AAN MILO SAJNA
1970, 169 minutes, Baba Traders (subtitled)
Starring: Rajesh Khanna (Ajit), Asha Parekh (Varsha), Vinod Khanna (Anil), Nirupa Roy (Savriti), a very creepy young boy, a rabbit-faced woman, and a goofy comedian dressed up like a cow.
Music by: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Direction by: Mukul Dutt
"Aan Milo Sajna" is a movie about weird people, most of whom are either funny or frightening depending on your disposition. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately trying to figure out if I'd find Varsha (Asha Parekh's character) charming if I met her, or if I'd just want to deck her. The thing about Varsha is if you DID plan on decking her, she'd probably deck you first, and that's one reason everybody in the film loves her so darn much.
She plays Varsha, a bright-eyed, quirky, mischievous caricature who has found herself participating in a dangerous lie: she's pretending to be the fiancÚ of a rich hedonistic playboy named Anil. It seems Anil has spent his entire life betting (and losing) his mother's money at the racetrack (or, when he gets tired of horses, just losing it all by playing a strange type of poker that only involves 3 cards). In between his cheerful "losing money" sprees he also finds time to sleep with a lot of very sleazy girls and make cutting comments about how little he cares for others (including God). This alone would make for an intriguing film -- we might even get a chance to learn how to play Three Card Poker -- but it seems Anil is in financial straits thanks to his lack of responsibility, and he needs more of his mother's money. Fast.
The problem with getting more money is his mother, Savriti (Nirupa Roy, actually requiring makeup to MAKE her look old). She's been dying a long, bitter death in her giant mansion, still dealing with the transgressions of her past (she sullied a man's honour to protect her worthless husband). She is unhappy and unloved, not least of which by her wayward son. But she still controls the family fortunes and she has decided never to give Anil another penny until he mends his ways. It seems Savriti underestimated her son's capability to deceive...the little bastard hires a young girl -- Varsha -- to pretend to be his fiancÚ in order to loosen up mom's purse again.
The two of them arrive at the family mansion (only running over one peasant on the way) and Varsha quickly finds herself involved with more than she bargained for: she'd grown up without a mother and she is instantly attached to Savriti. The bond forms in reverse as well: Savriti has never felt a child's love and she comes to depend on Varsha for her happiness. Aware of this dependency -- and the awkwardness it's causing Varsha -- Anil does what he does best: he milks other people's weaknesses for all they're worth, stealing his mother's money right before Varsha's terrified eyes, knowing she can't say anything without breaking Savriti's heart.
Living just down the road is Ajit, a sort of Robin Hood without a sense of humour. He lives with his widowed mother -- a strangely pretty rabbit-faced woman -- and a young boy (appropriately named Chikoo) of uncertain parentage and even less certain mental stability. This boy is worth an entire review of his own because he's an absolutely weird little guy, often refusing to speak -- performing maddening pantomimes instead -- and indulging in strange incoherent vocalizations and twisted facial expressions. In short he's borderline autistic, but in a way that many "cute little kids" in Indian films are (for instance, he's less annoying than Chand Ka Tukdaa's "Master Tin Tin," a stiff, fat boy who spells out words instead of just saying them, calling Sridevi "Dee Eye Dee Eye" instead of "didi," which is even stranger considering she's not related to him).
While Master Tin Tin probably performed his role for a box of chocolates, Chikoo in "Aan Milo Sajna" is more difficult to figure out. How did the producers find him? Where did he go later on? There's a rumour -- one I just created right now -- that the boy who plays Chikoo is an early incarnation of Johny Lever (they couldn't be the same person, since I suspect young Johny spent his childhood filling his pants with live cats and setting the heads of hermits on fire, activities that preclude an active social life or an child acting career). No matter his origin, I'd like to say: wherever you are, Chikoo...please stay there and don't come back.
It's worth noting that Chikoo has some of the funniest lines in the film when he actually speaks. For instance:
|CHIKOO: The Americans have already been to the moon, right?
CHIKOO: Well, we Indians will be the first to travel to the sun!
AJIT: You idiot! You'd burn up if you went to the sun.
CHIKOO: Then we'll go at night!
Even though Ajit is constantly being followed around by this precocious kid, Varsha falls in love with him anyway and -- in order to woo him -- she begins a relentless campaign of cute deception, the highlight of which is her pretending to get in a "jeep accident," requiring him to carry her home. She performs some wonderful limp physical comedy as he tries to wake her up, prop her up, and (eventually) remove her clothing. In time Ajit grows to love her as well, which is a bit complicated because everybody else thinks she's Anil's fiancÚ (a deception she finds herself wishing she'd never gotten involved in).
Another wacky character -- in case you haven't had enough already -- is Muftram, a distant relative of Anil's who has also arrived at the mansion to get a piece of the inheritance. While I suspect that most of the people in this film only act retarded because they're being funny, Muftram is the real thing. This becomes particularly obvious when Varsha convinces him to kill a tiger to prove his bravery, and then his own father convinces him that the best way to trap a tiger is to dress up like a cow and pretend to graze.
This leads to a very funny scene where he is sodomized by a bull. Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of the classic "bull rapes man dressed as cow" scene in 1984's "Top Secret?" If so, you're right...the scenes are almost identical, though "Aan Milo Sajna" predates "Top Secret!" by about 14 years. What's more curious is that it's a hell of a lot funnier and sillier, partly due to the unsophistication of the editing, the cheapness of the cow costume, and the fact that the other scenes around it seem absolutely high-class in comparison. Perhaps "Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachaao" was India's way of getting back at Abraham/Zucker/Zucker for this theft, which proves that revenge is very sour indeed and often ends up backfiring. Shame on you, India, for being so petty!
Several funny scenes later, things begin to get sinister. When Savriti finally discovers her son's deception she disowns him and wills all her money to Varsha -- who she now considers to be her only child. She also approves Varsha's marriage to Ajit (the two of them have participated in a number of wonderfully fun and catchy dance numbers up to this point, one of which seems to have been influenced by Soviet propaganda films...so who could fault them for falling in love?) There's a relatively minor subplot involving Varsha's father, the lawyer who decided the verdict after Savriti's disgusting husband shot and killed Ajit's dad ("But the villagers said he drowned!" exclaims Ajit when he finds out about this, leading us to wonder how the bullet hole in his chest was explained). Even Muftram seems to have forgotten his animosity towards his relatives -- bull sodomy can do that to a person -- and he performs a bizarre magic routine at Varsha and Ajit's engagement party. As for the suddenly destitute and shamed Anil...well, he claims he doesn't mind being penniless, disowned, and disliked by everybody -- they've let him keep his matching pastel suit-and-pants-sets afterall -- but you can see hatred brewing in his squinty little eyes.
It's only a matter of time before he vents his hatred on all of God's creatures. Ominously, he brings a present to the engagement party. BollyJay and I were instantly tense, wondering what party-spoiling object could be in the box...we came up with three likely possibilities:
1) A time bomb, so common in Bollywood that "Aan Milo Sajna" was remiss in not throwing one in sooner..
2) Some piece of fabricated character defamation -- letters, photographs, tape recordings -- that would make either Varsha or Ajit distrust and hate eachother.
3) A very small evil dwarf with a knife.
As it turned out none of these things happened at all -- we never see the contents of the box -- and Anil later manages to take his revenge in a wholly unnecessary, inappropriate, and ridiculous way that marks a turning-point in the film. This turning point is so extreme that it leaves one to wonder if a different director and writer didn't step in to finish it all or -- more likely -- if the writer wasn't killed by an evil dwarf before he finished the script, leaving the director -- suddenly and inexplicably brain-damaged -- to wrap things up for himself.
There is, inevitably, a fight scene where Anil brandishes a golden gun that matches his outfit. Claiming to despise everybody (having proven this throughout the entire film) he resists goody-goody Ajit's attempts to take him back to his mother and make him reform. Punches fly. Bodies are thrown. Heads hit rocks. Or at least, this is what's supposed to be happening as Ajit and Anil whirl around in a terribly inept series of attacks. The music swells as they fight closer and closer to a cliff...
...the camera begins to spin around uncontrollably! Nothing is visible! All you can hear is the swelling, action-packed violin music. This bit of disorganized chaos symbolizes the film's descent into another dimension...it's a sort of "Alice down the rabbit hole" effect. I've decided to embrace this bit of symbolism because no other explanation is satisfactory, particularly when the speed of the soundtrack's tape slows to a growl, the camera stops spinning, and we see that Ajit and Anil are still fighting at the bottom of the cliff.
This motley bunch of misfired film tropes must be seen to be believed.
Suddenly, in the new reality, Anil loves his mother, he reforms, and EVERYBODY lives happily ever after. This leads to some serious questions about what happened in the other dimensions, especially the one we left behind when we fell down the cliff...in the original world, did Anil kill Ajit? In fact, isn't it possible (in a Jorge Luis Borges sort of way) that a bifurcation of reality has been happening since the beginning of the movie, and that in some other world Varsha and Ajit never met, and in another one Anil loved his mother and actually acquired good taste in clothing, and that in a third Chikoo played an idiot savant opposite Tom Cruise in "Rainman?" Writers of science fiction would pounce on this as an opportunity to introduce all sorts of time paradoxes, one of which might explain how the lamp in Anil's office ends up in the judge's courtroom several days later, and another might explain why distant trees swirl around when the camera moves quickly and vibrant red colours have a habit of jumping off of clothing and onto the faces of people standing nearby (cynical folks might blame this supernatural behaviour on Baba Traders, whose mastering on this DVD is abysmal even by my standards).
Rarely will I say that a Bollywood film should have been shorter, but this time it needs to be said: everything was just fine before the final complications, which were gratuitous and pointless. I would even recommend viewers stop watching as soon as Ajit and Varsha get engaged...that's the peak of Aan Milo Sajna's entertainment mountain, and it's a very long drop from there.