Of Sequels, Franchises and Gunmaster G-9

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away (from the one in which Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is set) I did a post on this blog stating that I intended to write about Surakksha (the awesome debut of the awesome Gunmaster G-9 played by the awesome Mithun Chakraborty) but that stupid #MyChoice #VogueEmpower video distracted the hell out of me.

I ended that post with a promise that the post on Surakksha would get written once I was done watching Wardat, the sequel.

It has been almost two months now, and the two of you who took me on my word and were waiting for that post would have forgotten about it by now. But now that I have reminded you again, you might actually wonder, “Does it really take two months to watch a Mithun film easily available on Youtube?”

To that I answer not at all. I watched Wardat within a week of posting that. To which the rhetorical you that I made up for the purposes of this long winded nonsensical exchange would retort “What has he really been doing for two months?”

This…

Mithun on Boat with Girls

Yes, not just this fake conversation or this article, but the entire universe had been leading up to this moment when I could use this GIF.

I wish. I could never be as cool as the Gunmaster.

I actually never got around to actually fulfilling my promise of writing about Surakksha, because I started thinking of doing a combined article on both the films but then I lost my way and started doing other things. (‘Other things’ also includes a lot of things that don’t have hyperlinks.)

So am I finally doing my promised post on the weirdly spelt Surakksha? Or is this the combined article about both the Gunmaster films?

Well, it is both…but neither.

What do I mean by that? Let’s begin…

Opening Titles of Wardat

This is the promised post on Surakksha, because I will be using GIFs from the film throughout. (Except for the one you just saw, which is from Wardat.) This is also the combined article about both the Gunmaster films, because I will be briefly talking about them. So it is both…but it is neither, because that is not what this post is going to be about.

Before I started writing, I did a quick Google for Gunmaster G-9. Because obviously Gopi Codename G-9 is the big daddy of all cult favorites among retro/B-grade Bollywood fans and a lot has been said about him already…and I didn’t want to repeat stuff.

The top page didn’t show up a lot of content…apart from the movie’s Wikipedia page there were two links to the title song on youtube, one link to download the song and one for the lyrics, one blog on Hindustantimes.com and a Podcast about the G-9 films and Guru on Beth Loves Bollywood. Going deeper revealed more blogs that had written about the films including Memsaab Story. Waitaminat! Why am I giving all these foreigner blog links when the Glorious Leader has led us all out of shame and into pride for the motherland? Where are the Indians writing about Gunmaster G-9? Well here you go.

If you clicked on those links, then you are up to date about the Gunmaster G-9 films. Everything else you need to know is in this GIF…

Gunmaster G9 Intro

If you, like a patriotic non-anti-national citizen of Bharat who hates Greenpeace, clicked on the Indian blog links I gave up there and read through that guy’s review of Wardat, you would be under the assumption that there is a third G-9 movie called Sahhas. On the surface it checks out. There’s the weird spelling with a random extra letter. It’s directed by the visionary Ravi Kant Nagaich. It stars Mithun with a totally new female lead (Rati Agnihotri). The music is Bappi Da. It even has Jagdeep as the unfunny comic sidekick to Mithun.

But as soon as the movie begins you’ll notice that this can’t be a G-9 film…because the opening credits are a totally boring montage of Bombay and not the dazzling brilliance you expect from G-9. So Sahhas comes close, but is not really the third G-9 film. Which brings me to the point if this article…where are the Indian franchises?

If one takes a look at Bollywood’s major releases over the last decade or so, we have really taken to the Hollywood penchant for sequels. In fact it is probably the defining trend of present day Bollywood alongside South remakes and original films that inexplicably feel like South remakes.

Locust Attack from Wardat

RUN! The South Remakes are attacking!

Just last year we had Dedh Ishqiya, Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Ragini MMS 2, Bhoothnath Returns, Hate Story 2 and Singham Returns. Dedh Ishqiya was probably made on a comparable budget to Ishqiya; and the Hate Story films are both B-Grade in spirit if not in budget, so not much of a difference there. But all the other sequels were definitely bigger in scale than the originals. This year, Tanu Weds Manu Returns has unquestionably become way more of a success than the first movie despite its grammatically questionable title, and ABCD2 is coming out soon (with an A-list cast, while the original had actual dancers who very few people knew).

The reason Bollywood is doing this (and why Hollywood has been doing it forever) is ease of marketing…and I think in India it has a lot to do with the rise of the multiplex (like most trends in Bollywood in this century/millennium). You see, back in the Single Screen 4 shows a day era, movie watching was a much more involved activity. You looked at those tiny posters in the newspaper, chose a film you wanted to see based on random factors like stars and hit songs and how close the theatre where it was playing was and then planned your whole day around which show you chose. Now a lot of moviegoers just turn up at the strategically placed glitzy Box Office in the mall, pick up one of those flyer thingies with all the thousand shows of the seventeen ‘now playing’ films listed on it, try to remember how many stars the Times Of India gave to which film, sometimes ask the guy behind the counter if a film is any good, and choose one conveniently timed film to watch (it is much more casual now as my favorite Film lover and least favorite filmmaker says here). Now this choice is of course made much easier if the name of the film is familiar…and you have liked what you saw before.

So the stupid people who liked the ‘comedy’ of Golmaal are much more likely to watch Golmaal Returns than something called EMI – Liya Hai To Chukana Padega, even though there’s hardly any qualitative difference between the two (I’m assuming…I haven’t seen either). So a sequel is definitely an easier sell than an original movie (and therefore a relatively safer investment in a notoriously fickle industry).

But wasn’t this true even in the age of the single screen? Well it seems like it should be so, but the releases don’t back it up. We did see some sequels out of Bollywood…the earliest example I can find (but not verify) is Hunterwali Ki Beti in 1943 which is probably a sequel to 1935’s Hunterwali…at least it features the original Hunterwali (we’ll come back to Fearless Nadia later). Then of course there were Surakksha and Wardat, the Gunmaster G-9 films and the Sridevi as Ichhadhaari Nagin films, Nagina and its sequel Nigahen. And then there was…Phir Lehraya Laal Dupatta Malmal Ka?

