Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ajooba: not quite as crazy as it's cracked up to be



Quickly, before we get rolling, an overview, because I can't figure out how - or whether - to detail any of the basic story arc later in my post. In the fictional country of Bahrestan, a beloved sultan (Shammi Kapoor) has finally had a son (yes, it's annoying that it's a male child that causes the whole country to break out in song. Moving on), and a magician from the friendly land of Hind (Saeed Jaffrey, whose character is named Amir Khan, hee) comes with congratulations and a gift from his maharaja. Meanwhile an evil vizier (Amrish Puri) and his henchmen (led by Dalip Tahil) are trying to seize the throne. They succeed, driving out the royal family and running the good people of Bahrestan into poverty and misery. The royal baby, his parents gone, is raised by a dolphin and a friendly blacksmith and grows up to be Ali (Amitabh Bachchan), who is secretly the super hero/protector of the people/masked avenger Ajooba (pictured above). As he smites the baddies, he says "No ills can evil-doers perpetrate. All that happens is willed by the Lord," which makes me wonder if he's saying that god wants all the people of Bahrestan to suffer at the hands of a devil-worshiping usurper, because the ills in fact have been perpetrated - it's not a preventative statement. I seriously do not understand his catchphrase. Anyway. Ali has a friend Hassan (Rishi Kapoor), and they also have love interests, the magician's daughter Rukhsana (Dimple Kapadia) and the vizier's daughter Henna (Sonam). They have lots of adventures involving a few other significant side characters as they try to defeat the vizier and tie up all the other loose ends that the first 45 minutes set up.

Here's the thing: Ajooba really isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I thought I was in for three hours of bad effects, stupid monsters, and ridiculous costumes. Yes, yes, it has all those things, in abundance.
Teeny tiny flying carpet!

Rishi's got the jadoo.

Stomp Bahrestan!

Even the horse has to wear this get-up.


However, what no one had told me is that Ajooba is basically a solid masala romp - with requisite lost family members, mistaken identities, romances, friendships, and patriotism (okay, so it's love of a fake country, but still) - dressed up in a legendary and fantastic setting. R(ecommended) M(asala) A(llowance) is met, no doubt about it. Why Shashi wanted to make a 70s-style masala movie in 1990-91 with Soviet partners and fancy it up in historical fantasy garb eludes me, even after looking in The Kapoors: The First Family of Indian Cinema, but apparently he did, and you know what? It's totally enjoyable batsh*t insanely hilarious mostly satsifactory with a few fringe benefits.

Putting aside the fantastic elements - monsters, magic, and the ability to decipher extended complex messages from animal noises - it doesn't have any notable flaws that you couldn't also find in many other masala stories. It doesn't make a ton of sense. Its coincidences are über convenient. People are lost and found in eye-roll-inducing ways.

But on the positive side, it has a lot of the good, enjoyable, entertaining, heart-warming features you can find in many other masala movies. At its core, Ajooba solidly covers the standard elements. The transgressors of certain social norms are punished. (It's important to note that in the world of Ajooba, the characters seem to find many very un-normal activities to be perfectly unremarkable, like having jewelry that lets you see what people are doing hundreds of miles away, the very proactive involvement of the animal kingdom in human affairs, discovering and testing out magic potions, shrinking to 6" high, etc. Nobody bats an eye at that stuff. It's the social order and civil norms that Ajooba is worried about protecting, not, you know, science or rational thought or anything.) The bonds between parents and children are strengthened. Sacrifices are made. Romances bloom.


Awww. That's a sure sign of luuurve!

People-wise, its greatest strengths are Amitabh and Rishi - and the Rishitabh, if you will. They're totally entertaining on their own, and they're pretty cute together, too. Amitabh in particular is fun to watch, hamming it up in classic masala style.


Love the curly-toed shoes.

