Miss Hippy (1974)
Cast: Shabnam, Nadeem, Sabiha, Santosh, Munawar Zareef, Nazli
Director: S. Suleman
Nutshell: family adopts “westernized, modern lifestyle” with calamitous results
1974’s Miss Hippy is yet another forceful Lollywood socio-drama that shows the unmitigated disasters that befalls a family that adopts a “westernized, modern lifestyle”. In this case, we have wealthy couple Santosh and Sabiha who live in comfort with their daughter Bubbly and their adopted son Nadeem in a fairly grand house cared for by a number of servants. Santosh is keen on keeping up with fashion and the latest trends but his basic problem is that almost unknown to him, he has turned into a hardened alcoholic.
One night when Bubbly is yearning parental love and throwing a tantrum, her callous father decides to get her groggy with some spoonsful of cognac in order to get her to go to sleep. Though Sabiha is shocked at her husband’s behaviour she is too weak to stand up to his abusive manner. Santosh is far more interested in making sure he doesn’t miss five minutes of his debauched friends dance party than attending to the emotional needs of his own daughter.
Gradually we watch Bubby grow up wearing frocks and learning how to dazzle guests with her disco dancing skills. However due to her habitual guzzling of hard liquor for the last eight years or so, she has now turned into a hardened alcoholic with a habit at least as bad as her fathers – despite the fact that she is merely 12 years old! She steals into Daddy’s larder and makes off with the occasional bottle to guzzle and pass out. One day daddy finds out and he reacts in his typically deranged style by lashing out at everyone but himself – the person who first started her on the evil spirit. He terrorizes his daughter until in sheer desperation she decides to escape from home and nearly gets run over by a person who picks her up and turns her on to the sordid world of hashish.
While her mother goes, batty and can’t fall asleep waiting for her daughters return, the daughter has turned into Miss Hippy, preaching free love and living in a perpetual haze of hashish and other terrible drugs. Not only does she devote her life to this totally debauched drug haze but she also turns into one of the main cogs of an international drug running syndicate run by her fellow hippies. She uses her stunning beauty and charms to great effect, dodging customs checks all over the land in order to spread the evil menace of evil narcotics. In their spare time, the hippies preach to their lord, a white bearded spiritual leader who propounds the theories of free love and sex amidst clouds and clouds of hashish at all times!
Two undercover cops infiltrate bubbly’s hazy world, one her long lost childhood companion Nadeem. Together with his sidekick Munawar Zareef they pose as hippies and soon gain acceptance into Shabnam’s (Bubbly’s) clan. Once they are within the clan they are able to get invaluable first-hand information about the smuggling operations but Shabnam discovers that Nadeem is an undercover cop trying to bust their gang and has him captured. However slowly but surely Nadeem is able to plant the seeds of doubt in Shabnam’s drugged up mind that her spiritual leader is actually merely a drug peddler and nothing more. Soon she is convinced when the fake Imam’s wig and beard are yanked off – the police strike but Shabnam is allowed to reform due to her compliance in rounding up the criminals and her testimony.
Nadeem takes her home which happens to be the very home she escaped from as a child (and has no recollection of due to her excessive drug and alcohol abuse) and here she comes across the ghastly father of hers. Now he turns all moralistic on her and throws her out for being a vile drug running criminal even though her presence bought miraculous relief to Sabiha who has gone insane pining for her daughters return – she was able to fall asleep in Shabnam’s company.
Oh, such melodrama………anyway, Shabnam is chucked out of the house but eventually all is revealed after all sorts of twists and mayhem. The film is another expertly concocted tonic for the masses, showing them how much superior their way of life is to the debauched, hedonistic ways of the west and how those of us who choose to adopt a western lifestyle can only end up in the worst untold misery. In the soul stirring climax speech delivered by Shabnam she questions (among many other things) the government for not doing anything to stop the infiltration and free travel of evil Hippies in the country (cross-border terrorism?) demanding that there be a ban on the entry of such people, who in this film call each other “comrades” rather than brother and sister – (just a local variation on the norm).
The morals of the story are clear – evil westernized ways mean that “modern” parents are too busy partying at clubs and with other “fashionable” friends while they should be at home attending to their children. Instead these evil hedonistic parents hand over their children to servants who pretend to be totally devoted but are cunningly mercenary in their motives. The movie shows that a father getting later fo
r his dance party prefers to douse his daughters demands with a few spoonfuls of brandy rather than getting late for the all-important party!
This is hardly an uncommon theme in Lollywood cinema and has been done to death in countless movies ever since the cameras started rolling in this country and this particular genre has provided huge amounts of entertainment and amusement along the way. Miss Hippy is similarly fascinating but loses steam after the first half after Shabnam is reformed from the drug running super criminal cum hardened alcoholic that she is early on. However, she turns in a polished, professional performance as ever and virtually carries the film on her shoulders.
Nadeem doesn’t have too much scope while Munawar Zareef shines as his sidekick appearing in drag in several scenes (something he clearly is very comfortable with) and is hysterical in each of these scenes as is his appearance. There is a line that he mentions in the film about how the rich and famous always suffer from liver complaints first and foremost, the irony being that he was to go to a very unfortunate premature death due to this very ailment. Sabiha does her weeping, pining mother bit with conviction and Santosh is impressive as the monster father who turns repentant having destroyed his daughter’s life with his very own hands.
Some weaknesses of the film are its unimpressive songs and lack of oomph! Also, the film gets bogged down in the latter stages when the melodrama takes over completely and the hippy bits done away with completely and like most films of the land – the film is more than predictable and the audience is always at least five steps ahead of the narrative in danger of nodding of as the film nears its final conclusion. That said, it’s a fairly engaging social-melodrama with a potent message about the terrors that the Hippy comrades represent to world peace!
The hippy retreat set is intriguing though as is the wonderful title theme music and Lollywood can always be counted on for providing some of the worlds most stunning wigs and on this count Miss Hippy certainly delivers.