July 31, 2008

Alibaba Aur 40 Chor- Arabian Nights on drugs

From the 70s through the early 80s, Bollywood produced a number of "foreign collaboration" movies, such collabs somehow more popular than other times in Bollywood history. In these movies, the primary actors were normally Indian, while the supporting cast were from whatever country the collab was with. A fabulous example of this is "Shalimar," which I love to distraction. Alibaba was in collaboration with the then USSR, who has traditionally loved Indian movies (Awara was a smash hit, and Raj Kapoor-Nargis their all time favorite "jodi").

Alibaba is also a classic example of era-less Bollywood. It strays WAY far out in terms of any historical context, costuming and scientific fact. Though based on the Arabian Nights' tale of the same name, it has little to do with the middle east, and boasts fashions ranging from Spanish - Victorian - fake-Arabic. To my mind, this does not detract from the movie- it adds camp value and a sense that the director was on LSD throughout the execution :)

Title: Alibaba Aur 40 Chor

Year: 1980
Cast: Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman, Sofiko Chiaureli, Zakir Mukhamedzhanov, Rolan Bykov, Madan Puri.

The film opens to find Alibaba, (Dharmendra) living in Guleba, an oasis in the middle of the Sahara with his mom (Sofiko Chiaureli) and brother Kasim (Zakir Mukhamedzhanov). His dad Yusuf is away trading in foreign lands.

Guleba is ruled by a Kazi (Rolan Bykov) and is beset by a gang of 40 theives, who capture and loot any envoy on its way to the city. These are super resourceful dacoits- they have captured Fatima (Zeenat) and her dad (Madan Puri) who have invented dynamite, centuries before its known invention in the 1800s :) Now Zeenat must work for the dacoits until they free her dad.

But that is not to be. After the dacoits have made her dance in their cave, which looks like a 80's discotheque- apparently the dacoits had electricity in the middle ages as well :) But seriously, this is such a insane song, what with the crazy lights, yet made sensual by the amazing Zeenat, that it cant be described and you just have to watch it...

... her dad kills himself in order to render her free to run away. Which she does, only to meet up with Alibaba's greedy brother Kassim. Kassim makes her show him the dacoit's treasure hideout...

Only to be found and eventually murdered by the dacoits. The dacoits have meanwhile also looted Alibaba's dad Yusuf (remember him???), and he is found by no less than the king of the land.....

....who is then murdered off by his own vizier (Prem Chopra) [oh god SUCH a complex story] who makes himself king, and tries to bed Princess Marjina (Hema). She gets her own song with Dharam- though it is never clear in the movie as to precisely when and why they fall in love....

Marjina and Yusuf are both rescued by Alibaba (here we go in circles again)....

... but Alibaba doesn't recognize his dad, since Yusuf left town when he was a wee babe (what kind of a business trip is that????!!!) Yusuf is soon killed in a skirmish w/ Abu Hasan and his men, and that is when Alibaba find out the that it is his own dad who is dying in his arms....

What will happen now? Will Alibaba get revenge for his dad and brother's murders (if you have watched ANY Dharam movies you know the answer)? Will Fatima avenge her dad? Since this is Alibaba meets Bollywood, anything can happen!

1- The Russian/Uzbek actors did a very good job, especially Rolan Bykov- thunderous applause to him. I really think he would have been a great addition to Bollywood, had he tried to do more there, and would have hammed it up with the best of them.
2- Zeenat wasn't utilized to her best- she is really capable of so much better.
3- Hema and Dharam both look a bit tired- maybe it was the Uzbeki terrain- which didn't appear to have affected Zeenat at all!
4- V cool songs, despite the ludicrous settings.

Conclusion: All in all, entirely watchable, and a fun investment of the requisite 2.5+ hrs- do it!


Anonymous said...

I watched this one years ago. It leaves the viewer feeling exactly as confused as Shahryar must have felt on hearing Sheherazade's tales! But its so much fun to watch. Loved Shalimar too, it was one of the slickest action thriller in Hindi!

Banno said...

I like the calculation of the investment of the number of hours. I often wonder myself at the TIME I spend watching silly films. Love it.

veracious said...

Oh I agree, this is a fun romp. The action sequences got a little boring for me personally but the songs, Zeenat, the Hema-Dharam jodi, all really good stuff. The psychedelic treasure cave! God bless the 80's. I could buy the DVD just for the songs and Zeenat's gorgeous looks. Agree also that Dharam-Hema both don't do their finest job here, but I still love the Jaadu ka Jaadugar song!

