Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tarzan Comes to Delhi (India, 1965)

There are several reasons to see Tarzan Comes to Delhi, most of them female.





...and this guy: who's alright as long as you like your Tarzan on the meaty side.

The preponderance of light-footed ladies in Tarzan Comes to Delhi's cast might lead you to expect the film to be pretty heavy on the musical numbers, and you would be right. The filmmakers here essentially use the frequent song and dance bits to spice up what is otherwise a pretty stunt-free stunt film. In fact, Dara Singh ends up spending a surprising amount of his screen time just standing around watching other people sing.

In a resounding triumph of truth in advertising, the film indeed sees Tarzan come to Delhi, the impetus for his visit being a necklace purloined from a tribal idol by an evil big city fortune hunter. From the moment of his arrival, the film takes on a light comedic tone, coasting along to a great extent on the spectacle of a loincloth-clad Dara Singh guilelessly rubbing elbows with the astonished city folk. Representative hijinks include a scene in which Dara and Master Bhagwan get drunk and do the Twist, and a pair of scenes that see Mumtaz and Master Baghwan infiltrate the villain's hideout, first disguised in burkas, and then as bearded Arab sheiks. All of this might very well be hilarious if you understand the Hindi dialog, but it's still clear that the kind of antic energy that made those films starring Tarzan's spiritual cousin Zimbo so much fun is sadly lacking. It pains one to think what the Wadias might have been able to do with this cast and concept.

As for the ladies, Mumtaz stars as the daughter of a kindly professor whom the aggrieved natives have scapegoated for the theft of the necklace. Hoping to help Tarzan find the necklace before her father is sacrificed in retaliation, she travels to Delhi, where she ends up taking part in an awful lot of song picturizations, including a fairly racy one that involves her showering with her sari on. As usual, the fact that Mumtaz was probably still a teenager at this point lead to some conflicted feelings on my part. But then again, I wasn't even in long pants when this movie was made, so who's the pervert? Mumtaz, obviously.

Bela Bose plays a tribal bad girl whose restless spirit leads to her being tricked by the bad guy into betraying her people. Before her ignominious exit from the story she manages to take part in a couple of engaging dance pieces, including a classic bit of "ooga booga" tribalism at the foot of the natives' awesome papier-mache idol. Later, in the city-fied portion of the story, Helen shows up for a flamenco themed nightclub act and, finally, Laxmi Chaiyya and a friend pop up at the last minute for a number with some pretty flagrant sapphic overtones.


Now, far be it from me to say that a brief scene in which Laxmi Chhaya almost kisses a girl but ultimately doesn't isn't enough reason in itself to watch Tarzan Comes to Delhi. But, for the more discriminating viewers of Indian B cinema out there, I think I need only point to the quality of this film's Cheetah -- who, rather than being a real chimp, is just either a dwarf or a child in a mangy-looking monkey suit. The producers are obviously fully aware that they are cheating their audience in this regard, as Cheetah spends most of his time on screen being partially hidden behind brush and whatnot, and ends up getting abandoned entirely once the action moves to the city.

All of this focus on music and merriment -- not to mention the abundance of ponderous, travelogue-style location footage -- does not, of course, entirely preclude Dara Singh from doing what he does best. And come the film's climax we indeed get to see him assert the primacy of justice via the judicious application of some fairly regulation-looking wrestling holds. In fact, Tarzan Comes to Delhi, on paper, looks to have everything you'd want from a Dara Singh movie and more. And the truth is less that I disliked it than that I was frustrated in loving it as much as I felt so sure I would. In the end, it's ironic that a Tarzan film should pale in comparison to what should by rights be considered a pale imitation of one. But still the fact remains: This Tarzan is no Zimbo!

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is your barbarian idol.


memsaab said...

Now I feel better about not loving it as much as I should either, although the dancing is fab (Dara doing the twist is not to be missed, no rhyme intended). I think I'd do better with it if it had subtitles for some reason, but not sure if that's really true.

Todd said...

Yeah, I would definitely give this another watch if it came out in an English subbed version, but, as is, I'd only recommend it to non-Hindi speakers with the caveat that you keep the FF button within easy reach.

Michael Barnum said...

Totally agree Memsaab and Todd...ah, what could have been. Of the Hindi Tarzan's that I have seen so far, I think TARZAN AND KING KONG is the most entertaining....with the 1980s Hemant Birje/Kimi Katkar TARZAN coming in second (although I probably need to watch this one again and then rejudge).

Michael Barnum said...

PS: I sure wish I would I would remember to proof read before I post! LOL!

Todd said...

I understand, Michael. The passionate discussion of all things Dara Singh sometimes has a tendency to override our ability to spell.

Speaking of Dara Singh and English subtitles, I just got my hands on the newly released subbed DVD of Faulad, which certainly wouldn't have been my first choice for a subbed release of one of Dara's movies, but I'm going to give it a re-watch anyway. Maybe it will turn out that I didn't give it a fair shake the first time around.

Michael Barnum said...

Yes, perhaps FAULAD with subtitles will be an improvement...I know that when I watched the VCD of PANCH RATAN I found it completely forgettable...but, after watching it again when the subbed DVD came out, I loved it!

I am hoping this will be the case with TRIP TO MOON...I watched the VCD this weekend and was not had so much potential (I did enjoy the robots and the suitmation dino, however)...I think this one really will need another watch when/if it moves to DVD.

Todd said...

I'm going to be reviewing Trip to Moon for Teleport City in the coming weeks. (By the way, does the wording of that title qualify it as a Tarzan movie?) I streamed part of it off the internets a while back, but I'm hoping that my experience of it will be improved by watching it on my regular TV with a beer in my hand as God intended, rather than on my little laptop.

memsaab said...

I just got Faulad with subs, can't wait to watch it. Perhaps this evening!

Todd said...

Cool. I'll look forward to your review!

Michael Barnum said...

Todd, I think we will have to wait for ROCKET TARZAN before we see the king of the jungle in outer space.

Mister Naidu said...

Helen, Mumtaz, Bela, Laxmi and Dara. Whatta cast! Another Indian Vcd that should be on DVD. The list is growing and most have Helen dancing in the movie - Pistolwali, Kaun Sachha Kaun Jhoota, James Bond 777, Lootera, Ek Nannhi Munni Ladki Thi. Shame.

No DVD for Tarzan, but there's a Tarzan comes to Delhi poster on ebay for $65

bollywooddeewana said...

As you seem to have a penchant for Tarzan movies, i beg you lease watch B. Subhahsh's adventures of tarzan (1985) with Kimi Katkar and Hermant Birge its form the same guys who brought us Disco Dancer, Kasam Paida Karne wal ki...etc so you know what to expect

If you want to watch on you tube heres the 1st part

Great Blog, i always enjoy your reviwews

Todd said...

Thanks! You know, I've been meaning to watch that one. It's funny, though; I only have a penchant for Indian Tarzan films. The Hollywood ones generally don't interest me in the least.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this film, but your beautiful reviews says that i should watch it. Anyways, can you please tell me that how many song does Bela Bose had in this film and what are they?as i am collecting all her songs, so it will be useful for me if you please inform me about the Bela Bose songs.