Jaani Dost
India 1983
Directed by K. Raghavendra Rao.

Insane, utterly insane, and bad, very bad. Everything about this film is far more complicated than necessary -- the back story, the relationships, the heroes, the villains. The cast is heavy with the great camp villains of Bollywood, but unfortunately they spend most of their time chatting with each other and their trained chimpanzee. The heroes also have their own trained chimp, and no, I'm not talking about Jeetendra.

The movie begins with a slide show that rushes through a massive amount of backstory as if it were recapping the first movie in the series (thankfully, there wasn't one and this isn't a series, so don't panic). The King of Rajnagar is advised by his business manager to send all his money and jewels abroad before the new government seizes his royal assets. He does so and intends to go with his son Veeru and live abroad for a while. His manager kills him, seizes his wealth, and flings his son off of a train, and dubs himself Cobra, head of the smuggling underworld (Kader Khan). The King's wife stays with Cobra and gives birth to a baby girl, conceived before the King died. The King's son Veeru, meanwhile, survived, ending up on the streets where an older boy, Raju, adopts him as his younger brother, and works on the streets to pay for Veeru's education.

When they grow up, Raju (now a constantly sweaty Dharmendra) is a simple but honest truck driver (remarkably similar to the one in CARAVAN). Veeru (Jeetendra) on the other hand, was supposed to get an education and become a police officer, but instead seems to have landed in jail, from which he escapes.

[IMAGE: The unnecessarily sweaty Dharmendra and his truck, giving us the last word.]

Meanwhile the King's daughter, Meeru (Parveen Babi), has also grown up, and is being pursued by Cobra's one-eyed son Nagendra (Shakti Kapoor) and his goons. Raju quickly dispatches them, and soon he and Meeru have fallen in love. Veeru, for his part, joins up with the gang and gets especially close to Cobra's younger brother, Hari (Amjad Khan), whose specialty is to "change getups" and so appears in a variety of ridiculous costumes throughout the film which should fool no one. He also has his romance, with Shalu (Sridevi), a karate expert, whom he fights in a case of mistaken identity after helping another girl fend off her attacker. She longs for vengeance against the man who killed her mother -- none other than the getup changing Hari.

[IMAGE: Sridevi as Karate expert.]

And for the first hour, the drama unfolds. Raju learns that his sacrifices to bring up Veeru and educate him were in vain. Or were they? Is he a smuggler, like he tells Hari, or a cop, like he tells Raju?

Then, everything goes haywire, and the second half of the movie is crazy and disjointed and laughably ridiculous. The action moves to the jungle, where the villains suddenly decide they should start trafficking in human slaves, kidnapped from jungle tribal areas. They kidnap Veeru's mother and chain her up. They force Meeru to marry, then drive her off a cliff. Raju gets set up and sent to jail, then escapes, then disguises himself as the "Lion," a jungle avenger, complete with flowing black cape. Meanwhile, the tribal people worship a gigantic fanged god and offer it human sacrifices, and keep confusing who the good guys and bad guys are.

[IMAGE: The tribal jungle group and their god.]

The predominant theme of the film is disguise. The bad guys are constantly switching "getups" to get away with their crimes, the heroes put on disguises and play roles to get close to the villains and defeat them. Lots of movie references, from the song lyrics (in which a romantic couple compares each other to various film stars), to Raju's truck, which says "SHOLAY" on the front. Actors playing characters who wear disguises. The artiface of the medium comes to the fore and it seems almost as if the director would like to make a statement about it, but this soon fades, and is replaced by fistfights and chimp antics.

In the early eighties, Dharmendra had a lot of movies behind him but still plenty more ahead. A bit too old for playing an action hero anymore, but not old enough to play character roles, his part never fits entirely well, and it seems his predominant character trait are sweaty armpits and stained shirts. Jeetendra as usual fails to make much impact. Only Sridevi, as a karate expert, stands out among the primary stars.

The cast of villains include most of my favorites, including Amjad Khan, Kader Khan, and Shakti Kapoor (the last two playing father and son villains as they have many times). However, they are largely a disappointment, spending most of their time standing around chatting to each other about their nefarious plans without really doing too much that is particularly nefarious. One gets the feeling this was a throwaway film, a time for everyone to hang out together and goof off. If so, they did a remarkably fine job of it.

[IMAGE: Villains (from left to right) Kader Khan, Amjad Khan, and Shakti Kapoor.]

The music (by Bappi Lahiri) is pretty good. Parveen Babi gets a number about being a "Beauty Queen", and Jeetendra and Sridevi compare each other to Zeenat Aman and Amitabh Bachchan (as mentioned above). The last musical number has to be seen to be believed, both of our heroines are dancing on the back of a truck, moaning in fear, while villains alternately whip, stab, and threaten them with cobras.

Make no mistake, JAANI DOST is a bad movie. Bad story, bad editing, bad casting. Nevertheless I give it a marginal recommendation as it is bound to appeal to the "so bad its good" camp.

[IMAGE: "That's a wrap!"]

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on November 28, 2005.


i like this acters and i like qader khan

Posted by: Abdullah at February 27, 2006 01:38 AM


Posted by: Gauhar at June 14, 2006 04:03 PM

jaani dost is not really a well written script aside the various actors' contributions to the film.

but please do not discredit Jeetendra as a no-good actor. many of you critics have been condeming his acting prowess but he has revealed himself as a box office king during the peak of his career. this is shown comparable with amitabh's films even in the 80s.

i know many of you do not like Jeetu. but God has made him wax stronger in the face of cynics like you.

please put a stop to this criticism on Jeetendra.

Posted by: martin gbolagun at September 20, 2006 07:14 AM
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