Monday, August 11, 2008

Parvarish (India, 1977)

1977 was a very good year for Manmohan Desai. The director helmed four massive hits during that year, including one undisputed classic (Amar Akbar Anthony), one personal favorite of mine (Dharam Veer), one film that I know virtually nothing about (Chacha Bhatija), and Parvarish, a film that I watched over this past weekend.

Parvarish has pretty much everything you'd expect from a Manmohan Desai masala film: redistributed siblings who only discover their true parentage during the final fifteen minutes of the film, a villain with a lavishly appointed high-tech lair, primitive yet weirdly evocative special effects, and a star-stuffed cast -- including Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Shammi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Shabana Azmi and Amjad Khan.

Shammi Kapoor actually has top billing here and, though he's well into the beardy obesity of his mid-life career, takes part in one musical number that allows him to show flashes of the goofy old Shammi that earned him that tribute. Amitabh and Vinod play the brother gone right and the brother gone wrong, respectively, and Neetu and Shabana play their love interests. The two female stars also provide a contrast to Bachchan and Khanna's brother roles by portraying sisters whose characters are so indistinguishable from one another that, if not for the need to pair them off with the male stars, they might as well have been one person. (Though if this was by design, or simply the result of a hasty writing job, I'm not entirely sure.) Finally, Amjad Khan plays the... oh, come on, you know what Amjad Khan plays.

Parvarish was just okay for me. It was a suitably diverting way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it lacked the wild plot convolutions and lysergic production design that made Dharam Veer so irresistibly compelling. Nor did it quite approach the level of overheated comic book narrative drive of another one of my favorite Desai films, Mard. What it did have, however -- in the form of Amjad's icicle-bedecked HQ with its red scrimmed perpetual go-go girls -- is one of the greatest supervillain lairs in the history of masala movies, right behind Sunil Dutt's wax-figure-laden, bubble-sauna-equipped digs in Geetaa Mera Naam. In addition to that, Neetu and Shabana perform a pistol-packing song-and-dance bit sure to please fans of the "Girls With Guns" genre. And finally, there is a Thunderball-inspired climactic scuba battle that packs all the overwhelming mitigating power of the Amitabh vs The Airplane sequence in Toofan (and yes, I really will use any excuse to link to that clip). And since Parvarish has nowhere near Toofan's number of sins to compensate for, that adds up to one big win-win.

Here, for your Monday enjoyment, is a brief sample of Parvarish's thrilling underwater action:

*The above poster comes from the fantastic Hotspot Online, a real rabbit hole of a site for dedicated fans of offbeat films in all their wonderful variety that'll suck you in for life if you're not careful.


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Oh man! I'm sorry I oversold it! But at least we know your life is better now that you've seen that submarine.

Todd said...

Oh, yeah. I wouldn't have missed that submarine for anything. I enjoyed the movie beyond that, but that alone was enough to make me grateful for your recommendation. (And how awesome is it that I was able to find a clip of it on YouTube?) Of course, while I was preoccupied with waiting for one of the male leads to show up in a leather mini-skirt or a dog to pee on Bob Christo's head (or Bob Christo, for that matter)I was probably missing all kinds of gratifying nuances that you, with your typically more detailed reading, caught. When you set Mard and Dharam-Veer as your personal bar for Manmohan Desai movies, you kind of set yourself up for disappointment that way.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I can't deny that the sex bomb that is Vinod Khanna may have predisposed me to love this movie. But I've seen it at least 6 times and always find new details to love. It's also one of the first full-on masala movies I ever saw, so that might have something to do with it.

Keith said...

Are they giants, or is that submarine a TARDIS -- smaller than a man on the outside, but able to contain dozens of men inside.

Todd said...

Maybe the water was cold and the submarine shrank.

What I love is how, while most people working with such shitty models would at least try to film them from a distance, the folks here go for these tight close-ups on them. That right there is some bold, bold film making.