Movies and posts on this blog

Friday, April 10, 2009

Afsana (1966) - a tale of terrible twists and turns

Afsana DVD cover I was looking for Ashok Kumar’s earlier Afsana when I came across this one and his looming presence on the DVD-cover decided me. In retrospect, it wasnt a great choice. But, its a fast paced movie with some good moments and enough Dada Mani and Helen to paper over some of the cracks!
The story begins in a prison where prisoner number 16 (Ashok Kumar) is on his way to another jail on account of his tendency to jail-break. This time however, his escape is successful and he manages to run into a deep forest. Shekhar (Pradeep Kumar) – a rich landowner – is out hunting in the same forest, and accidently shoots no.16.

When No. 16 comes to, he is in a luxurious mansion and being taken care of by Shekhar’s servant, Gullo (Jagdeep). No. 16 gives his name as Gopaldas and decides to lay low in this luxurious jungle hide-out of Shekhar’s. For the rest of the film, Gopal will be stuck in this luxury-villa in the deep dark jungle, but the movie will go places.

Gopal is quick to cotton onto and take advantage of Shekhar’s misogynism. Shekhar has a deep dark secret that makes him hate women. Lest you doubt his essential goodness though, you soon meet his constant companions – his dog and a mute-orphan kid from the village. How can a man who is so kind to dogs and kids be anything but good?

Into this haven of male-celibacy comes a damsel-in-distress – Renu (Padmini). She is a rich heiress, running away from a match arranged for her by her step-mom. A flooded bridge stalls her car, though the water level comes no higher than her ankles! Anyhow… a drenched and shivering Renu stumbles into Shekhar’s magically empty (where did all the servants disappear?) but well appointed mansion and unerringly makes her way into Shekhar’s bed. The latter returns from a day outdoors and also makes his way straight to bed – only to find Goldilocks, err… Renu, in there. He is shocked to find an unclothed beauty in his bed and reacts very badly. Poor Renu is ordered out in the pouring rain and Gopal takes up the job of escorting her out.

Gopal has no intention of letting such a beauty escape him. He shelters her in an outhouse – also very luxuriously appointed and complete with a wood-burning fireplace (how come I’ve never found such a place, EVER?!!). He learns how wealthy she is and decides to hold her to ransom. But he soon forgets his mercenary intentions and decides to foster a romance between Shekhar and Renu. (It looks like the script-writers forgot where they were going and scramblingly inserted a romance here!) In one of the most unconvincing romances ever, Renu dances for Shekhar and then chooses to die by his side when a peaceful herd of elephants is frolicking nearby. Shekhar is convinced of her undying love and reveals the reason for his misogynism.

Back in the day when Shekhar was young and carefree, he met the gorgeous Kamini (Helen), fell in love (who wouldnt, its Helen after all) and married her. He soon discovered that she was only interested in his wealth and was actually in love with her partner (Anwar Hussain). He threw her out with some money and proceeded to hate ALL women forever. He refused to change even after he heard that she died in a car-crash. Hmm… I wonder if this is the normal male reaction to finding out that Helen doesnt care for you. Or is it a reaction to the fact that she actually cares for Anwar Hussain?!!

Back in the present, Renu and Shekhar decide to get married when her father and step-mom (Tun Tun in a surprisingly wicked cameo!) appear. With parental consent, the two speedily get married. On their wedding night, Shekhar has a surprise visitor who leaves him disturbed. His visitor is none other than Kamini, who is soooo not dead that you’d expect Shekhar to rejoice. Alas, he’d rather be married to Renu and pay off Kamini. Even here Shekhar’s intentions are thwarted. He finds that he cant liquidate his assets to pay Kamini.

Lots more exciting things happen to Shekhar, Kamini, Renu and Gopal – murders, court-room drama, car chases and what-not. And yes, Dada Mani looms large everywhere (yipppeeee!!!) and proves to be the saviour of the whole sorry mess.

As I said in the beginning, its a fast paced story with some good moments. My favorite was the part where Shekhar and Gopal discover Renu in the jungle-mansion. The guys’ reactions reminded me of a scene in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi where Ashok Kumar plays a misogynist (you can see it 5:00 min into this clip). The other nice thing was the two dance numbers – one each for Helen and Padmini. Overall though, the movie isnt well done enough for you to overlook the gaping plot-holes and loose-ends. Watch it only if you are a fan of the principle actors or if you are in the mood for a thriller that makes you laugh at all the wrong places!



  2. I have an important question - this is one of those movies where disgusting Pradeep Kumar ends up the Heroine, right? So, does Ashok get to end up with Helen or is he just comic relief?

    I hate when Pradeep beats out my Dadamoni!