No. The trend really started to take off around 10 years ago with Munnabhai and Kkrish (or however the fuck that’s spelt). Anyway, getting back to the original point, sequels have been getting stronger and stronger for the last decade, but where are the franchises?

Dancer in Forest Club, Surakksha

No they’re not that way, Flashy Man. We looked.

Only the Dhoom films and the Krrish (this is how the fuck it’s spelt) trilogy have been able to go for three films so far with some sort of continuity. Then there are the Golmaal films, Raaz 1-3, the three Murders and the My Friend Ganesha series. They will soon be joined by Hera Pheri (even though the sequel sucked more than a vacuum cleaner), Hate Story (proving that sex and violence sells) and Kya Kool Hain Hum (proving that unfunny sexist raunchy “non-veg” whatsapp forward jokes also sell).

So in the world’s most prolific film industry there are only three big-ticket mainstream franchises with three films so far…and none with more (Dhoom will reportedly cross that threshold soon). On the other hand, big-ticket mainstream Hollywood is hardly anything but franchises now… the top 10 grossers of 2015 so far include Furious 7 (the seventh instalment in the franchise, if you can’t tell from the name), Avengers: Age of Ultron (part of the whole smorgasbord of movies known as the MCU), Fifty Shades of Grey (the first of at least three), Taken 3 (taking a simple premise and stretching it to incredulous limits), The Divergent Series: Insurgent (I’ve never heard of this film but it has a ‘Series’ in its name) and Mad Max: Fury Road (a reboot of a franchise with three films already).

In addition to these we’ve had The Woman In Black: Angel of Death, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pitch Perfect 2, Poltergeist and The Human Centipede 3. Also lined up for release this year are Insidious: Chapter 3, Jurassic World, Ted 2, Terminator Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Transporter Refueled, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Hotel Transylvania 2, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Phew.

Jagdeep In Surakksha

They won’t ever stop coming Jagdeep.

By now the five of you still reading this are wondering, when is he gonna get to the point. Well congratulations, you’ve lasted long enough for me to get to it. But to get there we’re gonna go back to where this whole thing started…the Gunmaster G-9 films.

Surakksha has no budget, no narrative structure, crappy special effects, not very impressive dialog, bizarre sequences, elements copied from various Bond films and elsewhere…but by God it is entertaining as hell! Because it also has insane chase sequences involving cars with parachutes, snake attacks, a shark tank, a secret diamond mine, a shadowy organization that tattoos all its minions with its evil mark, an underwater secret lair, a secret atomic weapon using some sort of diamond laser focuser that can alter weather and cause tsunamis, female henchmen (henchwomen? henchpersons?) who have numbers instead of names, a remote controlled robot zombie, a one-handed one-eyed evil scientist, gigantic goldfish/guppies and the swag of a young Mithun Chakraborty.

The randomness and the jarring narrative jumps make it seem like a fever dream and the psychedelic setting and the red lighting in half the locations just adds to that feeling. The edit is bizarre, to say the least, but there are very few moments in the film when its infectious energy doesn’t keep you hooked. And if you really think about it, the title song makes it clear that this film is not set in the real world…Bappi Da clearly and repeatedly sings “Ye jeevan, ye dooniya, saapna hai deewane ka.” (This life, this world, is a madman’s dream.)

Gunmaster G9 Dance

Artist’s Rendition of Swag

But Wardat is a whole different deal. Not really different…in fact it’s actually pretty much the same thing as Surakksha. And that is the problem with the film. It follows the ‘plot’ of Surakksha almost beat for beat (using the word beat for the haphazard awesomeness of Surakksha feels wrong, but that’s the best word we have to describe the thing I’m talking of) and in that sense doesn’t really raise the bar.

It begins better than Surakksha with mysterious locust swarms but soon goes into the same groove we’ve already seen. We have a new secretive disfigured evil scientist mastermind at the head of a shadowy organization working through a better known actor for most of the film with a bizarre sort of science-y sounding masterplan to take over the world which is ultimately foiled by G9 and his friends after some sort of song & dance based contest. No escalation, no real carrying forward of the story…and therefore, despite being pretty much the same film in tone and treatment, Wardat is a huge disappointment after Surakksha.

Mithun and Backup Dancers

Unlike this round robin that never disappoints!

And that’s why there was no third G9 film. If instead of From Russia With Love, Eon films had followed Dr. No with Dr. No Fucking Way…there wouldn’t have been a 23 film franchise and you would have known Daniel Craig as that guy from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

What began with Wardat continues to this day. There is not a single sequel made by Bollywood that is an improvement over the original film. The best sequels only just manage to achieve the same level as their progenitors. Most of them are objectively much much worse…best exemplified by Jewel Thief and Return Of Jewel Thief.

We either take the story and turn it into a caricature of itself (see Dabangg 2) or we go into next generation bullshit (Vaastav’s sequel, Nagina’s sequel, Krrish). In any case, it seems no one in India knows how to write a proper sequel. That is probably why most sequels take the Munnabhai route (using the same characters/actors, but acting like the first movie never happened) or the Bhatt Franchising Method™ (making completely unrelated movies of the same archetypal genre and giving them the same name with numerals…also known as the Saw Method).

Only Dhoom sort of bucks this trend, but it is already sort of tending towards the Bhatt Franchising Method. Because Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra’s characters are the only thing keeping these films in the same continuity, and their roles in the films have gotten progressively smaller and less important with each iteration…as the villains take up more and more screen time, promotional visibility and mindspace. Were ABJr. and Uday Baba even involved in promoting Dhoom 3? Because I only remember seeing Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif. On that note here’s a totally unrelated GIF because I just realized that there hasn’t been one for a long time…

Aruna Irani Dancing Surakksha

So, when we don’t even know how to write a passable sequel, it seems quite impossible to start thinking in terms of franchises. Well any sort of cohesive continuity franchise anyway. Because the other sort of franchise, where the name is an indication of what to expect from the film rather than a further exploration of the story you’ve seen and liked before, has always been successful…and is much easier to do. Remember when I said I’ll be bringing up Fearless Nadia again…she sort of pioneered this sort of franchise. She starred in Diamond Queen, Toofan Queen, Stunt Queen, Carnival Queen, Fighting Queen, Jungle Queen and Circus Queen; and also Hunterwali, Bambaiwali and Himmatwali. In the same vein were Akshay Kumar’s string of Khiladi films and Govinda’s No.1s.

