Monday, February 4, 2019

4DK at 10: Wahan Ke Log (India, 1967)


Wahan Ke Log, might have benefited from English subtitles, because the lack thereof made the more exposition-heavy middle section lag a bit. Then again, 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 [it's Bela Bose - Todd] 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.

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