  3. Lol this looks very fun but misogynistic which usually makes me feel pie-inducing and it seems like pradeep kumar is always at the receiving of my pies! He just has to mope or hate women all the time! Alas Dada Mani is their to relieve all the distressful messages about women!

  4. Poor Helen: a choice between Pradeep Kumar and Anwar Hussain- tsk :D I do prefer her ever so much over Padmini- yet another time when I rue the small-mindedness of Bollywood not giving Helen better roles.

  5. I much prefer Padmini over Helen, though I do still like Helen a lot and agree she should have gotten better roles.

    There were a couple of times when I almost picked this movie up just for the cast, but for some reason I always ended up saying to myself, "Eh, maybe next time..." But I have enjoyed the dances on YouTube.

  6. bollywooddeewana, my copy was by UDI (United Digital International) - the print was definitely colored (Eastman Color, the credits proclaimed) but skipped in a number of places.

    Filmi Girl, Dada Mani doesnt get the girl but he doesnt really want her and inspite of his lack of romantic entanglement, he is the real hero of the film (not the comic relief). Pradeep Kumar is there just to romance Helen and Padmini and to be rescued by Dada Mani who also does some awesome kick-ass stunts. So you may watch without fear!

    Rum, where else did Pradeep Kumar hate women? I do remember him moping in Bahu Begum and Chitralekha and all because of Dada Mani. In this one his misogynism is just plain comical - so your pies are safe! :-)

    Shweta, poor Helen, indeed. She was luminously beautiful in this one and her performance was way better than Padmini and Pradeep Kumar's, too. She really deserved better roles than the item-girl-with-the-occasional-dialogues or even the blackhearted vamp that she plays here.

    Richard, I was wondering if you'd seen this one... The songs are quite nice, but to have both Helen and Padmini in one film and only two measly dance numbers is a crying shame!

  7. I haven't even heard of this film, but anything with Helen looking so lovely in it is right up my street! I don't care for Pradeep Kumar and Padmini, though...

    BTW, I think the B/W film referred to is what you've also referred to in the first sentence of your review - also with Ashok Kumar (in a double role as twins who're separated in a mela), with Veena as the love interest, along with Cuckoo et al. So-so.

  8. Naw, I don't care much for Pradeep Kumar or Padmini. But films with gaping plot holes are my weakness. Lots of fun to watch and crib!

  9. dustedoff, Induna has both Afsanas listed as B/W. Its off my list of DVD buying sites else I'd have bought it in a jiffy. Will try to persuade my local store to get it for me.

    Helen looked marvelous here. And she looked and sounded so sweet too. But I really cant imagine Padmini as a temptress, so I guess it had to be Helen!

    Banno, Pradeep Kumar dislike seems to be universal in blogland. Poor guy - I actually used to like him a lot when I was a kid and cannot imagine why, now! And yes, gaping plot holes are a lot of fun when watched in the right company! When watching alone though, I'd rather they were covered with beautiful people, nice songs and melty romance.

  10. Bollyviewer, you're right; I don't know why a film with both Helen and Padmini in it would have only two dance numbers.

    And I am completely baffled as to how several people here could not like my favorite actress-dancer of all time, Padmini. In addition to being a very good actress, she was beautiful and probably a fine person, and as a dancer she was actually much better than Helen - by many accounts, as good as Vyjayanthimala (I would say even better). But I would guess that some of you have been watching Bollywood movies much longer than I have, and I'm not here to argue. :)

  11. Richard, Padmini was certainly an awesome dancer but at least here, her acting left a lot to be desired. Her Hindi is terrible and her acting consists of widening her huge eyes, accompanied by very broad gestures and exaggerated body language. Against Ashok Kumar and Helen's more restrained performance, this just shows up needless theatrics!

    Vyjayanthimala's Hindi was pitch-perfect in most of her movies, which is why I tend to like her more. She also has tons of popular fun films in Hindi, which Padmini doesnt. Since most of us here are Bollywood-watchers, I guess that explains our collective preference for Helen and Vyjayanthimala!

  12. Much as I love Ashok Kumar (I'm still reeling from 'Mahal') and Helen, I think I might skip this one, because it has always been difficult for me to watch any film with Pradeep Kumar in it.

  13. bollyviewer, I am sooo in agreement of your description of Padmini. That's also the main reason why I didn't like her sister Ragini - the wide eyes, the exaggerated gestures and the awful Hindi put me off, even in films I would probably have liked otherwise (like Mujrim). Love Vyjyantimala simply because she was so beautiful, such a fine actress, and didn't have a distracting accent! Hema Malini had a little bit of an accent, but not bad enough to be irritating...