Somehow other characters actually believed Rishi was a woman. Talk about suspending disbelief.
Regular readers know that I am not a consistent follower of the cult of the Big B, but he's the best thing in this movie, no doubt, and I wanted to run out and give him a big hug for agreeing to be in it at all - I know his career wasn't going great guns in 1990, but being in this movie must have been risky, and I can't help but assume he must have really loved his friend Shashi in order to sign on. Dimple is feisty and fun as the script allows. Sonam's role is surprisingly saucy; she's sexually forward (and amazingly isn't punished for it, thanks writers!) and independent at times, though at others she's reduced to the head-tilting wide-eyed blinking of many a heroine.

Soviet actress Ariadna Shengalaya plays the sultana with enough emotion that we know she's a filmi maa, but I don't think she ever gets in a proper "Nahiiin!" or knuckle bite, which is fine by me.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal's songs and their picturizaitons are a toe-tappin' good time. My favorite was "Are Tujub Hai," in which Rishi teases Amitabh about something or other (my DVD had no subtitles on songs) and they frolic around the city streets, joyfully buddy-buddy. There is some absolutely gorgeous music and dancing in a scene of Dimple's little village in Hind (looking a lot like Rajasthan, it seems to me).

I also really liked most of the sets, particularly the locations and other outdoor scenes. If anyone knows where in India this was filmed, I'd love to hear (I've read parts of it were shot in Kyrgyzstan as well).



The bad neighborhoods in Bahrestan are a little bit creepy, no?

This is a small point, but I have to make it: there is a really creative fight scene towards the end of the film in which masked hero Ajooba busts heads by swinging from temple bells. It's really quite cool.

As an even further aside, I was confused by the fight coordinator's decision to have Ajooba jump from chain to chain by lunging with both hands at once, rather than holding on to the current chain with one hand and reaching for the next chain with the other, the way everybody else in movies does that vine-like maneuver. Seems pretty risky to just jump with nothing to fall back on if you miss. Plus you'd fall smack on your butt - not very heroic-looking.

(That might be the perfect analogy for the whole movie, now that I think about it. I think a lot of people would say this movie fell smack on its butt - and even I would agree that most of it is not very heroic or iconic.)

In his one project behind the camera, Shashi tried to give us a different spin on a classic formula, and in theory that's a really nice, generous idea. I do honestly believe that he tried really hard - there is a lot going on in story and visuals.* But please note that I am not saying that it has all the strengths of a really well done masala film - I can't imagine I'll watch this anywhere near as often as Parvarish or Kaala Patthar, for example - and I'd argue that Ajooba does not measure and bake its RMA ingredients properly or to maximum effect, and it yields inconsistent results. And here's where the surface coating of Bahrestanian wackadoodle is most problematic. Since the basic movie wasn't thoroughly great to begin with, the added geegaws of magicians and satanic viziers and flying carpets put extra pressure on the flaws.

Here are what I think are the basic problems with Ajooba. Some of the acting is really, really bad, mostly in the first hour or so, making the movie challenge to get into. Shammi overplays his royal paternal/defender doofus role. He's just too much. Maybe this is why you shouldn't mix business and family? How do you tell your older brother he needs to crank the dial down from 11 to about 4? Fortunately he's not in the movie much after he tries to fight off Amrish Puri and Dalip Tahil in mid-air in an extremely funny-looking flying carpet/flaming boat/stormy seas battle.

His costumes do him no favors; I think someone must have wanted to make him look like a Mughal beach ball. Saeed Jaffrey was probably slumming it here, but he's too much as well.

Amrish does his standard eye-bugging, but I thought it got old faster than usual, perhaps because his mega-bad baddie has little setup and mostly stomps around being conspicuously bad (but of course even though at least two people catch on that he's up to no good, no one does anything about it on time).

Actually, most of the characters aren't developed. Bahrestan needs a hero? Presto! Fully grown hero arrives on the scene with no back story.

