Aakhri Muqabla (1977)
Cast: Sultan Rahi, Najma, Akbar, Seema, Khalid Saleem Mota
Director: Khalifa Saeed
Music Director: Kamal Ahmed
Synopsis: Magnificent Socio-melodrama cum Kung Fu action pot-boiler
Aakhri Muqabala was brought to my attention on a trip to New York City in 2007. The guys from www.Cinemastrikesback.com presented me with copy of the film they had already watched – a 70s Black and White Punjabi movie without subtitles which was suddenly receiving some rave reviews from one of the best websites on cinema on the planet. It was viewed in a Montreal Hotel once just to enjoy the whole 70s vibe; splendid safari suits with flares that would put the Jackson’s to shame and Sultan Rahi in his element just before he went from star to mega-star and beyond.
Bad songs filmed in public parks complete with luscious freeze framing at particularly “saxy” poses, evil wigs and formidable moustaches make for a giddy mix of 70’s scuzz but what makes this film even more noteworthy and indeed memorable is that intertwined amidst all the usual convoluted melodrama and masala is Lollywoods first bone fide Martial Arts social drama featuring electrifying fight sequences and stunts that make Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan look like Liberace on an off day.
Yet, despite the fact that the film is framed in the highly complex and competitive world of Martial Arts desi style it is also a message laden film that attempts to play to the gallery with its social and political moralizing. The story is about Rahi who is a modern day son-of-the-soil hero who in order to support and educate his geeky witless and rather drip-like brother. In order to do this he opens a Kung Fu training institute which soon becomes known worldwide for its excellence. Though Rahi is a man of very limited means he has a heart of gold and is hugely respected in the local community especially as he is a one man justice system on the streets. The audience watches in sheer adulation as Kung Fu master Rahi bashes up a pimp and his prostitution racket, thrashes an opium supplier, helps old ladies with their domestic problems and even agrees to marry a girl from the Red Light area, emotionally blackmailed as he is by a lecturing future mother in law.
However matters are seriously complicated as it turns out that he geek brother has fallen for the sister from the family of a sworn enemy, yet the virtuous Rahi does the right thing by asking politely for the girls hand in marriage in the traditionally prescribed manner. Sadly his gesture is met with ridicule and humiliation upon which Rahi reminds his host of his ability to dish out his own brand of justice. This doesn’t go down well with the powerful evil Chaudhary who swears he will never allow his high class, khandaani family to wed into a family of low, working class paupers.
The evil goon gathers his accomplices who after much careful deliberation come up with a plan that will see Sultan Rahi’s ultimate downfall. The plan is to open a rival Kung Fu Academy and train the most vicious killing machines who will then battle Rahi and karate chop him into submission. It’s not long before their heinous plan is set into motion and Rahi against all the ethics of a good bout of Kung Fu fighting is beset by a horde of goons who manage to hack his leg brutally with some expertly placed karate chops. Poor Rahi has his leg amputated in hospital but his younger erstwhile geek brother Akbar swears to take revenge on his brother’s horrid leg-busters. In order to enable him to tackle the Kung Fu Kicking Goon squad Akbar must enrol in Rahi’s school of Martial Arts and progress to the highest level before he embarks on his trail of brutal revenge.
Meanwhile poor Rahi is framed by his enemies and dragged off to prison by the notorious police inspector. However all is not lost as Akbar is determined to wear the coveted Scorpion belt for which he must travel through all sorts of dreadful conditions and survive the most horrendous endurance test, but Akbar, driven by his devotion to his vengeful cause manages to succeed in his quest and secure the scorpion belt which symbolizes the highest power in the Kung Fu hierarchy. Now that he has acquired the status once enjoyed by his legless inspiration and brother, he exacts a befittingly hideous revenge on those who dared to wreck his brothers career.
Aakhri Muqabala is Lollywood at its finest vintage 70s form – the background score is a phenomenal fusion of local electro tinged with psychotic organ playing desi style. The fight sequences are breathtaking and brutal at the same time while the stunts defy belief. However perhaps the finest aspect of the film is the superlative array of extraordinary sound effects that render the fight sequences mesmerising. Despite its rather abrupt ending Aakhri Muqabala is one of the cinema’s finest Martial Arts Social Melodramas ever.
“Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” all together now!