So Murder, Raaz, Hate Story, Kya Kool Hain Hum, Golmaal, Aashiqui and Dhoom pretty much have the thriller, horror, revenge porn, dirty lame comedy, regular lame comedy, romance and heist-action genres covered. Any script that is roughly in these genres can be made a part of these franchises with zero to minimal changes. These franchises may or may not continue depending on the producers’ will and the audience’s reactions.

Then there is Krrish, which is uniquely placed right now…but when the MCU and the DC films and the other Marvel properties like X-Men and Fantastic Four are churning out films by the dozen and all of them will probably be dubbed into Hindi, Tamil and Telugu (at least) apart from releasing in English across India, it is hard to see a potential audience still existing for Krrish. There is no way Krrish’s pathetic plots can compete with even the worst of Hollywood’s superhero films (If you add all the good parts of the Krrish films and remove all the bad ones, they’re still worse than Spiderman 3 or the Amazing Spiderman movies).

Dry Humping

If Superhero movies are like sex, Krrish is Dry Humping.

The point is, we need a new franchise. Some sort of world building first film…and if that is successful, a proper plan to make it large (that preferably does not involve cheap Indian whisky). I think I am the man for this job. But nobody agrees with me yet. But one day, when I have made some headway in my filmy dreams and when they’ve forgotten what a huge disaster Agent Vinod was, the fat cats of Bollywood will listen to my idea and they will give me the money to turn it into reality.

That day…I will reboot Gunmaster G-9.

“Ye Jeevan Ye Duniya, Sapna Hai Deewane Ka.”

End Title Surakksha

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STRANGE LOVE Story

Or How I Learned to Stop Liking and Hate The Film DDLJ

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, better known by the acronym DDLJ, was back in the news again. The almost 20 year old film (God that makes me feel old) recently completed 1000 weeks at Maratha Mandir, the cinema hall near Bombay Mumbai Central Railway Station that is known across India (or maybe the world) only because it has refused to stop showing DDLJ for close to 20 years now.

So why was this film, that is old enough to have voted for Modi in the elections if it was a person, still playing in a theatre? Publicity stunt by the producers/theatre owners? Hell nah! Because it is a cultural milestone! Because it is the definitive romantic story for the post-liberalization generation! Because it is Kareena Kapoor Khan’s (let’s start calling her KKK or K3 or something now) favorite love story of all time! Because everyone and their phupha loves the film!

DDLJ

I was an adolescent (what in today’s bullshit terminology would be called a ‘tween’) small town boy when I first saw the movie and probably really liked it. I say probably because I don’t have a very strong memory of the film beyond the fact that my sister (who was a teen at that time, and a very filmy one…that kind of runs in the family I guess) and all my cousins who were the right age (read impressionable hormonal teenagers) went totally gaga over it. So my overall impression was that it was a fucking great film, the kind that only happens once in a lifetime or some such shit.

I watched the film at least once in the theatre and at least twice or thrice on TV (at least that is how I remember it, but memory can be tricky) before I grew up. I always kind of liked it despite never being an SRK fan.

And then I grew up. I went to college. The internet happened. I developed what the Germans would call a ‘weltanshauung’ of my own. I listened to rock’n’roll. I acted in plays. I read whatever I could (does not include course material…I wasn’t reading much of that). And I saw films.

And became somewhat pretentious...

And became somewhat pretentious…

I saw The Godfather and Shawshank and Casablanca and Shinichin No Samurai and the filmography of Stanley Kubrick. I saw Bandini and Mughal-e-Azam and Deewaar and Sholay. I saw Gunda and Kanti Shah’s Angoor and Superman IV and Battlefield Earth. In short, I saw tons of films.

And then I saw DDLJ again. And it just didn’t feel right. The nostalgic value alone should have made it a lot more enjoyable after so many years…but it wasn’t so. What had happened? I had grown up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who are grown up and still think that DDLJ is the greatest love story ever made or that SRK is the best actor to have ever graced the silver screen or whatever the fuck it is that you think about that movie. It’s just that I started seeing things in that movie and things around me inspired by that movie that I just can’t get behind anymore. In fact…these things don’t just make me not like the movie; they make me hate it.

boohoo

There. I said it. I hate DDLJ.

Whoa whoa whoa! Hate is a strong word buddy! Are you sure you want to go there?

Yes I do, rhetorical device.

But what are the ‘things’ you mentioned that have made you hate this film that is universally loved (or at least liked) by Indians across the world?

I’m glad you asked, rhetorical device. Here is a list of 5 things that have made me hate DDLJ.

SRK’s Career

Don’t get your kachchhas in a twist; I’m not going to make any judgmental statements about SRK’s acting skills. Acting, like all art, is subjective and one person’s overplayed melodramatic nonsense is another person’s infectious energetic charm. Hell, there are even some people in this world who like Ajay Devgun’s comic acting (on a totally unrelated note, I refuse to remove that crucial ‘U’ from his surname, unless it is replaced with an ‘A’…a film’s credit roll is not a fucking tweet with a character limit you asshole! Use the vowels! And while I am talking about names that piss me off, SRK should actually be SK…because Shahrukh is a Persian name meaning ‘One with a Kingly Face’ while Shah Rukh is a stupid made up phrase which means ‘King Face’).

But it is an objective fact that SRK wouldn’t have been the megastar that he became had Yash Chopra not convinced him to do DDLJ. This is something even the self-proclaimed King Khan acknowledges. Now before the SRK fans start losing their shit, I do not grudge him his success. I’m just saying had he not become such a huge star we might have lived in a world where Ra.One, Chennai Express and Happy New Year might never have happened. Even his staunchest fans must agree that would have been a much better world to live in.

