I begin Jungle Adventure Month with part of my work already done for me, because Jungle Love is that rare film whose essence can be summed up by the video for a 1990s Europop song:
It's all there: the two dimensional characters, the gaudily artificial sets, the terrible chimpanzee costumes, the catchy yet awful music. And Jungle Love star Rocky's hair is indeed quite nice. Also, as with this Toy-Box video, Jungle Love, if you're in an undiscriminating enough of a mood, can be kind of fun in parts -- though that's not the kind of thing you'd care to admit publicly.
On the other hand, there's a seaminess to Jungle Love that the above video doesn't capture. The film basically represents the point at which the Indian film industry's apparent, helpless compulsion to retell the story of Tarzan over and over again runs up against the sleaze and garishness of 1990s Bollywood. Not that the movie's version of in-your-face eroticism is all that in-your-face in any light other than the one cast by Bollywood tradition. But it's funny how, once you've watched enough Bollywood films, you begin to internalize their chaste -- if somewhat contradictory -- standard of decency, to the point where seeing a visible panty line is the equivalent of watching hardcore pornography, and one can be scandalized by the sight of a pair of Indian actors kissing each other on the lips, which we indeed see in Jungle Love.
As in the Zimbo films, our Tarzan here is presented as a complete dumbass who nonetheless exerts an irresistible sexual pull on any female within shouting distance. However, unlike in the Zimbo films -- which, after all, were made in the late 50s and early 60s -- the filmmakers here can go quite a bit further in showing the erotic mania inspired in those females. Thus is our heroine, while merely daydreaming of our hero's chiseled form, driven to near orgasm by a droplet of dew falling on her exposed belly. And it is in a comparable state of heat, later on, that South Indian item girl Disco Shanti literally crawls all over a dully compliant Tarzan as she coos out a hip thrusting number titled "He-Man".
Interestingly, while Jungle Love's opening credits boast a subtitle proclaiming it "a TARZAN film", and list stars Rocky and Kirti Singh as playing "Tarzan" and "Jane", respectively, in the body of the film itself, the characters that those stars play are called "Raja" and "Rita". Could this be a wilful act of Godardian post-modernism on the filmmakers' parts? An open acknowledgment that the characters that these actors are playing are actually nothing more than genre archetypes? No, you say? Yeah, you're probably right.
Anyway, those credits also list the film's approximation of Cheetah as being played by "An Amazing Chimpanzee". The reality, however, is that said beast is played by an arguably amazing child or little person in a not so amazing chimpanzee suit.
Jungle Love's take on the Tarzan mythos portrays him as the child of an amazonian queendom where female newborns are treasured and male ones cast off on the rapids of a convenient river. Crazy, right? Fortunately, Cheetah rescues baby Tarzan from his baby raft and delivers him to a lioness who raises him as her own. The close bond between mother and adopted son is demonstrated in a couple of bookend scenes in which we see Tarzan, both as an infant and AS AN ADULT, suckling on mama lion's teat. Gross.
As is so often the case, the aforementioned jungle queendom is in possession of a vast treasure which they have no apparent need for, and it is not long before a gang of big city scoundrels lead by Goga Kapoor arrive on the scene with the intention of hunting it down. Unfortunately for innocent Rita, her father holds some kind of key to finding that treasure, and so the two of them are unwillingly dragged along for the ride. I feel pretty certain that y'all can guess the rest.
Jungle Love spends an awful lot of its first half on unattractively filmed dramatic and romantic hijinks, but then grows a conscience during its last hour and dutifully doles out a fairly rewarding stream of Jungle movie action tropes. This kicks off in grand fashion with a catfight between Rita and Disco Shanti (here playing the criminal gang's resident skank) that takes place in a cave right out of Mario Bava's Hercules in the Haunted World. Rita ends up trapped in a giant spiderweb and threatened by a giant muppet spider.
Tarzan arrives on the scene and begins tearing the beast's legs off with alarming ease. In the fracas, Disco Shanti falls into the muppet spider's maw and has her head gorily eaten. Yay!
In short order, Rita is captured by a tribe of cannibals whose lair is entered via a giant fanged mouth.
While Rita distracts the tribe from the meal at hand by engaging them in a rousing, exotica-themed production number, Tarzan rushes to the rescue, only to find himself trapped inside a man-eating plant!
And then, of course, in a bow to hallowed Indian jungle movie tradition, we have Tarzan fighting an immobile stuffed tiger. Mind it!
So, in closing, I really can't recommend Jungle Love enough. Wait, let me reconsider that. What I mean to say is that I can't recommend enough of Jungle Love for you to be bothered with watching the entire thing. However, the film's availability on the handy VCD format is especially convenient in this instance. Because if you simply watch Disc 2 and use the other one as a drink coaster, you'll have something vaguely approximating a moderately satisfying feature film experience.
Wow. Too bad I wasn't around when this movie came out. They could have used that line on the poster.
This review is part of "Stranded in the Jungle", a month of jungle adventure themed posts at 4DK.