Honestly, the sub genre of "zany comic book movie where Anil Kapoor plays scruffy common man superhero who ends up saving India from the evils of Amrish Puri" is SO FREAKING AWESOME. Okay, so there have only been two films in this genre so far: the highly fabulous Nayak: The Real Hero and the similarly fabulous Mr. India. But it's great! They should make more! Indeed, Filmi Girl recently noted that it's high time for Anil Kapoor to step into some sort of superhero role - and we agree. But don't give the man a cape, just give him his mustache, a big ol' heart and some wacky hijinx - and behold the awesomeness!
Mr. India, for the two or three of you who haven't heard of this film, is about a scruffy violin teacher, Arun (Anil Kapoor, in a strangely appealing mullet). Arun's just a regular guy with a heart of gold, and he runs a makeshift orphanage in his massive house by the sea. With his greasy cook, Calendar (Satish Kaushik), Arun struggles to make ends meet, but, alas, sometimes the kids go hungry for the day (also, none of them seem to go to school). One day, after threats of eviction, Arun and Calendar hit on the idea of subletting the attic flat to perky journalist Seema (Sridevi). The only problem is - Seema hates kids! Hilarity ensues.
We need a chair like that. IN THE PALM OF OUR HAND, MWA HA HA!
Running tangential to this (relatively) normal plot, there is the evil Mogambo (an amazing Amrish Puri) who, with his evil henchmen - Daagat (Sharat Saxena), Teja (Ajit Vachani), Captain Zorro (Gur Bachchan Singh), Dr. Fu Manchu (?!), and evil English Mr. Wolcott (Bob Christo) - plans to destabilize, subjugate and destroy India. "MOGAMBO... KHUSH HUA!!!" ("MOGAMBO... IS HAPPY!") Mogambo often bellows in that wonderfully bug-eyed way. But as happy as Mogambo is, the job is still not complete: he needs the legendary Invisibility Formula™! And who should have developed this formula but... Arun's late father! When family friend, Professor Sinha (an unexpected cameo by Ashok Kumar!), manages to deliver to Arun the Invisibility Bracelet™ - well, you can just imagine the wackiness which goes down. Arun, now armed with invisibility and a new name, Mr. India (!), becomes a champion of justice and a major thorn in Mogambo's side. Much, much hilarity ensues.
Now, the reason we group Mr. India with the later Nayak is because both films are superficially comic books stuffed full of ridiculous moments, yet within both pumps a real, earnest heart. They don't tease or undermine the very real problems that the hero has to tackle (even if, okay, those evils are embodied by the cackling Amrish Puri, who Western audiences will recognize from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Corruption, adulterated foods, poverty, drug smuggling - this stuff really happens, and the filmmakers know it. And even on a micro level, the emotions are played straight. Robots or pot people might be lumbering by, but the emotional core is genuine. For example, in both films, tragedy strikes and the hero loses someone close to him. And, in both films, thanks partly to Anil Kapoor's awesomeness and partly to the director's wisdom, the scene is played straight - it just really is sad. In fact, we're a little embarrassed to admit this, but we actually cried when it happened in this film.
Yes, world, we cried during Mr. India.
Moving speedily along, it's a little difficult to review a film that's already a cult classic - how can we say anything new? Instead, we can point you in the direction of BollyBob's, Carla's, or Prof. Lutgendorf's review. They've covered everything. So what can the PPCC offer?
Well, not much! You just have to watch this film. If you don't find yourself smiling like an idiot through most of it, you've probably got some adulterated heart of STONE. Some of the major selling points are:
1. The orphans!
Awww, group cuddle!
The PPCC has a not-so-secret fantasy to one day have a brood of children, just a big ol' pile of them, pound puppy style. Lucky Mr. India's already got that! And goodness, these children are wonderful. We especially loved the ones who breakdance throughout the entire film (they're electric!) and the slightly nerdy sidekick.
2. The meltdowns!
Anil Kapoor; what does the scouter say about his power level? It's OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Although we joined the Anil Kapoor Fanclub because of a relatively subdued scene (and no, we will never stop finding opportunities to plug that song), we've gotta say he works his mustachioed magic most in the moments when he just flips out like some demented nutcase.
3. The filmmaking!
Hey, Shekhar Kapur's Shekhar Kapur. This is the guy who made Masoom, Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Four Feathers. This film may have been lo-fi, but the filmmaking technique is so smart that - man, we totally lapped it up! You'd think a sci-fi fantasy with low production values would only be worth a snicker, yet so many of the scenes - like the one where Arun discovers the invisibility bracelet for the first time - were exhiliratingly zany.
4. The songs!
From the fun medley.
Ahhh. The epic Laxmikant-Pyarelal medley which Prof. Lutgendorf rightly calls an "operatic duel" was faaab, as was Sridevi's fantastic comic timing in the Miss Hawa Hawaii song (or, as the subtitles call her, "Miss Breeze Breezy"), or the cheekily horny Kate Nahi Kat Te Yeh Raat (complete with an invisible roll in the hay and excellent Drums of Eroticism - similar to the Sitars of Sex).
5. The ass-kicking heroine!
We love it when Sridevi goes, "Heeeeee!" in that airy falsetto.
Sridevi had to work pretty hard to earn back our affections after Lamhe, but she succeeded - what with her impromptu Charlie Chaplin impression, eating the fruit from her own fruit hat, or just generally kicking various henchmen's butts, she was great!
5. The sequel?!
Is it true, internet?! But without Shekhar Kapur directing?! Well, either way, we're obviously going to be there, first show, first night.
The PPCC... KHUSH HUE!