Just look at his career before DDLJ…yes there was Guddu and King Uncle. But there was also Darr and Baazigar and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. With great stardom comes great responsibility…to earn money for your producers. Hence a Swades or a Chak De happens only once in a while. He lost his thirst for experimentation and gave us years of a career filled with Rahuls and Rajs. And that is a loss for you more than for me, dear SRK fans.

srk pose
The Regressiveness

I don’t know if you’ve noticed it but DDLJ is regressive as fuck! It is patriarchal, parochial and pretend-modern in the worst of ways. These two writers have already covered most of what I would have written under this heading already, so I won’t waste too much time on that.

But I have one more thing to add. That morning after scene where Raj first pranks Simran into thinking she had drunken sex with him and then assiduously assures her that no such thing happened.

kalraatkyahuatha

The reason why it couldn’t have happened…because Raj knows that an Indian girl’s ‘izzat’ is very important to her. The implication being that taking advantage of a drunk white girl would have been perfectly fine for Raj, because if she got drunk she was ‘asking for it’…the only reason Simran is let off with a ‘humorous’ ‘lesson’ is that she is Indian and usually behaves within the bounds set for her by her father. The other implication being that Raj having sex would have been fine, but Simran is a girl in whom the ‘izzat’ of the family resides and hence it is not at all acceptable for her to have sex with a man not approved by her father.

If this double double standard doesn’t make you angry, you are part of the problem (and you probably don’t even realize it while you’re all over social media calling for the wrath of institutional retribution to be unleashed).

And this is just one of many instances in the film.

Karwa Chauth

When one of the reasons is Regressiveness, how can Karwa Chauth be another reason? I’ll tell you how. Because what DDLJ did with Karwa Chauth was not just glamorizing and popularizing a patently stupid belief/practice. [If you agree with me, skip this part. If you’re still reading, yes I called Karwa Chauth stupid. It is patently stupid to believe that one person staying hungry for a day will have any effect whatsoever on another person’s health. The only way your staying hungry is going to prolong your husband’s life is if you can only afford to feed one person and in that case it is lifelong commitment, not a one day festival.]

What DDLJ really did was that it successfully managed to give Karwa Chauth a “modern” makeover.

karwachauth

In a remarkable break from tradition, Simran keeps the fast without being married and subversively keeps it for her boyfriend who is not her fiancé for whom she is ostensibly observing it. But in an even more remarkable running back into tradition’s ritualistic open arms, she feigns fainting to avoid being fed by her fiancé which would have apparently been as good as being married to him (According to belief, the moon knows who fed you that first bite…if you don’t marry him now, the moon punishes you for your infidelity by turning your paramour into a werewolf or something…I don’t know. Since unmarried girls can’t technically enjoy the awesome experience of starvation, there are no rules made for that situation. No one knows how that piece of rock orbiting the earth would react if you tried to trick him).

But even worse, Raj steps up to bat for gender equality and stays hungry throughout the day in solidarity. Some might think it is a good thing. I say it is taking something stupid and making something even stupider out of it. Now every girl who wears a chooda with a bikini on her honeymoon in Thailand wants her husband to be like Raj and fast with her/for her.

The repercussions have been massive.

NRI Pandering

I don’t know if you noticed, but at some point of time in the last twenty years, big budget Bollywood stopped caring about Indians living in India and started caring massively for Indians living abroad (better known as NRIs). They invented an imaginary ‘pardes’ where most people who matter can speak Hindi/Urdu and the rest are evil bastards anyway (except for the wise old men and the women who probably have the hots for the hero…and of course all those white people dancing in the background, they’re cool too). And most of our movies now are at least partially set in this imaginary utopian chimera composed of modern Western facilities and ancient Indian morals. And it all began with…I won’t even complete this sentence.

For Not Having Tom Cruise

Most fans already know that Rani Mukherjee’s husband’s original idea was something quite different. He wanted to make a bilingual megafilm where Raj would have been Roger…played by hold your breath…Tom Cruise!!!

tcdlj

But Daddyji convinced him otherwise. This is how I imagine the conversation went…(NOTE: For best effect, read the Addy lines in a rich spoilt entitled Punjabi brat’s fake accented tone and the Daddy lines in a gruff partially garbled Punjabi uncle’s voice.)

Addy: Bauji main aisi film banaoonga ki the world will sit up and take notice. British guy falls in love with a Punjabi girl while they’re travelling over Europe. But the girl’s father is super traditional and her wedding has been fixed in childhood. So now this gora boy follows all Indian customs and learns the greatness of Indian culture to patao the khadoos Punjabi baap. End mein sab fit ho hi jaana hai! We’ll cast the biggest star Hollywood has to offer in the leading role of a Bollywood film! Tom Cruise ko le lete hain, because I have no idea of how truly insane he is yet and how awkwardly awesome it will seem in the future.

Daddy: Chal phitte muh. Apni desi kudi angrej de hath lag jaugi? Kinni besti ho jaani hai? Munde nu desi bana.

Addy: Lekin Daddy, the whole idea works only if the boy is white!

Daddy: Oye tu mujhe batayega white black? Puttar, angrej nu lega to addhi phillum te teri angreji ho jaani hai…apni audience ko kya samajh aana hai, gai ka ghanta? Munde nu wasternized bana de thoda. Paihe vi to kamaane hai.

Addy: But pops…

Daddy: O shutap. Pops di aulaad. Jaa assistant nu script de change karan waaste.

And in this manner we lost a Punjabi wedding version of Pocahontas/Dances With Wolves/Avatar where the White Man visits the Natives, falls in love with their Princess, learns their customs and practices and ends up proving himself better at being a native than the natives themselves. All hail the White Man!

What we also lost in that moment was a potential filmmaker. I like Adi’s original idea much better than what his father turned it into. (I mean no disrespect to Yash Chopra. He was a fine filmmaker, but I would rather live in a world where the last thing he did was Lamhe.) Who knows what kind of films he might have experimented with if he had been left to pursue his first project as he had envisioned. Maybe NRI films would have been a whole different genre, with many more white people in the casts and more realistic depictions of their reality. (Again I am not talking about films actually made by NRIs for NRIs, I’m talking about the shit Bollywood peddles to them.) Maybe Aditya Chopra would have been a more respectable filmmaker and not the guy who made Rab Ne Bana Di F***ing Jodi.

