What do you do when you want to bring down a helicopter? You attach a sturdy metal chain to it and then run a road-roller on the chain to progressively shorten it. This automatically brings down the chopper. See? As simple as 1+1=11 (ek aur ek gyarah)! If you are in the mood for such delights and some very, very beautiful people, drop in at Shaitan Chowki (literally “Devil Post” but actually a poor neighbourhood in masala-land).
Who are you likely to meet there? Hmm… there is fiesty Hirni (Zarina Wahab) who wears backless cholis and sells liquor while her smokin’ hot boy-friend Jaamlia (Vinod Khanna) languishes in prison. Then there is the college-going Rekha (a very subdued Neetu Singh) whose attachment to Hamlet is exemplary – she goes to bed with it! Her hair goes from shoulder length to waist length in the space of a few moments. Perhaps thats why a visiting drunkard – Anand (Shashi Kapoor) – falls for her and stalks her in a bordering-on-harassment song sequence. But wait, this weird altering-hair-length must be contagious because after meeting her Anand gets it, too, and so does Jaamlia. Only Hirni is unaffected!
You want to know whats the deal with all these beautiful people? For that you have to know the beginning. Mahendranath (Bharat Bhushan) is a rich and lonely old man with a smarmy new manager Dilip Singh (Prem Chopra). Mahendranath had a much younger brother Rajen (the annoying kid from Fakira) - a wilful brat who left home one day, never to be heard of again. Instead of heaving a sigh of “good riddance”, Mahendranath keeps hoping Rajen will return. Taking advantage of the old man’s hopes, Dilip hires an unemployed youth (Raza Murad), to impersonate the lost-and-now-grown-up Rajen. Mahendranath happily hands over all his property to “Rajen” and is promptly murdered by Prem. “Rajen” himself is bumped off later.
Just after all these evil deeds are done, a letter to Mahendranath from the real Rajen gives Dilip an idea. He passes the letter on to the police and implicates the real Rajen in killing Mahendranath for the latter’s wealth. Dilip, in the meantime, has appropriated Mahendranath’s wealth and become a big bad boss – complete with a gangster’s moll and friendship with the badass goon Jaamlia. The two bond in the back-seat of a horse cart after Jaamlia comes out of jail.
Now that he’s the big bad boss, Dilip has to get up to some devilry as thats part of his job-description. So he chooses to evict the people of Shaitan Chowki (a bustling chawl or ghetto that Danny Boyle has not seen) to make way for his five-star hotel. Jaamlia is also a resident of said Chowki and refuses to let Dilip have his evil way. As a result the Dilip-Jaamlia Dostana is cut in its prime.
About this time, a mysterious man who answers to the name of Anand, shows up in Shaitan Chowki. He is usually seen in the guise of a rustic horse-cart driver and has an awesome line in dishooming assorted villains. Occasionally, he’s seen in a shiny white suit driving a shiny white Mercedes and “eve-teasing” the dazzled Rekha. He wins her over not by his safedi ki chamkar (the dazzling white obtained by washing your whites with Rin detergent soap) but by paying her college tuition. Hmm… smart girl. It doesnt do to fall for a guy who may not be able to afford his astronomical cleaning bills.
Anand adds further to his mysteriousness by donning the garb of a lawyer and defending Rekha’s pick-pocket father (Om Prakash) from a pick-pocketing charge. But he’s able to convince the people of Shaitan Chowki that he is merely a good actor and can successfully impersonate persons of the legal profession. If that isnt enough, he also displays an inordinate curiosity in Dilip and his business. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser… Any seasoned masala-viewer worth his/her salt will by this time have come to the correct conclusion – Anand is interested in solving Mahendranath’s murder and clearing the unknown Rajen. Why?
As the plot thickens around Anand, we learn some more about Jaamlia and Hirni. The two came to town to track Hirni’s brother and Jaamlia’s friend – Bajrangi – who came to town to get a job and then went missing. Jaamlia ended up taking the day job of a goon to pay the bills while Hirni became a liquor seller to make ends meet while Jaamlia was living it up on tax-payer’s money.
Things get more complicated with new twists and thrills at every turn. Someone is sending Dilip threatening letters about Mahendranath’s murder. Jaamlia is fighting off goons who land like flies in Shaitan Chowki to evict the residents. Anand makes a pact with Dilip to get Shaitan Chowki vacated. But is he tricking the residents or Dilip? While all this is happening, Rekha is mysteriously absent from the scene. Has she gone off to attend the Rishi-Neetu wedding? What mysterious things are happening to Anand and Jaamlia’s errr… flowing locks? The answers to all these questions can only be answered by a quick visit to Shaitan Chowki. Go and meet Jaamlia and Anand and you might even learn how to bring down a helicopter with a chain and road-roller in three easy steps!
Its a fun masala romp with generous helpings of the recommended masala allowance. My only reservations were: a) not enough Neetu Singh, b) hair-continuity issues with all the leads were rather jarring, and c) Shashi’s roadside-romeo act was rather bizarre (he really cant carry it like Govinda!) and uncomfortable to watch. Thankfully it was only one song long and the romance moments after that were rather sweet.