Jane Bond 008: Operation Karachi (1971)
Cast: Raza Fazali, Rukhshanda, Tarana, Saqi, Niggo
Director: Raza Fazali
Synopsis: Statuesque Beauty plays the lethal Spy Agent 008 on a deadly mission to Karachi.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s Pakistan and its neighbor Iran joined hands to produce a handful of films. Though most had a social angle to them, this particular one was a swinging James Bond clone complete with thrilling car chases, stunts, mysterious women, high tech gadgets and some very nasty villains and even heavier henchmen.
Any film with a fabulous title like Jane Bond 008; Operation Karachi has an additional burden in that it has so much to live up to. The action rolls with an M prototype giving Jane Bond 008 instructions for her next urgent assignment in Karachi where a heinous gang had been operating and has recently kidnapped a highly respected professor whom, they fear, is going to be forced to construct weapons of mass destruction which will have the entire world kneeling in front of the Crime syndicate, begging for mercy.
Shots of Karachi reveal a swinging city of a bustling nightlife and one club in particular where the clientele are enjoying the talents of Miss Zouzou’s intoxicating go-go dancing. Agent 002 is at the club cutting a dashing if mysterious figure and the evil henchmen associated with the kidnapping gang are sniffing blood. The handsome and dapper Agent 002 senses danger as Miss Zouzou’s dance reaches its climax and he sets his brief case on fire exploding it spectacularly in midair before making his escape way before Don employed similar tactics in the classic 1978 Bollywood masterpiece.
The henchmen follow and after a nerve shattering chase scene they end up in the vast
underground complex of the villain’s lair where the Crime Kingpin has all the latest security gadgets in order to keep unwanted pests out of his compound. The villain’s oscillators start making some very strange alarming sounds as they detect agent 002 making his intrusion. The agent proceeds to take out some henchmen before he is subdued and unknown to Jane Bond 008 he will now be lying in a shallow grave rather than assisting her on the challenging and sensitive assignment she has been dispatched to Karachi for.
Fortunately another most unlikely character is soon going to be entering her life and things are about to get a whole lot more confusing before they start making any sense, at least to Jane Bond 008 who is expecting to meet Agent 002 at the airport. The hotel where Jane Bond 008 is booked summon one of their drivers to collect Jane Bond 008 from Karachi and clearly the man on some hallucinatory drugs because he gets terribly excited at the prospect assuming the arriving passenger to somehow be the woman destiny as chosen for him, even if he is a lowly driver and she a memsaab from an exotic far away land. He works himself up into a frenzy of excitement bursting into song and dance while simultaneously driving to the airport!
Jane Bond arrives soon enough and the driver is stunned at his good fortune as she cuts a stylish, dashing, fashionable silhouette with her massive 60s style goggles and fine tresses. She hops into the car thinking the driver is 002, her contact and fellow agent and proceeds to ask him the coded questions. Maybe it was the jet lag but for some bizarre reason she decides that he is Mr. McDonald AKA Agent 002 and proceeds with her plan with her aide beside her. Soon enough things go awry as various henchmen are always tailing her and soon enough she is snagged and our chauffeur left in the dust without his host and also without his car which is stolen by the henchmen who triumphantly deliver Jane Bond 008 to the super criminal mastermind with the very sophisticated oscillator devices that double for security and a whole range of utilities.
The film is now dominated by sequences where our dashing chauffeur and his seriously annoying sidekick are rescuing Jane Bond, their damsel in distress and then somehow managing to lose her to the henchmen. This happens a few times bef
ore finally Jane Bond comes to the rather embarrassing discovery that her charming and dashing chauffeur is not Mr. McDonald but a mere simpleton named, if one she has swiftly grown quite smitten by. More car chases and fights and slapstick comic sequences follow and there is a magic show that is featured and is rather tedious. The action reaches a stirring climax with Jane Bond manning a small aircraft while her Chauffeur boyfriend Mohsin battles the forces of evil on land. They make a fine team and despite the odds stacked against them, they face their adversaries with admirable pluck and spirit.
Rakhsana Khattak, one of the nation’s first “supermodels” of Burmese and Pathan origin is indeed a worthy Jane Bond as her physician presence is alluring and imposing in equal measure as is her slightly Zeenat Amanesque dialogue delivery. She packs a mean Karate chop and kick but the bottom line is if it wasn’t for her dashing chauffeur she would have ended up the same way as Agent 002; in an early shallow grave.
The film, directed by our cavalier chauffeur is choppy and incoherent to the most part and there are one too many chase and action scenes and the second half appears to be basically repeating the action as in the first half of the movie. The film doesn’t really build upon its premise and things meander along rather build toward any tension or effective climax. Nothing is unexpected and the film basically winds its way to a highly predictable and unexciting conclusion.
Raza fazali is exuberant and rather fitter than the local Pakistani heroes of the era and is fairly confident directing himself yet perhaps the film would have benefitted by having a director that was not also the main star of the movie because the narrative is weak and the story telling is confused and jumbled and the entire movie lacks any semblance of gathering pace or tension. However that said, it’s mildly entertaining and there are two rather splendid dances interludes by Tarana and another by the starlet playing Miss Zouzou. The best sequence of the movie is in fact Miss Zouzou’s sizzling dance while in the background Agent 002 attempts to make his getaway from the posse of shady henchmen keeping watch at the local sleazy dance club.
Another interesting aspect of the film is the outdoor scenery of Karachi as it was back in the late 60s; sparse and sketchy rather than the mass of disorder that is on view in contemporary times.
The film unsurprisingly failed to set the Box Office on fire and died a tame death within a few short weeks. It has none of the ingredients required to register with the locals. A distinct lack of emotional involvement with the characters and a lightweight plot that is way too slight to sustain the film. It’s also rather low budget which means the villain’s lair is only marginally impressive but could have been so much more.
A film that should have been a cult classic for the city of Karachi and feminism for all time to come yet it falls horribly short of expectations, ending up as unremarkable and uninteresting and lightweight piffle. Only the movie’s title and poster retains any cult value, not the film alas.