Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flying Saucer Rock and Roll: Wahan Ke Log (India, 1967)

My dipping into the sixties Indian B movie well continues to yield rich rewards. That said, my latest watch, Wahan Ke Log, might have benefited from English subtitles, because the lack thereof made the more exposition-heavy middle section lag a bit. On the other hand, that might have been for the best, because it gave my brain a rest. Had Wahan Ke Log continued to deliver the volume of sheer face-rocking awesomeness that its opening act provided, I might not have survived. The combination of flying saucers, secret agents, mad scientists and a sci-fi themed go-go number featuring Laxmi Chhaya (the "Jaan Penechaan Ho" girl from Gumnaam, dude) is, after all, a lot to foist upon an easily excited man of my advanced years.

Flying saucers are terrorizing India, and CID agent Rakesh--played by golden age leading man Pradeep Kumar at the beginning of his late sixties slump--is put on the case. Apparently the Martians--as they identify themselves--are recruiting Earth scientists to assist in their evil plans, communicating with them through small flying discs that keep showing up out of nowhere. Chief among these human emissaries is the diabolical Anil, played by the film's producer/director, N.A. Ansari, who also played one of the numerous Mogambo red herrings in Maha Badmaash. Anil's first order of business is to eliminate Rakesh, and the two lovely femme fatales in his employ, Sofia and "Miss Margaret", are more than up to the task. I'm not sure who the actress portraying Sofia is (is it Nilofar?), but she's quite exquisite, and part of her seduce-and-destroy mission involves her doing an item number featuring a chorus line of guitar strumming white women. (I love the use of Caucasians as exotics; it's a nice bit of turnaround.)

Another scientist more reluctantly put into service of the invaders is the father of Sunita (Tanuja), Rakesh's girlfriend, and his recalcitrance eventually leads to the space-suited Martians kidnapping both him and his daughter. With the clock ticking, Rakesh must now locate the evil Anil and his intergalactic buddies' subterranean base of operations in order to save Sunita and thwart the Martians plan to... what, exactly? And are the Martians really Martians, after all? See Wahan Ke Log ("The Aliens") and find out. Or if, like me, you don't speak Hindi, see Wahan Ke Log and piece together as best you can what happened, cobbling together a patchy version of events that is probably rife with inaccuracies. Anyway, there are explosions. Yay!

I was really pleased by how generously Wahan Ke Log delivered upon its concept. There is even a climactic battle between the flying saucers and the Indian Air Force that's pulled off with all the technical flare of Plan 9 from Outer Space (though, to be fair, the flying saucer interior set and the full-sized mock-up saucer that are used are, production value-wise, leagues beyond Plan 9). Add to that all the sub-Bondian hi-jinks and N.A. Ansari walking around cackling like a low rent Dr. No and you have all of the ingredients for a deeply satisfying piece of pulp cinema, something that would make an excellent double bill with Santo contra la Invasion de los Marcianos. Hopefully someone will get around to putting this one out in a subtitled version so that it can enjoy the international cult status it deserves.

13 comments:

duriandave said...

Looks fun! The sci-fi go-go number is enough to lure me.

And that giant eye on the monitor is awesomely surreal!

houseinrlyeh said...

Sounds amazing, but is there a Hindi version of Flying Saucer Rock'n'Roll in the film?

Todd said...

Sadly, no. Sorry if I got your hopes up!

There is, however, a recurring instrumental version of "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" that makes up pretty much the entirety of the non-song musical score. Small consolation, I know.

houseinrlyeh said...

Too bad...

memsaabstory said...

Oh.must.see.

I *heart* Laxmi Chhaya, and your screen caps are making me drool.

Yay Nupur! Please hire a subtitler though!

Caucasians as exotics are one of my favorite things about Hindi films.

Todd said...

Memsaab, I agree on all counts. (To recap: 1. Yes, you must see it; 2. I <3 Laxmi; 3. Yay Nupur! Boo no subs; 4. Whites=exotics=awesome.)

Any idea who the actress in the fourth screencap down is (the one who's singing to Pradeep Kumar)? I know I've seen her in at least one other thing and its driving me a little bit crazy.

memsaabstory said...

Is it Nilofar maybe? She does look familiar but it's hard to tell from one photo...

Todd said...

Yeah, sorry. I know the picture's not so great. Nilofar was just a guess on my part, because the name Nilofar is listed near the top of the credits--though I have to admit that I don't know who Nilofar (he? she?) is. If Nilofar was indeed an actress known for the sexy dancing, then that's probably who it is. I'm in the middle of watching Lutera, and this actress (or, at least, I'm pretty sure it's her) shows up as an item girl in that, as well.

Michael Barnum said...

No I am not certain, but I think that Nilofar plays the main alien gal who has the flip hairtyle. My recollection is that Bela Bose (who I adore) did that great song and dance number you mention! Bela is the bomb!

It has been several months since I saw watched this VCD, but it is wonderful! It would be nice if some enterprising American DVD company would delve into these crazy James Bondian/sci fi thrillers that India made in the 60s and 70s.

Todd said...

Man, Michael, I swore that I wrote a response to your comment weeks ago. Then again, the meds were flowing pretty freely at that time and I might have hallucinated it. In any case, many thanks for identifying Bela Bose. Now that I know who she is, she seems to turn up in near every Indian B movie I watch, which is a very, very good thing

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

That screen cap of the girl is of Bela Bose, who is suddenly cropping up in everything I see- strange how that works :)

Todd said...

Thanks, Shweta! Likewise, now that I'm watching a lot of Indian B movies from the sixties I find that she turns up in almost every other one I see -- which is great, because I think she's pretty awesome.

Huntley Film Archives said...

English release trailer now on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzmkx5S6en0