Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Faulad (India, 1963)

Faulad falls squarely within a Bollywood genre that I had no idea existed until only very recently; that being the Greco-Roman Mediaeval Pirate movie. So far my favorite film in that genre is Manmohan Desai's Dharam-Veer, with the Dara Singh vehicle Lootera being my second. Faulad, which is also a Dara Singh vehicle, would then be my third favorite, but only by default, because it's not like it's so impressive that a fourth entry, once I discover it, isn't likely to knock it out of place.

Much like in Lootera, Dara starts out the movie as a gladiator/wrestler type and then, after leading a rebellion on a slave ship, becomes the leader of a frilly-shirted band of pirates. Mumtaz is also on hand as a haughty princess who falls for Dara after he rescues her from a runaway chariot. Mumtaz, by the way, seriously looks like she's about eleven in this movie, so thank God there's no actual kissing between her and Dara, because it's creepy enough already as it is.

Faulad is directed by everybody's (well, mine and Memsaab's) new favorite director Mohammed Hussain, which is a guaranty that it will contain at least one giant rubber monster, and it does. Dara and his men make a pit stop at an island where they wander into a cave to be menaced by some kind of giant bug which Dara quickly runs through with his sword. Unfortunately, the bug isn't all that big -- about the size of a large dog -- and can't be seen very clearly. If things were otherwise, Faulad would surely have shot up to the top of my list of favorite GRMP movies, only to be displaced in the event that another movie came along with all of the same elements plus a Taoist priest shooting cartoon laser beams out of his hands.

Most of Faulad is in black and white, but a couple of its musical numbers, as well as its final fifteen minutes, are in color, a gimmick that might have had some dazzle for audiences ten years previous, when few Bollywood films were being made in color, but couldn't have had much of a wow factor in 1963. Mainly it just has the effect of making those black and white segments that follow the colored ones -- which are indeed very colorful -- seem more disappointing than they might otherwise have been, as if Faulad is telling you, "Okay, that was the movie you could have had, but now we're back to the one that couldn't afford to be in color."

And indeed Faulad is a shoe-string, cash-strapped affair, which is, of course, far from a complaint. I loved the preponderance of school play style painted cardboard sets, as well as the "whatever's left in the wardrobe department" approach to costuming. My favorite instance of the latter is during a wrestling match staged at the palace of Mumtaz's father, during which she and her court wear that kind of combination Mediaeval/Ancient Roman/Arabian Nights garb that they do, except for one guy who's dressed in a waistcoat and pantaloons like a foppish aristocrat out of an eighteenth century novel, and, of course, the wrestling referee, who is wearing a wife-beater and sweatpants.

Faulad winds up with quite a rousing climax, with all kinds of parallel action -- a swordfight here, some fisticuffs there -- taking place throughout the besieged palace. The pendulously man-maried King Kong even makes an appearance (as if that's a rarity in a Dara Singh movie) so that he and Dara can wrestle while he makes those distressing, loud grunting sounds that he does. All in all, it was... well, just okay. If I were forced to sum up Faulad with some kind of lazy, overtly sexist analogy -- which wouldn't be the strangest thing that I've been forced to do, which is another story -- I'd say that, if it were a woman, I probably wouldn't take a bullet for it, but I wouldn't throw it out of bed for eating crackers, either. If that had been a real giant bug, though....

9 comments:

houseinrlyeh said...

Sounds fun, and rather like Samurai Pirate with Toshiro Mifune, incidentally also made in 1963...

memsaabstory said...

I was reading Manmohan Desai's bio again last evening, and he says that in his lean years from 1960 to 1970 he was offered a Dara Singh film to direct but turned it down (his wife said: something better will turn up). Can you imagine????

Sigh. Lost opportunities. But I will probably need to see this one, even if you wouldn't take a bullet for it.

I do love the combo b/w and color thing. Poor Mohd Hussain, he needed a sugar daddy (or momma).

Todd said...

House: So maybe it was something in the air in 1963. It occurred to me that, if I was a Christian fundamentalist, these movies would make perfect sense, because, in order for the dinosaurs to have walked the earth only two thousand years ago or whatever, you'd have to sandwich these eras together like that. I only wish they'd continued the trend and made movies where Abraham Lincoln fought Hitler. Oh, wait, I kind of just described the plot of Fantasy Mission Force. See, all these years we were thinking these filmmakers were crazy, when really they were just strict interpreters of the Bible!

Memsaab: I'm kind of surprised Desai passed up the opportunity, because, based on quotes of his I've read, he was a fan of Dara Singh. At least enough so to pay him the high compliment of casting him in Mard. Plus, the more of these old Dara movies I see, the more it seems to me that Dharam-Veer was intended as a direct homage to them.

Of course you should see this one. It's perfectly entertaining. I think I'm just beginning to buckle under the weight of how very similar a lot of these Dara movies are.

houseinrlyeh said...

Yeah, and Blue Paradise is the most important documentary ever produced.

memsaabstory said...

Yes, you need to leaven these things with other types of entertainment. All Dara Singh all the time---even (dare I say it) all Shammi all the time, takes the gloss off a bit.

Yes, it surprised me too (re MD)...he's so defiantly proud of being lowbrow, but perhaps when you are up-and-coming you have to be more careful where you slot yourself. Who knows?

Keith said...

Looks like I have to add a whole chapter to my probably-never-will-be-finished book on peplum movies, because these are classic Ialian style sword and sandal films. Did Dara Singh ever appear in a movie as Maciste?

Todd said...

After seeing Samson, I wouldn't be surprised if he did. Next up from him I've got Rustom E Rome, which looks very promising in that regard. And then, after that, Dara takes on his most challenging role in a movie called Dara Singh!

houseinrlyeh said...

I heard about that role; some critics were skeptical about his gender-ambiguous portrayal of Dara Singh.

Todd said...

Not all of them, though. In her review, Pauline Kael stated: "As usual, Dara Singh challenges our notion of what constitutes male and female, right and wrong, and even the fabric of reality itself. It is a stirring performance, one that the Academy would be well advised not to overlook come awards season."