Chunaoti (India, 1980)
Chunaoti is another Feroz Khan/Danny Dezongpa curry western following in the bootprints of Kaala Sona and Khotte Sikkay. It also stars Dharmendra in what is billed as a "Dynamic Special Appearance". I think that means "In a wig". It also might mean, "Hey, Dharmendra has a break from that movie he's shooting across the way -- can we squeeze him into this one somehow?", because his character seems pretty superfluous and somewhat awkwardly tacked onto the proceedings.
This film definitely comes out the least in comparison to its aforementioned predecessors thanks to its pasted-together feel and some fairly anemic plotting. Basically, Feroz, Dharmendra and Neetu Singh are all out to get Danny Dezongpa's bandit character, Ajay Singh, and somehow manage to take two hours and forty-five minutes to do it, despite him not appearing all that elusive or inaccessible. Of course, a simple story like this can be satisfying when fleshed out with interesting character development and relationship arcs -- but, sadly, Sholay this is not.
Feroz here plays a pious, teetotaling bounty hunter, which is a lot less fun than the hard-drinking, hellraising Feroz so readily available in other masala movies from this period. Just how saintly is he? Well, pilgrim, he's so saintly that all the proceeds from his man-hunting go toward the upkeep of an orphanage built with his own sweat and blood (as well as, I imagine, some more conventional building materials -- not that I mean to cast doubt upon the mortar-like hardiness of Feroz's manly secretions). This orphanage provides the film with a Mr. India-like surfeit of cloyingly adorable urchins for the purpose of further demonstrating what a great guy Feroz is. One of the orphans is named "Chimpu", which is cool because, you know.. ha ha! Chimpu!
Rounding out the cast, Dharmendra -- in a wig, remember -- plays a reformed bandit who is trying to make an honest living farming the land and Neetu Singh plays a sort of Annie Oakley character out to get revenge for the murder of her parents. On the plus side, the two-fisted, tough girl role affords Neetu the opportunity to dole out a good share of the dishoom dishoom, which is pretty entertaining. Also, the fact that Danny Dezongpa and his female second-in-command are both masters of disguise adds a cool Fantomas-like touch to their otherwise pretty rote villain portrayals. Still, on the whole, the film is pretty forgetta... wait, what was I talking about?
Dharmatma (India, 1975)
Feroz Khan's directing debut, Dharmatma, is the actor's re-imagining of The Godfather, and, as such, corrects for Francis Ford Coppola's oversight in not including any motorcycle stunts in the original. The similarities to Dharmatma's source material are easy to see, as long as you can imaging a version of The Godfather in which Michael Corleone spends the middle third of the movie in Afghanistan chasing around gypsy girls and fighting with Danny Dezongpa.
This aforementioned middle act was, admittedly, a bit slow going for me, but once Feroz gets back to India and is seeking revenge for his father's murder by a rival gang we kick into exactly the type of non-stop, crazy action that the director/star delivered so plentifully in his classic Qurbani. Backing up Feroz in this endeavor is none other than Dara Singh himself in a very-special-guest-starring turn as the Godfather's chief enforcer. The highlight for me, however, was Ranjeet and Sudhir playing hitmen for the rival gangleader (Jeevan), cousins who wear a breathtaking range of matching outfits -- from baby-sized black mesh shirts to aqua sportsjackets worn over bare chests. Ranjeet alone is enough of a sartorial sideshow for any movie, so just imagine him in duplicate.
*Poster image from thehotspotonline.com
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