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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Action packed (Ankhen)

Why is Ramanand Sagar's spy thriller called Ankhen? I think it should have been christened Aatish. For, every sequence contains sheer fireworks. Crackling and bursting with excitement and action, this 1968 thriller was not a blockbuster for no reason. Dharmendra as the dashing spy, Mala Sinha as his beautiful agent, Jeevan as the odious enemy chief, Mehmood as the comical aide and spinechilling twists at every turn, Ankhen is a riveting masterpiece. A very desi James Bond-ish adventure this is...
Harping on the dangers of terrorism wrecking the thread of the country, Sagar weaves a compact drama focussing on a handful of patriotic countrymen who are not afraid to lay their lives for their country. Though he never points at Pakistan for the breeding ground of such terror, the suggestion is obvious. Cross-border terrorism entering India via the border and the seas. Only that these enemies are dressed like armymen and have dens that look extremely dramatic. Twirling staircases, funny doors and OTT charades make them devious and funny at the same time. They are ripping India apart with their smuggled bombs, guns, drugs and weapons. Most importantly they are ruining the peace fabric of the country. Diabolical to the core, they have support from a few spineless betrayers and powerful terror lords operating from abroad. But, getting under the skin of these goons is no mean job.
At the helm of affairs is a retired Major (Nazir Hussain) of the Indian Armed Forces (apparently he was given the title by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose). He, along with his men, are helping the Indian law to fight these terrible forces. Though the fight is difficult and dangerous, he will not rest before the crooks are behind bars. Sunil (Dharmendra), his son, is a brave spy agent supporting his father in this noble cause. He is armed with a training in Judo and is dexterous with all kinds of spy tricks. He has at his disposal all the latest gadgets and gizmos to make his fight easier. He knows how to fool the enemies with his clever makeup (incidentally it also hides the fact that he is drop-dead handsome!). He can balance himself on narrow window sills. He can withstand bomb explosions. He knows how to floor pretty young ladies (read Mala Sinha and Princess Zenum of Algeria). And yes, he can also fight a ravenous tiger!!! Hindi spy thrillers never got more colourful or more adventurous!!
Doc X (now that's a nice name!) and Captain are trying to destroy India with the help of random explosions, smugglery and terror. They have a neat team assisting them in their dens in the India border as well as abroad. They correspond to their cronies abroad through code language and can go to any length to further their cruel cause (kidnapping the retired major's grandson and bumping of every Tom, Dick and Harry to achieve the end). Jeevan is Doc X and he is outright funny. His mannerisms, his wierdly husky voice, his monocles, his eerie laugh, everything about him reminds me of the loony villains of James Bond thrillers. He sports an Armyman's costume (don't ask me why) and pretends to be a benevolent doctor with the help of a wig) when he is not planning his devious exploits. His cavish den has all the modern electronic devices that will baffle you. Watch out for the needle pointed boards closing in on Babloo, the poor kidnapped kid! That's just the beginning of it. Doc X's cronies are Madam (Lalita Pawar), Captain (Madan Puri), Akram (a betrayer from the Major's clan) and Lily (a grown up Daisy Irani in a miniscule role!). Madan Puri is quite okay as the scheming cold-blooded villain. It is Pawar who shines in her short role. Initially she sports tacky westerns (green suit, a nurse's costume with a red cape!) as Madam. But, when she has to fake her way into the Major's house as his relative, she sparkles as the harsh old-fashioned aunt. She is at the top of her game emotionally blackmailing Kumkum as the undercover enemy agent!
Sagar takes us to exotic locales--Japan, Beirut and Bal'rut. He acquaints us with exotic characters. Syed, an international agent of Doc X, Nadeem (Sujit Kumar), the spy who is wearing a mask to dupe Sunil, Princess Zenum, the villain's moll who falls in love with Sunil, an Arabic diamond merchant, Mehmood, the motormouth spy comedian and Meenaxi, the beautiful singer who is also an undercover spy agent. What more do you expect?
Meenaxi (Mala Sinha) is a fireball. Smart, stylish and sassy, she knows how to nab the false Nadeem. Watch out for the hilarious scene in Bal'rut where Mehmood and Dhumal scare Nadeem enough that he is forced to drop his charade. Posing as Greek spirits they look spooky and funny at the same time!
The adrenaline-pumping film is embellished by an amazing score by Ravi. And, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd Rafi, Asha Bhonsle and Manna Dey make the songs just so wonderful. My favourites are Gairon pe karam, picturised on Meenaxi. Stabbed by jealousy when Sunil is lavishing his attention on Princess Zenum at a party, she softly rebukes him for neglecting her love. I must say Mala Sinha looks oh-so-glamorous in her shimmery pink gown. The other buoyant number is Tujhko rakkhhey ram, picturised on Mala Sinha, Mehmood and Dhumal posing as begging fakirs while trying to track the missing Sunil. I love it when Mehmood says, "De de international fakir aya hain!" and "Dinar nahin to dollar chalega!"
Kumkum's bhajan, Meri sunle araj banwari, is awesome, too. Crying her heart out to God for her missing baby, Kumkum's plea and tears will melt you. While Sinha looks resplendant (and dances with two girls, one of whom resembles Helen) in her sea green costume in the bouncy Arabic club song Lut ja, she looks a bit funny in her western gear and hat in Milti hain zindagi mein mohabbat. But, the songs are just amazing! One thing, the songs never hinder the pace of the film. They just add to the fun!
Ankhen is a story of many firsts. It is the first big budget spy thriller. It has a huge star cast. It has stupendous action and special effects. It uses unique code names such as Shere Punjab, Tipu Sultan and Taj Mahal. That is not all. It shows a woman pursuing a man romantically!! Mala Sinha is relentlessly pursuing Dharmendra despite his constant reminder that they should just concentrate on their duty. Even Princess Zenum is the first one to tell Sunil that she loves him, without bothering about the consequences...
The most awesome thing in Ankhen is that the damsel is the one rescuing the knight from the enemy's den! That sure sounds exciting, doesn't it?


