Andaata (1976)

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Andaata (1976)
Cast: Sudhir, Mohd Ali, Mumtaz, Sultan Rahi, Mustafa Qureshi, Adeeb, Lehri
Director: Iqbal Yusuf
Music Director: Kamal Ahmed
Nutshell: Lollywood version of The Godfather is a hoot and a half! – recommended

 

Andaata is the Lollywood’s action packed and retro-chic version of Mario Puzo’s celebrated Godfather which had recently been adapted for Indian audiences in Feroz Khan’s less than successful Dharmatma (1975) and now got some more chutney-masala treatment from seasoned producer-director Iqbal Yusuf.

The film follows the saga of down on his luck and penniless Akbar (Sudhir) who has sick and hungry children to feed but no job and no prospects until he is shown how to “snatch” rather than earn by his cunning friends. Sudhir is quickly seduced by the easy returns provided by his new extortion racket and he soon gains himself quite a reputation in the criminal underworld so much so that notorious crime kingpin Shahenshah (Talish) arrives at his doorstep to offer him a lucrative career as an accomplice gang lord which Sudhir accepts, cementing his decline into the world of crime.

Sudhir quickly establishes himself as a big name in crime circles and builds himself a mini empire with himself ensconced as Emperor and his sons handling the affairs of the estate. A favourite younger son has however been stashed away in London studying and has not been given an inkling about his fathers ill-gotten wealth and power. That son finally graduates at the age of around 55 and returns to Pakistan to join the family who he reckons are running a respectable business of some sort or the other. Eventually his eyes are opened to the deeds of his father and brothers and he is suitably shocked and appalled at the source of his own flashy clothes and indeed his education.

The turning point of the movie arrives when some vile creep approaches Sudhir for constructing a factory of fake medicine in his area to which Sudhir (a man of some scruples) reacts very angrily, chucking the fellow out. This fellow then approaches Shahenshah who insists that he will force Sudhir to open the factory at any cost and so a bitter rivalry springs up between the two rival crime gangs with Shahenshah’s posse on one side and Andaata Sudhir’s gang on the other. Meanwhile the reluctant Muhammad Ali is slowly but surely dragged into the conflict involving his clan and eventually ends up taking arms and his place at the head of the outfit, but only after Sudhir renounces his devotion to crime upon having half his family mowed down in the gang wars that follow in the wake of the war against Shahenshah.

Eventually Sudhir realizes that crime pays only in the short run and that eventually there can be no escaping from one’s sins. It’s the basically the Godfather story given the Lollywood treatment and rather effectively at that. Andaata moves along at a brisk pace and Iqbal Yusuf never allows proceedings on screen to start dragging, constantly shifting gears to keep the audience interested. Also, romance which is normally such a key part of any desi film has been played down considerably in an attempt to keep the film firmly in action-thriller territory.

Sudhir does well for the most part, playing his role with restraint and not shouting and screaming as much as was no doubt accustomed to in the Punjabi movies he acted in. Its just in the last ten to fifteen minutes that he lets his guard slip and the bellicose shouting and posturing of the Punjabi realm comes to the fore. Mohammad Ali was hardly the man to select to play a freshly graduating student as he looks exactly the same age as his father and has a paunch that resembles the belly of a pregnant woman. A balding, fat man, podgy and unfit and possessing a voice that fails to hide its age was hardly the fellow ideally suited to play a fresh college graduate! But then, to be fair it is not at all an uncommon sight to see 55 year old men acting the roles of teenagers and college students in films of the sub-continent.

The ever charismatic Sultan Rahi is cast as the “James Caan” character from Godfather with a short fuse of a temper and a violent streak and does his job fairly convincingly even if his selection of bow ties remains rather bewildering and effete for a ruthless gangland criminal. Mohammad Ali, playing the oldest graduating student in history attempts to appear youthful with his jovial quips and his schoolboy flirtations with the shapely dancer Nyla plalyed by the gravely voiced Mumtaz. Rahi does his bit with enthusiasm as does most of the cast. There is a strong back up cast of seasoned veterans who all play their roles as well as could be expected.

Talish as Shahenshah is his dependable self and his is ably supported by several respected veterans of Lollywood cinema such as the character actors Ibrahim Nafees, the villainous Adeeb, comedian Lehri and a fairly youthful Mustafa Qureshi also makes his presence felt. Salma Mumtaz as Sudhir’s righteous wife and the voice of conscience wails away annoyingly and a touch over dramatically but makes sure she doesn’t go completely unnoticed. There is one particularly upsetting scene though when as in The Godfather a nasty industrialist gets taught a lesson by having his favourite racehorse beheaded and chucked into the bed beside him.In Andaata it is clearly the head of a real horse that was used and it is doubtful whether the filmmakers in these parts have the ethics to make sure that the head had belonged to a dead horse. Most probably the horse was put down simply to have its head make an appearance in the film which is a stomach churning thought. However, one recalls the brutal massacring of a cow for Apocalypse Now – an appalling scene that has been burned into the memory for ever.

Andaata was a sizeable commercial success and it’s not difficult to see why. The film is headed by a solid cast, has a strong if borrowed storyline (with deep moral issues) and moves along at a rapid pace not allowing the audience to lose interest or feel restless or bored or go out of the hall for an umpteenth tea break. Iqbal Yusuf does a creditable job of keeping the film focussed and manages to mount his action sequences effectively and unfold the story simply enough to appeal to the largely uneducated viewing audience. The songs have been judiciously employed by the director to break up the action sequences and avoid monotony and the costume designer went to town dolling up his gangsters in Carnaby Street’s latest fashions.

Andaata can be regarded as one of the few successful adaptations of a Hollywood film in that the core elements of Copolla’s masterpiece have been cleverly and successfully desi-fied for local consumption and the film for all its idiosyncrasies and oddities and its song and dance sequences does in fact work quite well. Locals swear that this take on Mario Puzo’s famous novel beats the crap out of Feroz Khan’s Dharmatma effort in neighbouring India and is also a cut above Copolla’s original – which after all didn’t boast of a dance number that goes ‘I am Black Beauty Love me…..I am White Beauty See me! – which has tragically been snipped to accommodate a two disc VCD release.