Nicki said...

That movie seems really interesting. Love the scenery.

You know what's funny? I've come across a lot of ignorant people who mix the Arabic and Indian culture as one.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. This looks Dharam-Veer-like, which can't be a bad thing. I will have to look for this one. Hema and Dharam probably look tired because they are getting too old for swashbuckling at this point (well Dharam is, anyway). I love him with earrings!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Bollyviewer: Such fun, really :)

Banno: Its compulsion, I tell you- being an accountant by profession takes it toll :)

Veracious: hehe I swear I want to live in that cave! And that Jadugar jadugar is our fav as well- the husband watches it w/ rapt attention, and then wants to see it again :)

Nicki- Yup- been there. I've disillusioned a few people since I came to the US :) Having no clue of geography, they assume India is located somewhere near UAE rofl :D

Memsaab: heeh. and I need to see Dharam Veer! Dharam swashbucled thru the 90s, so I'm guessing he didnt listen to our advises in time :B

Anonymous said...


I had no idea these "cross-cultural" films existed--this is definitely something I have to see for myself!

Zeenat just has the slinky way about her, doesn't she? :)

I don't know if Hindi action movies are my thing (yet) but it sounds like this is a good one to try for the stars, the costumes, the music, the fun...

theBollywoodFan said...

Thanks Shweta! I haven't seen this, but given Zeenat Aman (in any capacity, really) and a classic tale you cannot escape as a desi kid, there's no way I'm missing out. I haven't seen Shalimar either.

I guess you can offset (or confuse, depending on how one looks at it) those who think the UAE is close to India by stating that the Arabian Sea is part of the Indian Ocean! :P

Aren't they making one on Aladdin, with Amitabh as the genie?! Should be fun!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Nida: Calling them "cross-culture" is perhaps crediting them w/ too much- :) And I love Zeenat beyond compare- looks like the Russians did too, since she features prominently on that poster! You WOULD like this movie, cos its def more than action- completely "paisa vasool", if you will :D

Bollyfan: lol- I am sure it'll confuse the hearers worse if we explain the Arabian sea's proximity to India :D ggl- i'd like to do tht though :P I'm sure you'd love both this and Shalimar- though Zeenat doesn't have as long a role as I'd wish here.

ajnabi said...

This movie sounds like the best sort of trainwreck! :-D Paisa vasool indeed.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

That's the best kind of confirmation- from the Paisa Vasool blogger herself! :D

Anonymous said...

Hi di! How's life? I see you're having fun with your share of Hindi movies ;) Nothing compared to the ones from the South though :P

I never saw 'Voice of India' but was terribly sorry to hear about Ishmeet :(

Right, what's the reason for this sudden correspondence. Well...I'm in a terrible fix. I have this manual SLR camera, that I can't make head or tail of and our department labs were getting renovated and it was done & over with only in July. The thing is, I've got to submit four large prints by the 19th or August and there's no way I'll get decent pictures taken by that time. To cut a long short story, I need to steal some of your Rajasthan pics. But of course only if you allow me to, which is why I've added the explanation in the first place ;) Of course I'll be bothering you with a few more questions once you say yes. If not, that's fine too. I'll think of something!

And btw, I haven't seen this version of Ali Baba since there've been others made. I'll be sure to check it out ;)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

lols- Alright, u can steal them from my orkut album- those are the best ones. The others I think are also available on flickr, but let me know if there's an issue :)

Unknown said...

Sorry, sorry, got a little distracted by some other pictures :P


^The link to the ones I want to know about. Just the places where they were taken. And also the camera...the kind and everything.

I feel so bad doing this, but I don't have a lot of options :( Or maybe I should work 24 x 7 for the rest of the week...aaah!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Having problems- my office has a firewall, and I cant view photobucket. The earliest I can do this is 8pm tonight, when I get home. In case that is too late, know that all pix are from Jaipur, Jodhpur and Mt Abu. The camera is a pink cybershot http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921665376509

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Here are the pix's IDs:
#1- City Palace, Jaipur
#2- Amer Palace courtyard, Jaipur
#3- Jodhpur palace - king's car
#4- Top of Amer fort.
#5 -10: Differernt views from Amer fort.
#11-13- Mehrangarh, Jodhpur.

Hope it works :)

Unknown said...

THAT'S PERFECTO! *big hugs* Thank you a thousand times over!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

NP Ms- ur welcome :)