Zabardast has much to offer to the viewer, a highly convoluted plot including the requisite separated brothers (though nobody is lost at a fair), a villain played by Amrish Puri, and lots and lots of sequins. After a colourful title sequence with fireworks in the background
we meet Ratan Kumar (Sanjeev Kumar) who is just being released from jail. We learn that he is well educated and even served in the army, and that he also never told the police who his accomplices were. The latter is explained when he is reunited with his wife (Gita Siddharth) and baby son, he was afraid that his family would be hurt if he told the police who his accomplices were. He vows never to committ a crime again, but before he can do much more he is called by a police officer to a burning building to rescue a box containing important papers.
Palmistry, I will take up Palmistry
I am somehow suspicious as to the authenticity of these policemen (those aren't regulation moustaches)
A lovingly handcrafted burning building:
Alas, it turns out that the policemen were fake, and working for Ratan's old boss, Balram Singh (Amrish Puri), and the box doesn't contain documents but diamonds (hey, at least the both start with D). Ratan is very upset about the deception and escapes from Balram Singh with the diamonds. After picking up his son from home, he escapes (cunningly disguised) on a train, where he learns from a newspaper someone left behind, that his wife is presumed to have died when there house was burned down (Why is it that when I am on a train without reading material all that is left lying around is the train company's promotional magazine or the sports section of at least three different newspapers?).
That's an impressive smirk
A decidedly less impressive disguise:
Ratan leaves the train and continues his flight across an arid wasteland, but before he collapses completely he hides the case with the diamonds in a grave in a conveniently placed graveyard (which conveniently already has a hole). He is picked up by a (conveniently) passing doctor with very good eyesight (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). He offers Ratan a job as an estate manager for the local Maharani, although he knows that the police are looking for Ratan; however, there is a condition. The Maharani (Tanuja) recently lost her husband and gave birth to a still-born child. She hasn't accepted that the child is really dead, so if the doctor could present Ratan's son as the Maharani's child it would do wonders for her mental health. After a small dose of emotional blackmail, Ratan agrees. He now calls himself Ramesh, and he is also told that he shouldn't come before the Maharani.
Flight not going so well
Only a small palace:
The doctor has a daughter - who may or may not become someone's love interest later on:
Years pass, and one fateful birthday, Ratan actually is seen by the Maharani, who promptly faints as he looks exactly like her deceased husband. For some reason, this likeness is also reason enough for her to marry Ratan (I asked a married friend whether she would marry someone who looked exactly like her husband and i got a very emphatic no). Her son is less impressed, telling his mother that she can make him her husband but he will never make him his father (he is lacking a vital piece of information there).
This may not have been the wisest decision ever:
Of course, now that Ratan has married again, it it time for his not quite so deceased as he assumed wife to make an appearance (in the movies, never trust the report of somebody's death unless you have seen the body yourself). The Maharani is understandably upset at this development and, less understandably, set on killing Ratan's wife. There is a tussle as he tries to stop her, and the Maharani manages to fall on her gun in a particularily unlucky manner and dies, but not before she has asked her son to avenge her whilst pointing towards her husband.
I can see how this misunderstanding could arise:
Ratan and his wife now look after their son, who still doesn't know that he is their son, as the doctor argued that news would be too much of a shock for him so shortly after his mother's death. They also have a second child, but somehow the older one never quite settles down and he is still planning to avenge his mother's death. In order to do this, he first kidnaps his little brother so he can throw him to the tigers. However, he is interrupted in this dastardly deed by the arrival of a car, and runs off, while the baby is picked up by the occupants of the car. Ratan and his wife, having successfully misplaced both their children, decide to leave. Before they can get very far, Ratan is arrested and convicted for the theft of the diamonds and his wife is left all alone (again).
Years pass, and Sunder grows up to be a petty thief (with a heart of gold, of course), who goes by the name of Shyam (Sunny Deol) and spends much time with his friend Anwar (Tariq), who is something of an aspiring musician. We first meet them in a small pup and learn that they must be good guys as they defend the honour of the proprietor's daughter. Sunder is still determined to avenge his mother. He doesn't remember the killers face but he does remember a rather distinct scar on one of his hands.
I like him:
Meanwhile, Ratan, has been released from jail and acquired a bad wig which reminds me of a poodle, a pair of gloves (which rather puts a spanner in Sunder's great plans of revenge), and two loyal henchmen, who, like him, have been cheated by Balram Singh.
This is a much better idea than you might think (though he should have taken an oath not to take them off until he has defeated Balram Singh)
The loyal henchmen:
Balram Singh has acquired a much less poodle-esque wig, very well dressed and colour-coordinated henchmen and a son.
