Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ankhen (1968)

Time has come to one of the most iconic Indian spy-stories, Ankhen, another movies taking a lot of inspiration from James Bond, but maybe mostly succeeds to be a patriotic mishmash of drama, action and songs. I guess Ankhen is one of those movies that might be better in memory than in real life, because one of the few things that survived from its initial release is the action scenes and the gorgeous sixties cinematography. The rest is very uneven, to a degree it took me three days to watch the whole movie. Is it so bad? Absolutely not, it’s just the pacing that could have been better – and shorter songs.

Terrorist attacks kills a lot of people in India and soon we get to know that a terrorist group is responsible for making every demonstration, every radical movement even worse with planting bombs and attacking the Indian government pretending to be Indian. A concerned group of private citizens take upon them to defend the borders of India, but also do some spying in Beirut, Lebanon. When one of them is killed – or is he? – master-spy Sunil (Dharmendra) travels to Beirut to try to uncover who the killers are and what they want. The evil mastermind this time is Doctor X, complete with a monocle and an endless hate for the proud Indian people! He has built a secret underground base outside one of the big cities, and there preparing all the terrorist attacks! Will Sunil and his friends stop him, or are they all… doomed?

I can start with some whining. Ankhen is way to long for the story it tries to tell. Or let me correct myself directly, it has way to few twists, turns and action scenes for it’s nearly three hour running time. Compared with Shaan or Bond 303, its quiet slow and focuses mostly on Sunil walking around looking cool (nothing wrong with that really), some bad comedy and scenes of happy families doing stuff together. The songs are also way to long and all except the night club act is badly executed and very stiff and slow.

The story kinda picks ups when the little son of the sister of Sunil gets kidnapped by Doctor X and his cohorts and is placed in a room with moving spiked walls, always threatening to crush him! That’s poetry!

What’s more fun is the action, as usual. There’s a couple of very Jackie Chan-esque stunts when people are falling down and probably hurting themselves quite badly, a couple of fun and quite acrobatic fist fights and no less than three nice miniature sets getting blown to pieces in true Godzilla-style. The acting from the bad guys is over-the-top, and a lot more fun than the stiff hero-cast. Jeevan, who plays Doctor X, is in full scene-chewing mode and have a lot of fun with a character that is boring written. But best of them all is Indias wicked stepmother number 1, legendary Lalita Pawar, who plays the evil doctors henchwoman. The first half of the movie she’s a zombie-like psychopath, but goes into fantastic performance when she’s pretending to be an aunt of one of the good guys (they have never seen each other before, therefore he don’t recognize her as an imposter) and she completely transform herself into a hysterical, Krishna-mumbling old psycho-lady. Pure brilliance! She started her career as a nine year old in 1928 and died in 1998, what a career!

Ankhen is far from the best Indian movie I’ve seen, but it still worth watching for the action and great sets – and because of dear old Lalita of course. I have the DVD from Shanti Enterprises, and it’s a good looking fullscreen version with fully working English subtitles.

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