The Bollywood action thriller Saazish is sloppily constructed, incoherent, low budget trash. But it's also kind of fun if you're in the right mood. More importantly, it provides the answer to a question posed by Keith on the Teleport City forum many, many months ago -- that question being, "Who the heck is that blue guy on the cover of the Bombay the Hard Way, Volume 2: Electric Vindaloo CD?" Well it turns out that he is Saazish's chief heavy, Mr. Han (or, if you're Jim Kelly, Mr. Han Man), who is clearly inspired by the venerable French pulp villain Fantomas (who made an equally copyright-flaunting appearance in the 1969 Turkish film Iron Claw the Pirate).
The first half of Saazish takes place in Hong Kong, where Indian beauty queen Sunita (Saira Banu) has just won the title of Miss Cosmos. With barely enough time to bask in the warm attentions of the painfully stiff, English-speaking representatives of the press swarming around her, she is whisked away to perform her first order of duty, which is to present the trophy at an international racing competition. Here she meets and instantly falls in love with hunky race car driver Rai (Dharmendra). This leads to her relentlessly stalking him all over the island and singing at him, with the predictable--by Bollywood standards--result that he eventually wears down and falls hard for her, as well. (I was glad to at least see a gender reversal in this scenario, for once.)
All goes swimmingly, until a fateful trip on the ferry results in Sunita inadvertently learning of an international criminal gang's plot to smuggle two billion dollars worth of stolen gold out of the country. This, in turn, results in Sunita being relentlessly hunted down by the gang, which includes Madan Puri--making about as convincing a Chinese as Warner Oland--playing a character called Mr. Wong. Separated from his lady love, Rai is captured by the gang and taken to the big boss, Mr. Han. Somewhat surprisingly, Rai offers to kill Sunita himself (I mean, that breathy, Jane Mansfield impersonation that Saira Banu is doing is pretty annoying) in exchange for his life and a sizable chunk of cash. But is Rai on the level, or is this just a clever ruse? Rai's uncle (Iftekhar) is an inspector for Interpol, after all. Or IS he? Finally, Rai convinces Sunita to flee the country with him on a cruise ship, which happens to be the very cruise ship on which the gold is being smuggled. Also on board is the predictable assortment of eccentric characters, including, happily, Helen as both the ship's onboard entertainer and the film's delightful locus of female villainy.
Like International Crook before it, Saazish appears to have been filmed over a long period of time, with Dharmendra's girth, hair and acting style frequently changing dramatically from shot to shot. While this practice is not radical to the point of providing the dizzying sense of hopping back-and-forth through time that International Crook did, it does contribute to the film having a cobbled together feel, as if it was assembled from parts of two or three different films. Furthermore, much of the technical execution shows clear evidence of haste: For instance, the stunningly lazy use of rear projection in an early chase scene that makes Saira Banu's car appear to be traveling sideways through traffic--or the opening car race, which offers some of the most ham-handed blending of stock and studio-shot footage I've seen.
Still, the film has enough of a balance of scrappy energy and affably goofy elements to make it entertaining for the undemanding viewer... or, to be more specific, me. In fact, it's worth watching simply to behold Dharmendra, as only he can, throwing his hands on his hips, puffing out his chest, and telling Fantomas what time it is.
File under: SOLVED!