I am sure he could afford more colourful telephones:
Next, we meet Ravi (Rajiv Kapoor), who is making his way as a singer under the name of Tony. He and his friend overhear Sunita (Rathi Agnihotri) planning with Monty (Rajendra Nath) to ruin Tony's carreer because he forced a friend of her's to commit suicide by leaving her pregnant and unsupported. Tony is rather puzzled as he has never heard of the girl, and (to his knowledge) never abandoned a pregnant girl-friend. In order to get to the bottom of this mystery he decided to appear in his stage show in a disguise and befriend Sunita under his real name Ravi. This leads into the first musical number, which, like all songs in this movie, suffers somewhat from a differently beautiful set design and too many sequins.
Tony and some interesting wallpaper:
Eaves-dropping in progress (and two different kinds of wallpaper)
An exceedingly cunning disguise:
Sequins were on special offer:
The next morning, Sunita and Ravi (or rather she thinks she is talking to Tony), agree to meet at a hotel that afternoon. The plan is for Tony/Ravi to be beaten up by Monty (I see a fatal flaw here, but Sunita obviously can't) but before this can be put into action, Ravi, in another cunning disguise, eavesdrops (again) on the two, and therefore manages to foil the plan. Sunder and Anwar happen to be in the same place (obviously the place to be). At the same time (and stil in the same hotel), the doctor is trying to arrange the marriage of his daughter, Mala (Jaya Pradha), with Balram Singh's son. Mala has more sense than her father and isn't willing to agree to the match.
Oh and look who is working in Sunita's house:
More eaves-dropping in progress:
The requisite brothers-unkown-to-each-other meeting:
Don't mind me, I will just be angry on my side of the table:
The prospective groom is called away from the meeting to arrange the delivery of some smuggled gold biscuits (How many calories do those have?) with one of his father's henchmen. This is overheard by Anwar, but also by Ratan. Sunder and Anwar steal the gold biscuits from Balram Singh's men, but they give chase and the two are rescued by Ratan who buys the gold biscuits from them and they continue their flight. This is where things get somewhat convolutied.
It's a cute car, but not what I would expect a master criminal to drive:
Mala, whose father insists on her marrying Balram Singh's son, decides that she should commit suicide. However, she doesn't finish the huge glass of soluble sleeping tablets and after watching the room spin for a bit, passes out on her bed. Sunder, still escaping from Balram Singh's men, enters her room, drinks the remaining medication, and also passes out on Mala's bed. Her father, checking on Mala, sees the two in the same bed, but by the time he has fetched his gun, Sunder is gone.
This might be a bit awkward to explain:
The next morning, Balram Singh is getting concerned about the gold biscuits and the general interference of a new person in town on his business. Sunita is planning to use Monty to burn Tony's house down. She discusses this plan with Ravi, who tries to dissuade her from the whole notion that Tony had anything to do with her friend's death. Alas, he is unsuccessful and we get treated to Monty in a sari trying to comit arson. Of course it doesn't work and Ravi and Sunita have to flee from the police (who are actually Ravi's friends) and this leads to the next song, where both leads are very wet.
There are things I really didn't need to see:
There are a lot of sparkly lights here, were they on special offer?
Ravi takes Sunita home, and talks to her at her window, thanks to a conveniently placed ladder. On his way down, he is confronted by Sunita's mother's companion (his mother, only he doesn't know that) who after a brief cross-examination, approves of him.
She is really amazingly calm about all this:
He appears somewhat less calm:
Meanwhile, Mala's friend Salma has come up with one of the more crack-potty plans of marriage avoidance: She suggests that, given that an unkown male was spotted in Mala's room, she should claim to be pregnant by him and get engaged to him. The first hurdle, telling Dad, is taken, and now the girls have to find the man in question, especially as they told Mala's father that he is a doctor who went to a conference in Simla (guess where everybody is going to turn up soon). We also learn that Sunder has no idea as to what happened in that night, or how he came to be in Mala's bed.
I read this in a romance novel, it must work
He may be a good doctor, but his taste in chandeliers is as brilliant as his taste in sons-in-law:
Sunder is therefore not unwilling to believe that he is the father of Mala's baby, even though he isn't best pleased. Meanwhile, somewhere else in the plot, Ratan plans to blow up all of Balram Singh's godowns in a single night. During the resulting chase, Sunder helps Ratan and the bond between them strengthens. Balram is more than a little irritated by this development, but he isn't going to le this stop him from attending the opening of a new hotel in Simla. Ravi and Sunita are going to Simla, too, where she plans to poison Tony with a powder which turns people mute and paralyses them. Since Ravi doesn't seem the self-destruvtive type, I am no too worried. When Ravi mentions during their journey that Tony might be innocent, Sunita reacts badly, and it takes a song and a bus load of schoolchildren, as well as Sunder and Mala, who happen to be passing by, to calm her down.
