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22 May 2017

Qurbani (1980)

Directed by: Feroz Khan
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji, Biddu
Lyrics: Indeevar
Starring: Feroz Khan, Vinod Khanna, 
Zeenat Aman, Amjad Khan, 
Aruna Irani, Shakti Kapoor, 
Amrish Puri, Kader Khan
Readers of my blog are aware that once in a while, I have a watchalong with friends who share my love for masala films. A couple of months ago, blog reader Shalini and I decided we should watch a film soon – Shalini picked Qurbani for the arm-candy quotient. Readers Lalitha and Sameer asked to join in, and I’m sorry to say we denied Sameer the chance. The reason was purely professional – cross my heart – we weren’t sure how Google Hangouts would work with multiple people. 

So the watchalong was restricted to Shalini, Lalitha and me. Are you ready for a testosterone filled non-stop adventure into machismo land? (Warning: Long post, with many interjections and many photographs. Read at your own peril.)

Qurbani begins with a dedication to Sanjay Gandhi. Whom Feroz Khan had never met. Both Shalini and I admit it’s touching, but weird. (Lalitha was a no-show at this point.) But there’s no sign of Feroz  at the moment. Instead, we are introduced to Raka (Amrish Puri in a bad wig), who’s gloating over the ill-gotten gains in his safe. He’s interrupted by the arrival of Jwala Singh (Aruna Irani in light contact lenses), who’s livid that Raka, her erstwhile lover, had betrayed her love, cheated her of her wealth and put her brother in jail.
Raka laughs it off, challenging Jwala to take back her riches if she can. A Rajput doesn't beg, he taunts her; Jwala leaves, but not before promising to wreak vengeance.

The next day, Raka is about to get into his car when he’s accosted by a blind beggar. Raka obviously doesn’t believe in charity. However, the beggar has a champion. Rajesh (Feroz Khan) is passing, and Raka is soon to wish he hadn’t been.
[Shalini (blowing kisses): Hero Entry!
Moi: Did you know Feroz Khan bought a Mercedes just so he could smash it up in this screen? Aww, the man had shtyle.
Shalini: I didn’t know about the Merc, but FK should have been in Shaan, he certainly lived that way.]

After having totally decimated the car, Rajesh hands Raka a 50ps coin.  Because he lost the bet. Shalini and I collapse in laughter. Athanni?! Rajesh must have heard us, because he ups the ante to Re1. So Raka can repair his Merc. Leaving a furious but speechless Raka behind, Rajesh makes his way into the hotel, where his lady love, Sheila (Zeenat Aman) is the cabaret dancer.
Moi: 'Sameer wanted to watch this with us; he’d promised to only remark on Zeenat’s acting prowess.'
Shalini: 'Well, then he can’t join because I want to talk about her ‘other talents’.'
I chortle. We decide that Zeenat had oomph. And that she was so comfortable with her body that she never looked vulgar on screen.

As Rajesh escorts Sheila home after the show, they are accosted by a couple of drunken revellers who claim they are her fans. 'Phanke se latka doonga,' promises Feroz, much to Sheila’s distress. We snort. We also like that we are introduced to these characters mid-relationship.
However, it appears that Sheila doesn’t know that Rajesh is a well-known jewel thief. Until he quite literally tells her he is. While Sheila is still trying to grapple with the truth, Rajesh asks her to stop dancing.

Shalini and I are aghast – What nonsense! How the heck is she supposed to earn her livelihood?
Shalini: Did he not watch how awesome she was in the nightclub?
Moi (indignantly): Idiot!
Shalini: What gall! Trying to deprive us of Zeenie’s awesomeness. 

