour, a massive boil, a defused bomb, a badly read X-ray?!) the Doctor is ha ha I am a genius, I will be famous, while poor Ravi wakes up thinking that’s a fine pickle, I will be swinging and quite DEAD soon in spite of never having been more alive.

Ravi is in the hospital under police guard and he confesses all to Neela and the lawyer. Now there is nothing left but for Ravi to break free and find the real killer. Which he does by way of a hospital trolley, a contraption purposely designed for filmic escapes. Soon Neela and he are in Khandala where Ravi is totally blending in with the 70s crowd in a tomato red suit. And he meets up with a Mr Mahipat Rai (Madan Puri) who he recognises as the husband of a rich woman. Uh huh, he is here with a comely mistress though! And also has Mr Surendra Sinha’s massive rock on his fat fingers! Ravi thinks easy peasy I have already found the killer but that ring is from a Mr Prakash (MacMohan, man the 70s films were DOMINATED by the exact same lot who possibly went from set to set saying the same thing all day long).

Doctor, doctor, that operation of yours? Its reconfigured Mr Khanna’s brain and turned our man into a quick with fists sort! Ravi is like a Red Bull in Prakash’s contraband oops antiques shop and all I shall wring your neck, you murdering bastard and Prakash is Boss, just leave for I got this ring from Michael (Pran).

Michael. Totally boozing. Totally petty crim. Totally Catholic. And totally time for Mumbai Pichar Goan Gaana jisme na to log na to accent is Goan. Soon Michael who arrived in Mumbai by way of the Punjab and could never shake the accent is fighting fighting with Ravi Khanna and then they stop and Ravi is like Boss this is getting tedious and you have to be the murderer and Michael is my only crime is being A Cool Cat in a Vomit Yellow Skivvy and besides my gun always has blanks. But I know who the murderer is for I am a carjacker and the day Mr Sinha gave you a lift I stopped a car and the fucking moron driving it had no cash and handed over this ring from an asleep soul in the back seat. So of course the fucking moron is the murderer and the sleeping soul was dead Mr Sinha!

So now Michael can lay his hands on the 5 Lakh. Perhaps he can snitch on Ravi and send him back to prison as Prakash suggests? No way, he is Catholic! He is a drinking, thieving noble soul!

Michael goes to meet Mr Narendra Sinha to discuss the matter of the Rs 5 lakhs reward. And of course the man was driving the car on that fateful rainy night. Fuck me, why did I not see that coming! Turns out Narendra Sinha is not even a proper brother but just a stray cat paloed and posoed by Senior Sinha. And being a stray cat he can’t keep his paws off the Senior’s missus. And the missus is also eagerly pawing back leading to Narendra being thrown out by his brother. So that’s it, it is decided by the two that the Senior Sinha MUST GO. Which is why he is dead in a ditch. Michael and Narendra Sinha then arrive at a deal, they will meet at a ruined cottage on a dirt track somewhere far away and Michael shall get 7.5 lakh for delivering Ravi. Why does no one meet at coffee shops or chai dukans?

Michael meanwhile pays a visit to the Khanna household which is super sad what with a disappeared brother and no regular pay checks and pledges on the wheelchair sister’s head that he, Ravi’s long lost friend, shall return him to them. No one looks remotely surprised, really random people walk into my house and promise me all kinds of things too and I always believe them!

That beloved finale of 70s pictures, THE CLIMAX is upon us! Like the stereotypical female orgasm, 9 times out of 10, you will recline on your chair and think of going home and ending this super long misery of moves, counter moves, punches, wild throws, chases, cars, bullets, token heroine participation and the final police whistle which is like a sudden jolt of excitement and you are finally moaning and crying because you will soon see The End. Luckily you don’t have to fake interest – unless you are on a first date and the boy you are with is mad keen on Amitabh Bachchan doing a Fight Scene, then again you wouldn't date such a boy. But this Movie is all this here is LIKE HOLLYWOOD and we shall have tense long silent standoffs! So Michael gets shot but uses his empty gun to keep Narendra Sinha at bay while Ravi (who is STILL in that red suit like some elongated Santa Claus sans beard) is wildly careering over the countryside to fetch a doctor because no one had the excellent idea of meeting at a chai dukan. Hours later the doctor arrives, Michael dies, Narendra Sinha and Ravi fight and the police arrive and you have forgotten about orgasms of any sort and it’s all over and the curtain closes on the happy family (No Neela in it, yup totally not that into her). And just when you are thinking it’s the End it says “The Beginning”. And I say no thank you movie, that was a pleasant enough cup but I am not fucking drinking it again!

For the title, I wanted to play on a Chase title but eventually retained the original title. And why when a man could have titled himself Count Rene Brabazon Raymond did he stick to the commonplace JHC!

This movie has three things I am lukewarm towards – the 70s, thrillers and Mr Bachchan. Despite the tropes and the predictability of it all, it is a fairly decent watch that is played in a natural fashion and I have a vague recollection of most people liking this film, if only because it was possibly better than most films of the time. Mr Bachchan is on pretty good form and everyone else does what is expected of them without being too irritating.

PostScript: The movie is based on an American movie Zigzag, you can see how the plots differ especially in the latter’s downbeat ending, at this link.

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