Allah Rakha (1986)
Cast: Jackie, Dimple, Meenakshi, Waheeda Rehman, Bindu, Shammi Kapoor
Director: Ketan Desai
Music Director: Annu Malik
Synopsis: Rip roaring MKD style concoction is an unsung classic of the 80s
After Manmohan K. Desai retired it was left to his son to carry the torch and to continue with the same tried and tested formula that had churned out mega hit after hit in the mid to late 70’s and the early 80’s.
Ketan Desai, spawn of the great Manmohan made his debut in 1986 amid high hopes with Allah Rakha, starring the hoped for yet not yet materialized new Angry Young Man for the Yuppie era. Mard, the previous installment of deliriously plotted melodrama would always be a tough act to follow and Jackie Shroff, try as he might, is no Amitabh Bachchan. Allah-Rakha was to falter at the Box Office in the late summer of 1986 when Bollywood was gripped by a wave of phantasmagoria from the South in the form of Jeetendra – Jaya Prada – Sridevi starrers with screeching, strident scores by Bappi Lahiri, a whole lot of matkas and dupattas as well as huge doses of high tedium with Shakti Kapoor and Kader Khan in much popular retarded mode. Actually 1986 was a year of supreme melodrama kitsch with a touch of Disco with early Govinda causing a stir.
Allah-Rakha was a stinging flop, made worse by the fact that it came from a production house that had meant guaranteed Box Office Gold until apart from the odd blip. Alas Allah-Rakha was no blip, it was the highest profile flop of a year dominated by a stunningly mediocre B-movie Nagina and Anupam Kher’s turn as Dr. Dang in Karma. Trends can change so quickly and in such an unpredictable manner that often what appears box office gold during the script stage might be yesterday’s flavor of the season when the film finally gets released. However, that said, it was probably assumed that the MKD formula of success would transcend all barriers of time and trends. Sadly, it was not the case for Allah-Rakha though in our household of masala bred Bollywood braindead, the film was embraced with open arms and spoken about in glowing terms and championed as the great Cult Classic that got away.
It has been years since the film has been available on DVD after the initial release on VHS (remember those?) and the question is, has it stood up to the ravages of time as is the true test of a great Cult Classic. The answer is a resounding “No” – its aged like a fine wine and earns its spot alongside such legends as Suraksha and Mard as one of Bollywood’s few world class Cult epics. Allah-Rakha is a triumph of majestic script writing (Prayag Raj and K.K Shukla) producing such a delicious tangle of jumbled plot-strings which unravel with joyous crowd-pleasing predictability; it really is Bollywood formula at its most insanely over-imaginative – fairy tales MKD style, sheer brilliance.
The film starts with one of the pillars of Bollywood B-Villainy, Bob Christo turning in another effortless performance as the big crime king pin Don Snr. In the opening scene, he is calling respected women’s social worker Madame Banu , played by the peerless Bindu, to provide him with some girls. Clearly she being more a pimp than a social worker. Meanwhile (and there is always a dozen “mean whiles” in MKD films) a burqa clad Aruna Irani arrives with her baby to seek help from Madame Banu as her husband has taken the blame for Don’s accident and is currently in jail. Bindu, the devious bitch that she is, sends the poor Aruna and baby to Don’s place where she heroically escapes being raped by jumping through a window pane and then making a dash for the city where she finds that her baby sadly has not made it.
Meanwhile Waheeda Rehman is an upright lawyer who fights Aruna’s case against Bindu and fails to have her convicted. Waheeda’s husband is a puny police inspector played by Biswajit. She has also recently given birth to a tot. Meanwhile Biswajit has unwittingly been snared in a scheme by Bindu and ends up fathering her child and marrying her. Meanwhile Waheeda walks out on him and gets custody of the coveted cherub. Ah Bollywood, so, to cut a long story short, the tots are shuffled up and everyone seems to be having babies at the same time so that the story can unfold in the next generation.
Its breathtakingly convoluted stuff though no doubt if you are familiar with the wonderful MKD formula, it might appear all too realistic to you. Anyway, meanwhile Karim Khan (Shammi Kapoor in particularly bombastic mode as a Pathan) is released from jail where he is given charge of the switched baby but then turns it over to the mosque people as he is about to be dragged off to prison yet again for the murder of Don senior who dies swearing that his son will one day avenge his blood. Meanwhile Waheeda Rehman, in a fit of sorrow at being told that her son is dead (though in actuality it is Aruna’s son who is dead but nobody knows that!) dashes into a busy street and is promptly run over and rendered blind for the foreseeable future. And all this is just the prelude – things truly reach one hell of a tangle before one by one the strings are untangled and every little loose end wrapped up nicely as was meant to be.
Can it continue at this break-neck intensity all the way through? The answer is almost but not quite. This despite a memorable interlude where a cash stripped Allah Rakha takes on a Beastly brute by the name of Gorilla in a wrestling match-up and some Herculean histrionics by Shammi Kapoor as a retarded Pathan who has gorged on far too much red meat as well as hysteria and mayhem caused by exploding TV bombs, a subtle hint at the power of the media perhaps?
If the first third of the movie is breathtaking then the next two thirds splutter downhill with sporadic bursts of energy keeping the wheels from falling off altogether. Sadly, Jackie, though turning in an earnest performance lacks the charm of a Govinda but it’s actually the plot that goes horribly awry once the “intermission” is over.
With the arrival of Jackie in a double role, things deteriorate quite drastically and poor Dimple who is quite horribly miscast isn’t able to rescue a rapidly sinking ship. However, there is still brilliance in the second half, yet by then one has been spoiled by the sheer gasp a minute spectacle of the first half that matching those pyrotechnics is near impossible. There is the fantastic scene in the graveyard with Bindu, Waheeda Rehman and Meenakshi and Shammi Kapoor stomping around like a rhinoceros with its tail on fire is quite a sight. Finally, there is Meenakshi Seshadri’s superlatively dramatic performance as the tragic prostitute with a golden heart. (Though in fact it’s a red plastic heart).
Annu Malik’s songs are adequate for the situation and crowd-pleasing yet a musically unmemorable pastiche of Laxmikant Pyarelal’s score from Amar Akbar Anthony – strident and energetic but not very tuneful nor memorable. Acting honors are stolen by Shammi Kapoor and Bob Christo among others but Bindu is outstanding and Meenakshi was clearly robbed of the Oscar in 1986.
Allah Rakha is magnificent and spellbinding till interval, after that it’s still fun but rapidly running out of steam by the end. Still, Allah Rakha despite its flaws is one of the most insanely enjoyable slices of Bollywood MKD style hokum from the 80s.