Monday 22 October 2007

Namak Halaal (1982)

If anything defined 1970s Bollywood, it was the Amitabh-Shashi masala vehicle. Two brothers, lots of misunderstandings, big bellbottoms, shirts that open all the way down to the navel, and a little dishoom dishoom. Namak Halaal (Loyalty) is superficially such a film, but a parody of one. It's as if the stars of the 70s decided to go out in a blaze of glory before the evil vacuum of the 1980s fully consumed them. And we at the PPCC have been mega pumped to see it, ever since reading BollyBob's excellent review wherein it's described as a massive LSD trip.

While we at the PPCC are quiet, sober types, maybe getting blitzed during this would actually be a good idea (Shashi certainly spends most of the time in a bottle). But actually, you don't even need to. As BollyBob says, Namak Halaal is a trip in itself. It's like those dreams you have after eating cheese that's gone off. It doesn't quite make sense. Scenes skip and jump around, with narry a logical step to be seen. Sometimes the dialogue makes you do a double-take, especially when (as BollyBob note) characters answer questions by talking about something else. People appear on other people's chests, or floating in the sky. Characters disguise themselves for no reason. Amitabh talks to a fly and dreams of his grandfather while humping (YES HE WAS HUMPING) a pillow. What the hell is going on?!

Ring, ring. Hello? I want to kill you. I will kill you!

The plot has the standard masala ingredients (quasi-brothers, misunderstandings, bellbottoms, shirts and dishoom), except this time around, Amitabh plays Arjun, the dim-witted man-child who becomes the loyal servant to Raja (Shashi Kapoor), a boozy, snobbish hotel owner who is the target of numerous assassination attempts. BollyBob likens Amitabh and Shashi to Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, and there's certainly an element of truth in that. Amitabh is so slapstick and elastic-faced that all he needs is a pair of floppy ears. And Shashi... well, the poor dear was gaining weight at a rapid rate in the early 80s. Add to that the photo of a 1970s in-his-prime Shashi that we are often subjected to during the film (everyone seems to have a copy on their wall, which is understandable), and Raja does acquire a sort of has-been, beer gut quality. Oh dear.

Anyway, everyone shows up at some point. Narang from Don. Om Prakash, beloved by the PPCC since Aa Gale Lag Jaa. That kooky toothy guy from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, which we've seen but keep forgetting to review. What was his name? Oh, Ram P. Sethi. Even Smita Patil, for the love of God. We know Shabana and Tabu have slummed it around in Bollywood before, but Smita? SMITA?! What the hell is going on!?!

Amitabh's famous Engrish scene.

Yes, this is a movie to make you question a lot of things. Mostly reality. And then everyone's sanity or sobriety. It's a comedy, and some moments are funny, but many moments are just bizarre. For this reason, there is a certain amount of perverse delight in watching it. What could possibly happen next? Aliens? Time travel? Hey, why don't we have a fight on skis. Yeah. Some moments which were intended to be funny are genuinely funny; for example, when Amitabh convinces a bunch of businessmen that they must imitate Shashi's every move. Or when Amitabh nonchalantly picks up a woman, turns her upside down, and shakes out some stolen cash. Or when a drunken Shashi slurs and squeaks to the femme fatale meant to kill him in a pretty pitiable attempt at flirting. Or when Amitabh does the robot to some synthesizer techno (we kid you not). Some moments - mostly during the songs - are even sublime.

This is the robot song. Wait for it... wait for it...

In fact, the music deserves a separate paragraph. All the songs in this film are really great. Seasoned PPCC readers will recognize the wonderful Aaj Rapat Jaye To, for which Amitabh recently won the Dance Off (!!). Indeed, except for that one song with the scuba diving assassins, the PPCC loved every song as soon as we heard it. Our personal favorite was Amitabh's faux drunken song, Thodisi Jo Pee Lee Hai, which unfortunately has no YouTube vid but you can listen to it on Dishant.


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Wow. Can't wait. I had read about this on Bollybob but got completely confused. But with your handy-dandy list of its many fine features in hand, I'm confident I'm ready to watch it and know what to look for. Shashi seems to have really, really turned up the smarm here, eh? Does he actually act in this, though, or is it a phoned-in turn like in Shaan?

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Oh oh oh! This just in! My local video store has this movie. God, how fast can I clear my schedule so I can watch it? Rrrr, not until Tuesday at least. Still, gods be praised.

Stella_1 said...

Hi, I know Shashi is getting fatter, that's because in 1982 his wife was sick with cancer, she died in 1984. Poor Shashi, anyway, I will post the music on my blog today. Bye

squarecut.atul said...

So few comments? It was one of the better Amitabh movies,(conditions apply). Comedy scenes as well as the song "pag ghunghroo" including prelude to the song, where he keeps searching for his shoe are brilliant.

Nandan said...

Yo ! Another great movie you can watch on . I dare anyone to sit through the "thodi si jo pee lee hai" trailer without breaking into a grin.


Anonymous said...

I just remember Namak Halal for Raat Baaki Baat Baaki which was Parveen Babi's swan song. She looked very beautiful and very philosophical in the song. Strangely enough such a wonderful song can grace such a trashy movie.