[Spoilers ahead, but it's masala-ish, so nothing you wouldn't expect.]
When Old Is Gold reviewed Ganga aur Suraj last summer, almost everyone who commented said it was bad, but somehow I felt drawn to it anyway. Now I know why.
Hai hai mirchi*, the man is smokin' (if agin') in this movie as dacoit Vijay, despite the weapons, generally questionable ethics, and stupid mustache - once again the crown princes of Bollywood, by which I mean Shashi and Abhishek and occasionally Shahrukh, have tested my long-held anti-facial hair position and come out victorious. (You can read more about filmi facial hair over at Rum's.)
Your love is like a shotgun - BANG!
Blinding Shashi-pyaar is the only reason I can think of to recommend this movie. It's got some standard masala plot elements - namely lost and found family members and plenty of bandits - but very little of the joy and wackadoo that most of us seem to like in our movie mix.
In the introductory flashback, a switcheroo of babies sets the stage for decades of enmity and an ill-fated romance. Dacoit leader Vikram (Kader Khan) thinks the police (led by Iftekhar as Inspector Shekhar) killed his daughter during a botched arrest, but actually she was rescued by Shekhar's older son Ganga (Sunil Dutt when grown up) and taken in by Shekhar's family (and named Sarita, played by Sulakshana Pandit as an adult).
I kept wanting Sarita to be played by Neetu Singh. Where's my Neetu?!?
Vikram then takes revenge by kidnapping Shekhar's younger son Suraj as Ganga looks on. Suraj, now named Vijay, grows up in the gang and becomes an outlaw too. In addition to the loose family ends, there has to be some romance in here. Sarita and Vijay fall in lurve without realizing that her father and brother are his mortal enemies (let alone that their parents aren't who they think).
The filter of luuuuurve!
I'm not sure how I feel about mustachioed Shashi romping in fields. He seems a little old for that.
Ganga finds love too, in the form of feisty Poonam (Reena Roy), whom he meets while he's undercover trying to infiltrate Vijay and Vikram's gang. The Vijay/Sarita and Ganga/Poonam romances are cute enough, but they take up a displeasingly small amount of the run time, which is otherwise filled with shootings and Ganga's espionage.
Vijay and undercover Ganga get to bond as criminal brothers-in-arms, also unaware of their biological relationship.
Fakest blood ever. It's pink.
Then there's a big shootout in the rocky hills,
truth is revealed, bad guys admit their wrongs, and everything works out.
While I won't go quite as far as to call Ganga aur Suraj "the suck to the extreme," as Indie Quill did over at Old Is Gold's post (though I am definitely in favor of this terminology), it's not good. Two of Laxmikant-Pyarelal's songs - the qawwali "Pada Tumhaara Kabhi Bijliyon Se," in which Vijay and Sarita meet cute, and "Jali Hai Nafrat Ki Aag Dil Mein," in which Poonam hurls knives at Ganga -
are very enjoyable, and Ganga and Poonam have some some cute chemistry, but that's about it.
So let's cut to the chase, shall we? ¡Mas Shashi! His performance in the party qawwali alone was worth the purchase price of this DVD. He is hilarious, shimmying around with his bright red scarf and very tight flared corduroys.
Savvy costuming once again, Jennifer K!
There are passages in his handful of dance steps that are almost as good as Pyaar Kiye Jaa's "Kehne Ki Nahin Baat," but this time they're all grown up, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
Here are a few other things that caught my fancy.
- When his cover is threatened, Ganga has to fight off four boats full of bandits single-handedly, and somehow he does it. I'm not sure I've ever seen a boat fight before, and I dug it.
- There's a really sweet (well, relatively) and compassionate gang member who serves as a father figure to Vijay, whose relationship with Vikram is very unesay. Here he bows his head in dismay as kidnapped baby Suraj is brought into the gang's hideout.
Keep your eye on him. He's interesting.
- Aruna Irani is in the film too, but she doesn't get to do much. She's in love with Vijay but he doesn't pay her any attention despite all her heart-felt dancing.
She does, however, get to deliver a self-referential line, savoring how much she loves Vijay: "How do I forget him? His lovely face is so alluring. His complexion is so attractive. His lips are so red. He is a hero for me. Like Shashi Kapoooooooor!" flinging her head back and forth and wriggling, unable to contain herself. She should be our fan club president.
See Shatrughan doing jazz hands in the background?
- During the lost-and-found/revenge setup at the beginning, Shekhar's family is in the middle of celebrating little Suraj's birthday. See this cake?
It soon gets upturned in the chaos of the kidnapping, but not before we see its happy smiling face. How cute is that! Smiley cake!
They look really upset, don't they? And surely they're too young to understand that what they're experiencing is all fake. I sure hope these little ones grew up unscarred - or at least as unscarred as one can be after experiencing Kader Khan in a bad wig.
* This song, and how much fun its title is to say, is one of three good things (all musical) about the abominable Biwi No. 1.