It breaks my heart to say this, but Ajooba seems to indicate that Shashi inherited a touch of his eldest brother's dirty-old-man director tendencies. This is Dimple's first appearance:

At best, that move belongs in a shampoo commercial. He spends more time than strictly necessary on belly dancers writhing like snakes.

Oh look, she's writhing with a snake. Classic.
Rishi and Sonam smooch, Rishi drums along to the song on her butt, and when Rishi is shrunk (don't ask), Sonam hides him in the front her blouse, thereby creating a reason to gawk.

Mini Rishi is at about 11 o'clock here, hiding under the gauzy overlay. He wriggles around. Classy.
There's even a flash of actual naked breast in a crowd scene. To be fair, a few men are objectified too.

Thanks for the naked, shiny, muscley guys, Shashi-ji! Oh wait, I don't actually go for that.

But enough of the base-level problems. I know you're reading this because you want to see why almost everyone seems to think Ajooba is a cracktastic hot mess. Here you go!

Big hats!

The costumes are more silly and gaudy than bad, actually, and I admire the commitment to the sartorial traditions of a historical, fake-pretend Stan.

Papier-maché sea monster!

Does this remind anyone else of Balinese masks? I'd be ten kinds of impressed if the effects designer admitted inspiration from a barong ket.

More flying carpet, because one picture is really not enough. There are three sequences with the carpet, and they're all a good time.


Blood and guts are done to usual standards.



The magic is...um...how to put this...not very magical. Here's a sequence of a magical elephant given to the royal baby, transforming from miniature charm to full-sized (and decorated) creature:



I'm crushing your head haathi!
Here's another magic sequence. An evil magician is sent by the evil vizier to turn Ajooba into a donkey. Because this guy is one of the movie's components of comic relief, the plan backfires, and he suffers the wrong end of his potion. He goes from man, to man with neon donkey-shaped outline,

to donkey with neon donkey-shaped outline,

to regular donkey, unilluminated. Later on, we get two bestiality jokes out of this. Yes.

Amrish drinks blood.


Dishoomin' you in the face!


When Ajooba shows up in a flying gondola (what, the carpet was in the shop?), the assembled crowd does actually say "Ajooba is here! He is flying a gondola!"

Sorry the picture is so blurry - those things move fast!
This is one of the funniest image/dialogue pairings I have ever seen. Throughout the whole movie, no one has remarked on any of the magic or evil or miracles, but somehow a flying gondola strikes them as noteworthy. Maybe it's the Bahrestanian equivalent of a Lamborghini?

One more of the sea monster? I thought so.


Amitabh fights a guy with a metal claw hand

and later a stuffed tiger - mind it! - interspersed with footage of an actual tiger.



I can't fairly lump this next one under the category of "WTF," but it made me giggle anyway: the first scene of our happy dolphin friend

brought to mind Abhishek's entrance in Dhoom 2.


I can't emphasize enough that you should just watch Ajooba for yourself. I'm ready to accept that most people, especially those not schooled in masala, will have a hard time not dismissing it as crazy. Give it a chance, though; you might be pleasantly surprised. And at the very least, you'll get to see this:


Blog round-up: Ajooba is in the air. Unser Freund The Horror?! just wrote it up, and keep an eye on Doc Bollywood for his take sometime soon. Rumor has it that Teleport City will also be taking a crack at it, nicely contextualized with other Russian fantasty films. ("Other?" I asked, when he told me this. You learn something every day!) Aside: are there any other women writing about this movie? My hopes are pinned on you, Indie Quill!

