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D a a g

Reviewed 1.9.05

India 1952Shankar (Dilip Kumar) lives with his mother in a small village. He makes statues and immediately invests the little money he earns in alcohol. Even the medication for the mother is no longer important in view of the next high. His girlfriend Parvati "Paro" (Nimmi) tries desperately to get him on the right track. But this task becomes more difficult when the Paros family inherits money and moves into a large house. Paro's aunt Pushpa (Usha Kiran) helps Paro again and again to visit her loved one, but her now respected family shows no understanding.
Dilip Kumar won the very first Filmfare Awards for Best Actor with "Daag". He undoubtedly deserves this honor, but one would have wished it had been given to a better film. His stereotypical drunken performance in "Daag" is at best upper mediocrity, the film as a whole still slightly below: The melodrama, which anticipates themes of the three years later Dilip box office hit Devdas, is monotonous, melancholy and dreary. 138 minutes can seem so long.
The Bengali director Amiya Chakrabarty (1912-1957, Seema) overestimated the value of his story right from the start and believes that he doesn't need to develop the characters any further because they would be exciting enough in themselves. That is a fallacy. Dilip's drinker is a bland cartoon and doesn't go through any real change throughout the film. You know for sure that every time he ends up in the shop and drinks. The fourth time this is no longer tragic, it is just repetitive. And when Chakrabarty finally decides to give the figure a nudge, it is already too late: You have no sympathy with him, investing emotions is difficult.
The cranky Nimmi comes off a little better than Paro, but she too remains underdeveloped and receives a few unreflective beating. The remaining actors remain in supporting roles. They don't find any great chances to shine, as there are few actor-friendly passages with the exception of Dilip's Suffgejammere. Instead, endless songs that are always staged in the same way: A figure looks into space and suffers while singing. I've never been a fan of the 50s songs, all of which sound similarly wailing, but here the monotony of the songs is particularly overwhelming. The second half is full of interchangeable vocals that keep the plot stuck.
Accordingly, "Daag" is one of the most overrated films of the decade. Ironically, this also applies to another film with Dilip, alcohol and a main Paro character. But during those (I'm talking about
Devdas) at least gets points for the plot, "Daag" stays too long in an actual state for me to really tell something, to really make progress. The only advantage over Devdas: The end is a stand-up. But that's too little, too late. "Daag" can be left out - classic Bollywood really has better things to offer.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 2.0 with English subtitles. Full screen
Alternative titles: The stain; The stigma
Directed by Amiya Chakrabarty

melodrama

Claim *

Feeling *

Trade Classification: Hit

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There a g

Reviewed on 4.1.04

India 1973Sunil Kohli (Rajesh Khanna) loves Sonia (Sharmila Tagore). He soon has her uncle on his side, but not her aunt. So the marriage takes place with the blessing of the uncle. But then Dheeraj (Prem Chopra), the son of Sunil's new boss, tries to rape Sonia. Sunil intervenes and accidentally kills him in battle. The police rush over and see the money Dheeraj was carrying. In court it is clear: Sunil wanted the dead man's money. That is why he is sentenced. But his transport of prisoners had an accident and he was thought to be dead. Sonia moves to another city, becomes a teacher and befriends Chandni (Raakhee). She has found a child of a charlatan and a nice man who pretends to be her husband in order to save her honor. When Sonia sees the man, the blow hits her: It's Sunil!
For Yash Chopra, "Daag" is perhaps his most important film because it was the first to be made under his Yashraj banner. With this, Yash has moved away from his brother B.R. Chopra solved and produced his own hits from then on - "Daag" was a moderate success and still a transition film with his "Ittefaq" star Rajesh Khanna. The 70's "Good Boy" gave way to the "Angry Young Man" Amitabh Bachchan in Chopra's next film Deewaar.
Khanna is okay though. He's certainly not the best of the cast, but he convinces as a tragic character in a plot that seems to be slightly inspired by "Les Misérables". The starting position is already difficult to swallow. With that I can say: I hate Indian court scenes. In Hollywood, evidence is meticulously gathered, it is argued logically. In Bollywood someone gets up, shouts something into the hall and immediately the tide turns. The word "circumstantial trial" would still be praiseworthy, no, there are no clues here, just statements. The criminalistic appeal of a court scene gives way to the melodramatic appeal. Similar to the annoying court scene in the otherwise exemplary "Dancer in the Dark". If the witnesses act stupid and the accused would rather accept fate than turn on the brain for a moment, then I get very angry. And in Bollywood, where otherwise I still accept coincidences (three people out of a billion people meet "by chance" ... as in "Daag") and fate, I cannot do that in a court scene. Accordingly, "Daag", which begins like this, is already loaded. And then it ends with one too. Why the case is being reopened: I have no idea. How the lawyer can suddenly be a judge and not have to go on strike: I have no idea. Like the statement one Woman changes everything: I have no idea. I accept a lot in a Bollywood film - but court scenes are always made sloppy.
Otherwise the film is okay. The songs are acceptable, if not outstanding - and I don't think Lata sings half as well as she did in the 80s and 90s. Your voice sounds like a squeak at times. Sharmila dances well, Raakhee plays very well and the story has quite controversial explosive material and a few twists until the end. If only these sequences in court were constructed a little better, then "Daag" would be a great film.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Full screen.
Alternative titles: The stain; The stigma; Daag: A Poem of Love
Directed by Yash Chopra

