It’s summer, which means eating copious amounts of grilled delicacies with more copious amounts of beer which fuel random conversations with good friends late into the humid nights. Whenever a group of Indians in their mid thirties get together and indulge in such acts of meaningless conversations , the topic of extreme camp in Hindi cinema of the 80s and 90s is one that never ceases to amuse them. Thus one crazy example after other leaves them all in splits and thanks to Youtube, they can now not only reminisce those scenes/songs but watch them right there while eating burnt corn on the cob which is washed down with lukewarm beer. What to say about the Hindi cinema of the 80s – it was a ‘genre’ in itself – it was a time when good guys were super-good, bad guys were super-bad and the women were either widowed mothers, sexually violated sisters or the leading lady who after dancing with the hero for at least 4 jarring songs will end up tied to a pole or hanging by a rope in the bad guy’s lair. Most every movie was loosely constructed around the above characters.
On one such occasion of the above said grilled delicacies and beer and random conversations in the recent past, a song in discussion was a melody by Bappi Lahiri from the 1983 K Bappaaih film “Mawaali”. The song features Jeetendra (doing some wicked dancing wearing an even wicked hoodie) and Jaya Prada mostly in a petticoat (for reasons you will soon discover, if you didn’t know already). It is sung by Asha Bhosale and Bappi Lahiri. The song is about the quandary that Jaya Prada faces from a curious problem of having her saree being blown away off her voluptuous body for reasons yet unknown to the twosome – Jeetu suggests that apparently it’s something to do with a storm her own body is whipping up – he is vocalizing Bappi’s voice and the overall result can only be summed up in a dialogue said by the Romy Rolly character in Luck By Chance – “Volcano of talent”.
Uyee Amma, Uyee Amma, mushkil yeh kya ho gayee
Tere badan se toofan utha toh saadee hawaa ho gayee
What makes this situation even more convoluted (and possibly incestuous) is that she beckons her mother for help (Amma = Mother). As I type this, I realize that this could be a ravenous subject for a Japanese graphic novel which I am told the men in that country devour on a daily basis (in present times).
In the midst of this saree-being-carried-away-by–the-wind situation, the hapless duo finds themselves amidst some common Indian village women washing clothes and then amongst bikini clad white women reveling on a beach which leaves us, the viewers, lost in a deep mystery of solving the riddle of “where in the world are Jeetu and Jaya”?. But I digress from the subject at hand, so back to the saree which has caused such a ruckus that mothers are being summoned. In the end of the song the saree which was swept away oh-so-carelessly early on, returns to neatly envelope the frolicking couple. Phew, such drama Rama-Rama!
This is only one song in the extremely hypnotic screenplay which is “Mawaali”. It seems to me that every single person who contributed to the magnificent drivel that is this movie, was stoned witless. Consider the opening scene of the movie – the Jeetu character asks Jaya Prada and her sahelis to remove their bottoms so that the good Samaritan in him can tie them together to make a rope in order to pull their broken down car which has left these damsels in distress by the side of the road.
It will be very difficult to quickly summarize the “plot” of this movie to make any semblance to anything remotely sensible but I will try nevertheless : it’s about one murder, two Jeetendras (since one Jeetu is never enough) , mistaken identities – one of them is good and the other a thief (and hence the title Mawaali, there was some thought that went into this enterprise after all). Then there is this confusion amongst the two heroines (Jaya prada and Sridevi) about which one is their respective Jeetu and a lot of forced hilarity ensues. Not to discount Sridevi’s moment of glory – if Jaya had her saree incident, Sridevi and Jeetu do some awesome dancing and yogic postures to another awesome Bappida number “ Jhopadi mein charpayee”. Aah! The pleasures, they just keep coming.
Want more, the Mawaali Jeetu speaks in a Mumbaiyya Hindi slang which must have been from this other Mumbai which is right next to Mahabalipuram or is it Guntur, I am confused. While you are gleefully watching all this drama unfold, pop comes out the ubiquitous mother of the 80s: Nirupa Roy – and mouths her standard line – “Maa hoon tumhari, maa ka kehena nahi manega” or if she wasn’t a biological mother to the hero – “Maa saman hoon, maa ka kehna nahi manega” (saman = like). This one line made the beta or bête-saman hero do absolutely ridiculously stupidest things for her – like jump into fires or a well full of snakes to save her old white-saree clad ass. Bliss! Somehow in all this Dr Sreeram Lagoo gets involved since the murder takes place in his mansion – now this man did have the nasty habit of getting sucked into many such proceedings in the movies of the 80s. What could a producer do, if you needed an old man to suffer untold miseries in your movies, you went to AK Hangal and if he was busy with some other gig being tortured silly then the only other option was Dr. Sreeram Lagoo. There wasn’t much talent pool available for these roles. Then there is the unholy trinity of Kadar Khan, Shakti Kapoor and Aruna Irani who are constantly plotting one evil after another causing a lot of mayhem in general. More bliss. Just when you think it cannot get any more blissful, there is Prem Chopra who plays the father to the Sridevi character (with a father like him, who needs to go looking out for trouble) and ensures that there is not a moment of respite to be had. If you haven’t lost it yet and find yourself in a Mawaali induced stupor, a savior arrives in the form of the Police Commissioner played by who else other than Iftekhar – the man who I am positive, wore khaki diapers, played with a real colt revolver in his toddler days and vowed to lead the joyless life of an onscreen DCP or Police Commissioner. But mock him not, since he is the one man on your side in this mess and tries very hard to bring all this to an end. How this whole enterprise comes to an end is a pleasure I am going to let you have for yourself. Trust me when I say this, there will be moments when you would not know whether to laugh or cry or bawl like a baby, or do all three at the same time. It’s in such moments that you truly appreciate the potency of whatever that the makers of this movie smoked, snorted, injected. If I could get my hands on it, I would be living a different life today.
Before you think, I am making all this up, go find the movie for yourself and watch it to your own horror or pleasure – depending on the condition of your mind. But please be warned that you must keep your dignity and your children tucked away securely. A few glasses of good quality scotch or a hit from a joint, elevates the whole Mawaali watching experience to a dimension yet to be defined by the current knowledge of physics and psychology. So if you manage to sit through the end of this exercise, do take it easy for a day or two after the experience, my advice is to lay low, stay away from any social contact unless absolutely necessary. “Mawaali” is known to have subjected the viewers to random acts of hysterical behavior leading to much trouble for them and their loved ones.