* When I started writing this post, I wanted to say something about the larger context of Ajooba - other Hindi films released in 1991 - to see how it fit in with what else was going on. But then I realized that out of imdb's list of Hindi films released that year, I had heard of a grand total of five of them (and seen only one, Ek Ghar, a Deepti Naval/Naseeruddin Shah NFDC film). Then I went to Wikipedia to see what the top grossers were; of their top ten, I had heard of two and seen none. (No doubt there are better sources for this type of information - it seems odd that there would be only 130 Hindi films, doesn't it? - but I don't know what they are.) I won't pretend to have encyclopedia knowlege of Hindi cinema or claim that the movies I've seen are a representative sample of all eras, styles, directors, etc. But these numbers suggest some evidence of the impression I've gotten from various writers and fans, that the late 80s and early 90s were a bleak era and were populated mostly by the types of movies I don't tend to seek out and that have not been recommended to me. What I mean to say is, I don't know anything about the movies that came out the same time as Ajooba, either through first-hand experience or research or word of mouth, and I would be grateful to anyone who wanted to weigh in on its contemporary context and whether they think that colors/should color how we think of it today.

39 comments:

Sanket Vyas said...

Hi Beth & thanks for the link :) I just couldn't do an honest review of the movie due to all the post traumatic stress disorder stemming from the end of AB's storied career. But your review led me to believe that if I can put aside all my baggage attached to that issue - that my masala genes would kick in and I just might actually enjoy this movie. I think we both can agree that Shashi's talents lay squarely on the other side of the lens though ;)

houseinrlyeh said...

See, I still think you are much too nice to "Ajooba", which doesn't mean it didn't entertain me - it just entertained me in a way that probably wasn't intended.

Since I have obviously seen a differently sub-titled version than you have, I can enlighten you with what it was Rishi teased Amitabh about: You see, Amitabh has never been in love, which of course is a perfect reason for cruel teasing.

Katrin said...

Need. To. Watch. This. Now.

Oh wow. This looks completely bonkers. And insane. And fabulously whacky.

Now, where did I put that DVD?

memsaabstory said...

Hmmm. The special effects remind me of Shammi's Bundal Baaz, made about 15 years earlier.

If someone gives me a free copy, I will accept it gladly and watch it, but I don't think I'll spend actual paise on it. :-)

Beth said...

Sanket - Can't wait to read your review. I hope that your PTSD is lessened by this - Amitabh is pretty darn fun, and none of Ajooba's flaws are his fault. I think the masala approach is the best (or at least, most forgiving) way in to this.

And yes. Shashi should act and produce, not direct, apparently. Though if he ever tried again, of course I'd watch it.

house - Oh yes, there are unintentional funninesses. I also admit that the administration of Shashi Pradesh has a hard time being completely unbiased (it's in the job description). But you and I came to this movie from very different backgrounds - you've seen a lot more fantasy films from various cultures than I have and I think I've seen a lot more 70s masala than you have. That alone might lead to our different takes.

Katrin - Please do! PLEASE. I will watch with you if you need a safety buddy.

memsaab - That is a very sensible attitude. Ironically, I paid a lot more for this DVD than I usually do - it's among the most expensive in my collection.

ajnabi said...

HahahahahaHA! I am still giggling from the screencaps. I can't decide which I love more, Rishi's jadoo, mini Rishi in the bosom, the neon donkey or Amrish hailing Satan. Yessssss.

houseinrlyeh said...

I agree completely. (And "Ajooba" is a far cry from the madness that they call "Mard", of course.)

Beth said...

ajnabi - It's such a gigglefset. I highly encourage you to watch it (although, as I meant to imply to houseinrlyeh, the stronger your 70s masala background, the more likely you are to be able to handle it, I think). The best part is, there is no need to choose a favorite - you can have them all (and then some)! :)

house - I was already pretty sure I needed to see Mard. Now I know.

Vatsala said...

Very very funny! Can't stop laughing at 'Face rings a bell'.

Some of the other major movies of that time that I can remember are Chandni
Lamhe
Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin (DHKMN)
Beta
Dil
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (JJWS)
Maine Pyar Kiya
Aashiqui
Khuda Gawah
and Shah Ruk's first movie Deewana.

If you haven't watched them already, I would recommend Chandni and Lamhe. They are among the few Hindi movies where the heroine has a bigger role than the hero. Others worth trying are JJWS and DHKMN.

Filmi Girl said...