drama

Tension * *

Feeling * *

Trade Classification: Super Hit

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D a c a i t

Reviewed 2/28/04

India 1987The Chambal River separates the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajastan, flows 50 kilometers from the "Taj Mahal" and flows into the Yamura, which flows into the Ganges. The river is famous for its Dacoits (or Dacaits = band of robbers) who kidnap, murder and blackmail people in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajastan and Uttar Pradesh. One of these dacoits is Maakhan Malla, who is terrorizing the Kishangadh area. He tells his childhood friend Arjun Yadav (Sunny Deol) that the machinations of Thakurs Bhanwar Singh (Raza Murad) drove him to do this. Arjun, trained in the city, realizes that Singh and his brother Badri (Dan Dhanoa) are plundering the peasants and chasing the land from them with the help of the corrupt inspector Vishnu Pandey (Paresh Rawal). When Arjun and his family defend themselves, the Thakur attacked the village with four hundred men and slaughtered dozens of peasants. He kills Arjun's brother Amritlal (Suresh Oberoi), wants his sister Shanta (Urmila Matondkar) to be raped, whereupon she jumps into the well to her death. And he makes mother Devi Choudhrain (Raakhee) dance as a sign of dishonor. Devi goes mad, Arjun's family is wiped out. There is only one thought left in the man: revenge. That's why he joins Malla.
Sunny Deol and director Rahul Rawail shot the hit "Betaab" (Sunny's second film!) In 1983 and followed it up with "Arjun" in 1985. They wanted to continue this streak of luck in 1987 - but the attempt failed: "Dacait" went down at the box office. The prerequisites were actually good: a popular avenging theme, music by old master R. D. Burman (Sholay) and Sunny in a role that was tailor-made for him. But right from the start, the film bumps. It is easy to see what it all comes down to. On Sunny's vengeance campaign, of course. And you expect a lot of power from that. When Thakur is spat in the face and Sunny lights his palace with the torch from mother's pyre, the film plays perfectly on the harp of retribution. But the bad guys themselves have such clumsy exits. Beat a little, then kill, done. When a revenge epic is filmed in Bollywood, one expects a certain exaggeration. One is impaled by a divine trident (which Rawail repeated in Anjaam in 1994), but you don't see much and there isn't much more fatalistic reinforcement anyway. Why not light the Thakur, why not let someone fall into the well so that he dies like his sister? I'm not the biggest fan of the Avengers films, but if you get involved in this genre, you need certain mechanisms to get the most out of the retaliation. "Dacait" misses the chance all too often.
The attraction of the film is at best its uncompromising attitude. All rich are evil and must be eliminated. Here a socialist trait comes to the fore, which has not disappeared from Indian cinema and probably from society as a whole to this day. All exponents of power are corrupt, the peasants are the victims. When you see Sunny laying half of Pakistan in ruins in every second film today, you long for the time when the Punjab hero took on bad guys. That's more sympathetic :)
Sunny plays passably, not much is expected of him. Rakhee is the typical, always crying super-mother. The scene in which she is dishonored by dancing has quite an impact. Suresh Oberoi, Raza Murad, Dan Dhanoa and Meenakshi Seshadhri are only passable and Urmila Matondkar, still a tender 14 years old, is allowed to show her face a few times. Best Supporting Actor is clearly Paresh Rawal, who plays his diabolical cop with decadent laziness and cunning. He's the best villain in the movie - and that's why he deserves a better finish. "Dacait" just misses too many opportunities. The music is good, of the three songs I liked the Punjab number "Gaon Mein Maach Gaya Shor" best, the plot is okay, so is the staging - but the kick that makes the film so inflated, so powerful is missing, like the better revenge epics from Bollywood.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic).
Director: Rahul Rawail