While we are busy muttering imprecations at FK, matters are proceeding onscreen. It’s established Rajesh is a thief. He runs into his 'teacher', Joe (Kader Khan), and out of sheer 'friendship' gives up the loot. Unfortunately, a fender bender with a 'sweet sixteen' (Tun Tun) causes him to have a run-in with the police. And brings him to the attention of Inspector Khan (Amjad Khan). 
Mera naam Khan hai, says he, and ‘Take that, SRK’, mutters Shalini.
Inspector Khan is clearly a man of few words, and is wonderfully droll. By the time Rajesh figures out that Khan is a police inspector, he's in handcuffs, and soon, sentenced to prison for three years. He asks Sheila not to come visit him in jail. But if she loves him, would she wait for him? 
Zeenat. In a sari. We swoon. She looks gorgeous. We both agree that her sexy blouse drives up the hotness quotient. 
One hero down. Time for the second hero to put in an appearance. Amar (Vinod Khanna) is bringing in some smuggled goods, helped by Nohan (MacMohan). However, Inspector Khan, who might look sleepy and stupid, obviously has a good brain that he puts to work. Amar manages to escape with the gold, but poor Mac is shot by his own gang.  Furious at Raka's ruthlessness, and despite his threats, Amar walks away from the gang. A chance encounter with some goons leads to Amar making Sheila's acquaintance. Sheila, who has reason to thank Amar's intervention, finds Tina (Baby Natasha), Amar's motherless little daughter rather endearing, and the two become great friends. 
With Rajesh in jail, Sheila has gone back to dancing. (We give mad props to Feroz Khan for having such an unabashedly sexy but entirely respectable female character as heroine.)
Moi: 'What a figure! Man, I’m not Samir, but gosh!'
Shalini (in tears of laughter): 'Hard to believe this is an 80s film. So stylish, and such great production values.'
I agree. The movie so far has been fast-paced and entertaining. Z’s gown must have been considered risqué in the 80s – ‘good’ heroines didn’t wear such clothes. Shalini assumes the film had an ‘A’ certificate. I remind her this was pre-Pahlaj Nihalani’s sanskari censorship.

While in jail, Rajesh has made the acquaintance of Vikram (Shakti Kapoor), Jwala's brother. The latter's prison stint has ended, and he tells Rajesh that he has a big job that  only Rajesh can do. Meanwhile, Amar is falling hard for Sheila. It's obvious that she feels the pull of attraction as well, but she loves Rajesh and remains faithful to him.   
Three years have passed, and Rajesh is released. He's met by Inspector Khan who warns him that he needs to come to the police station every two weeks, and by Sheila, who's come to pick him up. When he and Sheila reach home, Rajesh is taken away at gun point by Vikram's men. Vikram and Jwala make him an offer  Rs50o,000, if Rajesh will steal their jewels back from Raka. Rajesh is reluctant – he’d promised Sheila that he would go straight. But Vikram persuades him to take an advance of Rs50,000 and ‘think about it’.
Rajesh takes the money, and returns to the hotel where Sheila is performing. (I’ve faint regrets that I didn’t give Sameer the chance to ogle, oops, comment on Z’s talents too.)
Moi: 'FK doesn't seem too bothered that she's still dancing. Maybe he forgot.'
Shalini grins. ‘Feroz looks great in a suit.’
Moi: 'Yes, he cleans up well.'
We agree that we’re both equal opportunity oglers.

After the dance, Sheila and Rajesh stop off at the beach. The scene crackles, and it’s not the fire. But Sheila is less than thrilled at the money in Rajesh's coat pocket. 'Money or me?' She asks, and we wonder what’s wrong with ‘both’ as an answer. Sheila is obviously more principled than Shalini and me.
Poor Rajesh. Now, he can neither return it to Jwala and Vikram nor can he NOT do as they asked. What’s worse, his reaction has Sheila breaking up with him.

Time passes, and one day, Vikam threatens Rajesh – they need the job done. Now.  As they talk, Amar draws up behind Vikram’s car, and honks to get Vikram to give way. The latter, already mad at Rajesh, decides to pick a fight with Amar, only to get the worse of it. (We’re glad to see that FK is admiringly keeping out of it.)
Sore loser that he is, Vikram pulls out a gun, and it would have signaled the end of a tired, perspiring Amar if Rajesh hadn’t stopped looking on admiringly and stepped in. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship. (We like Amar’s nonchalent 'Kaun tha ye?')
Rajesh is on his way to Sheila’s house, and Amar drops him there – to the latter's consternation. Because Tina is there. And while Rajesh is quick to suspect, Sheila lies. (We wonder why.)