I'm sad that Shashi inherited the dirty-old-man gene. Still, this movie does look delightfully insane...

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I love the Japanese-import monster/s! and even though the transgered Rishi scene is just SCARY, the movie totally works :)

Beth said...

Vatsala - Wow great list! And I always like recommendations. I'll see what I can dig up.

Filmi Girl - I thought maybe I was being too sensitive to the DOM thing - do you have an opinion, based on the pictures I got?

Yes, "delightfully insane" about sums it up, if you bear in mind that it is only sometimes both insane and delightfully, usually just one or the other, and occasionally neither.

Shweta - Wooohoo! I should have realized you have seen this! I want to know more about what you thought!

Kanan said...

Beth, loved the post thoroughly! what an awesome & quite funny review and you pay great attention to details.

Vatsala, awesome list! I'd also recommend these - Lamhe, Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin (DHKMN), Dil
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (JJWS), Maine Pyar Kiya, Khuda Gawah. I've some of my favorites to add to the list: Saajan, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Baazi, Andaz Apna Apna, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, Hum Hai Rahi Pyaar Ke, Baazigar, Khiladi.

Roja & Bombay were also bit hits of that time but I haven't watched them. Ghayal is good if you like Sunny Deol and action films.

Bollyviewer said...

This one is on my shelf waiting to be seen. Have tried a couple of times but never got past the first 10-15 minutes. Will watch it eventually because I looooove bad special effects and also need to find out about SK's DOM-syndrome! (If the screencaps you've selected are anything to go by, the DOM-syndrome wasnt exatly full-blown but is heart-breaking nonetheless!)

Beth said...

Kanan - Thank you! There sure are a lot of fun details to look at in Ajooba. :)

I'll have to ask Babasko about Ghayal, given her love of Sanjay....

Bollyviewer - The beginning is the worst part by far - it's very hard to get through, I agree. Maybe we need to have a global Ajooba watchalong so we can all spur each other on :)

memsaabstory said...

We should make a watch-along list of films that are heavy going at the beginning but get better to spur us all forward!

yedmallya said...

Beth,

From that 1991 wiki-list, i would definitely recommend Saudagar (Manisha's Bolly-debut), Saajan (with Sanjubaba as a langda (lame, but not literally, LOL) lover and Sadak (again Sanjubaba) which has shades of de Niro's Taxi Driver and has a brilliant villain in Sadashiv Amrapurkar as a eunuch brothel "madam."

Narasimha was okay but no patch on the role Sunny Deol reprises (1985's Arjun).

Phool aur Kaante was an uber-encouraging Bolly-debut for Kajol's hubby Ajay Devgan, and featured lots of action, multiple chart-busters from Nadeem-Sharavan and Hema Malini's niece Madhoo as female lead. Lots of RMA value.

Henna was a bore, but had the Pakistani actress Zeba.

Akayla was a little vapid, but had an interesting twist borrowed from Seeta aur Geeta.

Izzat and Sanam Bewafaa, I havent seen.

Interestingly, of the top ten grossers, two feature Amitabh (Hum and Akayla) and two have Jackie Shroff (Saudagar and Izzat).

Oh, and, as a definite RMA-value, HuM was outtasite, not to mention the fabulous song, "Jumma chumma de de" (Jumma, gimme a kiss) with Amitabh and the buxom Kimi Katkar.

yedmallya said...

Trivia Alert:

1. Ajooba was released in its original form (no Bollywood) in Russian as Vozvrashcheniye Bagdadskogo Vora in, get this, 1988!! :-P

2. Beth, the art director Desh Mukerji says most of Ajooba was shot not in Kyrgystan, but Yalta (Ukraine). The climax scenes were entirely shot at the Chandivli Studios in Mumbai.