Action movie

Violence * * *

Humor *

Trade Classification: Flop

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D a h e k

Reviewed 20.6.04

India 1999Neelima Bakshi (Sonali Bendre) falls in love with Sameer Roshan (Akshaye Khanna) at first sight when the two bump into each other in a post office. But the budding love is in danger: Sameer is a student and comes from a Hindu family. Neelima, however, comes from a conservative Muslim clan. This circumstance becomes life-threatening when Neelima's uncle Jabbar (Danny Denzongpa) comes out of jail after 12 years. He had once killed his sister's husband (Sonali Bendre) because he belonged to a lower caste - whereupon the sister killed herself. When he learns that Neelima loves a Hindu, he is furious. He cannot allow the family to be "dishonored".
The comparison with Bombay is obvious, but "Dahek" never comes close to Mani Rathnam's masterpiece. I was still emotionally involved most of the time. Main cause: I hate religious extremists of all stripes from the bottom of my heart. A person like the one that Danny Denzongpa embodies belongs to the scum of this world for me - and when a person fights against such religious thick-headed people, he always has my sympathy. The problem with the film, however, is that the fighting (Akshaye Khanna and Sonali Bendre) are a little too naive. At first they do not realize that they belong to different religions, then they accept death and destruction in order to protect their still very clumsy love. It works in Movieland, but it's not realistic.
The escalation of events is in the same direction. I cannot believe that the media whipped up love in such a way. And the fact that politicians abuse them for a religious war is understandable, but speculatively staged. In general, director Lateef Binny seems to have completely lost sight of his goal. Is he accusing religious agitators? Is he torpedoing political leaders? Does he say that love between people of different religions is doomed to fail? The director cannot get a grip on the shambles of the second half of the film. The seemingly conciliatory end is imprinted. And so that the message comes across at the end (religion should promote love, not hate), Shabana Azmi is allowed to speak a short epilogue.
"Dahek" is played quite okay. Sonali Bendre is handsome and solid, Akshaye Khanna is quite good too. With him, however, it becomes clear that filming was delayed for five years: studying Akshaye's dwindling head of hair is therefore one of the amusing sideline activities in "Dahek". Danny is okay as a fanatic, Dalip Tahil as well as Akshaye's father. The songs are not a hit, but almost all of them are at least nicely staged. Sonali can shine with beauty, especially in these numbers. Only the last song falls a little out of rhythm, a classy gypsy number called "Gori Aaja Mere", which is the only one that sets the pace a bit. And shows Sonali in a sexy gipsy outfit.
"Dahek" is meant well, reasonably well done, played okay and not too long. But the director gets bogged down in his own ideas and leaves behind a film that is as diffuse as it is heterogeneous. The subject definitely deserves a better work.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic).
Alternative title: Dahek: A Burning Passion
Directed by Lateef Binny

Love drama

Tension * *

Humor *

Trade Classification: Flop

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D a m i n i

Reviewed 12/26/04

India 1993Damini (Meenakshi Sheshadri) is saddened: Her father (Anjaan Srivastav) is poor and cannot marry off his daughters. Then unexpected help appears. During a dance performance, the extremely rich Shekhar Gupta (Rishi Kapoor) fell in love with Damini and asked for her hand. Shekhar's father Kadernath Gupta (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) gives his consent to the marriage. But in the Gupta house, Damini remains an outsider. She gets along better with the maid Urmi than with Shekhar's mother (Rohini Hattangadi) or his uncle (Tinnu Anand). During the Holi celebrations, a catastrophe occurs in the house: Damini watches Shekhar's brother and three other men rape Urmi. They throw the battered woman into the street. Her life is in danger, the police officer Ratan starts the investigation. Shekhar has meanwhile beaten up his brother, which he considers appropriate as a punishment. Now the family should be silent. But Damini cannot allow that and wants to tell Ratan everything. The Guptas are disturbed. For her part, Damini has no idea that Ratan desperately wants the statement so that he can supply the wealthy Tolu Bajaj (Paresh Rawal) with material to ruin the Guptas. When Damini actually gives her testimony, the Guptas hire the greasy lawyer Indrajit Chaddha (Amrish Puri), who has them declared insane. After a long period of torture, she breaks out of psychiatry and meets the drunk ex-lawyer Govind Srivastav (Sunny Deol). He wants to stand up for her.
After the hit Ghayal, director Rajkumar Santoshi and Sunny Deol reunited. With an artistically slightly better but financially slightly weaker result. But Sunny is only Santoshi's trump card in this film, because he only comes into action after 110 minutes. To make the time until then, Santoshi still has some tricks up his sleeve.He begins his film with the lovely song "Bin Saajan Jhula Jhulu", in which none other than Aamir Khan appears. He dances okay, but his dance partner Meenakshi Sheshadri steals the show from him. Nevertheless, Aamir's cameo is an early highlight, mainly because he is asked incidentally when Andaz Apna Apna will be finished - Santoshi's next film with Aamir in the lead role.
Then the plot starts rolling and it quickly becomes clear that Santoshi has a big indictment agenda this time. Even later in his career, the director repeatedly pilloried grievances, not least in his women's epic Lajja. "Damini" is a kind of preliminary stage, because here, too, a woman fights for justice. Your opponents? Half of India. The police, the media, the family, the patriarchy, the lawyers, the judges and above all the group of men who hold together across all social classes and who do everything for only pretend honor - above all torment women. The subject is and remains topical, but Santoshi presents it in a sensational way. That robs it a little of its credibility and seriousness, but it makes the film dramatically powerful.
"Damini" appears like a B-flick with a vengeance impact, rolled out to an epic 162 minutes. Damini becomes a symbol of the battered Indian woman and her accusations thunder through the courtrooms. But a woman cannot defend herself all alone, as it was not that far back in 1993 with the emancipation in Indian mainstream cinema. To do this, she needs male help. And who is better suited to this than Sunny Deol? He screams in the courtroom, he rumbles and trumpets, strictly according to the Bollywood rule: the honest lawyer is always right. Apart from the increasingly abstruse course of the negotiation, she goes along with it and the film remains involved until the last minute.
Sunny alone doesn’t matter. The other stars also shine. Meenakshi Sheshadri, certainly not one of my favorite actresses, delivers an impressive performance and is also allowed to shine in the two other songs ("Jabse Tumko Dekha", "Gawaan Hai") and an excessive dance performance. Rishi Kapoor is pale, as is so often the case in this era, but that's okay in this role because he has to be a slacker. That is why the show is stolen by the shrill characters, especially Amrish Puri. As a diabolical lawyer he is brilliant, his quirks such as brushing the hair off his face or tightening the braces are wonderful. It's just a shame that in the end he is no longer allowed to keep up in court. As soon as his character is introduced, he should have held out against Sunny and Damini, but he is silent. That doesn't fit right. Also good: Kulbushan Kharbanda, Paresh Rawal and the always slimy Tinnu Anand as a scheming uncle.
Despite its serious concerns, "Damini" is not a film to be taken too seriously. Santoshi uses his socially critical topic rather as a populist, lurid attack against all institutions and especially against the pashas of India. But because he always keeps the film exciting, gripping and entertaining, some of his messages get through to an audience that otherwise prefers to avoid any messages in films. Mission accomplished. And if he also delivers a film that is well worth seeing, there is hardly any reason to complain.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic).
Alternative title: Lightning
Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi

