Friday, January 23, 2009

The Prince and the Pauper reloaded - Paap Aur Punya (1974)

I knew somewhere out there, there was a movie where Sharmila Tagore stepped out of her hot-house-delicate filmi persona and did a spunky role. And I FOUND IT! *Big smile* She plays a fiesty Rajasthani maiden who kicks some serious ass – she rescues her hero by singing and dancing, gets into sword fights and even horsewhips the villain. A Big Nahiiiin!!! for the last! Why, you ask? The big bad villain is my beloved Shashi Kapoor, thats why! Paar Aur Punya (cast)
The immortal Twain classic – The Prince and the Pauper – has been given a true-blue 70s Bollywood treatment, complete with lost-and-found, good brother-evil brother and loads of hamming (chiefly by OiG’s favorite #1, Shashi)! The title makes the moral of the story clear – *Paap Aur Punya* (Sin and Virtue) – the eternal fight between good and evil. In true epic fashion, the good and evil are personified by look-alike brothers (Shashi in yet another double role. Yay!). I did decide to observe and comment on religious symbolism, the themes running through the movie, etc. In short I was determined not to be side-tracked by my favorite pair’s famous beauty and try to take a more scholarly view. Alas, I was too easily distracted by the masala goodness of the movie.


The king – Raja Gajraj Singh (Murad)- of a small principality in British India has been overthrown in a coup and imprisoned by his beloved younger brother Balbir Singh (Ajit). The reason for the coup – Gajraj’s queen (Achla Sachdev) is about to give birth and Balbir cannot risk the birth of an heir who’ll dispossess him.
The Rani gives birth to twins in captivity, and with the help of the kindly Sister Margaret (Indrani Mukherjee), effects a switcheroo – i.e., escape with one twin and substitute the other for Balbir’s own newborn babe. After quoting Lord Krishna from Bhagvad Gita in support of his villainy (“one mustn't let family feelings get in the way of achieving the desired end”), Balbir pays for this heresy by unwittingly killing his own son and bringing up his nephew as his own! The years roll by and the twins grow up on opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum.
The rich twin – Ganga Singh (Shashi Kapoor) – becomes an ideal son under the tutelage of Mother Margaret. He is kind to the poor, always well-behaved, has no vices and is very obedient to his father’s wishes – much to his father’s secret chagrin. He’d prefer a more Ranjeet-like son!
Ganga the pure, falls for the equally pure but way more spunky camel-seller Jugni (Sharmila Tagore). On the advise of his ADC Arjun Singh (Asrani), he woos her in the guise of a fellow tribal and then reveals his true identity. Jugni is unimpressed by his royalty, and makes him wear a gold tooth to be sure of his veracity!
The poor twin – Jwala Singh (also Shashi Kapoor, in full hamming mode) – turns out to be evil, inspite of having the all important Ma. He snarls and bares his teeth all the time, is constantly in and out of jail and consorts with an arch villain - Tiger (Pinchoo Kapoor). If that isnt enough to convince you of his villainy, there’s more. He walks with a limp (Fagin, Long John Silver anyone?) – what can be more evil than that?
Dont believe Jwala? Here’s photographic evidence.
Ganga returns home from wooing Jugni to find that his father has betrothed him to Mala (Aruna Irani). She is a rich industrialist’s daughter and her wealth will save the family’s declining fortunes in the aftermath of Indian independence. Mala wears fantastic go-go boots, rides a horse like a pro, and loves him, but Ganga wants his Jugni. Like the imprisoned Rapunzel, he lets down his hair – actually a bed-sheet rope – and prepares to escape. But guess who climbs up the rope – his evil twin, Jwala.
Ganga doesnt recognise evil when he sees it, and embraces Jwala joyfully. The two switch places (and gold teeth), so Ganga can go meet his Jugni, while Jwala is to pretend to be Ganga and get engaged to Mala. Alas for poor Ganga, Jwala has wicked deeds planned. He has Ganga arrested for his own (Jwala’s) crimes.
From here on, the movie gets on a masala rollercoaster. Ganga escapes from the police only to land in Tiger’s fabulous prison. Jugni discovers Jwala’s perfidy and horse whips him (trust me, he deserves it for his criminal hamming!). Then, she manages to find Ganga’s whereabouts and sings and dances her way into the prison to rescue him! Things move apace according to the statutes and guidelines laid down in the rulebook of 70s masala - Ma makes an appearance, Balbir finds out about his son(s) who isnt his son, the twins realise their twinliness, there are sword fights, grab-the-diamond contests, and of course, tons of good ol’ drama – all in the ever beautiful Rajasthan.
The movie had a few unusual features in the context of 70s masala: Has there been another villain who quotes the Gita in support of his villainy?!! The son brought up by the loving mother turns criminal, while the son educated by a Catholic nun of ambiguous morals (she assists Balbir inspite of his fratricidal tendencies) turns out to be the good guy! Whats even more curious, “Ma” doesnt seem to have a very central role to play in her sons’ lives. I am not sure what this all adds up to, but I guess the writer-director of the film – Prayag Raj – was lucky the Hindutvavadis (proponents of Hindutva) didnt see this film! I was also surprised that the rich twin was the good one, since most of 70s masala tends to extol the ennobling properties of poverty.
Apart from the scripture-quoting villain, and the hero visiting a temple to woo his beloved, there is very little religion/religious symbolism in the film. As it also goes against several established tenets of 70s masala, it should perhaps be classified as agnostic/iconoclastic masala (What says the ruler of Masala Pradesh?). No matter how its classified though, the movie is full of pretty (visuals and people) and brimming over with masala goodness. So, go take a look!