  14. Well, you all have me at a disadvantage when you discuss the quality of Padmini's Hindi... As for the wide eyes, I find them very charming (and they work especially well in bharatanatyam, which she did better than Vyjayanthimala.) I consider Padmini much more beautiful than Vyjayanthimala - at least from the early '50s to the early '70s, but there's no point in debating our perceptions of beauty. (I think many, many people would agree Padmini was beautiful around 1960. Maybe she became a bit heavy in some people's eyes by the late '60s, though that doesn't bother me). I think Padmini gave an outstanding performance in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, and once again, I think many people agree. I think she was excellent in Amar Deep, and a much more compelling actress in that film than Vyjayanthimala (whether or not her Hindi was as good - though if it wasn't, maybe her pronunciation was a bit better in the Tamil version that it was based on). She was also good in Mera Naam Joker, Singapore, and a few other Hindi movies that I've seen (and Bollyviewer, she did make quite a few Hindi movies).

    Padmini also received a lot of praise for her Tamil movies (well deserved, from what I can tell), Telugu movies, and movies in her native language, Malayalam.

    Anyway, since everyone is carrying on the comparison that I unfortunately brought up :)... I have to say, Vyjayanthimala did not always exactly refrain from overacting herself. Didn't she go a bit overboard in her crying spells in movies like Sadhna? I still think she was very good (hey, for a while, I was calling her my second favorite actress), at least on the screen. (The huge ego and the bad political involvements are another matter...but I've already said on my own blog that I try not to let off-screen stuff influence my judgment of people on screen.)

    Re. Ragini... How could anyone not have loved her in Mujrim, considering all the great dancing that she did? Another perception that's baffling to me.

  15. et tu ana! Does NOBODY like poor Pradeep Kumar (myself included)? lol I'm feeling a bit sorry for him now. Ashok Kumar was always awesome, especially in Mahal which I need to re-watch soon!

    dustedoff, I think Hema Malini was the first actress to get away with a bad Hindi accent but yes, hers wasnt so bad as Ragini and Padmini's.

    Richard, I have not seen Mera Naam Joker or Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai - I usually run a mile from Raj Kapoor films! Singapore is in my to-watch pile and might even change my opinion of Padmini!

    And yes, I am aware that she did a lot of Hindi films. Thats why I qualified Vyjayanthimala's films as "popular". Nagin, Naya Daur, Asha, Madhumati, Devdas, Amrapali, Ganga Jamuna, Prince, Sangam, Pyar Hi Pyar, Jewel Thief, Leader, etc. are some of her well-known films that I grew up hearing of/watching. For Padmini, before your blog, I only knew of the two RK films and a couple of others that were kind of "unknown" to me! And yes, no Hindi film actor has ever been immune to overacting. But in the examples I've seen of the two, Vyjayanthimala seems more restrained in comparison to Padmini. Of course, that also depends a lot on the director, and I find that South-Indian directors tend to go for more dramatic performances in commercial films.

    "Re. Ragini... How could anyone not have loved her in Mujrim, considering all the great dancing that she did?" - In Yeh Dil Kisko Doon there was too much of her dancing and too little of anything else. I love songs and dance but one can have too much of a good thing!

  16. It is quite amusing to read this blog author and others commenting about hindi accents of actresses.

    These days the trend is reversed and many non hindi speaking actresses are finding a mark in South Indian films. While most of their films are dubbed, some of them do dub their lines themselves. Their accents are terrible - in fact they murder some of the words in south indian languages. Yet the audience in the South continues to watch their films and doesn't tarnish them the way Padmini, Ragini and Hema Malini are being criticised here.

    Hema was raised in Delhi - before she became a hindi film actress. I don't see how her hindi accent could go wrong.

    Just a thought.

    Richard - the exaggerated features may be due to the influence of classical Bharatanatyam as you have correctly pointed out.

    I think in all all these ladies were fine actresses as well as dancers. I personally have enjoyed the various movies they have acted in.


  17. Anonymous, South Indian movies arent the only ones afflicted. New Hindi movies have model-turned-actresses who cant even act, let alone speak Hindi properly! So bad Hindi accents arent remarkable in Bollywood of today but they were, back in 50s and 60s, as most of the prolific actors/actresses of that period spoke excellent Hindi/Urdu.

    I know Hema lived in Delhi till she was 12, so even I am at a loss to account for her Hindi accent. Most of the South Indians brought up in North India (that I know) speak Hindi like native-speakers of the language. In Bollywood there is also the unusual case of Rekha who picked up Hindi so well that even in her interviews its hard to detect any traces of accent. Guess some people have an ear for languages and others dont.

