Friday, February 24, 2017

Past Misdeeds: Wardat (1981)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

A mysterious evil scientific genius (in whose hunchbacked, jodhpur-wearing glory the audience will be allowed to bask only much later in the movie) is sending out swarms of locusts to destroy the Indian rice harvest. Then, he uses his favourite henchman Shakti Kapoor (Shakti Kapoor; no, I have no idea why the actor is alright with having the bad guy named after himself, but that's not the first time I have seen this in a Bollywood film) to drown the food market in cheap, low quality rice that has been enriched with a drug that - on first impression - seems to make people just sort of horny (in a Bollywood way, obviously).

When Shakti's not taking care of the rice business, he is killing the people the suspicious Indian government has commissioned to investigate the mysterious case of the atypical acting locusts. And, just because he's a proactive kind of guy, Shakti is also setting up various murder attempts on that greatest of all Indian secret agents - Gopi (Mithun Chakraborty), also known as "Gun-Master G9". As it turns out, Gopi's so secret, his code name is even written on the side of his car. But while you can say less than pleasant things about Gopi's knack for secrecy, you can't fault the man's talent for survival, or his talent for kicking people in the face, and so Shakti's assassination attempts all come to nought.

Now, your typical James Bond-like agent would begin to develop an interest when people are trying to kill him, but Gopi prefers taking part in random musical numbers, accidentally picking up the kinda-sorta tomboyish Kajal (Kajal Kiran) who soon is crazily in love with him, and just lazing about to doing any actual work, until he can't escape the urgent calls of his boss, the man they call Chief (Iftekhar), anymore.

Not surprisingly, Chief wants Gopi to find out what all this business with the rice, the locusts and the dying agents is about. Soon, Gopi, his assistant Kabadi (Jagdeep - hear me sigh) and the quite competent in a fight Kajal have their hands full lazing about some more, ahem, I mean finding out what Shakti's plan is and who he is working for.
Shakti himself has all the while made contact with Anuradha (Kalpana Iyer), the sister of one of the Chief's dead agents, and has convinced her that Gopi is responsible for her brother's death. Knowing the agent's reputation as a lady killer, the evil Kapoor is planning on using the innocent woman as bait for his enemy.

In my mind, I have Mithun Chakraborty pegged as the go-to guy for the batshit insane sort of Bollywood films, so I found myself a little disappointed when Wardat's first ninety minutes turned out to be rather normal. Sure, there's the fact that the evil plan the film is about is as sane as the proverbial guy who takes himself for Napoleon, or the abundance of bizarre details surrounding Gopi (for example his idea of daily combat training, consisting as it does of fighting a big guy who breaks down his door and destroys his furniture in the mornings; I suppose the Indian government pays rather well), but in the world of the James Bond inspired super spy film, this sort of thing is rather mundane.

Fortunately, I'm trying very hard not to judge movies on what I expect of them, but on what they are delivering, so the disappointment soon turned into the sort of basic satisfaction that comes from watching terribly cheap yet vaguely competently made films like this that are throwing their all (small as it may be) into the will to entertain.

And if one lets oneself be entertained, one can have quite some fun with Mithun's adventures here. His Mithun Fu is strong and ridiculous/awesome as ever; Kajal wavers between being pretty annoying and pretty charming, and while she's not shown to be equal to Mithun's bizarre achievements, she's at least treated as competent and resourceful; Jagdeep's "comedic" bits are mercifully short (and his character is even allowed to shoot a few people, which explains why anyone would put up with him); the musical numbers are mostly okay, certainly not the best nor the most bizarre even I have heard from Bappi Lahiri, although I quite liked the early one with the pixel and red cross theme.

All that combined would make Wardat a solid yet not especially remarkable movie, but the film's director Ravikant Nagaich decides to put out all the stops for the final three quarters of an hour of his film. Suddenly everything that was alright before turns into the sort of brilliant, ridiculous fun I had hoped for from the beginning.

Mithun does SCIENCE! in front of multi-coloured, blinking lights. Suddenly, we are in Africa, at once in a jungle, a desert and on a mountain. Mithun and Kajal are drugged for a cheaply psychedelic romp of tumble-dancing. Then, we enter the lair of our true main bad guy which is probably situated in a ruin in Egypt - at least that's what the statues in it look like, though his dancing troupe (yes, of course our heroes will pretend to be part of it directly before the big finale) is dressed in a mix of Peruvian, Aztec and Hollywood Africana and his guards are wearing what looks like white kendo masks - and are suddenly confronted with some of the most eye-popping uses of red lighting that have ever touched human eyes, a baby farm, torture by shaking, a duel to the death with added sharpshooting archers, mind-control, Mithun wrestling a tiger and various explosions large and small. In other words, all the extreme, silly excitement on could wish for turns up, shouts gleefully at your face, dances a little jig, fights and leaves this always hopeful, yet oh so often disappointed watcher of dubious movies with a warm afterglow and a sudden and frightening love for Mithun Chakraborty.

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