Janbaaz
India 1986
Directed by Feroz Khan.


A criminal gang of heroin dealers need an infusion of money to set up their next opium crop and distillation laboratory (they're a full service shop!) because Inspector Rajesh destroyed their previous efforts. They ruin a rich gambler and cheat him of all his possessions, and even his life. His bereaved daughter Reshma (Dimple Kapadia) stays with her father's only friends, where she falls in love with playboy Amar (Anil Kapoor), who desires to try everything once and lives life to the fullest. Amar's brother is none other than Inspector Rajesh (Feroz Khan). Eventually the three face off against the villainous drug dealers in a climactic battle scene that includes machine guns, grenades, and even a flamethrower, while the evil Raza Murad shouts to his flunkies, who have grabbed Reshma, "Ravage that Bitch!"

In between an interesting opening and an action packed closing, JANBAAZ concerns itself mainly with the romance between Reshma and Amar. First they hate each other, then they are attracted to each other, then they fall in love. Amar has a horse that no one can ride, of course, Reshma tries to tame that horse and gets hurt in the bargain. Lots of rushing, galloping horses; a strong, rugged, man; raging passion and murderous jealousy; it all becomes like a tawdry romance paperback brought to life.

The other main setting is the villain Shakti Kapoor's disco club. Everyone is on drugs, suddenly someone starts to break dance. Pretty soon someone else is doing the robot. The disco song "Love, Give me Love," best sung and apparently received while under the influence, is one of the great musical numbers of Indian cinema. It is sung in English, then reprised later in the film in Hindi, at which point a gorilla leaps out and starts attacking the dancers. It's part of the act, or it's real, or everyone is so tripped out its just a shared hallucination.

Sridevi and Rekha have cameo appearances in JANBAAZ, but they might as well have not bothered to show up, as its hard to take your eyes off of Dimple Kapadia. She's beautiful as only women in the mid eighties could be, and will never be again -- big hair, massive shoulder pads, stone washed jeans, loud blouse colors and Bowie-esque makeup, and yet: beautiful.

Feroz Khan, while somewhat disposable in his role as the upright, law abiding brother, once again demonstrates his directorial talents. One standout shot is of Anil Kapoor, brooding, while behind him wild stallions run in and out of view -- the scene crackles with masculine agression. His symbolic imagery is incredibly heavy-handed, if enjoyable: for example, when his girlfriend (played by Sridevi) is given a shot of heroin, we see superimposed on her face a hammer crashing down on a glass flower, shattering it. Despite often laughable imagery, Feroz Khan is creative in a way that few filmmakers these days are, and his creative excesses are like gifts to every film buff who tires of the mundane.

JANBAAZ has lots of great moments, but is not entirely successful as a film, and the romance will leave you tapping your foot with impatience. The music, though, will have you tapping your feet in delight, and when the blind prophet (don't ask) rips into his song to Allah you might even feel the spirit move you.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 13, 2004.


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