I know it is Shashi-week elsewhere and also elsewhere else and it isn't as if there hasn't been a lot of Shashi around here, however, I am going to carry on with the next post I had planned which just happens not to involve Shashi. The next one up, however, will be the delightful Farz ki Jung, another product of that under-appreciated decade, the 1980s.
Azaad is another movie staring Dillip Kumar and Meena Kumari which is surprisingly free from tears and melodrama, although there are abducted maidens, misplaced sons and threatened fathers.
The movie starts rather promisingly with a pretty cool Dvd menu:
The title sequence itself is less impressive but still rather nice:
We are straight away introduced to Shoba (Meena Kumari) who is returning from an invigorating morning ride. The conversation between her and her mother (Achala Sachdev) swiftly moves towards the topic of marriage, and when her father (Badri Prasad) joins in they both lament that they lost their son Kumar in childhood as she was meant to get married to him, and now they have to find a new groom for her; how very inconvenient. This sounds all rather odd but it soon transpires, that the older couple are not in fact Shoba's parents but brought her up after her father died, who had been an old friend of the other father. There is a man, Sunder, who wants to marry Shoba, but she dislikes him (and for good reasons), and in a manner most untypical of filmi parents, her parents don't want her to marry him either.
Mother and daughter
The parents remembering Kumar:
We are then introduced to Sunder (Pran), who apart from having designs on Shoba, also is the mastermind behind the activities of the dacoit Chander (S. Nazir), as well as to the new police inspector (Raj Mehra) and constable Motilal (Om Prakash), who is our comic relief for this movie. He has two wives, three sons and six daughters, which leads to much mirth (or not). From the conversation between the police officers we learn that there are two dacoits active in the area, Chander and Azaad, though they aren't even sure whether this could not be one person using two names. The authorities higer up are rather unhappy about the lack of success in solving these cases, so there is a lot of pressure on the police inspector.
There appears to be Queen Victoria on the wall in the background:
Meanwhile, a young girl form Shoba's mother's village, Janki (Shammi) has arrived at the house, who is very upset because Sunder has inticed her to come to him with promises of love but now he doesn't acknowledge her and she can't go home because her family has thrown her out of the house. Shoba's mother promises to help her.
The police inspector has gone to visit Khan Saheb (Dilip Kumar) a wealthy man who is known for helping people in the community and is also a good friend of Shoba's father and then we get our first song, Shoba dancing to entertain her mother.
What, you were expecting him to be Shoba's love interest? Don't worry, it's complicated.
That night Shoba is abducted by Chander's men but before anything untoward can happen they are beaten up and Shoba is now abducted by a different group of men, who take her to their elderly leader. Shoba, sensible girl that she is, had pretended to be unconscious and demands to be taken home when it seems safe to give up the pretense. However, her rescuer points out that Chander's men are blocking the way home, and takes her to a cave where they spend the night. The next morning it still isn't safe for Shoba to go home, so she is taken further along into the mountains.
It looks quite comfy:
The elderly leader:
They walk, a lot:
Meanwhile the police has found Chander's men, and also some of Shoba's jewellery which had been taken from her by them. Shoba is still walking along with her companion when they get attacked by stock footage of a great cat which then proceeds to have a fight with a wild boar (which is quite impressive, but somehow has nothing to do whatsoever with the plot). After the animals retreat, Shoba and her rescuer continue walking but before long they have to cross a deep valley in a contraption which doesn't look at all safe to me. They make it across though, and after shortly after arrive at a cunningly disguised entrance (it seems almost as cunning as these fake stones you can buy from mailorder catalogues to keep your spare key under).
Oh, hi, sorry, no, I don't know why you are in the movie either:
Inside they are greated by a lady the rescuer refers to as aunt, and two girls. Shoba is takend away to freshen up a bit, and then she meets a younger men who turns out to be her rescuer sans grey hair and old man make-up and who introduces himself as Azaad (Dilip Kumar). He flirts with her, but she is at first not particularily impressed.
Meet the family:
You can practically hear her go "Hmpf"
Her father is rather distressed by his daughter's disappearance and somewhat underwhelmed by the police's lack of progress.
Meanwhile, Azaad and his familly, the aunt, the two girls, and his father, are all discussing the possibility of Azaad getting married to Shoba. She listens in and is actually quite taken with the idea, even though she still thinks that Azaad is a dacoit.
Shoba goes out to watch some wrestlers, and afterwards, the two sisters dance for the whole group. The next morning sees more flirting between Azaad and Shoba, which is interrupted by some comic relief involving the police constable and some more evil plotting between Chander and a generously moustachioed accomplice.
Actually, they are both pretty well-endowed in the facial hair department:
When we get back to Shoba we are treated to another song, and yet more flirting. Also, Shoba would really like to go home, but Azaad insists that it is still too dangerous.