But maybe I am wrong. And the awesomeness of Tom Cruise romancing Kajol and convincing Amrish Puri while pretending to be Parmeet Sethi’s friend and leading on Mandira Bedi and charming the socks off Farida Jalal, Himani Shivpuri, Satish Shah, Achala Sachdev and Pooja Ruparel…wait what was I saying? Yeah, maybe DDLJ (or Balle Hoo or whatever Adi would have chosen to call it without his father’s interference helping hand) starring Tom Cruise instead of SRK would have been a huge flop…floundering between two worlds but not belonging to either one. And we would still have ended up with Rab Ne Bana Di Sh!tPi$$F***C***C@(&$***erMother***erTits Jodi.

This screenshot has more meaning by itself than the whole movie.

This screenshot has more meaning by itself than the whole movie.

And thus ends my rant on what stands as one of the most successful films of all time in Indian cinema’s history. You may go ahead, brand me a Feminazi Libtard Hater (or whatever is the current fashion on Social Media, it’s hard to keep up because I have an extremely short attention span when it comes to bullshit) and forget about whatever I said, go on enjoying DDLJ, keeping a fast for your wife/husband, hearing a mandolin play out that familiar tune whenever you see mustard fields and being in love with Raj and Simran. You’re probably a happier person than I am.

Original Conspiracy Theory: Shashi Kapoor, Ajooba and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

At some point of time in the late 80s, one man dared to dream big. He wanted to create a grand fantasy so epic in its proportions that it could kill people with its sheer awesomeness. He combined elements from popular stories like Arthurian legends, masked vigilantes standing up for the weak (Robin Hood, Zorro, Batman and others like them), Satan worship, sea monsters and sorcery of all kinds. And then he threw in good measures of Bollywood masala to create an epical epic so epic that its epicosity still echoes in the minds of everyone who saw it.

This man was Shashi Kapoor. And the film he made was called Ajooba.

So epic that they had to use a dagger instead of a regular 'J'

So epic that they had to use a dagger instead of a regular ‘J’

In fact this film was to be so grand in scale that it was obvious that Indians could not do it alone…the Indian industry had not yet reached the levels of technical knowhow and financial wherewithal required for something on the scale of Ajooba. He needed international assistance.

Sadly, the Cold War was still on and the Socialist Republic of India, while nominally non-aligned, pretty much had only one real friend in the international arena…and Bollywood had fans in only one major country of the world. So Ajooba became an Indo-Soviet joint venture.

The story, as we know it, is one of hubris and the grand tragedy of a broken dream. The Soviet producers pulled out mid-production, the film hit several delays and by the time it came out in 1991, it cost so much that it was nigh impossible for it to make money. Shashi Kapoor ended up losing several crores on the film.

But the true story, I posit, is something else. Shashi Kapoor was working for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The name is Kapoor...Prithviraj Kapoor...Balbir Raj Prithviraj Kapoor...urf Shashi.

The name is Kapoor…Prithviraj Kapoor…Balbir Raj Prithviraj Kapoor…urf Shashi.

Ajooba was anti-Communist propaganda intended to further foster dissatisfaction in the people of the non-Russian Soviets in the times of Glasnost and Perestroika and the Autumn of Nations. (He also exceeded his brief and tried to protect Indian interests in Central Asia, while he was at it.) The Soviet backers pulled out because the plan had been discovered. But the film still got made and was successful in its mission, despite commercial failure in India.

Here are my arguments to support this case.

If Shashi Kapoor really wanted technical and financial support for a dream film, the British film industry would have been an obvious choice for him. He had worked in several acclaimed British productions himself and was married to a British-born BAFTA winning actress. He definitely had the connections to try and swing a deal for a grand eastern fantasy film to be made simultaneously in Hindi and English, covering two of the largest global markets. Why Soviet co-producers then? It doesn’t make any sense. The Soviet industry was in no way better than the British industry. Why would you not choose the best possible option available to you?

From the point of view of the British authorities, they could trust Shashi as practically a British citizen. And of course he had the advantage of being Raj Kapoor’s brother, which would make him welcomed in the Soviet Union. He was the perfect man for this mission. All these factors combined make my theory quite plausible…and that’s all a good conspiracy theory really needs to do, establish plausibility, because proofs don’t exist in the murky world of espionage and conspiracy.

But I’m not finished yet. Let’s take a look at the movie itself and see whether it could be anti-Soviet propaganda in any way. The plot of the movie, in case you haven’t seen it (if you really haven’t seen it you’re missing out on one of the greatest experiences life has to offer you, stop wasting time on this stupid blog and go watch the film first), centers around a Zorro-type vigilante hero who fights for the marginalized, poor people against an oppressive regime. Seems pretty pro-Soviet at first glance, doesn’t it?

Do I look like a Commie Bastard to you?

Do I look like a Commie Bastard to you?

That’s exactly what it would have to be to be able to get the Soviet support in the first place…but if you get into the nitty-gritties of it, if you start going deep into the film and reading the subtextual messages being sent out under the layers of awesomeness and seeming pro-Sovietness, it soon becomes apparent that the movie is trying to do to Soviet minds what Leo DiCaprio and crew did to Fischer under Ken Watanabe’s direction.

The first thing you need to understand to understand the message is who is the target audience. The film did not seek converts from the Russian masses or the other European nationalities within the USSR…they had already begun dissenting against and disapproving of the Soviet system by 1989. It was aimed at the people of the Asian Soviet Republics…you know, all the ‘–Stans’ (and Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan if you’re being pedantic). (NOTE: Include Afghanistan in those ‘–Stans’, because it was also ruled by a puppet Communist regime at the time and lends itself most easily to the story thought up by Shashi, who would have known more about Afghanistan than any of the other ‘–Stans’.)

So our story begins in Baharistan (I would like to draw your attention to the ‘–Stan’), which is ruled by a benevolent and pious King and is a prosperous and happy nation. The greatest issue of national importance is the King’s lack of issue, but even that is solved as the Queen gives birth to a boy heralded by shooting stars and the whole messianic shebang.

Pictured: The whole messianic shebang.

Pictured: The whole messianic shebang.

