India ,  1979
Directed by Mahesh Bhatt.
What a find! Suzie Wong meets Bhagat Singh! Hong Kong meets India! This is one of those movies that Indian DVD shops tuck into their 3 for $15 rack, dismissed as a lesser film by a lesser star. But for fans of Asian cinema, this one is a gem in the rough.
Vinod Khanna stars as Shamshir Singh, an Indian soldier in the British army, who upon being stationed in Hong Kong, promptly escapes from his evil overlords to start the revolution. Pursued by the British, he stumbles into the house of Suzie (played by the dancer, Helen), who hides him in her bed. They fall in love, and she becomes pregnant, but before she can conceive he must return to India to continue the revolution.
It turns out he has a wife and child at home, too. Before he can sort out these problems he is promptly killed by Shanker, a traitor to the revolution.
Many years later, his sons have grown up. His son living in India, Raj, grows up to be the spitting image of his father (Vinod Khanna, again, just without the bushy mustache he sported for Singh Sr.), and works as a police officer in now independent India. His son in Hong Kong (Danny Denzongpa), on the other hand, bitterly resents his absentee father for never returning, and falls in with a criminal gang, led by -- of course -- the evil Shanker.
Of course, this being an Indian film, there is much, much more; including an orphan child who takes up with Suzie's son, and a beautiful Darjeeling estate owner (Shabana Azmi) whose mother has to be locked up in the house because she has been driven mad by heroin, forcefully given to her to enforce cooperation with Shanker's group. Quite out of nowhere, the end of the movie is lifted almost exactly from the Bond film GOLDFINGER, from the knock-out gas to the theft of gold bars, and even down to the way Vinod Khanna escapes from his cell and overhears the villain's plans.
Most difficult for western viewers is the cavalier attitude taken by the "freedom fighters" regarding the Japanese front in World War II. At one point a radio is on, reporting the Japanese advance, and it seems our hero is going to comment on it, perhaps go fight, but no, no one in the room cares even a little bit. These scenes early in the film do much to dismiss, perhaps even to consider unpatriotic, the sacrifices made by Indian troops on the eastern front in World War II, especially the Sikh soldiers stationed in Hong Kong. But these moments are quickly dispensed of, and the film arrives at more secure moral ground in developing the story of his two sons in an independent India.
The action goes back and forth between Hong Kong and India, though the majority of the action takes place in India, and on sets obviously made there. Still, we see a few classic Hong Kong landmarks: the Peak, the old Police Station, the airport.
My favorite moment is when we discover that the villain has a penthouse in Jardine House, which was built in 1971-2 and was for almost a decade the tallest building in Southeast Asia (it was still tallest when LAHU KE DO RANG was released). Who knew that inside the recognizable "porthole" building:
You could find a scene like this taking place?:
Boy, clearly I work in the wrong office building.
Very few Hong Kong actors seem to have been employed for the production. Here are basically the only two who get much "face" time, very little dialog. Brian Camp, Lynn Haynes, and Christopher Fu helped me sort out who was who when I posted a query over at Mobius Home Video Forum:
Fung Hark On. For a more recent appearance, Fung Hark On appeared as one of the Harpist/assassins in Kung Fu Hustle.
These guys were very busy in Kung Fu movies in the late seventies. Apparently even busier than we knew!
Posted by Peter Nepstad on September 14, 2005.