A rare occurence, Dilip's right profile:
While Shoba is still outside she is startled by stock footage of a bear, who is swiftly followed by a tiger, and we are treated to another animal fight. I am not sure whether this is meant to be symbolic of anything, it just doesn't quite feel that way. After nightfall Shoba is rescued from the tree where she had taken refuge by Azaad. After a short interlude at the police station we are back with Azaad's family who ask Shoba to dance for them. She obliges them and it becomes even more obvious that Azaad is very smitten with her.
Mind you, it is such a pretty tree:
The police have finally managed to find something resembling a lead, namely that Khan Saheb has taken is rather nice carriage towards the hills where the dacoits live for no good reason. They decide to keep a watch on this vehicle, while Shoba is finally taken home by Azaad. Obviously, they while away their boring long walk with another song.
However, as we know, the police is waiting for the vehicle which is to convey Shoba home. But not only the police, Chander and his men are there, too, to finish the job of abducting Shoba in which they were interrupted by Azaad. Some confusion and much moustache-swirling later, the carriage is in Sunder's courtyard, as is the police. Sunder pretends that he found the carriage or rather the horse with the carriage wandering along the road, and when the door is opened, there is no Shoba, though the carriage isn't empty either.
Not who they were expecting:
Meanwhile, Shoba has actually made it home, and is welcomed by her parents. When the police arrive the next morning to tell her parents that they have traced Shoba and that she is now being held in Sunder's house; they are very surprised to find Shoba already at her parent's. She says that she was staying with Azaad, but doesn't know where because she was blindfolded most of the time.
After a short detour involving Khan Saheb listening to a song about love (which makes a lot more sense if one has realised that he actually is Azaad, although the movie is going to take quite some time before it finally reveals this stunning surprise) and more comedy featuring the constable dressed up as a Sadhu, we return to the main plot with the police inspector interrogating Khan Saheb. He is still perfectly polite but obviously suspicious. Khan Saheb on the other hand is quick to defend Azaad claiming that he isn't actually a thief, let alone a murderer, and vowing to proof his friend innocence.
This is rather pretty:
What's more silly - the fake beard or the tinsel?
Before too much can happen, Azaad is called away because his father has fallen ill and requires his presence. He is worried about Shoba, so he sends his aunt and the girls into town where they contact Shoba by doing a dance number under her window and explain why Azaad can't come. Sunder has also not given up on his plans to get Shoba and he plots with Janki to trick her into coming to his house. They suceed and in the rather heated conversation it turns out that he is actually married to Janki though this obstacle in his path to a union with Shoba is fairly swiftly removed. Before things can get too much out of hand, Azaad comes to the rescue.
Hi, I don't know how I know that I am needed here, but here I am:
Azaad is on his way to his mountain lair (well, it is rather a medium sized palace) but Sunder and his men follow him and take over the machine room of the valley-crossing contraption, and succeed in smashing it on the mountain. Azaad nevertheless manages to make it home in time to attend his father's deathbed. His father has not one but two last wishes (is this allowed? Or is he using up somebody else's last wish?), Azaad should marry Shoba, and he should give up their illegal ways and return all the things they stole from Chander and his men, they are (I have no idea why) rich enough not to need the stuff. Azaad proceeds to return the stolen goods, still in his disguise as Khan Saheb. This exonerates him from being a thief, but, as the police inspector points out, there is still the minor detail of some murder charges.
Sunder has still not given up on Shoba. As abducting her was a non-starter, he now decides to abduct her father and blackmail Shoba into marrying him. Well, he is nothing if not persistent. Azaad, however, gets wind of this plan and alerts the police (as Khan Saheb) and then beats up Sunder and his accomplices (as Azaad). The father is rescued, the villains are arrested, and the next morning, the alleged murder victims report at the police station very much alive. The police inspector can now report to Khan Saheb that Azaad has been cleared of all charges, and won't he come along if they both to got have lunch at Shoba's parents the next day.
What will happen next? Will Shoba's parents accept an ex-thief as their son-in-law; or Khan Saheb, for that matter, should Azaad decide not to drop that disguise? What about Kumar, the long lost real son? How many more songs will their be? Will there be more stock footage of a tiger?
It is a fun ride, but if one wants to watch the two leads in non-tragic, tear-free, non-melodramatic mood, I would recommend starting with Kohinoor, which does also have its fair share of wacky disguises and animals, but has a somewhat more coherent plot. There was just to much walking along lovingly hand-painted sets, comic relief, weird animal fights and convolution for convolutions sake in this one to make it more than something to watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The songs were nice, and the dancing was very good, but it all felt a bit choppy.