Monday, July 14, 2008

Naseeb (India, 1981)

Naseeb is a huge, sprawling picture -- one that, for better or worse, gives Manmohan Desai, the king of over-stuffed 1970s masala movies, the opportunity to give free reign to his most extravagant impulses. It's so huge, in fact, that, on several occasions when Amitabh Bachchan showed up on screen, I realized that I had completely forgotten that he was in the movie. This is understandable when you consider that the film, not content to give us just one villain, gives us all of Amrish Puri, Amjad Khan, Prem Chopra and Kader Khan to torment our heroes, and also provides overlapping love stories that involve various combinations of Amitabh, Shatrughan Sinha and Rishi Kapoor and Hema Malini, Reena Roy and Kim. For a good part of Naseeb, it simply feels like plot elements are being unreeled like an endless fishing line without any of it ever coalescing into an actual plot, but then a hurried attempt to tie everything together in the final hour sends the narrative rocketing into the stratosphere. As a result, the viewer is rewarded for his endurance with a surplus of frantic spectacle, the highlights including some actually pretty competent for the time, Towering Inferno-style special effects, and a dramatic entrance by all three heroines, arriving to save the day on the back of a motorcycle that crashes through the exterior of Singha's fabulous glass-walled mansion (in slow motion, of course).

Naseeb is also famous for a sequence that became the inspiration for the touted all-star party scene in Farah Khan's recent Om Shanti Om. While the similarities are obvious, one difference that struck me was that -- while, in Om, Shahrukh was playing a Shahrukh-like superstar who could party with the assembled gods and goddesses of the screen on equal terms -- Amitabh plays a lowly waiter who has to serve the crowd of Bollywood royals, which includes some of his famous co-stars from previous movies. So, as much as I love the aforementioned scene in Om, I've got to say that Amitabh wins out over Shahrukh in terms of humility and good sportsmanship. I also loved that the event ostensibly being celebrated in Naseeb was the golden jubilee of Dharam-Veer, which occasioned the banquet hall being decorated by a giant standee of Dharmendra in his leather miniskirt.

4 comments:

Beth said...

Who cares about the movie? Go find that standee?

a ppcc representative said...

Must... see... Naseeb...

Todd said...

Yes, indeed you must! It was quite a fun ride.

And, Beth, you're right. I mean, who wouldn't want a giant standee of a leather mini-skirt clad Dharmendra in their home? Well, a lot of people, probably... but those are not people that I want to know!

Beth said...

Through completely other channels, I just found myself watching "John Jani Janardhan" and instantly spotted the Dharmendra cut-out and realized that I had already heard about this movie....