Sunder is taking his new role very seriously:
We are here to help with the next song
This is nothing to worry about
He looks happy not to dance
Finally, our protagonists make it to the hotel. Mala and Sunder spend the evening discussing child-rearing issues and Sunita continues to plot her revenge. The sleeping arrangements for the night are reassuringly conservative (though one wonders what the point is in Mala and Sunder's case).
The next morning, Sunita continues with her revenge. She feeds the "poison" to Tony (a cunningly disguised Ravi) and he pretends to be poisoned. Sunita leaves satisfied but unfortunately she leaves behind her purse and returns while Tony is transforming into Ravi and explaining the whole plan again. She is livid, and not even the unexpected (and unexplained) appearance of Ravi's father persuades her that Ravi is really a good guy. We also learn that the fayther is a heart patient (whuch is never a good sign).
Poisoning in progress
Not a good moment:
All will be well, son:
Meanwhile, Sunder's meeting with Mala's father doesn't go well, either. He recognises Sunder as a young man who brought in an injured and pregnant young woman who later killed herself (no other than Sunita's friend), and is, of course, convinced that he must be the child's father. Sunder tries to explain to Mala that he was just helping a stranger, but she doesn't believe him (he has, after all, a habit of turning up in girl's bedrooms).
Wait, I can explain:
Balram Singh, who is at the same hotel, spots Sunder and asks him to work for him, and Mala and Sunita also meet up and exchange notes about their rubbish boyfriends. This convinces Sunita that Ravi/Tony is innocent and she tries to apologise to him, which involves our next song, thankfully free from flag-waving schoolchildren.
This is a somewhat dodgy choice of employer
At least one misunderstanding in the process of being sorted out:
There is another family reunion in the pipeline as Ratan spots his wife leaving a temple. She is gone before he can approach her and a chat with the priest reveals that she isn't a regular, but he promises to ask her for her address the next time she comes. Mala has met up with Sunita and Ravi, and they have decided to stop jumping to conclusions, and to get to the bottom of the mystery of the abandoner of pregnant girl-friends by asking the friend's mother (finally). She doesn't know the name, but she suggests they have a look at her daughter's paintings, and lo and behold, the identity is revealed (not that it is that much of a surprise to the seasoned movie watcher).
Purveyor of useful information
The mystery solving team
Sunder, meanwhile, is not only working for Balram Singh, but also still in contact with Ratan, though I suspect double-crossing Balram isn't a terribly wise choice. Mala, now convinced that Sunder is a decent guy, and also rather in love with him, tries to repair their relationship and what better way to do that than by pretending to get drunk and be molested by a group of dancers in his (and everybody else's) favourite bar; all of course done as another dance number.
To be honest, I got completely side-tracked by the decoration and wallpaper:
Alas, there is bad news for Ravi when he returns from his fact-finding mission: His father has died and he learns that he was adopted which estranged his father from his wife and son who have now returned to claim the property. He learns that he was found near a Tiger's den (you don't say, but apparently we are meant to be surprised) and that he probably belonged to a family which disappeared shortly afterwards. He travels to the area with Sunita, and they find a faithful retainer with a frayed photograph. Sunita recognises her aunt as Ravi's mother. As the priest has also provided Ratan with his wife's address all but one member of the family are soon reunited. Sunder has also learned about the circumstances of Ravi's adoption and worked out who Ravi must be, but he keeps quiet about his part in the story, having decided that he has really no enmity with Ravi but rather with Ravi's father.
You see, it pays never to throw anything out:
Partial family reunion:
In the more criminal part of the plot, Ratan and Balram have come to an understanding that Balram can have back his stolen diamonds, as Ratan wants to give up his life of crime and settle down with his family. Ratan's associates don't seem too impressed with this plan.
A good boss does the dirty work himself
He must be bad, look at all those bottles:
Is his ability to reform suggested by his use of a phonebooth?
What will happen next? Will Ratan be double-crossed by his men? Will Sunder see Ratan's scar and if so, will he learn who Ratan is before he does anything rash? Will there be a big fight at the end? And were the fairy lights on special offer?
This is a movie I find extremely enjoyable; lots happens and while much of it is predictable it's never boring, and there are lots of details to enjoy or marvel at. Posiibly not suitable for someone with a severe 80s allergy but definetly one of the better offerings of the decade, late but stll enjoyable masala. And to me proof that the words cute and Sunny Deol can happily coexist in a sentence not involving the word "not".
P.S. It's not actually a Hindi movie: