October 4, 2008

The Burning Train review, disaster movies and miscellaneous bliss

The Burning Train (1980) from BR Chopra's production house is a brilliant disaster movie from Bollywood, but it isn’t the only one- Kala Patthar (1979) from the Yash Chopra stables preceded it by a year. When compared to each other, and I have found that many more have seen Kala Patthar than they have The Burning Train, I feel the latter is far stronger owing to the sheer vastness of canvas it embraces. While the special effects were hardly superior, the expanse of the cast, the cohesion of the plot and equitably distributed, sincere, and perfect performances put The Burning Train ahead of its rival for me.

But I am getting ahead of the discussion here.

Title: The Burning Train
Year: 1980
Cast: Dharmendra, Hema, Danny, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra, Pravin, Mac Mohan, Ifthekar, Om Shivpuri, Sudha Shivpuri (uncredited), Anand Balraj (uncredited), Navin Nischal, Jeetendra. Neetu Singh Kapoor, Rajendra Nath, Nasir Hussain, Jankidas, Satyendra Kapoor, Indrani Mukherjee, Keshto Mukherjee, Mukri, Paintal, Gufi Paintal, Madan Puri, Shammi, Yunus Parvez, Ranjeet, Sujit Kumar, Asha Sachdev, Simi Garewal.

The cast list, long as it is, is only partial; I have tried to include all characters that stood out for me. Despite the number of people, it is nothing short of astounding that the script metes out strong and well etched parts for each person- everyone has a part to play, and they deliver!

The movie starts off in Delhi, where Dharam and Vinod are just begining in their careers- Dharam is a business man, while Vinod is an engineer with the Indian railways, obsessed with making India's fastest and most luxurious train.

They meet Hema and Pravin, love happens, and the couples sing songs on their tandems.

Pravin and Vinod marry, much to the dismay of Pravin's suitor Danny (SO adorable, with a really mad face and a funky white streak in his hair).

However, Dharam loses his business, money and Hema (who has a secret of her own, and leaves him).

Years pass, and Vinod at least is doing well at work- his train is ready, and his team at work (Boss- Iftekhar, Colleague: Vinod Mehra, Sub: Mac Mohan) are geared for its launch.

Too bad the wifey isn’t pleased- Pravin is done with being ignored, and is at the brink of suing for divorce. In fact, she sends their son on the train to Bombay, the day it is being launched.

EVERYbody except the 2 Vinods and Pravin are on this train....

The passenger to keep our eye on is Danny, who is REALLY mad that not only did Vinod marry Pravin, but also topped him on the train project- apparently Danny's design was dumped for Vinod's.

Therefore, Danny decides to sabotage the train. He gets on as a passenger, strategically places some bombs, and takes off mid journey, at a railway station.

Unfortunately for him, another passenger who disembarks with him is Dharam.

Dharam had left the train because Hema was on it as well, with Navin Nischal, whom Dharam assumes is her husband/lover.

At the bar, drunk Danny reveals his blast-off plans to Dharam, who is good and mad and kicks his ass.

Then, in a brilliant chase, Dharam gets back on a train, which is supposedly now going at a speed of 100km/hr- don’t ask me how, just watch, and clap in glee, as I did.

Back on the train, Dharam is joined by Jeetendra, Neetu, Navin and the rest of the passengers, as they literally race- against time and the fire that has been started by a negligent porter on the train.

Who will survive? And How will it all end? Does the train stop or explode??? Can Vinod get his kid back and his marriage together?? Will Dharam and Hema survive the train????? :)

You have to WATCH!!!

Having watched this at least a dozen times in my life, and having planned to watch it again soon, there are many reasons why I love this movie:
1- Its a Disaster Movie! - which genre I love, from the Towering Inferno through Deep Impact through The Day After Tomorrow (yes, even that). Too bad Bollywood never made enough of these.
2- Vinod and Pravin! A hotter pair is hard to imagine, and they are stellar here, though Hema and Dharam, and Jeetendra and Neetu look really adorable as well.
3- As opposed to most movies with huge ensemble casts, this one is spot-on with its screenplay, where no character goes ignored for long- credit is due to Kamleshwar (screenwriter) and the editors' team. No actor is shortchanged, which is more than can be said of many a movie.
4- RD Burman's songs are all brilliant, and bring up the movie's oomph quotient.
5- The first half of the movie is almost entirely shot in Delhi- Cannaught place, Rail Museum, Lodhi Gardens, Buddha Park, Chanakya Puri- the Malaysian embassy is used as Dharam's house :) Never has my Delhi-love been so satisfied!
6- The movie has IT- the stars' energies, that something that makes this an edge of the seat thriller- some curve balls are thrown at the viewer that are unexpected, which makes the experience totally brilliant. I will admit that the climax is a bit of a let down, especially with the long shots of a toy model train (gasp!), but acceptance is key here, and I have tons of acceptance for this movie :D

I can keep on going with more and more reasons to watch the movie- but in the end, it is up to you, the viewer to decide for yourself. When it came out, it was instantly panned by the critics, but critics- what do they know?


ajnabi said...

Aaah, critics know very little about what I'll like, that's for certain. This movie looks like fun!

Anonymous said...

I totally love this movie too, can watch it over and over. It has a great qawwali too :-)

Critics know nothing.

Nicki said...

I really like this movie a lot too.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Ajanbi: It IS so much fun, truly :)

Memsaab: I love that quwwali- after writing the review, went back and played it one more time- :)

Nicki: Thanks for visiitng! we do like similar movies, I do note :D

veracious said...

What I loved about the Parvin-Vinod jodi here was the relative realism in which their marrital problems were portrayed. He sees the marriage fall apart but is too distracted to make the effort to fix it, and she's understandably upset by his workaholism. It was lovely and refreshing to see in a BW mainstream film.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Great point Veracious- I alsolutely agree. It was also v cool how they got the point across without dragging the story, AND fixed it while keeping to the narrative.

Anonymous said...

I love, love, LOVE! this movie. The earlier sequence where Vinod & Dharam tease & charm the girls is so funny, hehe. And good heavens! The whole train sequence kept me at the edge of my seat!

Slightly off-topic, jiju has done a course in animation right? My friend suggested I should go for animation since I'm 24/7 on the computer and it could be a good source of income till I get serious about an MBA, but that's another story. I just want to know one thing: must I know how to draw? I mean, I can't sketch to save my life and was wondering if non-artistic geeks can join this line.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Arantxa: Yup, I am devoted to this one sicnerely.

Re animation: Spoke to Sunil about it. Honestly, you DO need some drawing skills- because it is those that will translate via the animation skills you learn. So you may potentially find yourself somewhat frustrated there. But in case you are thinking of something else- how about advertising communications? You are still on a computer, being creative, but not necessarily dependent on an ability to draw. Think about it :)

Kalu said...

i too loved this movie.. there are more of such movies which were declared flop but were good movies. It still happens and you never get to know why good movies (like this one) end up getting tanked at the BO.