Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bombay 405 Miles (India, 1980)


Director: Brij
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji; Lyricist: Indeevar
Year: 1980
Duration: 143 minutes

For much of its running time, Bombay 405 Miles is an amiable somewhat middling mix of comedy and crime, but in the final 45 minutes the director decides to unbuckle his seat belt and let all hell break loose as the film turns into an entertaining mess of fisticuffs, flying bodies and seduction in which no coincidence is left untouched. Coincidences were often the life blood of Bollywood films during the 1960’s and 1970’s in which the chances were that your long lost brother turns out to be your best buddy and the villain happens to have killed your father thirty years ago. This film has a coincidence under foot at every turn, but one senses that the filmmakers were almost having fun with this filmic device right to the end when an identical twin shows up in the final frame. Throw in a great cast that includes Zeenat Aman, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Amjad Khan along with character actors Pran, Bhagwan, Iftekhar and Helen and the film is if far from being a classic still silly enough to be quite enjoyable.

Master forger Kanhalya (Khanna) gets booted out of New Delhi instead of being sent to jail at the same time that the master safe cracker Kishan (Sinha) is forced to leave Calcutta by the authorities. They end up at the same bus stop where they immediately recognize each other as kindred souls and decide to become partners in crime. They also meet up with another charming crook, a con woman named Radha (Zeenat) and without hesitation they attempt to woo her together in song “You posses the one element that makes everyone lust for you. Great complexion, fabulous figure, a treasure chest of beauty” (Zeenat certainly had all that and more and her “treasure chest” certainly brought her fame and fortune). But Radha wants nothing to do with these two ragamuffins as she is on her way to Bombay (which is 405 miles away) to build a successful life in crime. The two men get put off the bus and decide to make their way to Bombay on the top of a freight train. There they spot seven thugs chasing after an old man and a small girl and promptly knock them all off the train – the old man is dying but before doing so he tells them that the girl is worth millions. Bing. A light goes off in their heads and they decide to hold on to this cute little tot named Munni.

They don’t know it (but we the lucky viewers do) but she is the daughter of Ranvir Singh (Iftekhar), a successful businessman who came home from a trip to Singapore to find his dead family laid out like appetizers on the dining table. They were all executed by his insane brother Veer Singh (Amjad Khan) who wants the family fortune and has a laugh so evil that it would embarrass Gabbar Singh (from Sholay). What would you expect though from a man who when accused of being a “drunk pervert”, replies “Gambling and womanizing are the decoration of the brave”. But his henchmen have made one mistake – the girl they killed was not Ranvir’s daughter but instead the niece of an old servant (the old man on the train) who was put in charge of her by his brother Masterji (Pran), who is yet another criminal who lives in Bombay. Bombay is clearly a magnet for more than people who want to make it in the movies. Before shooting Ranvir, Veer (as maniacs are wont to do) admits all this not knowing that the doll Ranvir has brought back for Munni has a recording device! Once he realizes the error, Veer orders his men to find and dispose of Munni.

It all comes together in Bombay when our two heroes try to find out who Munni belongs to so that they can collect a reward, meet up with Radha who is now a student in larceny under the tutelage of Masterji, discover that the mistress (Helen) of Veer is Masterji’s former wife and the mother of the dead girl and that Kalhanya had unknowingly forged Ranvir’s confession that he had killed his own family! It all moves to a different delicious level though once Munni gets run over, Kalhanya slices his wrist open to give her his blood (“doctor take all my blood if need be” as it gushes all around the hospital room), they fall through a trap door with a burning fire under them, are attacked by a motorcycle gang, little Munni gets tossed around like a football and dropped from a large height (don’t worry – Masterji drives his jeep through a brick wall and makes a nice catch), hand grenades suddenly appear en mass and the two heroes magically learn kung fu and can flip long distances – and thankfully through all this the doll remains intact.

The best scene though is pure sweaty sleaze – Kalhanya is trapped in a van with a bomb about to explode – so the good guys (crooks that they may all be) decide that the best way to distract the seven horny gang members is to have Radha drive up in a van and with the funky song na na na ye kya karne lage ho piercing the night air, moans her way through it giving off the impression that she is inside having sex “Oh you naughty boy. Love is enjoyed when both are breathless” and the gang begin practically humping the van as they peer inside and see small flashes of leg and shoulder. In the meantime Kishan frees his friend. It never hurts having a sex bomb around. That would go for most situations in life.

Saved by a final wonderful 45 minutes, Bombay 405 Miles just wants me to continue watching Bollywood oldies.

My rating for this film: 7.0

No comments: