Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bandh Darwaza (1990)

The Master leads a charmed life: He has a cooler cape than that wimpy Dracula, hypnotically red eyes and the most beautiful lair any demonic being of the vampiric persuasion could ask for. Said lair isn't just spacious as well as dark, damp and unnaturally foggy, it also contains a swimming pool (mostly used for bathing virgins before biting and de-virginizing them) and an astonishingly big ugly statue of a bat - with red glowing eyes of course. If this isn't enough to make you shiver in breathless adoration, let me tell you that The Master is the leader of his own private vampire cult as well. It is wonderful, really. Whatever The Master desires his minions - Mullet Man, Woman Who Looks Like A Deranged Drag Queen With An Unhealthy Love Of Leopard Patterns, Pudgy Man With Fake Bald Head Who Should Really Wear A Shirt, Hypno Guy With Fake Beard and Other Guy With Fake Beard - will get for him, or his minion's minions, The Nameless Henchmen Who Stole Brother Tuck's Robes, will do so. Did I mention the writhing lady dancers?

The Master's great enemy is the local Thakur (possibly the first uncorrupt Thakur in Bollywood history?), who has sworn to some day kill His Evilness. I'm not quite sure what stops him. He knows who his enemy is, he knows that The Master lives (if I may call it that) and corrupts the local female population to sin inside that swell temple on the Black Mountain, yet he does nothing. It is possible that his private troubles distract him from the more important things. His wife, and I quote here "is like a barren patch of sand" in which he has been trying to plant the strong and beautiful flowers of his children for the past five years. The state of affairs has degraded so much already that the Thakur's mother (a hobby florist?) is starting to shove pictures of other women whom she deems useful as secondary flower beds in his face.Don't you just love it how everyone is completely sure that the wife is the one who can't produce children?

Still, Thakur and wife love each other very much, and nobody is less happy about the lack of a stinking and shrieking little monster in the family than she is. But her maid - secretly a core member of the vampire cult - knows someone who can help the poor woman in her plight. She just has to follow her to The Master's temple. The wife agrees with a certain hesitation, yet follows her maid into Vampire Central. The Master promises her that he is well able to solve the little problem for her, she just has to agree that she will keep the child only if it is a boy. If it is a girl, she will have to send her to The Master. She agrees, and the gracious vampire proceeds to "bite" her. This "bite" results in the wondrous birth of a little baby girl nine months later (and solves the question who is the "barren field" in this marriage). Regrettably, the girl's mother does not want to keep her promise and refuses to give her child to The Master. This decision doesn't do her any good, though. Her maid poisons her milk and takes off to Black Mountain, baby girl in arm.

With final strength the betrayed woman tells the Thakur the truth about the child and dies (not without begging the gods to protect the girl, obviously). He finally decides to destroy "the pit of sin" and attacks it with a handful of man. And I must say, the performance of the vampire cult and its leader here is less than satisfying. Who isn't killed outright runs for her life; The Master himself succumbs to one puny dagger-poke to the heart.

Nearly a happy end, it seems, but in truth just a short twenty-five minute teaser before the main titles of the film start (and before Johnny Lever's first terrifying appearance).

Is it possible that the surviving members of the cult will start their evil works again when the baby is grown up? Is it possible that a few drops of blood will revive The Master to all his glory again?

See the answers to this questions in the rest of the movie! Also:

See an abominable dance during a musical number made worse by the bewitched sub-Mithun (our hero, oh yes) hallucinating another, even worse dancer!

See the mighty race between horse-drawn carriage and jeep!

See the female lead characters get captured and/or kidnapped so often you'll lose count! (And may I just say here that the absurd frequency of that happening is nearly subversive?)

See a woman say come-on phrases like the stinking drunk from the bar on the corner!

See Johnny Lever get slapped!

See some of the ugliest pieces of clothing of the Eighties in the Nineties!

See an Indian woman using Fu! (and getting captured anyway)

See our heroes stumble through very nice Indian landscape in search of the newest victim of a kidnapping! (Pro-Tip: She is in the same temple where you found her the last time. Not that you should look there. Or try to attack your light-hating enemy by day, for that matter)

See a man dressed like a pimp in the first half of the film, and acting like one in the second!