drama

Tension * *

Action *

Trade Classification: Above Average

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D a r n a M a n a H a i

Reviewed 8/12/03

India 2003A group of friends broke down their car in the woods. They sit down in a ruin and tell each other scary stories. Shruti (Sameera Reddy) tells of Karan (Sohail Khan) and Anjali (Antara Mali) who get into an eerie forest during their honeymoon. Romi talks about the fashion photographer Anil (Saif Ali Khan), who checks into a non-smoking hotel and has no idea what the consequences are. The third story is about the teacher Pandey (Raghuvir Yadav), who is haunted by a secret in his past. The next one is about Gayathri (Shilpa Shetty), who buys cheap apples from a strange seller (Rajpal Yadav) and experiences her blue miracle because of them. The fifth story is about the driver Ama (Vivek Oberoi) who takes a hitchhiker (Nana Patekar) who tells him he is a ghost. The last story is about the suicidal outsider Purab (Aftab Shivdasani), who wants more power to conquer his flame Abhilasha (Isha Koppikar). The gods give him the ability to stop time.
With "Darna Mana Hai", producer Ram Gopal Varma and his protégé Prawal Raman (assistant director in company) once again go unusual ways. There are no songs in the film, it tells not one, but seven stories - and they are horror stories. But as much as one has to praise RGV for it, the film remains untouched. I'm not a fan of short story collections, so-called anthologies anyway. I prefer a (good) story. And then the individual episodes are also weak to okay. "Darna Mana Hai" is never really exciting or really scary.
The best thing about the film is its fresh style - and the actors. The cast consists almost entirely of Varma alumni, most of whom do a good job. I liked the last episode with Aaftab Shivdasani best because it has a funny twist, the penultimate episode with Vivek Oberoi and Nana Patekar because it tells a nice short story with simple means and the fourth because it is well played and with a simple one Medium (apples lying around) creates an almost apocalyptic mood. The first with Sohail Khan and Antara Mali is somewhat atmospheric. Especially the picture of the hand sinking in the swamp is great. The second story with Saf Ali Khan is funny, but reminds of a segment from "Cat's Eye" (1985). The episode with Raghuvir Yadav is nothing special. And the framework is really boring. At the end there are two three things that are of interest (ghosts are nice to each other, they have nothing more to gain / lose ...), but the end itself disappoints.
True horror fans are not served with "Darna Mana Hai". There is little blood and tension. Bollywood fans only get their money's worth because of the stars. So "Darna Mana Hai" falls something between the chair and the bench. I praise Varma for its innovation and the film is not bad, but now it should make or produce a really good film again. Variety alone does not make a good film.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Anamorphic widescreen.
Alternative title: Fear is forbidden (Translation)
Directed by Prawal Raman

Horror movie

Tension * *

Action *

Trade Classification: Average

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D a r r

Reviewed 2002

India 1993Sunil Malhotra (Sunny Deol) is the best soldier in Cpt. Mehra (Dalip Tahil). Now the sun is shining for him privately too: He is going to marry the beautiful Kiran (Juhi Chawla). Little does he know that he has an adversary in the fight for her heart: Rahul (Shahrukh Khan), Mehra's son. He was in college with Kiran but never dared speak to her. He built an obsessive love for Kiran. How crazy Rahul is is also shown by the fact that he is constantly on the phone with his mother, who died in a car accident 18 years ago. Now he moves on Kiran. He even tries to kill Sunil. To escape the psychopath, Kiran and Sunil marry and fly to Switzerland.
Over-producer and hit director Yash Chopra had a few flops on his back in the early 90s when he directed "Darr". But when the film was released on Christmas 1993, it quickly became a hit (second best-selling film in 1993) and was another important step up for Shahrukh Khan. And that is exactly where the problem lies - which I would like to discuss before discussing the film: This is actually Shahrukh's film. And that caused a lot of trouble behind the scenes. Sunny Deol said that Yash Chopra lied and betrayed him because Shahrukh became the actual tragic hero of the film. That is partly true, because when Juhi shouts "Kill him! Kill him, Sunil!" and Shahrukh gives her a sad look, one feels sorry for him. With him, the real villain. Macho hero Sunny felt betrayed by it. But that is not primarily Chopra's fault, but proof of Shahrukh's star appeal. He's simply more talented and more charming than Sunny, which is precisely why he pushes himself into the center of the film. The hearts fly to him more than the stoic Sunny. And that's exactly what the seasoned man couldn't take. Since then, he has not spoken to Chopra and vowed never to make a film with him again. Since then, he has also had an argument with Shahrukh. Shahrukh, on the other hand, became a megastar - thanks in part to this film. With Chopra he shot Dil To Pagal Hai in 1997, while Sunny also celebrated huge successes without Chopra. And a third played a role in the matter: Aamir Khan. He should have played Shahrukh's role, but wanted changes in the script (more interaction with Sunny, different ending) and was fired. He later said that Sunny was absolutely right with his criticism - and never shot with Chopra. Well, neither Aamir nor Sunny nor Shahrukh harmed the war - today all three are hit suppliers.
So now to the film itself. As already indicated, Shahrukh is the villain, but the star of the film. He's awesome. Juhi remains a bit colorless and Sunny is stoic as ever. Anupam Kher something irritates as a comic relief. Chopra's staging is rather unspectacular, which also applies to the dance interludes. The best song is Shahrukh's pleading "Jaadu Teri Nazar", followed by "Tu Mere Samne". Ah, and almost an hour of the film is set in Switzerland. The finale (a mix of "Cape Fear" and "Dead Calm") even happens on Lake Geneva. A well-made film that is worth watching. But the hustle and bustle behind the camera was actually even more exciting ...
Available here on DVD (D)
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic)
Alternative titles: Dharr; anxiety (Translation)
Directed by Yash Chopra

