Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Kaala Patthar (1979)
My hunt for obscure non-American disaster movies goes on and now I've just seen Yash Chopra's Kaala Patthar (which triggered me to make a bad joke earlier today: "If you directly translated the Indian movie title Kaala Patthar from Swedish it would be Coold Boobhs in English. Kinda."). Often I find non-American disaster flicks even more fun than the movies they try to copy. All the clichés is there, but with a local flavours and with a lot more miniature effects made for lesser money. I've already seen and loved The Burning Train, and now it's time for a mine-disaster movie starring two of the biggest stars: Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan! Is it as good as The Burning Train? Read on and you'll see...
Ravi, a mining engineer who works for the greedy bastard Dhanraj
(Prem Chopra). He's very critical to the safety precautions in the mine, but
Dhanraj refuses to listen to him. One of the workers is the mysterious Vijay (Amitabh),
a man with a past! He's a former boat captain who by accident, and partly being
a coward, abandoned his ship during a storm and left the passengers. But the
ship didn't sink and now he's on the run from himself, trying to make up for
his cowardly behaviour. We also have Mangal (Shatrughan Sinha), a convict who
escaped prison and his hiding among the workers... these and several other
characters we get a chance to follow during their life and work around the
mine, until the disaster strikes!
I've always wondered how these Indian movies can keep up the interest. This one, for example, is almost three hours long and when looking back at it there's nothing really special about the story. Don't misunderstand me, it's well-written - but the story is like most other disaster movies. Nothing unique, and still a movie like this keeps up the interest of the audience for the whole duration. I think that, more or less, Indian movies are like an episode of The Simpsons or Family Guy, two shows that crams a lot of intrigue into 20-24 minute long episodes. Why because they're not afraid of introducing twists after twists without much explanation. It just happens, with a line of dialogue or two getting the show going in the right direction.
Indian movies do the same thing, but for 2,5-3 hours and they're not ashamed about it. The inclusion of a musical number when the story starts to slow down and more or less unprovoked fistfights (or kung fu if the movie is more wacko) also speeds up the story. Kaala Patthar is a good drama, not great, with a cast of decent actors who brings some respectability to the film. A fight here and there, some romance - and bromance - music and intrigue makes it work for 165 minutes.
The interesting thing, if you analyze the story and the main antagonist, is that the disaster strikes during the last 25 minutes of the movie! These minutes has a lot of action and people getting drown in absurd amounts of water, but it also feels a bit rushed and I wish they could have started the disaster earlier to build up more tension.