See Sub-Mithun-Fu and Pimp-Fu!

See The Master breaking through a brick wall! And another! And a window! And another brick wall again!

As you can see, Bandh Darwaza is a film full of charms. It may be the very dubious charms of a completely mad piece of pulp, but charms they still are. Director/producers Shyami & Tulsi Ramsay are the father's of Bollywood's short horror boom. Following this impressive outing I'd call them a mixture of Roger Corman and William Castle, in any case people whose other films I'll seek out as fast as possible.

Before I start foaming at the mouth in enthusiasm, I'll talk a little about the less successful parts of the film.

Seldom have I seen a less talented bunch of actors in one movie - those not completely made of wood are mostly trying to out-bug-eye Amrish Puri (who is the only thing really missing here), with a reasonable amount of success, I might add. Well, if I had to wear the kind of clothing they have to wear, I'd probably make bug-eyes, too.

The musical numbers are fortunately few. Not that the songs themselves were bad, it's just that none of the actors can dance any better than act. Never again will I make fun of Karishma Kapoor's dancing.

But Bandh Darwaza has some real strengths as well. The vampire make-up is stiff and weird, yet also original, and The Master with his snarling and staring makes quite an impressive figure (also observe how big he looks).

You also can't say the film doesn't have a sense of style, it just isn't a cultured style. The Ramsays aren't ashamed of the cheapness and pulpiness of their film at all, on the contrary they revel in it, bathing everything in (metaphorical and non-metaphorical) lurid colors that stop just short of breaking the moral rules of Bollywood cinema completely.

The extreme emphasis on the most lurid and extreme moments of Bandh Darwaza's script gives the film a fascinating drive, the kind of raw energy that drives a good pulp novel (that I suspect the Ramsays to be more artistic than they let on isn't important here; it's just one thing more they have in common with the best pulp writers).

 

5 comments:

Beth said...

Wow.

Um.

Yeah.

I'm curious about these movies, but I just don't think I could handle them. Women being offed with frequency is obviously problematic for me (as is the wife being punished multiply - and I'm sure many other points too); on the other hand, many of those "See!"s appeal.

You know what might help me make up my mind? SCREEN CAPS.

I see Aruna Irani is in this. How is she?

lurple said...

Sounds pretty interesting. I've got a pretty long list of Bollywood stuff lined up at the moment, and a heap of other stuff... but I'll have to check this out some day. :)

I need a stable of minions like that. Mullet Man, go do the laundry! Woman Who Looks Like A Deranged Drag Queen With An Unhealthy Love Of Leopard Patterns.... get some new clothes. Seriously.

Beth said...

Ha! There are so many characters in Bollywood whom I wish to take on a shopping expedition.

lurple, what else have you got lined up?

houseinrlyeh said...

Beth - You want screen caps? That's like saying you want to go blind before watching the whole film.
I'm not sure if you could stomach the film, either. Its sexual politics are deeply suspect; I just have a hard time taking them seriously when they are as over-blown as here. It's like some of those right-wing "Christian" web-sites, where you have a hard time to decide if it's a parody or the real thing.
Aruna Irani is as bad as the rest of them I think.

Lurple - I know that problem. My sources tell me that "Purana Mandir", the other film on the Bollywood Horror Collection is even supposed to be good in a more usual interpretation of the word.
The minions are theoretically fine, I agree, but having to look at them every day would be hard on the eyes. :)

lurple said...

Beth: on my plate at the moment, I have:

The infamous Papi Gudia, which I really must watch ASAP because Chucky's 20th anniversary is in a week or two, and I need to do a review of it for Cinema Suicide.

* Kuch Kuch Hotha Hai
* Don (the new one)
* Koi... Mil Gaya (yes, I know I watched Krrish first)
* Taarzan The Wonder Car (about a guy who dies and comes back as a car to get his revenge... with Amrish Puri!)

I also want to watch that sports movie you mentioned on your site recently, Chak De India.

It's a long list for me because I rotate between countries so much. And I've noticed I've left Korea completely off my review list so far, which is bizarre because I watch a lot of Korean films.