    And I am sorry if our criticism of your favorite actresses bothers you so much. But hey, it would be a very boring world if we all liked the same people or didnt speak up when we disagreed!

  18. padmini is one of the beautiful indian actress.i had watched her movies in all languages and she was excellent in all languages.her body structure,her dark lustrious eyes convey thousands of messages.her acting skills will be challengable to her co stars.she will always try to dominate in most of her movies and naturally she will get excellent characters.she should be the only heroine who had a long film career which lasted for around 25 years and was the first to make it big in bollywood.since she took dance as her profession she was obviously a better and talented dancer than vyjayanthimala.vyjayanthi is also one of my favourite actress next to padmini.

  19. padmini had co stared with almost all top bollywood men.being a part time bollywood actress this itself is a great achievement.she was so famous in tamil film industry.even in hindi fims she gave her best.the films such as pardesi(1957),amardeep(1958),aashiq(1962),jis desh men ganga behti hai(1960),apsara(1961),etc are all classical movies.surely she should have done around 40 to 50 bollywood films.i think even vyjayanthimala would have also acted in around 40 bollywood my opinion padmini and vyjayanthi are the most beautiful dancer actress of indian cinema.if to debate on who is better naturally most of us will say padmini because she acted in more than 250 films.what i can say about hellen is she is fit to dance only club dances.

  20. Anonymous #1 and #2: you are clearly not a Helen fan! I must say I prefer Helen to both and Vyjayanthimala to Padmini. But to each his/her own. For such a big Padmini fan, it must be great to know that there are 250 of her films to watch. Bet you wont run out of her films for ages!

  21. hi bollyviewer,

    i think you are a fan of no way i say that hellen is most of her movies she plays only negative characters and her dance would be of club dance style.what i am coming to say is it is very difficult for an artist who does negative roles to win people's heart.

    whereas i like vyjayanthimala to a great extent because she always accepts excellent characters.who can forget her in madhumathi and ganga jamuna?

    coming to padmini you all should accept that she is a part time bollywood actress.though she excelled in south indian movies especially in tamil it was always difficult for her to attain a feat in bollywood.padmini is also my favourite actress but miles behind vyjayanthimala.

  22. hi bollyviewer,

    i am a great fan of padmini man.i think you like hellen to a great extent.ok that is your choice.

    you had mentioned that padmini's movies can't be carried for ages.

    i want to tell you that there are many fans for her only because for her classy perfomances which will remain till the world exists.

  23. Pradeep Kumar is eeew!! Waise bhi.. I don't like men who r way too much gora-chitta! and to add to the mess.. here is an actor (if I may call him so) with pink lips! Horror!(So is the case wid Ranbeer Kapoor.. but atleast he can act). Pradeep Kumar always makes me cringe, esp when he romances my fav. lady - Meena Kumari - so undeservingly in a string of movies! And I hate it when beautiful gems like "Dil jo na keh saka..." (Bheegi Raat) and "Mujhko tum jo mile..." (Detective) are wasted on such unworthy actors. And why, oh why, did the directors roped him as the man-who-gets-the-damsel in the end, instead of Dada Moni (Bheegi Raat, Bahu Begum)???? Not fair!!

  24. Such hatred for poor Pradeep Kumar?! I kind of like him in costume dramas, but yes, he wasn't the best of actors. As to him winning over Dada Mani, the latter was kind of old by the 60s. So he had to lose out to younger men (though I must admit that he did NOT look much older than Pradeep K)!

  25. Pradeep Kumar was at least a very good looking handsome man with a good personality, far superior to post 90s heroes most of them look either loafers or servants or thieves, dress shabbily, look unclean, talk rubbish with much worse diction of Hindi and far worse acting... all of them!

  26. Ehat kind of looks you appreciate- crow like Rajnikant? or a cockroach Dhanush? or rag picker looking Kunal Khemu or a mechanic looking Ajay Devgun or a street goon looking Arshad Warsi or a thief like Emran Hashmi? If you hate handsome men as heroes look for new films especially Tamil films dubbed where you find ugliest men on earth as actors like Vijayakanth, Dhanush, Rajnikant, Vijay, Partiban one uglier tha another!

    1. Anonymous said...

      I just laughed out loud reading your leading-man ineligibility epithets. The new Tamil cinema is supposed to represent, albeit it is half-hearted, the ordinary Indian man on the street. But Tamil films never went in for the out and out Dev Anand or Dharmendra handsome type; the producers mostly typecast stars/actors according as they thought fit the roles (intense or romantic or what have you) or were box-office drawers in the various genres. That the "average man" look paradigm is not at all reflected in the story lines is what is grating about the post-2000 Tamil films.