I don’t mind living in a hotel room if it is big enough, has enough storage space, and I can lay out all my things as if I were at home, even if it is for 2 days and 1 night. But living for 2 months in a hotel room can try anyone’s patience, specially if you are sharing it with Teja, who thinks that throwing his things around, including the mandatory wet towel on the bed, is a quick and easy way to annoy me, which is oh, so much fun. For him. I did spend a considerable amount of time neatening things up in Rudraprayag, apart from the 1001 other things I needed to do while making a film.
A plastic bag full of tablets was obviously shudder-inducing, so I discarded the bag, and put away emergency pop-ins in one box, and vitamins in another.
For a week after, I was taking ‘Combiflam’ in lieu of ‘Shelcal’ and sleeping happier for it. Until one day, I handed over a calcium aka. combiflam tablet to Teja. He’s been chuckling about it ever since then.
‘International Crook’ (1974) is almost like ‘Combiflam’-induced sleep. It numbs your brains while hammering away at your liver, with an insidious theme song, “Crook, crook, international crook … crook, crook, international crook!”
The international crook is Dharmendra, who wears his beautiful silk shirts, looks handsome but is also ‘Combiflam’-ed. Feroz Khan and he are childhood friends, but refrain from pulling each other into hugs and touching each other which they did a lot and lot of in ‘Aadmi aur Insaan’, ignoring even the luscious Mumtaz. In both films, they fall for Saira Banu, who I look at curiously. I can see that she is very, very pretty and usually wears lovely clothes, notwithstanding the occasional pastel blue baby doll negligee which does nothing for her thighs. But perhaps it is her querulous voice that is her undoing, for me.
It is obvious too that Dharmendra and Feroz Khan share more chemistry with each other than Saira Banu does with either one of them, though she is a bright enough comrade. In one never-to-be-forgotten scene, she plaintively asks Dharmendra, “I am tired of the bedroom. Morning, bedroom. Afternoon, bedroom. Night, bedroom. All day, bedroom, bedroom, bedroom!” He asks her good-naturedly, “Tired of the bedroom, are you? Should we go back home then?” She nods happily. And thus, ends their honeymoon in Switzerland. I am thinking, what is she thinking?
There are lamentably few diversions of the sort I like. Like the solitary hug,
and the solitary leer,
I wish there was more of – a box full of gold bricks, diamonds scattered on a glass table, and everyone going by turn, ‘Diamonds!”, “Diamonds!”, “Diamonds!”,
a belly-dancer in Iran, who looks like a cross between Kum Kum and Sonia Sahni,
with a foreign accompaniment including someone with a ‘manjira’,
and a ‘been’,
and a benevolent mandoli player,
and of course no supporting instrumentation in the soundtrack,
a fuse-box-like-box with a red and blue bulb,
which gives out warning horns and red flashes, when the police enter the vicinity. It works even at sea, and discerns all manners of uniforms. Which is why when Om Prakash and a team of constables are asked to watch the den, they dress up in flashy T-shirts, and dance to a loud song. As long as they don’t wear uniforms, they are safe.
There is also a lighthouse in a place called Goga, and a glider plane chase in Alaska which goes on forever.
It is obvious that producer/director/writer Pachhi has spent a lot of money shooting the planes, and wants to use every shot. Never mind, as filmmakers we have all done that, not letting go. The planes fly and fly around and then circle and land where they had set off from, much like the characters who move bewilderingly between Alibagh, Goga, Alaska, Switzerland, Iran and sundry other places, apart from the film sets in Mumbai,
and do the same things over and over again.
Everyone is blessed with looks and shiny head-gears that never fade, over 20 odd years.
A child, Dharmendra and Saira Banu’s (he does look like a Deol, though he is not in the credits), changes hairstyles in a scene, confusingly between one shot and another. And so does Saira Banu’s hair puff up and down.
The film fails to deliver the promise it gives in the first scene when a smuggler brings in diamonds in his eyeball, and another one bites a biscuit to find a gold biscuit.
There are diamonds hidden in dolls, and gold biscuits slid in the bellies of fish. There is talk of 7 crores of gold which the enemy is willing to pay 14 crores for, provided you throw in some opium, cocaine and marijuana.
It is precisely biscuits such as these, which make Teja protest every time I say, “I don’t wear gold jewelry. But maybe, we can invest in gold biscuits.” His 70-s upbringing kicks in and kicks out. He thinks of police raids, and torches flashing out to sea, and jail.
Dharmendra goes to jail too, for 7 years, and then back to Saira Banu in her yellow shirt-black hot pants.