One afternoon in Kovalam, I stumbled across a veeeery intense scene with the Big B and my FPMFIL (that's fake-pretend movie father-in-law - keep up, will you?). What in the name of thunderclaps was this drama overload, I wondered? So I called up one of my filmy informants, who told me (in an impressively short amount of time, I might add - as soon as I said "Amitabh and Vinod Khanna," he knew) it was Muqaddar Ka Sikandar.
Frivolity first: who is the sexier father-son pair: Amitabh and Abhishek, or Vinod and Akshaye (or Rahul, let's not forget Rahul)? Seriously, that's a tough call. Votes welcome. This was my first Vinod Khanna movie and I thought he was really cool and fun to watch, like he was having a good time with his role and just generally enjoying himself - and totally owning his tight white pants.
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar gets the prize for First Movie to Show the Gateway of India since Beth Saw It Herself, and that was very satisfying in a way I can't quite explain. In fact, this is the first movie I've seen to feature footage of any part of India that I got to visit (36 China Town didn't show anything I recognized except perhaps the airport in Mumbai, but I wasn't sure, and frankly all the airports began to blur together, except Trivandrum's, which had light-up palm trees in the waiting area). So it had that extra excitement level of "I really truly do recognize that and not just because I've seen it in a movie! I was there! I sat there one lovely evening, staring at the sea and feeling really happy!" Other little details felt a lot more real, too, now that I know more about them. I understood "nimbu pani" in dialogue and I can even picture it, taste it. Sikander's living room very much reminds me of a Kolkata apartment I visited. Things like that. It was really cool.
For me this movie walked a really fine line between enjoyable Bollywood emotional-but-not-too-muchso goodness and trauma-drama-o-rama. That's a delicate balance, and there were moments when I thought it was going to tip over, but then most of those turned out to be dream sequences. The beginning - when Sikandar is a kid - was really rough, I thought, but it got going there, kicked into action with the great scene of Sikandar pulling up to the crossroads on his bike, watching the funeral procession, and seeing Kamna and Vishal. Good fun.
[Spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk.]
Now for the usual list of little things. Lots of little things, including some fun quotes.
- "I'm drowned so badly that the one sympathizing with me will also get drowned."
- I really wish a Hindi-speaker had been with me to translate all of Amitabh's commentary during the fight in the bar. It somehow reminded me of Jason Bateman in Dodgeball (even though I can't imagine he was talking about pumpkins, Cotton).
- Amitabh's "I'm drunk" style of speaking sounds just like it does in B&B.
- Awesome Egypt-themed bad-guy hangout. Also with fake tunnel effect.
- "It's just me, my loneliness, and I wait for you only."
- "I may writhe myself to death for you, but it matters not to you if I'm alive or dead." Now if anyone can write herself to death, surely it's Rekha.
- Sikandar's endearing stumbling attempts at hospitality
- Have we learned nothing about how you shouldn't get someone else to write your love letters for you? Or any kind of letter, for that matter? Write your own love letters and sign your real name, probably both first and last to avoid confusion. We've been over this, people! Honestly.
- I love Vishal's wide-eyed earnestness and affections. He's puppy-like in an incredibly attractive way. It helps that he's smart, of course. And that he is willing to share and act on his feelings. Unlike some people we could mention. But trying to buy off Zohra was kind of skeezy. Just because she's a prostitute doesn't mean that everything about her is for sale. Which I'm sure is the point she's making.
- Father-son bubble song comparison! Sweet! "Dil To Hai Dil" vs. Dil Chahta Hai's "Kaisi Hai Yeh Rut." I've always wanted to blame this song on something, and now I have a suspect.
- "The heart is so impish."
- Those are some really tight pants our heros are sporting.
- Vinshal's shriek of excitement upon hearing the success of his first letter.
- Who's in all the movie posters in the background of the street scenes? Let's investigate. When Vishal goes to confront Zohra, we see Khel Khiladi Ka and (I think) Ram Bharose (also with Rekha and Amjad Khan, both of which were out in 1977, so totally appropriate (if not in fact just true, if they did film this on a street somewhere). In fact, we see this very poster
but with the title in roman characters at the top instead of Hindi. (Side note: some, but not all, websites I found spelled this "Khiladi," but on the movie poster in the movie, we see it as "Khilari." Who wants to explain this to me? Is this the same phenomenon in transliterating Hindi into English that gives us "ladki" but sometimes "lardki"?)
- Oh, they're playing a version that Barry White song from Ally McBeal, the one characters would think as they were trying to rev themselves up for romantic intrigue, often in front of the mirror in the unisex bathroom. You know the one. Anyway, this is one of those times in Bollywood when I'm not sure if they're meaning to make a new version of a song, or if they've tried to make a different song inspired by the first song. Like in Disco Dancer, that's clearly influenced by "Video Killed the Radio Star," but you can't really call it a remake. Anyway.
- The hotel the three go into - this too makes a lot more sense now that I've been in the Mohan International, Amritsar, probably built deluxe in the 70s. And yes, that is a candle in the shape of a sad, downturned face with wax-drip hair.
- I love the lightning flashing, light-up hearts blinking. Tacky as they are, they're a great underscore to seeing your best friend with the love of your life. Sometimes you don't need to drink - the blinking hearts and the weirdly-hairstyled backup dancers will do the trick just fine.
- See? This is what happens when you withhold information from your friends. You end up shooting them.
- When Vishal drops Kaamna off but then knocks again and goes around the door to kiss her? That is totally hot. Yet sweet. Deadly combo.