हम किसीसे कम नहीं
Dir. Nasir Hussain
A certain kind of moral ambiguity can make for a very entertaining filmi hero. In Deewaar, Amitabh Bachchan's character runs a vast criminal enterprise, but his heart is so torqued and so palpably in the right place that he remains likable and sympathetic. In lighter movies, too, a roguish hero can have a strong appeal, like Vinod Khanna's thieving character in Parvarish. Some kinds of bad acts, though, push a character into irredeemability, even if the film doesn't mean to. In a post called "Shashi Gone Bad" I wrote about the horrible Shashi Kapoor hero of Chor machaye shor who throttles and threatens to rape his girlfriend and yet seems meant to maintain the sanctimonious high ground of the film.
It is similarly weird and questionable behavior from a nominally charming hero that tarnishes Hum kisise kum naheen ("we are no less than anyone"), an otherwise quite enjoyable masala entertainer by Nasir Hussain. After Rajesh (Rishi Kapoor) learns that a travel belt full of diamonds was stolen from his father while the poor man lay dying on the floor of a men's room, Rajesh hatches a plot to recover his purloined treasure. Rather than just steal the diamonds back, he schemes to kidnap the culprit's daughter and demand them in ransom. Being kidnapped is evidently insufficient trauma for Kajal (Kajal Kiran), who is of course completely ignorant and innocent of her father's crime. To get close enough to Kajal to nab her, Rajesh lies about his identity, pretends to love her, and seduces her into falling for him. In short, this hero is a narcissistic jerk who doesn't much consider whose heart he breaks or whose trust he betrays, as long as he gets his diamonds.
Kajal takes it coming and going, too. Before she rebounds to the deceiving Rajesh, Kajal first falls for Sanjay (Tariq), who, unbeknownst to Kajal, is the long-lost childhood sweetheart she has been pining for. (More precisely, Sanjay is her childhood fiancé; another less-than-ideal aspect of Hum kisise kum naheen is its glorification of a creepy child marriage.) Sanjay knows full well who Kajal is, but he forgoes several opportunities to reveal his identity to her. This affords the film a few more angry misunderstandings and fisticuffs than are strictly necessary. I lose sympathy for Sanjay when he grabs Kajal by both arms and roughs her up, shouting something like "sun le Kajal! Mujhe kuch kehna hai!" He could instead have perhaps not manhandled her at all, and just said something simple and straightforward, like "main hoon Sanjay."
But that is an awful lot of words of complaint about the storyline of a movie that is at its heart a vehicle for fabulous R.D. Burman songs and Rishi Kapoor in a spectacular array of wackadoodle outfits. The feathered (or is it furred? it's hard to tell which, but it sure is muppety) jumpsuit of "Bachna ae haseeno" is especially terrific.
This is the sort of thing we watch 70s Hindi films for.
Both Rajesh and Sanjay just happen to be professional performers, which allows for the bounty of this song medley, set at the "All-India Pop Competition," the title of which event Rishi Kapoor delivers with a delightful pop! indeed. Beth and I agreed we want front-row tickets to the All-India Pop! Competition.
And what Rishi Kapoor movie would be complete without a qawwali? The title song of Hum kisise kum naheen is as great a filmi qawwali as any, with bonus Zeenat Aman.
Bonus Ajit, too.
Zeenat Aman's character appears to have dropped in here from the next movie over, one in which she is spirited off to London by her family, engaged against her will, and makes a dramatic eleventh-hour escape on the eve of her marriage to return to her true love, Rajesh. It sounds like a pretty good story, doesn't it? In Hum kisise kum naheen, though, it is told in hasty exposition, tacked on so Rajesh can have a girl that he doesn't have to borrow from Sanjay. No matter; whatever narrative expedience it takes to cram Zeenat and that qawwali into a movie is well worth it.
There is also a little bit of pretty good comedy (more, if you like diarrhea jokes), including a masterfully-timed entrance by Tariq that breaks a tense early sequence in which a gloriously wigged-and-beared Amjad Khan (you know it's him because of that voice) stashes the purloined diamonds. Kajal's bodyguards are a hoot too, in a bizarre way, four identically-dressed bald men whom I compared to Oompa Loompas, and Beth compared to Mom's idiot sons from Futurama. The Swimming Pool makes an appearance and so does a little gratuitous Tom Alter. So even though Rajesh isn't the most lovable hero ever, and the child marriage stuff is hinky, these sins can be overlooked in the fun of the movie's rewarding individual moments. The first two-thirds are better than the last third, for sure, but only a select few masala flicks never flag at any point. A recent commenter to this blog noted that the combination of Nasir Hussain and RD Burman reliably yields decently fun masala with very groovy tunes. And if you like that sort of thing (which I do) then Hum kisise kum naheen does not disappoint. It pretty much delivers what it says on the package.