Friday, July 29, 2011

Shaan (1980)

I never thought I would see two James Bond rip-offs that both have the hero getting into the evil mastermind’s lair pretending to be a member of a sing- and dance troupe! But I did. The first one was Bond 303 and the second is Shaan, the 1980 super-hit with superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor as the heroes, with good help from veteran hero-actor Sunil Dutt! It’s clearly pushing it to call Shaan a complete Bond rip-off, but I can say that half of the story and half of the movie can be placed under this fantastic pseudo-genre. Why, let’s take a look at the story…

Ambitabh and Shashi is two jolly good conmen, Vijay and Ravi. They survive through elaborated hoaxes and caper. One day they try to fool a young woman and an old man, only two realized they have been fooled by professional daughter/father con-duo Sunita (Parveen Babi) and Chacha (Johnny Walker, yes he named himself after the Scottish whisky). After some comedy and fun they decide to join forces and try to steal a diamond necklace. But they didn’t count on big brother Inspector Shiv Kumar (Sunil Dutt) who arrests them but welcomes them after doing some jail time…. So whats do this lead up to? Well, after an hour someone – the EVIL Shakal, the leader of a crime organization wants to take revenge on Kumar and his effective police force that interferes in the Shakal’s business over and over again, and he won’t stop until they’re all dead!

The special thing with Shakal is that he’s bald like Blofeld, has his own private island with a smaller army, a flock of killer dogs, a man-eating crocodile and of course an gigantic secret underground base! So from a typical easy-going caper movie it explodes into hyper-action and big impressive Ken Adam-style sets. Wow, just wow.

What’s really cool with Shaan is that it works so well, even if the genre-mix is quite extreme and can feel abrupt for the Hollywood-fan. Much must be blamed on the excellent cast, especially the trio of Bachchan, Kapoor and Dutt, who all three are so cool and has enough charisma to put the best action star to shame. Dutt, here 51 years old, acts out he was Superman or something. Falls from great heights without a scratch, hits bad guys so the fly through the walls, get chased by 40-50 dogs and manages to escape them, etc etc. The two younger gentlemen are of course not too bad either, and kick so much Indian butt during the almost three hour length of the movie that Chuck Norris should be afraid.

Except an impressive Dirty Harry-style scene in the beginning, were Dutt alone takes care of a hostage taker, the first hour is quite low-key, with comedy and singing and dancing instead. But when the action finally starts it never lets us down. No less than three car chases (all with impressive stunts), a couple of chases, a fantastic Peckinpah-esque shoot-out at a farm when bad-guy-going-good Rakesh (Shatrughan Sinha) alone protects a family against a dozen shotgun-armed henchmen.

In the end everything explodes – and a few of those clips were later reused in Bond 303 – but here you can see it in good quality and for a miniature buff like me it’s a field day of excess! As a fan of Bond rip-offs the lair is a treasure to behold. From the awesome round table with the killer crocodile underneath (easy way to dispose clumsy co-workers) and the long space-age corridors, this is a marvel of rip-offs, among the most stylish I’ve seen outside the real Bond films.

Shaan is a fine adventure-romp, recommended!

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