If you are stuck in a hotel room all by yourself, even if it is a very nice hotel room,
and you’ve made those calls to your family that you’ve tried desperately to stretch for over 30 minutes, because you so want to be home,
and your family is going all, “why don’t you relax, and take that holiday from home and us that you are always talking about?”,
then the best thing you can do to cheer yourself up is watch ‘Jaani Dushman‘ (1979).
It’s full of the most gorgeous women, Neetu Singh, Rekha, Yogeeta Bali, Sarika, Reena Roy, Bindiya Goswami, Jayshree T, Aruna Irani and a few others, all a reassuring size 14 and above, dressed in tight blouses, big bare midriffs, and tight knee length triangular skirts, and angular eyebrows (yes, it was that time). Every so often they turn up in full bridal regalia.
The men are all tall and handsome, Sunil Dutt, Shatrughan Sinha, Jeetendra, and they dress in matching trousers and jackets, with patchwork on them, and big belts on their waists. Shatrughan Sinha is delightfully, unrepentantly evil.
There are several brides, several songs, and several deaths. There is a lot of honour going around, and friendship, and brother-sister love that always ends in tears. The story goes around in a loop. Love scene, fight scene, death scene, comedy scene, love scene, and so on. The comedy scene is Jagdeep and Jayshree T trying to make out, and being disturbed by a rival lover, Paintal. The love scene is Sunil Dutt and Reena Roy trying to make out and being disturbed by a rival lover, Shatrughan Sinha. The sweet scene is Jeetendra and Neetu Singh trying to make out, and everything being hunky-dory, signifying an early death for both of them. The dramatic scene is Sanjeev Kumar, the righteous Thakur being horrified by his nasty son, Shatrughan Sinha and the mother, Indrani Mukherjee crying for her husband’s forgiveness for their son. The sad scene is a bride being sent off in her palanquin by her tearful brother. The horror scene is an evil spirit attacking the bridal palanquin and killing the bride. The scenes play in a loop through the film, with insignificant changes in them. The flashbacks have the characters remembering similar scenes, as of course nothing else does happen in their lives but what’s on the loop.
It also has Vinod Mehra as a mad man wearing plants sticking to rags, which are then torn aside to reveal a very, very tight police uniform. And Premnath who plays a fat Bumm-Bumm-Bhole sadhu in a ankle-length orange robe with side slits. It’s not clear until the end whether or not he is nurturing the evil spirit in the cave underneath his temple.
The evil spirit wears a gorilla suit rented from Maganlal Dresswala in Girgaum Chowpatty (I presume). I’m not sure whether they had the Juhu branch back then. The suit probably still hangs around the godowns and I wonder if the evil spirit lurks in there. The evil spirit is of a hurt bridegroom whose bride sneaked out on their wedding night to meet her lover. When the possessed man dies, the evil spirit moves to another body. The gorilla suit remains the same.
It’s all very delicious. And it goes on forever. And it feels like you have gone back home for a while.