Monday, July 27, 2009

Rani Aur Jaani (India, 1973)



Since the VCD of Rani Aur Jaani that I watched had no English subtitles, I think it's best that I defer to the synopsis of it given over at Indian Filmtrade.com (which likely was taken from the film's original song booklet):
"Rani Aur Jaani is a story of two sisters who are separated at the hands of fate and who have a thirst for each others blood. Ultimately the day comes when both sisters are at face to face and the younger sister is at the mercy of her elder sister. Moment to moment, tension mounts, enmity heightens, jealousy grows, fierce and deadliest plots and sub-plots are hatched to overthrow each other. But all ends well"
Oh, and I probably should have added this:

**SPOILER**

Because I suppose that things really do end well at Rani Aur Jaani's conclusion -- provided, of course, that you overlook the human and emotional toll taken along the way (not to mention the hospital bills).

The film is yet another trashy comic book thriller from Tollywood action director K.S.R. Doss, though this time one produced in the Hindi language. This change-up means that we have none of the pompadours or gyno-cam action of Doss's Telegu films, but a much greater number of familiar Bollywood faces (Jagdeep, Shetty, Aruna Irani, etc.). The presence of Doss at the helm also means that, just as in every other of his films that I've seen, we have a central performance by Tollywood item girl/action star Jyothi Laxmi.

I have to admit to having developed something of a fixation with Jyothi Laxmi. Though a woman who, even by the most even-handed journalistic standards, would have to be described as "plug ugly", she still somehow, mysteriously, has got it going on. And Doss really knows how to show off her unique presence to best advantage:





But truly it's Aruna Irani who's the star of the show here, and it's refreshing to see this item girl also-ran get a turn in the spotlight. It turns out that she makes a great plucky action heroine, and acquits herself well in the film's many acrobatic fight scenes.

And Doss, while tamping down on the raunch considerably, still brings to his depiction of these glamorous female stars -- especially in regard to their relationships to their male co-stars -- his telling trademark approach to camera placement:





In addition to being an apparent giantess, Aruna also has a secret weapon in the furry form of her trusty dog sidekick Peter, who earns his place alongside Bollywood animal heroes like Pedro, Moti and Sheroo by shooting Shetty with a revolver:






Good boy!

Rani Aur Jaani essentially tells a female-centric version of a Bollywood story that we've otherwise seen played out over and over again in Indian films from the 70s: that of two siblings separated by tragedy who grow up to confront each other from opposite sides of the law. Jyothi and Aruna are the daughters of a judge who, for some reason, encouraged them to constantly beat the crap out of each other when they were kids. (Without subtitles I can't be sure, but I'll make a wild guess that he wanted boys.) One day, a bandit whom the judge had previously convicted comes to the family home and shoots the judge in his bed, then attempts to kidnap the girls. He's only successful in kidnapping Jyothi, though, and she then grows up to be the fearsome bandit's faithful number two -- though, for the better part of the film, no one, including Aruna, seems to make the connection that she is the same girl who was abducted by the bandit years earlier. Aruna, on the other hand, grows up to be a CID inspector who is determined to bring the bandit and his gang to justice. Heating things up further is the fact that Aruna's undercover cop boyfriend (Anil Dhawan) is also posing as Jyothi's boyfriend in order to gain access to the gang.

Things finally come to a head after a not-so-friendly sing-off between Aruna and Jyothi escalates into a motorcycle chase fraught with daredevilry and fierceness:









And then moves on to hand-to-hand combat:



Ironically, it is in the course of smacking the shit out of each other that the girls suddenly come to recognize their familial bond. Tears are shed, apologies and fevered self-recriminations are exchanged, and, ultimately, the two vow to band together to bring down their father's killer.