Soon, it’s time for some romance (...and I’m wondering why Sheila and Rajesh are still an item. Didn’t she break up with him?) But they are thoroughly romantic (and we are still admiring her figure).  
Shalini: 'Gotta love FK and how openly he’s displaying Zeenat.' I agree. There was something very natural about the way he did it; with the camera not focusing on her ‘assets’ or being crude. It helped that Z herself was supremely nonchalant. We both also like that Sheila meets Amar to explain why she pretended not to know him.
Meanwhile, Vikram, still smarting about being beaten up by Amar, has his revenge. Amar is tied up, beaten and almost killed. But Rajesh comes to the rescue. Sort of. (We decide that macho courage and brains are mutually exclusive). Masala film bromance is alive and well.

We are also told why Sheila is still with Rajesh. We like. Very much! It showed an attention to detail that we are not normally used to.
Lalitha decides to join us just as Tina is kidnapped.  We quickly fill her in on the details.
Moi: I like Z’s necklace.
Shalini: Bacchi kidnap ho gayi and you’re looking at Z’s necklace!
Moi (unrepentantly): We have already established I’m a bad mother. 

Amar is frantic at his daughter's disappearance; he knows Vikram is behind the kidnapping. Rajesh manages to stop him from committing harakiri. A private conversation with Jwala and Vikram frees Tina. Meanwhile Rajesh has a plan to throw Inspector Khan off their tracks (he's stuck to them like a limpet), to escape Jwala's and Vikram's clutches, and be rich at the same time.
Soon, there's a double robbery, cross, double-cross and triple-cross, an unexpected murder, a frame-up, some missing jewels, and... vengeance.  
Aruna Irani was excellent as Jwala – her eyes, contact lenses or no, flashed fire, and in the confrontation scenes with Amrish Puri, one is quickly made aware of what a brilliant actress she was. It's unfortunate that she got slotted as the vamp and then had to settle for supporting/character roles. Special acting honours also go to Amjad Khan who played his Inspector Khan with panache. Hiding a keen brain behind a mask of good humour, the man's expressions change like quicksilver, revealing the chilling meance behind the buffoonery. 
It's all the more menacing because he's so quiet. 

Amjad also gets to quote Ghalib (he's a cultured cop, he is) as well as some of the most humorous one-liners in the film, which made us wish they hadn't inserted a comedy track featuring Jagdeep at his most annoying.

Zeenat was a revelation. She was the regulation heroine, really, there for the songs and to be the glamorous arm candy, but within that convention narrative arc of the heroine, we got a strong, independent woman who has a mind of her own. Her unabashed sexuality, her innate self-confidence and the fact that her character is accorded a respect seldom offered in the commercial cinema of the time, makes her rather special.  It helps that Qurbani showcased her at her most fetching.
The Khan-Khanna combination was pure machismo. Again, two extremely handsome, men, who wore their masculinity very casually, their swagger innate, not put on. One got the feeling that they were unaware, even uninterested in how they looked. 
While the film did focus on Feroz as Rajesh, Vinod's Amar had almost as much screen time, as well as a sympathetic narrative. And Vinod was particularly good in the emotional scenes, exhibiting a vulnerability under the toughness. (Lalitha was very sad that she missed all the beefcake and our valuable commentary,but she did get to hear us excoriate the men for being neanderthals.)

All in all, we had a blast watching the film  – it was well-mounted, well-directed, fast-paced, and entertaining. What's more, there's an attention to detailsmall scenes tie up loose ends quite naturally. The action scenes still hold up well, and for a film that's nearly four decades old, it has aged very well indeed.

p.s. Sameer, we owe you one. But as you can see, you were remembered. 

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