Beth said...

memsaab - And how!

yedmallya - Wow, lots of recommendations! I really need to start compiling these all in one place so I can be more organized in my renting/shopping. :)

As for the trivia, I saw that on imdb, but it sounds a little odd, doesn't it? I looked for information in the Kapoor bio by Madhu Jain but didn't find anything that gave a fixed date - just quotes from Shashi saying that the Russians pulled out at the last minute. As for Kyrgyzstan, I thought I had read that somewhere - I must have been wrong. Thanks for the new information!

Keith said...

"an evil vizier (Amrish Puri) and his henchmen (led by Dalip Tahil) are trying to seize the throne."

I wish this was the plot to every movie.

Although it comes many years after the fact, Ajooba is indeed a throwback to the Russian fantasy films of the 50s and 60s, directed by Alexander Ptushko. Those films feature things like an army of Mongols forming a gigantic human pyramid so Genghis Khan can see over a wall, and a guy with a well-trimmed beard tearing around the ocean floor mounted atop a giant seahorse.

Yeah, time to buy Ajooba.

houseinrlyeh said...

Time to watch more Russian fantasy films...

Keith said...

When I get my time machine, I'm going back to 1991 so I can make Ajooba vs. Toofan.

a ppcc representative said...

Whoa! Your blog is eating my comments! Now I've forgotten what I wrote originally. Umm.

Umm.

Oh, I don't know. I want to see this though. Oh yeah! I also said I could barely recognize Saeed Jaffrey.

Beth said...

Keith - If you swap out "throne" for "government of India" or "Indian army" or "Mehta Steel Industries," it probably is.

I would love to see a gigantic human pyramid with Genghis on top! I wonder if my groovy local video store has those!

Houseinrlyeh and I were just talking about X vx Y fictional fights. I still need to see Toofan, but Amitabh vs Amitabh is a weighty concept no matter the iterations.

PPCC - Oh sorry! Bad blog. Your Saeed comment is on another post, though, one of the stupid jokey ones I made earlier.

Rum said...

this looks like the bigggest acid trip movie ever with monsters outlined donkeys, and the shiny costume! The sea monster looks a bit like ET with those eyes!

Amrita said...

Beth, you're Bollywood-matized! There can be no other explanation! And you're making me think evil thoughts of watching this movie again - in full rather than looking up random bits that tickle my fancy. How could you do this to me?!

I haven't read all the comments up above but afaik, Ajooba has nothing to do with its contemporaries at the BO. I've always suspected a shot or bottle or two of vodka made Shashi decide to make this movie because there can be NO other explanation if you compare it against the other movies Shashi produced. Ajooba does, however, fit in with Bollywood fantasy which has always been B-movie-ish and largely inspired by middle eastern myths. You remember that scene of Jeetendra from OSO where he has on the funny onion hat. I'm pretty sure that one's from a fantasy movie where he goes on this quest to the "other realms" to save some princess or something. Now that fits in with Ajooba.

Of the Top Ten movies, I've seen them all except Izzat. :blush: what can I say? our cable guy was movie obsessed. I think you'll enjoy Hum. It has AB and Rajni and Govinda and it's very masala-y. I personally find Akayla fascinating too because of the Amrita Singh - AB subplot which was very un-Bollywood-ish. Otherwise it's a pretty run of the mill cop story. Phool aur Kaante was Ajay Devgan's debut. Some people consider it a cult film. Saudagar was Manisha Koirala's debut - it's a mawky mess. Saajan was a highly predictable love triangle. Sadak is the Bollywood Taxi Driver. Sanam Bewafa was some weird kind of Romeo Juliet story that I still don't understand. Narsimha was grown up Urmila's big entry to films and was an action movie set in a college. There's a song in it in which she dances in a horrendous ballerina outfit and that's about all its remarkable for. Henna appealed to me because I was a tweenie when it came out. I don't think I'd like it today but its Rishi Kapoor if you like him.

Off the list I recommend in no specific order: Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (Aamir Khan remake of It Happened One Night), Akayla, Hum, Lamhe (awwww!), 100 Days, Saajan, Sadak.