Love thriller

Tension * *

Humor *

Trade Classification: Super Hit

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D a s t a k

Reviewed 3/14/04

India 1996Sushmita Sen (Sushmita Sen) was named Miss Universe in 1994. Sharad Sale (Sharad Kapoor) looks spellbound at the television and becomes a fan. An obsessed fan! Two years later, he continues to invade Sushmita's privacy. When he murders two of her friends, Inspector Rohit Malhotra (Mukul Dev) appears. He knows Sushmita from school and falls in love with her. But the killer has to be caught first. Rohit has a plan: He wants to lure Sharad into a trap in the Seychelles. But the highly intelligent psychopath is not easily caught ...
One looks in vain for anything new in this thriller by the Bhatt clan (Mahesh, Mukesh, Vikram), because it simply mixes common elements from the Costner love thriller "Bodyguard" with Yash Chopra's hit Darr. But the Bhatts have their profession under control, and so "Dastak" is neatly staged. It is also a pleasure to see Sushmita Sen in a film for the first time. Miss Universe 1994 makes her cinema debut as herself. She already looks extremely natural, but behind her distinctive eyes and eyebrows hides a severity that benefits her as an actress in later, more mature roles (including Samay). Definitely a remarkable debut.
Anders Mukul Dev. His debut in Bollywood is marked by a lack of talent. Manoj Bajpai makes a listless brief appearance as Bannerjee, police chief in the Seychelles. Sharad Kapoor, the third debutant in the round, is at least recommended as a good villain. The Bhatts don't give him that much leeway either. The songs come off better with them. "Piya o Piya" is a mediocre song, but impressive because of its stylized staging. "Tumhe Kaise Batoon" is a very quiet, melancholy and beautiful love song, filmed in Saanen, Switzerland, among other places. "Love With Inspector Rohit" and "Mujhko Jab Aise Dekhti Ho Tum" (Switzerland), on the other hand, are dreary ballads. "Kal Beet Gaya Ye To ..." turns the pace up a bit and is filmed attractively in the Helvetian Alps - but Sushmita is even more beautiful, which shows itself from the most attractive side except for the pulled up pants.
I don't need to go into the bloody finale because it hardly offers any surprises. This motto therefore applies to the entire film. Watching because of Sushmita, because of the music by Rajesh Roshan and a few nice staging touches on the song numbers. The rest is routine.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic) ..
Alternative titles: Beat (Translation)
Directed by Mahesh Bhatt

