If you ask me whether I have seen some uber-popular all-time classic and I reply "no", you can only blame the obsessive nature of yours truly, as well as the causal effect that instead of seeking out these Mother India's, these Pakeezah's and and Guide's, I've been watching films with my favourite stars and especially my favourite star jodis, regardless of quality.
A lot of my early and so-far watching of oldies has been influenced by the fact the first oldie that I absolutely loved was Sholay and thanks to it, I just wanted more of Hema Malini, and more of Dharmendra, and quite simply, that's what I ended up watching. While the numbers are not huge (out of the 42 shared projects IMDb lists with the two, I've seen a mere 11 so far), it's quite a lot considering the overall number of oldies I've seen is not grand. So seeing as how I love this jodi so much, I thought I'd review three of their films in one go.
The above two stills are from Jugnu, one of the most delightful Hema-Dharmendra ventures alongside such classics as Sholay and Seeta aur Geeta. It was one of the first true-and-blue 70's masala films I saw, complete with double identities and car chases, and thus taught me the meaning and value of this crazy genre I later grew to love. There were a number of fantastic traits in the film; Dharmendra plays Jugnu, a mysterious man of virtuous deeds and a master of disguises, and in those disguises he gets to do a couple of very funny comedy scenes. Hema plays a girl who falls in love with his real life identity, Ashok, but her run-ins with Jugnu are less favourable, though all the more hilarious. Added to this, we have awesome villains and beautiful songs. After seeing a few mediocre Hema-Dharmendra films (yes, such exist), this was a true breath of fresh air, and I truly should rewatch it and buy it on DVD soon.
One of those sadly mediocre flicks was 1980 Alibaba aur 40 Chor, the Soviet-Indian co-production (not that there is much Soviet to be seen - on the outside it pretty much looks like your typical Hindi film from this time period), which is a re-telling of the classic Arabic tale. Certain things are changed in this version compared to the one I first heard as a child, but the core elements (Alibaba, cave, 'open sesame!') stay more or less the same. I watched this also pretty early on in my oldie-expeditioning, and maybe because of that it was kind of a letdown. The plot moved slowly and there was a lot frankly quite boring action. On the plus side, the film included Zeenat Aman who I adored as the strong girl avenging her father's death. Dharmendra-Hema sparkled as usual and the songs were all visually spectacular. Especially memorable is the female duet where Hema and Zeenat protect themselves by pretending to battle over men's attention - "Saare shaher mein". And of course, must not forget Zeenat's song in the treasure cave, with the psychedelic disco floor - "Khatooba khatooba". I don't own this one on DVD either, but just for the songs, I frankly could!
Maa contained some offensively bad fashion, tons of mother love, tons of animal abuse and at the end of the day .. an elephant.
That's right. An elephant.
Without the elephant I would've not hesitated calling Maa one of the worst oldies I've witnessed. Boring, eye-roll inducing melodrama and overflowing mother love almost made me turn off the movie despite it having two of my big favourites. Thankfully I stuck through Dharmendra battling wild animals as the hands-on hunter, whose mother dislikes his profession because he separates animal children from their mothers. Three guesses what happens and how his mission on the second half of the movie shapes up to be re-uniting a baby elephant with its mother. Now sure, that sounds cute, and admittedly was cute, but this was unfortunately only for the second half. You know that "no animals were harmed" disclaimer you get in front of movies? This one didn't have it. And I really, really wish it had, considering what kind of stuff happens in the movie.
But to quote one song from Alibaba, "jaadugar jaadu kar" - the magician does magic! - and somehow it remains that even though they've done some unimpressive films together, I'll still gladly keep exploring the vast catalogue of Hema-Dharmendra films out there. I don't have any on the horizon right now but I hope to watch at least Pratiggya, Kinara (providing I ever find this on DVD!), Naya Zamana and Aas Paas.
Recommendations are welcome! My Dharmendra-Hema list so far is:
Alibaba aur 40 Chor
Patthar aur Payal
Seeta aur Geeta
The Burning Train