Temple said...

o Beth - you talked me into this and the boys in my DVD shop tried to talk me back out again. This is INSANE and I am only about 40 min in. The costumes ( I always like a commitment to seeing it through from the dress team - it even helped lift Tashan as I was on the edge of my seat wondering what they would allwear next), the sets (v nice), the first couple of songs are fine by me and yes the snake-dance-off was a focus of Shashi's directorial eye. Hmmm. Oh but what I came in to say was, you must see Mard. It has every masala element you need, plus a dog who seems to be able to make a molotov and throw with accuracy. Cheers!

Beth said...

Reader Temple left a comment that somehow disappeared, so here it is:
"o Beth - you talked me into this and the boys in my DVD shop tried to talk me back out again. This is INSANE and I am only about 40 min in. The costumes ( I always like a commitment to seeing it through from the dress team - it even helped lift Tashan as I was on the edge of my seat wondering what they would all wear next), the sets (v nice), the first couple of songs are fine by me and yes the snake-dance-off was a focus of Shashi's directorial eye. Hmmm. Oh but what I came in to say was, you must see Mard. It has every masala element you need, plus a dog who seems to be able to make a molotov and throw with accuracy. Cheers!"

That's too good a comment to let disappear into the ether. Temple, I would love to have been a fly on the wall of that shop! :) I agree with you about the costumes - they're very thorough.

I am definitely going to get Mard. And I might have to call my post something like "a year in the Mard." There are a lot of potential jokes with that name, that's for sure.

Thanks for coming by!

Beth said...

Rum - I haven't seen Disco Dancer in awhile, or Toofan or Mard at all, but they might all be weirder. But yeah, very trippy!

Beth said...

This comment from Indie Quill got eaten by the evil internets:
Beth, you're Bollywood-matized! There can be no other explanation! And you're making me think evil thoughts of watching this movie again - in full rather than looking up random bits that tickle my fancy. How could you do this to me?!

I haven't read all the comments up above but afaik, Ajooba has nothing to do with its contemporaries at the BO. I've always suspected a shot or bottle or two of vodka made Shashi decide to make this movie because there can be NO other explanation if you compare it against the other movies Shashi produced. Ajooba does, however, fit in with Bollywood fantasy which has always been B-movie-ish and largely inspired by middle eastern myths. You remember that scene of Jeetendra from OSO where he has on the funny onion hat. I'm pretty sure that one's from a fantasy movie where he goes on this quest to the "other realms" to save some princess or something. Now that fits in with Ajooba.

Of the Top Ten movies, I've seen them all except Izzat. :blush: what can I say? our cable guy was movie obsessed. I think you'll enjoy Hum. It has AB and Rajni and Govinda and it's very masala-y. I personally find Akayla fascinating too because of the Amrita Singh - AB subplot which was very un-Bollywood-ish. Otherwise it's a pretty run of the mill cop story. Phool aur Kaante was Ajay Devgan's debut. Some people consider it a cult film. Saudagar was Manisha Koirala's debut - it's a mawky mess. Saajan was a highly predictable love triangle. Sadak is the Bollywood Taxi Driver. Sanam Bewafa was some weird kind of Romeo Juliet story that I still don't understand. Narsimha was grown up Urmila's big entry to films and was an action movie set in a college. There's a song in it in which she dances in a horrendous ballerina outfit and that's about all its remarkable for. Henna appealed to me because I was a tweenie when it came out. I don't think I'd like it today but its Rishi Kapoor if you like him.

Off the list I recommend in no specific order: Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (Aamir Khan remake of It Happened One Night), Akayla, Hum, Lamhe (awwww!), 100 Days, Saajan, Sadak.

Beth said...

Amrita - I am totally Bollywood-matzied! And please please pretty please watch this again. I need for you to do so! :)

My hunch is you're right about the BO - and I think "shipping crate" is the appropriate measure of vodka in this case. Maybe his Russian colleagues set up an easy supply? Anyway, obviously I must see some Bollywood fantasy films. More!