thriller

Tension * *

Humor *

Trade Classification: Average

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D a u d

Reviewed 2003

India 1997The small crook Nandu (Sanjay Dutt) is hired by a terrorist group to steal a suitcase full of gold. With the unsolicited help of the beautiful dancer Bhawani (Urmila Matondkar) he carries out the assignment and then suspects that he has been set up. On the one hand there seems to be something significantly more valuable than gold in the suitcase and on the other hand Pinky (Paresh Rawal), Pushkar (Manoj Bajpai) and their terrorists as well as ACP Nair (Ashish Vidyarthi) and his cops are after Nandu and Bhawani.
I am definitely one of the fans of director Ram Gopal Varma, but his action comedy "Daud" is a bit of a disappointment. The pace is still quite good at the beginning, but the film sags in the middle part and towards the end I started to get pretty bored. It was also negative that Varma wanted to push 2-3 songs too many into the film. The song numbers themselves are unspectacular, but luckily Urmila is allowed to dance to the beats: Although her hairstyle and everyday clothes are already very passé, Urmila shows once again why she is one of the best dancers in Bollywood. Her moves to the experimental sounds of composer A. R. Rahman are extremely sexy (especially in the second "Tarzan" number). Already in the first song, in which Urmila becomes increasingly sexier, it is clear that Sanjay Dutt looks like a tramp next to her. He has a pretty good chemistry with her in the game scenes, but he doesn't stand a chance when dancing. She simply dances it against the wall. And that makes Sanjay look even more ridiculous.
Urmila is one of the highlights in "Daud" anyway. She is also one of the few Bollywood ladies who is allowed to spank the real hero of the film during this time. Urmila is sexy - and tough. A typically good female role for Varma, even if it has to subside in the second half.
I still have to touch on one big problem: It's the basic tone of the film. A light comedy with action elements is ok, but Varma simply misses with some sequences what one would expect in this genre. For example, there is a car chase in which the cops chase the two main characters. Quite a few of the police officers die in the process. It is clear that the cops are not allowed to catch the two, but the cops, who are not corrupt in the film and are clearly in the service of good, just stupid (one gets under the wheel of the moving truck) just don't want to get on with the sound fit into such an action comedy. An equally strangely oblique scene in the landscape is the one in which Pinky orders a whole family (including the boy) to be shot. The jokes that are interspersed don't work and the violence of the scene takes place offscreen. That leaves a very stale aftertaste. That's strange, because Varma is usually someone who hits the mood in his films well.
So "Daud" is clearly one of his weaker films. He's not bad, just average and suffers from a few serious problems (especially Sanjay Dutt). If you look at him, look forward to a convincing Urmila, sexy dance interludes and a first half that is reasonably entertaining.
Available here on DVD (D)
My disk (GB): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 4.0. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic)
Alternative title: Daur - Run(German DVD title)
Directed by Ram Gopal Varma

Action comedy

Action * *

Humor * *

Trade Classification: Average

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D a u l a t K i J u n g

Reviewed 6/8/05

India 1992Bhushan Chaudhary (Shafi Inamdar) and Mr. Agarwal (Tiku Talsania) are two wealthy builders who have been archenemies for years.However, in college, Chaudhary's son Rajesh (Aamir Khan) and Agarwal's daughter Asha (Juhi Chawla) fell in love! In fact, Agarwal soon finds out about the relationship and puts an end to it by locking his daughter in her room. The architect Haribhai (Paresh Rawal) and his dubious colleague Mike (Dalip Tahil) see this as an opportunity to outdo Chaudhary and Agarwal in a land deal. Haribhai convinces Rajesh that he should run away with Asha - so that the two fathers would be distracted with the search for the children. Meanwhile, Asha's aunt helps her escape. Rajesh and Asha run away and hit a seriously injured man on the way. He puts the map with the route to a treasure in Asha’s pocket. The biker Rana (Kiran Kumar), Mike and the opaque K.K. Topji (Kader Khan) interested.
Like many earlier Aamir films, "Daulat Ki Jung" is a largely unsuccessful, rough version of an 80s masala flick with the kitsch romance of an early 90s film. Unfortunately, the mixture doesn't work out very well, Director S.A. It's hard to congratulate Kader for his only work behind the camera. It is not only the bumpy staging and the wishy-washy tone of the film that displease, it is above all the rummaged plot that steals with relish from Hollywood models. I know the thing with the lunar eclipse from an adventure film whose title I have forgotten (maybe "Jewel of the Nile" or "Quatermain"?)
The first half of the film is still reasonably entertaining with the typical romantic games and angry parents - memories of the Dev-Anand classic Tere Ghar Ke Samne are awakened. Above all, the arguments between the two fathers and the policeman (Viju Khote) make for a good laugh in this act. But the more "Daulat Ki Jung" turns into an adventure film, the more absurd it becomes. At the latest with the appearance of Kader Khan's character as a kind of hybrid of Django and Dracula, the plot falls into huge logic holes from which he can no longer free himself. So if you're looking for a film that makes a lot of sense, you've come to the wrong place. Or after someone who neatly tells his storylines to the end - the whole Paresh Rawal subplot, for example, is wasted and even the actual resolution happens abruptly.
Only the actors can enhance the whole thing. Aamir and Juhi harmonize well, the more or less short appearances by Kader Khan, Paresh Rawal, Dilip Tajil, Kiran Kumar, Viju Khote and the hysterical Tiku Talsania are not bad at all. And the music that doesn't get stuck in your ears also offers some nice melodies for the moment. The absurd story and the sloppy staging save neither notes nor actors: "Dhaular Ki Jung" is confused, absurd and unfocused cinema, as Bollywood saw enough in the 80s and early 90s. Fortunately, Aamir Khan is now over these types of trashy throwaway films.
Available here on DVD
My disk (IND): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic).
Attention: This Ultra DVD is obviously just drawn from the old video and is of poor quality. But in return for the old WEG disc, the Ultra DVD has English subtitles!
Director: S.A. Squad