But all hell breaks loose when the evil Vizier (He-Who-Is-Literally-Never-Named-In-The-Film-Only-Known-By-Whatever-Title-He-Holds-Vizier/Sultan) takes power in a coup and the royal family is dispersed.

The pious and super happy royal family represents the pre Communist “ideal” “golden age” for these nations and Amrish Puri is the evil Soviet regime personified. Let’s go through the parallels point by point…

  • The Satan worshipping Vizier/Sultan does not like people being religious and all…”Religion is the opium of the masses” anyone? Also, for most religious people, being an atheist is pretty much the same as being an evil Satan worshipping asshole.
  • There are many poor people in this absolute dick-tatorship who have to line up for substandard bread provided by the government. They also get punished if they have the temerity to suggest that the bread might not be good enough for human consumption.
  • Baharistan has an ancient and loving relationship with Hind, but the new generation of the rulers of Hind (played by Tej Sapru) are cozying up to the Evil Regime and undermining this relationship.
"Hum prasann huye."

“Hum prasann huye.”

  • The working class people represented by Rishi Kapoor’s potter and the Georgian actor playing Amitabh’s foster father’s smith are worse off under this regime because they are not “party members”.
  • Some of the rulers are so drunk (either on power or Vodka) that they see no difference between Dimple Kapadiya and a fat Rishi Kapoor in drag.
This guy couldn't tell the difference between...

This guy couldn’t tell the difference between…

...This...

this…

and THIS!!!

and THIS!!!

  • Even if you manage to somehow kill the leader of this regime, the idea will come back in another form…riding the Fauladi Shaitan (literally Steel Devil) of Industrialism and Tanks!
This represents the horrors of Soviet tanks and bad special effects.

This represents the horrors of Soviet tanks and bad special effects.

  • The only thing that can save the people now is a return to older, more religious values and a miracle, a wonder…an Ajooba!

Ajooba was clearly insidious anti-Soviet propaganda created by Shashi Kapoor under the directions of the British intelligence establishment. But did it succeed?

The Soviets got an inkling of how the movie was turning out and the Soviet producers (Gorky Studios) withdrew mid-production. Shashi powered through the crisis and put in his own money (or maybe secret UK government money, who knows?) to complete the film. It finally released in the summer of 1991 and was a commercial failure in India (it has since gone on to achieve cult status thanks to all the epicosity). It was released in the USSR as “Черный принц Aджуба” (Translation: Black Prince Ajooba) at around the same time.

All of the Kapoors in the film are here...the title character is not.

All of the Kapoors in the film are here…the title character is not.

By around December of that year, the USSR had fallen and all the ‘-Stans’ were independent nations. Coincidence? I say not at all.

Shashi Kapoor and Ajooba were in fact instrumental in bringing down the Eastern Bloc and changing the face of global politics forever.

Now look at this for 5 minutes for no discernible reason.

Now look at this for 5 minutes for no discernible reason.

Bonus Fact: Zura Qapianidze, the actor who played Ajooba’s foster father went on to become a member of the parliament of independent Georgia. (This one is really true…google it if you don’t believe me.)

The Ramsay Brothers Begin – Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche

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The movie begins with a grave being dug and you think that you’ll get what you’re expecting from a Ramsay film. But soon after the titles the disappointment begins. We meet the central character of the film Rajvansh (Surendra Kumar…who had previously starred in the F U Ramsay production Ek Nanhi Munni Ladki Thi and went on to do nothing else), a moneyed Hindu gentleman who is there at the graveyard to put flowers at the grave of his dead Christian wife (who was not only his wife, but his love – as he puts it himself). Now remember this detail because it is going to be really important later. Nah, just kidding. The dead wife has no relation to the rest of the story. None whatsoever.

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Incidentally, the grave digger is played by Habib…a man whose career spanned from 1942 to 1983 during which he played bit roles in 65 films (listed on IMDB, which means there are very probably quite a few more that he did) including cult legends like Hunterwali, Zimbo, Jungle Queen and some pretty well known hits like Jewel Thief, Rafoo Chakkar, Dharmatma and the big daddy of them all Sholay (he was the non speaking Banjara sardar who supplies weapons to Gabbar Singh and entertains him with an item number). And for some reason he speaks with a Joginder level weird accent for the entire duration of his 2 minute 3 scene role.

Moving back to the film, immediately after the graveyard scene we see the dashing Rajvansh looking at plants and collecting some samples, when he hears the scream of a girl. He rushes out to see Anjili (Introducing Shobhna…who went on to star in nothing whatsoever. Her IMDB page lists two other movies but those are from 1981 and 1992, so I’m guessing those were two different Shobhnas.) being chased by some goons.

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He does what any decent man does in a Hindi movie – he takes on the many goons, beats them all up and saves the girl. It appears that the girl was out here in the wilderness on a picnic with her friends but got lost. Since her house was too far to be reached before nightfall, Rajvansh takes her to stay the night in his haveli. And then we see that the sinister figure of Satyen Kappu has been watching them from the shade this whole time.

Satyen Kappu, looking as sinister as he possibly can with a name like Kappu.

Satyen Kappu, looking as sinister as he possibly can with a name like Kappu.

At the Haveli we meet the support staff, Dhumal and some girl. Now the thing to keep in mind here is that this movie was shot by the Ramsay brothers over a period of 40 days in Mahabaleshwar…the whole cast and crew (a large portion of which was the Ramsay family) basically went on a long picnic. If you look at Dhumal’s presence in the film, one thing is for certain…he wasn’t there for the full 40 days. So they just filmed as many scenes as they could with him to provide the comedy sidetrack (mostly based on his interactions with Satyen Kappu) and then invented excuses for his not being there during the rest of the film.

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Dhumal, hoping to return to Bombay soon.

Anjili is shown to his dead wife’s room (why did they have separate rooms if they were so in love?) while Rajvansh goes to his lab and does some experimenting.

Look at him, all dashing and scienceful!

Look at him, all dashing and scienceful!