I can't say that Rani Aur Jaani is "slap your mamma" good, even though Jyothi Laxmi does slap her mamma in it. (To be fair, she doesn't know that it's her mama when she does it.) Still, I think the screen caps that accompany this review testify to the fact that there are plenty of reasons to recommend it. At the end, it turns out that Jyothi's turn toward the good has come too late, and that, as penance, she must sacrifice her life in order to save Aruna's. So, just like the synopsis says, all ends well. Except if you're Jyothi Laxmi. Or Shetty, for that matter... or the girls' dad. Or any of the countless other people who are killed, beaten or tortured in the course of the film. But Aruna and Anil Dhawan are happy at least, as we can see as they dance around in a lush garden that includes the words "the end" spelled out in flowers. That's all that matters, really.

18 comments:

memsaab said...

Oh dear, another film that I absolutely MUST SEE. But with subtitles, dammit!!!! Why does absolute trash get the full DVD-subtitled treatment when stuff like this does not?! I am so confused.

Todd said...

Because this isn't absolute trash? Hmmm. Anyway, yes, subtitles on this are a must, because I can tell just from watching it that the dialog must be HI-larious.

memsaab said...

Trash maybe but not absolute trash :-)

prof. grewbeard said...

so you're telling me a dog really pulls the trigger on a bad guy in this movie?!? NUH-UH!...

Todd said...

Well, I'm telling you that you see the image of the dog with the revolver that I posted above, accompanied by a "bang" sound effect, after which you see Shetty clutching his chest and falling to the ground. Make of it what you will.

Beth said...

I must have it! I MUST! Memsaab, let's milk all our connections in Hindustan to see if this is on DVD! The fashions alone make me want it, plus Greta and I can both appreciate a movie about a woman and her trusty canine sidekick, even if our own trusty canine sidekicks might not be quite so useful in a fight.

I too am delighted by Aruna getting a proper role. Though I'm not exactly sure why, I love her, and the idea of her getting a happy ending is so very appealing!

Todd said...

I, too, was surprised by just how gratifying it was to see Aruna Irani get her turn in the spotlight. I mean, I've always enjoyed her, but I guess I just had more of a soft spot for her than I thought. Plus, she just makes for a very charming, butt-kicking action heroine here. I'm hoping that maybe we're going to find that, like Helen, she had a "hidden" career as a B movie leading lady. (BTW, Anil Dhawan tops the credits in this movie, which is a joke, since he barely gets a third of the screen time of either Jyothi or Aruna.)

BTW, I think that Memsaab will also like this one because Jagdeep gets to be at the center of a comedic subplot that is so unrelated to the main plot that, whenever it comes up, it feels like we've been dropped into the middle of an entirely different movie.

houseinrlyeh said...

The latter sounds also good for us people not so friendly regarding Jagdeep - makes for easier fast forwarding.

But you had me at the sharpshooting dog.

Todd said...

Yeah, there's little that beats a sharpshooting dog for sheer entertainment value. India's domestic animals seem to be a fearsome lot. I'm glad that the U.S. and India are on relatively good terms, otherwise I'd lie awake at night in fear of our shores being besieged by an army of armed dogs and chimpanzees riding on the backs of attack birds.

memsaab said...

JAGDEEP IS AWESOME

Todd said...

*sigh*

houseinrlyeh said...

*shrug*

Srinivas said...

Great review Todd..waiting for memsaab's take on it as well;). Actually Aruna Irani had a huge career as an action star in the Gujarati Film industry - huge draw - called the "Female Amitabh Bacchan" in the 70s and 80s. That was in parallel to her roles in Hindi Films. Its a pity, she more than managed to upstage the leading ladies when she got a chance like in Caravan etc.

Todd said...

Thanks for putting me on the trail, Srinivas! Hopefully I can track down a few more of those Aruna actioners. I know that she starred in her own version of Hunterwali, which would be great to see

DJ Carlito said...

This looks really good... thanks for your reviews... glad i found this blog - you do good work ;)

Todd said...

Thanks, Carlito. Glad you liked it! Looks like I'm going to have to spend some serious time perusing your SE Asian pop blog.

Gialloman and DontIgnoreMe said...

have you ever ordered VCDS from onlineindianmart? and if so were they quick and safe?

Unknown said...

Gialloman and DontIgnoreMe: Sorry; I just saw this. No I haven't ordered from them. I'm mainly an Induna man.