Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Aadi Yug (India, 1978)

My years of Bollywood crate digging have taught me that, if you dig deep (and cheap) enough, you’ll find that India produced films in every genre and subgenre, no matter what the country’s mainstream output might have you believe. As evidenced by the Z-grade Aadi Yug, that even extends to caveman movies. And who doesn’t love a good caveman movie? Not that that’s what Aadi Yug even remotely is, mind you.

Aadi Yug (whose title, I think -- and forgive me if I’m wrong -- translates to something like “Year One”) rather ambitiously starts at the beginning, with some dodgy animation that I think is supposed to represent the creation of the Earth. Then the credits roll over a graphic depicting the evolution of ape into man. Finally, as the movie proper begins, we see Man, freshly evolved and in his full adult form, waking up on a rock with no idea where the hell he is. (Parents: I must note at this point that making your child watch Aadi Yug is in no way a substitute for a proper education in Earth sciences.) Man, whose personal evolutionary process seems to have involved all of the hair on his body migrating onto the top of his head in one towering Kid-from-Kid-n’-Play-like mound, wanders around a bit before discovering Woman, floating unconscious in what looks like a giant bird’s nest that’s somehow been set sail on the primordial sea.

Man and Woman then wander around a bit before doing it, which is represented by them going into a clinch and sinking down behind a convenient rock, after which the camera zooms in and out rapidly a few times to make sure we get the idea. It should be noted that Man and Woman appear to be naked in these scenes, though their nudity is shielded throughout by stunningly crude matte paintings that obtrusively block off the lower 60% of the screen for the entirety of Aadi Yug’s prologue.

Even this minimal effort at propriety is later rendered mysterious by Aadi Yug with the inclusion of a skinny-dipping scene in which we are offered fleeting glimpses of that rarest of rarities in Indian cinema: naked female boobs. Mind you, said scene really doesn’t have any value beyond that rarity, although the thought of you seeking out a desperately obscure Indian caveman movie just to see a brief moment of female nudity makes me cry inside a little.

An abrupt jump in the mangled VCD print later, we see that Man and Woman’s couplings have produced a whole flock of grubby little cavechildren, and, not long after that, a whole tribe of -- presumably inbred -- cavemen. And then it’s time for us to watch six uninterrupted minutes of footage from Ishiro Honda’s Frankenstein Conquers the World. (For all you Bollywood-only folks who are making one of your intermittent visits, Ishiro Honda directed the original Godzilla -- or Gojira, as real and wannabe Japanese people, as well as white nerds, refer to it.) Once the giant Frankenstein from Frankenstein Conquers the World has defeated the man-in-suit monster Baragon, the two cavemen who are supposed to have been watching the whole spectacle play out wander off without so much as an “ugh”.

However, this will not be the last instance of Aadi Yug serving up pilfered special effects scenes from other movies in order to fulfill its dinosaur quota. It even wheels out that crusty old granddaddy of stock monster footage, the fight between the monitor lizard and the alligator with a fin glued to its back from the 1960 remake of The Lost World, and then resuscitates that even hoarier bit from the original One Million B.C. in which the cavemen defend their cave from a giant iguana. All in all, Aadi Yug borrows so much footage that it almost seems like it wishes it were another movie entirely, which is completely understandable. This is not to say, however, that it’s entirely incapable of working a little movie magic of its own when it comes to presenting monsters onscreen –- as is evidenced by this Bigfoot that shows up to cart off a screaming skinny dipper at one point.

When the stock footage runs out, and Aadi Yug is forced to just be its homely old self, it depicts its caveman protagonists engaging in an endless cycle of rutting, fighting, and raping, while at the same time undertaking a journey of discovery that sees them learning how to use things like tools, weapons and fire. Sadly, along the way director Prasad doesn’t discover any way in which any of this could be made the least bit interesting. Fittingly, what we have here is filmmaking at a pretty primitive level. Even the music by Vipin-Kishore is awful enough to have conceivably been performed by people with only a dawning conception of music, consisting of random percussion accompanied by shrill and repetitive riffs pawed out on a cheap synthesizer. No songs are included, which might be for the best, as the film’s “all grunting all the time” dialogue probably didn’t lend itself to lyricism.

So, for all the trouble we took in doing all of that evolving, learning to walk erect, make sandwiches, operate a TV remote and work as greeters at Wal-Mart, this was how the folks behind Aadi Yug sought to reward us: with a terrible, terrible movie that is both ugly to behold and noisome to the ear. On my darker days I might think that Aadi Yug is exactly the movie that the human race deserves, but today I’m going to rise above that. Michael Barnum has hipped me to the existence of another Bollywood caveman movie, Purana Purush, made the same year as Aadi Yug. And in the indefatigable human spirit of blind forward motion coupled with unfounded optimism -- and a determination to turn dumb choices into dumb-portunities -- I plan to find and watch that as well. I know I’m tempting the fates here, but I sincerely believe that there is no way it could possibly be worse.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Well, the next one could be worse by not having any pilfered special effects footage.

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Todd said...

House: Michael B assured me that there were dinos. Otherwise I wouldn't have made such a bold statement.

Sachin: That makes me hot.

memsaab said...

So....there was no need for subtitles?

Todd said...

Nope. There were a couple of lines of shouty, heavily reverbed Hindi narration at the beginning, but then the rest of it was all grunting and caveman-speak. That somehow didn't make it any easier to follow, but I think that was mainly because it was too monotonous to pay constant attention to.

Keith said...

Sounds like it's pretty much as good as cavemen movies from anywhere else.

Something I wondered last week and was reminded of reading this -- where the 1980s Bollywood post-apocalypse Road Warrior rip-offs?

Todd said...

I think I mentioned somewhere before that I think Mard is kind of that. Though, you're right, it seems there just has to be some more by-the-book Road Warrior rips out there.

You're also right to suggest that the bar for caveman movies is already pretty low. At least this was more enjoyable than When Women Lost Their Tails!

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Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Why do I feel like one of the lines of that post was directed at me...? :)

I would totally watch this at a slumber party, but I'm not seeking it out on my own. And what is man doing to woman in that third picture down - tonsilectomy?

And I will get right on that Road Warrior challenge.

Todd said...

It's not just you, Beth. My analytics tell a sad tale of ritual abandonment by the Bollywood blogging community. Apparently very few of you -- with notable exceptions - want to read about Turkish superhero movies, Taiwanese fantasy kung fu, or Egyptian comedies. Nonetheless, I remain undeterred.

I'm looking forward to what you dig up about Bollywood post-apocalypse movies. Though I have to wonder if South Asian religions have anything approximating the Western concept of apocalypse.

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I still having the same concept of this movies, I mean just look the make up, and the special effects, are totally awful, terrible movie.