Then they have dinner together and say good night. Sometime during the night, Anjili leaves her own room and goes to sleep in Rajvansh’s bed. Rajvansh is woken up when she tries to take the blanket away and is only mildly surprised by her. When he finds out that she can’t sleep alone due to fear, he agrees to let her sleep there, next to him. But as we all know, being a widowed man in bed with a girl is difficult and he can’t sleep…neither can she. His vaguely sexual thoughts are brought to the fore by the decorations in his room like this painting here…

Is this making anyone else horny?

He is like the Vishwamitra of questionable scientific experiments.

Or this weird looking sculpture on his nightstand, which seems to be arousing some hitherto unknown feelings in him, judging by his expression. (or considering that he keeps this thing that is clearly arousing him on the nightstand, maybe the expression just means that he is hoping that she falls asleep soon so he can jerk off, like every night, to these hot pointy metal things on this tiny little woman.)

"Mmmm...tiny metal pointy boobies."

“Mmmm…tiny metal pointy boobies.”

This turns out to be to much for our Vishwamitra and his penance is broken. He reaches out and takes her willing hand…

This is how they did foreplay back then.

Pictured: ‘Foreplay’

And then, for some Godforsaken reason, the Ramsay brothers give us one of their creepiest shots ever. It’s not even remotely supernatural…but surely it is a distilled, pure extract of the very stuff that nightmares are made of. The shot they use to symbolize sex is this…

NSFW? WTF? I don't even know what to say.

NSFW? WTF? I don’t even know what to say.

Thankfully they continue after this shot to show the two people faking out (that’s my term for how Indian cinema treated passionate intimacy for a long time…it looks like they’re making out, but actually they’re just rubbing their noses over each other’s faces while making O-faces…kind of like cows nuzzling)…interspersed with shots of a raging fire in the fireplace. If that hadn’t happened, you would have assumed the worst and thought that Anjili (with that creepy weird spelling) was some sort of Succubus and Rajvansh has suffered the worst possible fate based on that shot.

So anyway, we get a few shots of the fireplace and faking out (maybe his shirt comes off in one of them, you’ll have to watch to find out) and then cut to the next morning when Rajvansh is strolling nervously while Anjili is crying on the bed. He tries to console her by saying that they have both committed a grievous wrong that cannot be righted.

"Why did you change and do your hair, if you just wanted to lie on the bed and cry?"

“Why did you change and do your hair, if you just wanted to lie on the bed and cry?”

And then of course since the only way to right the bad idea of sleeping with someone you’ve just met and hardly know is to top it with the worse idea of marrying someone you’ve just met and hardly know…that is exactly what Rajvansh does.

As it turns out, that’s not a very good decision…the sinister Satyen Kappu turns out to be Anjili’s uncle who had planned it all from the beginning. The goons were his men and he had instructed his niece to seduce Rajvansh by sleeping in his bed. We also find out that Anjili loves someone else called Anand.

Anjili and her mamaji start sucking as much money as they can out of the rich man they have ensnared. Sometime after this, as Rajvansh is out collecting more plants and herbs…lightning strikes again. A happy go lucky sort of girl is wandering about the hills singing a happy go lucky kind of song (something about becoming a bird and flying off) when she suddenly, unexpectedly falls into a stream of water that just happened to be in her path. Seriously, she’s literally dancing about singing one moment and down in the stream the next…it goes like this…

14 15 16

A normal person would stand there and laugh screaming “HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU NOT SEE A FUCKING STREAM RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES???” But not our Rajvansh…he immediately rescues the girl (Rajvansh 2, Goons 0, Stream 0) and takes her back to his haveli (if he didn’t have his plant samples and his chemistry lab set, I would have thought that his full time occupation was saving girls and bringing them to his haveli).

That girl turns out to be Meena (Pooja…who went on to star in, well nothing. Am I the only one noticing a pattern here?), Dhumal’s niece who works as a nurse in a nearby village. Her professional life soon goes the way of Rajvansh’s dead wife…it is never mentioned again. She starts living at the Haveli.

Rajvansh starts developing a tenderness for Meena, Anjili starts becoming jealous and unsatisfied and Rajvansh starts fighting with Anjili about her greedy mooching uncle. All this comes to a head in a huge fight where Anjili flat out says that she married him for the money (and because they had sex once). Rajvansh loses it, throws a lot of money at Satyen Kappu and rushes back to his lab where, unbeknownst to him, some of the boiling thick red liquid he had been creating had spilled over into his jug of water.18

After the shoot Mrs. Ramsay made some pakode which the whole unit ate with the giant bottle of ketchup.

After the shoot Mrs. Ramsay made some pakode which the whole unit ate with the giant bottle of ketchup.

He does not notice this major spill of his ‘faarmula’ and in all his tension, he takes a drink of water from the jug. And turns into the Man-Bat! Nope. He just falls down like he’s had a heart attack.

Some crying and wailing happens and the Doctor is called. While Meena, who has no relation to Rajvansh (technically, she’s not even an employee/slave even though she calls him Maalik all the time) prays for his well being, his wife Anjili sits and reads a magazine (unfortunately, the print is not clear enough to recognize the exact book she’s reading. I had initially thought that it was a comic book like Lotpot ot Madhu Muskan, but on closer inspection it definitely seems to be one of those lurid pulp rags in Hindi…which is more in keeping with the theme of the film and the career of the Ramsay Brothers).

"There's no photos in this book!"

“There’s no photos in this book!”

Even better is the reaction of her Mamaji, who openly sits around drinking with the safe. And when I say drinking with the safe, I mean he literally clinks a glass on the safe and says ‘Cheers’ to it.

Here's photographic evidence, because I know you didn't believe me when I said that.

Here’s photographic evidence, because I know you didn’t believe me when I said that.

Rajvansh finally regains consciousness. But as soon as he tries to walk, his legs give way under him…he can’t walk now. The doctor wants to hospitalize him, but Anjili makes flimsy excuses for not letting him go and insists that he be treated at home by a doctor of her choice. She reveals everything to her lover Anand and convinces him to pose as a doctor so that they can live together in the haveli. Her lover Anand is played by Imtiaz Khan, making his debut here a couple of years before his much better known brother became famous as Gabbar Singh. Imtiaz was never as successful as Amjad, but did do his fair share of films…quite a few of them with the Ramsays.