Temple - I would LOVE to have been a fly on that wall! What did they say??? :) I agree completely about the committed fashion - it and some of the other visuals are quite detailed. And never fear, Mard is on the list of things to watch!

Temple said...

Beth - you would have been very angry indeed to hear Shashi described as "the worst Kapoor" by the DVD boys. So I pointed out the existence of Boney and Anil and we sidetracked into a chesthair discussion. Anyway - I have watched Ajooba and I kind of loved it's daftness and general lack of sense and quality. Some OK songs, the performances were not too awful, and some of the intentional humour was fun (Big B and Rishi in particular). But I thought perhaps Shashi, who was aware of cinema outside of mainstream Hindi films, may have actually been trying to do something along the lines of all the Sword and Sandal epics that cropped up well into the late 80s - Krull, Beastmaster kind of thing - only without the budget, technology or know-how. I really don't think there was enough vodka in the world otherwise. That is how my bollymatized brain processed it all.

Beth said...

Temple - "The worst Kapoor"?!?! Are they on crack? Have they not seen either Karisma or Kareena? I'm glad you diverted them to another topic, even one as hard to digest as that one :) Hahahah, "general lack of sense and quality" - quite endearing at times, eh? I hope you're right re:Shashi borrowing from other cinemas. Maybe someday we can find the answer to all these questions....

Temple said...

Look there is NO point in telling young lads that the Kapoor sisters are, well, skanky (although to be fair, they are possibly at the mercy of the blind costume designer who seems to have control of Salman Khan's career too).
So I popped back to say I just skimmed through some of my favourite bits of "The Thief of Baghdad" made by Alexander Korda in the late 30's/early 40's or thereabouts....and their special effects are still way better than Ajooba although the flying giant genie is about as convincing as Shammi hanging off a flying carpet. So if you need more fantasy madness (flying horses, giant spider, genies, an automaton called the Silver Kali, um all the usual accoutrements) this is one of the movies that got the ball rolling.
I have lent my copy of Ajooba to a friend. You are going to be responsible for a resurgence in interest in this movie. I can only hope that it doesn't encourage Shashi to direct again:)

Beth said...

temple, you're making me giggle again! I think I do need more fantasy madness, actually! I'll have to see what I can dig up. And sharing Ajooba is definitely the right thing to do. It must be seen to be believed/understood/comprehended even the tiniest bit. Do report back with friend's reactions!

Temple said...

Ajooba seems to have a surprising appeal. I still have vexing questions left unresolved - You might have also wondered why when 4 people are chained up awaiting certain death the papier-mache monster only seems to save 3. Dunno.
But I recently stumbled across Jeetendra and Amrish Puri starrer "Haatim Tai". So far have only watched a couple of songs but they show promise - a shiny lair with skull as design feature, evil laugh solo in songs, fish swimming in the sky. You know. I must try and watch the movie soon. My copy has no subtitles so between the wacked out visuals, wooden acting and my next to non-existent Hindi it will take a bit of doing.

Beth said...

HA! "Surprising appeal" sums it up very well - I know _I_ was sure surprised at how not-awful it was. ;) As for vexing questions, is that not one of the key draws to masala? Mystery? Disbelief-suspending? Philosophical pondering? (Actually I am not at all attracted to those first two qualities, but I have gotten much better at handling them as my course of Masala Training continues.) I totally missed the population stats with the paper mache monster. Clearly I must re-watch.

You must tell us more about this movie! It sounds incredible (in all senses of the word) (see above)! I found a few bits online and it looks like quite the production.

Temple said...

hi Beth - I haven't ditched you. I was away on holidays for a week and a bit and had limited access to the net. But I am back and about to plunge back in to Bolly. I will certainly update you as I try and make my way through Haatim Tai. I bought the DVD purely on the strength of a person in a green bird suit on the cover so I feel confident it will have something to offer. I'll be back :)

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