Action adventure
romance

Humor * *

Action * *

Trade Classification: Flop

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D a y a v a n

Reviewed 11/28/03

India 1988Shakti's father, a wanted crook, is murdered by the police. The boy takes revenge immediately, kills the guilty inspector and flees to Mumbai. There he grew up in a poor part of the city. As an adult, Shakti (Vinod Khanna) is respected by everyone in the ghetto. He is the one to turn to when there is a problem. When he kills the corrupt police inspector Ratan Singh (Amrish Puri), his career as a gang boss begins. The people in the neighborhood call him "Dayavan" (the good-hearted) and love him because he does everything for them and unconditionally fights for them. He gets married (Madhuri Dixit) and has two children. But then his wife is killed in a gang war. Shakti raises the children alone. When they grow up, the son wants to follow in his father's footsteps, while the daughter rejects her father's increasingly brutal tactics.
With "Dayavan" actor and director Feroz Khan shot a remake of Mani RathnamsNayagan (1987). This already indicates that the film is quite unnecessary - because few Indian directors are better than Rathnam anyway. Khan himself knows that too and therefore sticks very, very closely to Mani's model. Some scenes even almost reach the quality of Nayagan, because Rathnam had already structured them perfectly a year beforehand. But the emotions are less than ideal. A good example is the end when the boy asks his grandpa whether he is a good or a bad person. With Nayagan the tears flowed in me, with "Dayavan" I was just slightly touched. The emotional effect is not the same - and that testifies to Rathnam's flair for staging and feeling. In addition, Kamala Haasan is simply the better actor than Vinod Khanna.
Most famous is "Dayavan" because of Madhuri Dixit. The beautiful celebrated her first big hit with the film and showed a lot of skin. She even kissed (pictures here), which irritated part of the audience - and from which Madhuri also distanced herself. Since then she has tried strictly to maintain a clean image, which she has largely succeeded in doing. Actually, she's okay, but she got even more convincing later. The co-stars are largely good. The songs are not particularly spectacular, but they are neatly staged. "Dayavan" is a solid film that spans three generations and packs in scene by scene. However, the originality leaves a lot to be desired. Better look at the original first.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 4.0. with English subtitles. Widescreen (not anamorphic).
Director: Feroz Khan

drama

Tension * *

Action *

Trade Classification: Below Average

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D e e d a r

Reviewed May 21, 2005

India 1951Little Shamu comes from a poor family and is the best friend of the rich Mala. Their father does not approve of the children's friendship. When the two have an accident while riding, Mala's father throws Shamu and his mother, who worked as a servant, out of the house. The shock kills the mother and this trauma blinds Shamu. He is rescued and raised by Choudhury (Yakub) and his foster child Champa. Many years later Shamu (Dilip Kumar) is a talented singer and very good friends with Champa (Nammi) - she even loves him. Shamu's voice also inspires the ophthalmologist Dr. Kishore (Ashok Kumar) doing eye surgery on him. But the shock runs deep when Shamu has to see that Kishore is engaged to none other than Mala (Nargis).
The Bengali director Nitin Bose, cousin of Satyajit Rai and maker of the blockbusters Gunga Jumna, landed a huge hit with "Deedar". Not surprising, since he was able to sign three of the greatest stars of the era: Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar and Nargis. But her fatalistic love triangle left me surprisingly cold. The plot glides in predictable melancholy trajectories, the theatricality is at the limit and the staging is no sweeper. With a running length of only 118 minutes, Bose also incorporates a whopping 12 songs. Some are quite short, others quite good - but next to so much vocals there is hardly any room for action.
The actors master their parts very solidly, the editing of the later director Bimal Roy (Devdas, Bandini) creates a pleasant flow and just: a few of the songs are really good. But for "Deedar" to fill the coffers in 1951 and unite three superstars, he is simply too disappointing. Too average. There really are better examples to explore the talents of everyone involved.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Full screen.
Director: Nitin Bose

drama

Humor *

Tension *

Trade Classification: Super Hit

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D e e w a a n a p a n

Reviewed 2003

India 2001The beautiful Suraj (Arjun Rampal) meets the sweet Kiran (Dia Mirza), who is on vacation in the mountains - and falls in love. Unfortunately, the two soon lose sight of each other again. Suraj goes to Mumbai (Om Puri, Smita Jaykar) with his parents, where he goes to college and is accepted into the sports team. Suddenly he meets Kiran again. The spark jumps again. But Kiran's father is Ranvir Chaudhary (Vinod Khanna), one of the most powerful men in town. He refuses to accept the relationship and gives Suraj an ultimatum to leave town.
A dream role for model Arjun Rampal: from loverboy to action hero. The story doesn't look like much, but Arjun makes the best of it. Compared to Aankhen and Moksha, it looks scratched here and no longer as attractive. Maybe it's because of the bad haircut. The funniest scenes are those in which Arjun mutates into a real action hero. Somehow they don't seem to belong in the film. Once he even takes off his shirt in slow motion when it rains. Yes, this is something for the ladies, but it is almost embarrassing. Only: When Suraj beats up Ranvir's men in the (first) rain fight, one really fevered. It was just necessary for the thing to finally explode after so many minutes - and you almost want to hit along. Of course only if I don't have to take off my shirt.
Available here on DVD
I saw the US version (code 0) in Hindi with English subtitles.
Director: Ashu Trikha