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Loads of relationship drama shenanigans ensue until finally, after half the movie is over, Anjili and her uncle hatch a scheme to kill Rajvansh and things start veering into somewhat familiar Ramsay territory. Anjili uses her sexy charms to convince Anand to go along with their plan of killing her husband and stealing his money.

Pictured: Sexy Charms

Pictured: Sexy Charms

He finally agrees and then in a long, drawn out, cliché ridden sequence that goes on forever, Anand (aided by Anjili) kills him with a lethal injection. Things start getting creepy as they put him in a trunk and take him to a location where Mamaji working with the gravedigger we saw earlier has prepared a place to put Rajvansh to rest Two Yards Under the Ground (the film manages to avoid the expected speaking out of the title by a character…I couldn’t).26

All sorts of weirdness now breaks loose, starting with the fact that they cannot locate the key of the safe (which contains all of Rajvansh’s money…because banks and investments are for stupid people who can’t do chemistry experiments). Of course they naturally assume that the key would be in the pocket of the corpse…so they exhume the body but still can’t find the key.

The key turns up in Mamaji’s pocket, sowing the seeds of dissension among the ‘villains’, but the safe is empty…except for lots of BLOOD! (DHEN TAN TAAAAN!)

They eventually discover Rajvansh’s diary that says that he has given all of his wealth to his servant Ramdas (Dhumal) for safekeeping because he suspected that his wife was up to something (thus giving a reason for Dhumal’s absence). It also said that his experiment had been successful…he had recreated the serum made by the American Zombie tribe (yes, this is exactly what it says) which can enable a soul to keep on animating its own corpse (again, this is exactly what it says).

Considering that this is a Ramsay brothers movie after all, we now know that the ‘Zombie’ is going to make some appearances in the film…he did have the red liquid!

In a way, this makes Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche India’s first Zombie film…but then again, apart from the word Zombie being used once and one corpse getting reanimated, it has none of the standard features of an actual Zombie film. In fact, even the word Zombie is used in a completely made up and wrong kind of way.

Anyway, things are set into motion when footsteps are heard and Rajvansh’s old bed is seen covered in grave dust…

All reanimated corpses love a good soft mattress!

All reanimated corpses love a good soft mattress!

Anjili now truly believes that Rajvansh is walking about, but the men laugh her fears away. Anand goes off in search of Ramdas and Anjili is alone at the haveli. And then finally, the creepiness goes up a couple of notches when for the first time in the film, the partially rotted reanimated corpse of Rajvansh makes an appearance.28

Confronted by Acne’n’Hoodie here, Anjili does exactly what Bollywood women are supposed to do…she faints. And before you can even start thinking about where Mamaji is during all this, the directors answer your question with an item number with Mamaji drinking and watching Helen dance.29

Yes, THE Helen. She’s dancing around to a forgettable song with Satyen Kappu in an uncredited appearance. (I also have a feeling that at least some of the other patrons of the bar in this song are Ramsay family members). Anyway as soon as the song is over, we go back to Anjili in the haveli, sleeping as if nothing had happened so far…and thus begins the most Ramsayesque sequence of the film.

Step 1: External Shot of the ‘Old Haveli’

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Step 2: Weird Taste in Home Décor

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Step 3: Strange Man in Weird Makeup

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But that’s it. She wakes up freaked out, comes out into the balcony and sees him standing somewhere in the gardens. She screams at him to go away and the scene ends.

If you thought that was bizarre, things get even bizarrer after this as we cut to Mamaji sleeping alone in the bar we saw earlier. (Is this still the same day? Did Zombie Raj terrorize Anjili twice in the same night? In that case, after she ran out and fainted outside the first time, how did she end up back in bed again? Or is Mamaji generally found drunk in this bar at all hours and the song earlier was only establishing that? Nobody really knows the answer to any of these questions.)

As Mamaji sleeps, the bar starts filling up with smoke and the bottles and glasses start vibrating as if T-Rex is about to make an entrance. The lighting of the place changes to a hot pink tone and a strange looking hand reaches for Mama’s shoulder. He wakes up scared, but there’s no one there. He decides to have one more drink. But Zombie Raj spooks him again and then demolishes the whole bar! (While remaining unseen by Mamaji the whole time.)

And now the bizarrest thing happens…we see Mamaji watching Meena bathing at a stream.

It's not me repeating the image...the Ramsays used the same footage again.

It’s not me repeating the image…the Ramsays used the same footage again.

And he decides to rape her. How this scene follows from the one preceding it seems to be amazingly stupid at first glance, but if you really think about it…maybe Satyen’s character suddenly came face to face with his own mortality in his drunken encounter with the supernatural, which made him want to make the most of the moment and the moment happened to present him with a half clad young woman…No. It’s just stupid.

Of course pious, God-fearing, Swami-bhakt Meena can’t be raped so she is saved by the appearance of Zombie Raj, who scares Mamaji into falling off a hill.

As we move towards the climax, Anand returns, Dhumal doesn’t and Zombie Raj makes another appearance. Will Rajvansh’s reanimated corpse (aka Zombie Raj) exact its revenge upon those who wronged him? Will Anjili and Anand’s illicit relationship survive the challenges thrown up by the supernatural? Will their greed be their undoing? Is there anything supernatural at all or will it all be explained away at the end in a mundane anti-climactic twist?

Dhan tan taaaaaaan!

Dhan tan taaaaaaan!

Whatever the answer might be to these questions (you can watch the film if you really want to know), there is one thing for sure…it is not a very satisfactory experience for the fans of the cheesy campy B Horror Ramsay Brothers brand of film. The brothers have not yet found their groove. They are only beginning to experiment (sort of half-heartedly) with the genre and the tropes that would make them successful. None of their usual trademarks have yet been formed…the comedy track is virtually non-existent, the sound cues are not yet established, the stuffed animals and typical Ramsay atmosphere is also missing (even in the parts which are horror). There are some glimpses and flashes in the film of what would eventually become the Ramsay style. It is of interest only to the hardcore Ramsay fan…because it marks the beginning of the long Ramsay Brothers saga.