MouchoPrema (#mouchoprema on Twitter) is a themed week of blogging, started by Totally Filmi in conjunction with Beth and a bunch of others, in celebration of Movember and all things moustache. I picked a couple of films from my to-be-watched pile that seemed appropriately moustache-filled and set to watch them!
..and then I watched three of them and completely forgot about the whole thing until yesterday. But hey, better late than never, I guess?
My first film was Khoon Ki Pukaar, a rather standard dacoit/family drama from the delightful 70's, starring Vinod Khanna, Shabana Azmi, Pran, Aruna Irani, Amjad Khan and Iftekhar. Before we get to the convoluted (but not any more or less convoluted than your usual 70's masala film) plot, let us meet the 'staches.
First we have Amjad Khan as Zalim Singh, our resident bad guy, the dacoit who conveniently kicks off our plot by kidnapping the son of ...
...Pran, a doctor! You might not guess where this is going, though you probably do. The child Zalim Singh kidnaps grows up to be ...
...Vinod Khanna, here reluctantly in the embrace of Aruna Irani, who plays the only girl in their dacoit gang (and if you couldn't figure it out from the screencap, she really, really, really likes Sheru Singh, Vinod's character, here). Sheru Singh, unaware of his true parentage, grows up to be a bad guy, as Vinod Khanna characters are so often wont to do. Is there moral growth in store for us?
Wait, there's a couple of more moustaches to go through.
Shabana's character's father. Because of plot, he doesn't stick around for long.
Iftekhar, unsurprisingly as the police commissioner.
And whoever this guy is, playing the sleazeball dacoit who wants to be with Aruna and therefore hates Vinod, and ...oh who the hell cares, check out this wildly fantastic stuffed tiger!
So, plot: Sher(u) Singh, Zalim Singh and their gang rob the wedding party, that Shanno (Shabana) attends as the bride is her friend. Her father plays hero and gets subsequently shot dead by Sher Singh, but he in return gets shot by the police as the dacoit gang flees the scene.
He escapes to the temple, where his wounds are mended by the priest (Pran), who gave up practising medicine after his son got kidnapped by Zalim Singh. What are the odds, eh? The priest tells the villagers that the man he is housing is named Amrit, even though he knows that the man is a dacoit.
To protect his true identity, Sheru adopts the identity of Amrit. This results in him teaching Shanno how to shoot, unaware that the reason she's learning is to kill whoever killed her father .. Sher Singh, that is.
Now that is awkward.
Meanwhile, he's also trying to think of ways to rob the priest of all the jewels hidden somewhere in the temple. Vinod does a lot of shifty eyes in these scenes, because he's such a good actor that the character he is playing, is not a good actor, and thus comes off as the most suspicious person ever. It's brilliant, really.
Surprising absolutely no one, Shanno and Amrit fall in love, and somewhere in here, the movie tucks a cutesy romantic film inside a pretty grim revenge drama.
Only Vinod and Shabana can achieve a pretty easy-going chemistry when you consider the fact that he's a killer and she's hell-bent on revenge, and refusing to marry until she's killed the man who killed her father. I'm a total sucker for this kind of stuff, so of course I lapped it up, weirdness and all.
And then there's Pran, who is wonderful as the priest who believes in Amrit's inner morality, even when the man himself doesn't. Only he has the natural gravitas for the type of dialogues he gives in this film, and he's great as ever.
Once again something has to be said for the way that Vinod can make me believe in the melodramatic reality of this character who has the sudden discovery that maybe going through life killing and robbing others isn't the way to go, and making good deeds like saving somebody actually also feels good. These are not subtle or grand discoveries, but the way he acts through them is simply so satisfying to watch.
It's "bad boys gone good" (much like Chor Sipahee or Parvarish, or Kucche Dhaage to some extent), and as far as unifying themes for a person's career go, it's a pretty good one.
If I had a couple of problems with the film, it's mostly to do with Aruna Irani's character, or rather, how the story portrayed her and where she ends up. But to get into details would be getting into spoilers, so I'd rather not.
Suffice to say, Khoon Ki Pukaar is far from being a perfect masala film - but as it stands, it certainly delivers a good package: there's romance, action, a tale of lost-and-found and a bit of nice naach-gaana to boot.