Love musical /
Action drama

Action * *

Tension * *

Trade Classification: Below Average

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D e e w a a r

Reviewed 2003

India 1975Anand Verma (Satyen Kappu) fights for his buddies in the coal mine. But the evil owner kidnaps his family and forces Anand to sign a bad contract for the workers. The buddies beat up Anand, brand him a traitor, whereupon he moves away. His family stays behind, son Vijay is tattooed by angry workers: "My father is a thief" is forever on his arm. Mother Verma (Nirupa Roy) has had enough and travels with her two sons to Bombay, where she works hard to finance Ravi's upbringing. Vijay, on the other hand, works as a shoe cleaner. Later as an adult, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) got a job at the port. When he rebelled against gangster Samant and his protection racketeers, he noticed Samant's rival Davar. Vijay joins the smuggler and gets rich thanks to his criminal career. Meanwhile, his brother Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) becomes a police inspector ... and Vijay's opponent.
It is astonishing that Sholay did not win all of the Indian film awards in 1975. The all-time No. 1 hit Bollywood had to admit defeat by "Deewaar". Yash Chopra's gripping, dramatic thriller about a fratricidal war won most of the awards and made one particularly happy: Amitabh Bachchan, who also played the lead role in Sholay. Amitabh's rise, which began in 1973 with Zanjeer, was already in full swing, cementing Amitabh's image as "Angry Young Man".
It is precisely this "Angry Young Man" role that he plays absolutely convincingly in "Deewaar". Especially in the first half, Amitabh's physical presence is so enormous that everyone next to him pales. The first half builds up the story in an exciting way and full of fatalistic symbolism, while the second half rolls out the moral dilemma of the film. In this second half there are a few lengths and a few religiously transfigured scenes, but these don't like to spoil the impression. The fact that Shashi Kapoor remains a little pale and the gangsters don't really get a chance does not distract from the Amitabh show. This is his movie and another jewel in his crown. The songs are unspectacular, but Maestro R. D. Burman's John Barry-esque music is groovy.
PS: Amitabh wears the number 786 at the port, which brings him luck in the course of the film. As a porter in Coolie, he wears exactly the same badge: 786 - a Muslim lucky number.
Available here on DVD
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 2.0. with English subtitles. Full screen
Alternative titles: Deewar; The wall (Translation)
Directed by Yash Chopra

Thriller drama

Tension * *

Action * *

Trade Classification: Super Hit

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D e e w a a r

Reviewed 7/23/04

India 2004In December 1971 war broke out between India and Pakistan. Thousands of soldiers returned to their homeland after the armistice. But 54 Indian soldiers remained in Pakistan. The governments of both countries have forgotten them. 33 years later the wife (Tanuja) of Major Ranvir Kaul (Amitabh Bachchan) is still fighting for the return of her husband. In fact, he is in jail with his men and manages to have a letter smuggled into India. Now Ranvir's son Gaurav (Akshaye Khanna) knows that his father is still alive. He has to free him. So he travels to Pakistan, cheats his way across the country to the camp where Kaul and his troops have been relocated. One of them, the loudmouth Khan (Sanjay Dutt), manages to escape. Gaurav saves him and persuades Khan to help the other men escape ...
This expensive epic has nothing to do with the Amitabh Bachchan hit Deewaar (1975). The subtitle makes the plot clearer: "Let's Bring Our Heroes Home". Bring brave Indians out of the prisons of the wicked Pakistanis. Yawn Has anyone slept through the signs of the times? Even Chuck Norris is past his "missing in action" days, but no, director Milan Luthria (Chori Chori) thinks that's still in vogue. Is not it. The plot of "Deewaar" has been stale since the genre peaked with "The Great Escape". And the anti-Pakistan faxes have been a thing of the past for years.
Worst of all is this "bad neighbor, beautiful motherland" gossip at the beginning. Amitabh Bachchan is allowed to look too often pregnant with meaning and talk about how heroic the men are who sucked on mother India's breast. You are tempted to press the fast-forward button. In between there are few highlights, the plot is slowly developed. The director's style is neat, so that "Deewaar" at least looks good. Also acoustically. The flood of background music is exhausting in the long run, but the few songs are pretty. "Todenge deewaar hum" is a short, moderate perseverance song. "Marhaba" is a number with cool Arabic rhythms, if a little out of place. "Ali ali" is a clean montage song and "Chaliye ve chaliye" has a good refrain. The highlight, however, is "Piya baawari", a pretty ballad in which Amrita Rao is simply seductive. Yes, she can even dance in the rain. The man's heart melts.
The cute Amrita has been known since Main Hoon Na at the latest (by the way, a politically completely opposite work) and she also leaves her mark here in the midst of this overwhelming testosterone power. Her appearance is short, her exit from the film a bit clumsy, but even so she is convincing. Sanjay Dutt is not seen for long either and is brilliant. However, the film belongs to two other men: Amitabh Bachchan and Akshaya Khanna. Both experienced players, both with good performances. At Amitabh, the gray-beard-dark-hair look is more annoying this time than ever, but as always it plays brilliantly. Small but nice also the role of the camp manager, sadistically embodied by K.K. Menon.
In the second half there is finally some tension and action. You almost forget that the whole thing is based on Pakistan vs. India, because it's all about how the boys can break out. At the very end there is again some patriotism and pathos, but all of this is modest compared to junk like L.O.C. "Deewaar" may not be all the rage in terms of content, yes, it even belongs to the last decade and it may have some logic gaps - but its design is quite convincing. Not a hit, but handsome.
Available here on DVD (D)
My disk (US): Code 0 NTSC. Hindi 5.1. with English subtitles. Anamorphic widescreen.
Alternative titles: Deewaar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home; Deewaar - Hell Without Return; The wall (Translation)
Directed by Milan Luthria

Action movie