18 comments:

Beth said...

I MUST HAVE THIS. It looks fantastic! Currently I'm of the mind that Prayag Raj can do no wrong, so sign me right up!

Also: mega-beautiful Shashi! Times two! Plus evil! Yay!

memsaab said...

A quick search reveals nothing---where did you find it? Does it have subtitles? I WANT IT!

I might even like Sharmila!

Nicki said...

Thanks for the review and wonderful caps with funny captions. :) I can always depend on you with great Oldies.

Filmi Girl said...

OMG! Why have I not seen this?!

(And curse you for bringing up Ranjeet... now I want some Ranjeet! *goes to Memsaab's Ranjeet post*)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Your comments on screenshots make my day! the shot of Shashi jumping was hilarious- :D

gebruss said...

I join the chorus of "I must see this". It looks delightful.

a ppcc representative said...

I also NEED TO WATCH THIS NOW. This is the mystery film from filmi heaven!!!

Bollyviewer said...

Beth, "mega-beautiful Shashi! Times two! Plus evil! Yay!" describes my feelings, too. But his villainous histrionics had me missing Pran/Prem Chopra/Ranjeet! And this isnt anywhere near as insane as Dharam Veer - that kind of insanity requires Manmohan Desai.

memsaab, I have my sources. :-D There are subtitles, too.

And you dont like Sharmila! OMG, why?

Nicki, perhaps one of these days I might even convince you to actually watch one of these oldies. ;-)

Filmi Girl, my sentiments exactly! But as they say, better late than never. :-) And memsaab's Ranjeet post, is sublime - one can never have enough of it! (I did link to it in my post, too).

Shweta, thank you, thank you. Shashi and Sharmila were certainly a jump ahead of the rest of the cast!

gebruss, its a great masala-watch and perfect for a weekend viewing.

ppcc, I certainly was in heaven after discovering it! :-)

dustedoff said...

My must-see list is getting unmanagably long... and I can't resist anything with Sharmila and Shashi Kapoor in it, so this must be added to the list! I like the quirky digressions from masala norm - sounds interesting. And that last screen cap, especially, is awesome! :)

ajnabi said...

This looks like so much fun--and dude, the plot of The Prince and the Pauper is so awesomely masala--no wonder I've always liked it!

gebruss said...

I did watch it this weekend. It was as much fun as it promised to be. I especially loved the briefcase which would just not break during the final fight.

Bollyviewer said...

dustedoff, Sharmila was awesome but didnt have as much screen time as I would have liked! I wonder why she didnt do more of these spunky roles - perhaps because she didnt dance very well, or looked too delicate to be able to dishoom?

ajnabi, I sometimes think that English literature is tailor-made for masala - from Shakespeare (shouldnt he be THE MASALA KING?), Dickens, to Twain. Guess thats why I havent been able to take to modern literature - no masala at all! :-(

gebruss, I am so glad you liked it. The passing-the-parcel-with-sword-fighting-thrown-in part was awesome! :-) By the way, did you get to see the playback singers in the cast? I couldnt identify one of the female singers (Tere mere pyaar ki and Main to shaam se) and my copy had no list of vocalists!

gebruss said...

I must have the same copy you have, as there was no list of playback singers. Which is odd as just about everybody else was mentioned.

Darshit said...

I m sorry to comment in here about subject diff. from ur post. But it seems you are interested in Harappan site i have visited. So I have put some more pics, and more to come in next post. I hope you will like them.

[you can delete this comment after reading it]

memsaab said...

I'm watching this now (thanks to Beth) and needed to come revisit your post...the other female singer is Kanchan (earthmusic.net is a usually wonderful source of old Hindi movie music) :-) Am loving it!

Don't usually love Sharmila b/c I like feisty and she's generally sort of cold. Or little girl-ish. But like her in this!

Bollyviewer said...

Kanchan! That explains it. I think she was all the rage after singing in Dharmatma. No wait... Dharmatma came out after this! Maybe Feroze noticed her singing, here.

Aww Sharmila is so stylish, and has those naughty dimples, that I dont really care if she is feisty! But ya, feisty is a definite plus.

Anonymous said...

Baby Guddu has been credits for this movie on many internet listings, but this is a 1974 film and as far as I know Guddu was born in 1979 or 1980. Could you confirm if she is in this film?
http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/movies/cast/3559/index.html

Bollyviewer said...

Anonymous, I will have to check the film credits again for the name of the child actor in this, but it is quite possible there was more than one Baby Guddu in Bollywood. It's such a generic and convenient name that it practically calls out for recycling!