  1. It's called Ankhen because you need eyes to see all the goodness in this film (especially Garam Dharam)? ;D

    I LOVE this film. It might be cheesy and a Bond rip-off, but it has a coherent plot and flashing lights that fit right in to it, and "international fakirs" that no film should be seen without! :D

  2. @Bollyviewer: I agree with you cent percent. What amazing international fakirs!!! Awesome film!! I just love every scene of it. Action packed is all I can say :)
    Thank you for the comment and the answer to why it is called Ankhen ;)

  3. I'm with you, bollyviewer! I LOVE this film. It may be cheesy and silly and whatever, but it's just so utterly enjoyable that I can't help but adore it. :-)

    I remember watching this for the first time when I was a kid, and after that, I was game for any film that starred Dharmendra and Mala Sinha: I thought all of them would be as great as this was.

    BTW, I love the poster of the film too:

  4. @Dustedoff: I get an adrenaline rush when I see this film. I was introduced to this film by my father and I am so grateful to him for this. It's fast and adventurous :) Now I'm going to see that poster :)

  5. Hi. your review made me watch this movie on youtube. loved Lalita Pawar in aunt's role.. :) and the villain's den is so typical 60's.. lol.. the best dialogue wz whn Jeevan asks his gang to blow up the den in the end.. "Hindustani sipahiyon ke haathon giraftaar hone se maut achchhi hai.." kehna padega.. bade usoolon wala villain hai!!! bt i didn't like Mala Sinha's costumes.. very tacky.. the girl who played Zenab was sooooo beautiful.. and the part where I had the heartiest laugh was when Dharmendra (later Lalita Pawar, too) searched for the hidden transmitter through that device - looked like a torch attached to a stethescope!!! seriously, what did the film-makers back then thought of the audience? Did they make movies for people with such low IQ?? anyhow, overall an okay movie.. I loved Mala Sinha in "Auron pe qaram apno pe sitam..." and she was a delight to watch when wooing Dharmendra!! (Just 1 ques. - does every1 from Japan to Beirut, Bal'rut to Algeria speak in hindi???? )

  6. @Punya: Exactly Punya, the tackiness of the film makes it all the more funny and enjoyable!!! The errors are roaring for attention, the gizmos are outrageous, everything is so kitschy, but that's the catch. It is adventurous. You just have to see it with a willing suspension of disbelief and then you will be able to enjoy it !!! Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  7. I don't know why I don't love this...I like it for sure, but not as much as I should. Lalita Pawar is awesome in it though!

  8. @Memsaab: Lalita Pawar no doubt leaves her mark no matter what the role is :) She is simply awesome.
    It's a pleasure Memsaab to see you reading my post. I'm really really excited. Thank you so much :)

  9. I don't remember the details but I had enjoyed watching this movie as a kid. I always felt Mala Sinha carried herself well in Indian as well as western attires. It's time I watch this film again.

  10. @Sunheriyaadein: Yes Mala Sinha really became stylish once the colours came into the films. I love this film and am sure you will like it too. It has great songs, too :)