Cast: Habib, Husna, Talish, Amy Minwala, Nazar
Director: Rahim Gul
Nutshell: Mystery, Romance, Cannibals, Giant Apes and diabolical human experiments gone awry in this 1961 Jungle Classic.
A group of companions are merrily making their way on an adventure trip and are passing by the forest when they are beset by a tribe of bloodthirsty cannibals who are bent on skinning them and then gorging on them with their soup for breakfast. The men including the dashing Habib and his comic sidekick Nazar are ready for roasting but for a few necessary rituals such as an intoxicating seductive jungle dance by the local beauty queen but just as her sizzling dance reaches a crescendo there are shrieks of horror as the legendary Haboo makes an appearance; he being an Ape-Man of prodigious strength and nastiness! As the cannibals forsake their human sausages in order to flee Haboo, the friends are able to make a quick getaway into the nether regions of the forest where they are safe, but very lost.
They learn to adjust to the jungle and appear to be enjoying the adventure other than the odd appearance by some wild beast – footage taken from some nature film and inserted deftly into proceedings – so when our group of friends suddenly turn to the left you can see a Lion strolling along and then they all turn to the right and there is a giraffe munching at some tall trees. It’s quite magnificently shameless and one has to admire Lollywood for the sheer gall of planning, scripting and shooting a “Jungle” movie, entirely shot in the environs of a studio with no hint of jungle for many a mile.
The two animals that do make appearances for real are a snake and a monkey in two brief scenes but all other beasts are courtesy of being borrowed from elsewhere. Some of the sets are quite excellent though namely the Cannibal headquarters and also the jungle camp the friends rustle up for themselves. Everyone appears to be in good spirits and soon the group is joined by a very learned and rather dashing professor who takes a shine to one of the females along for the ride.
Life appears rather idyllic without a care in the world when Habib is drawn to the chants of some strange but beautiful and enchanting voice. For days he obsesses about the elusive woman with the voice that has intoxicated him completely until finally they do meet and at which point half the movie is over. Haboo, the monster of the movie’s title has yet to make a second appearance as the second half of the movie kicks off with Habib bent on finding the woman who matches this voice he is so intoxicated by. Finally he traces the voice to Husna, a young jungle beauty who has lived a very sheltered life in her father’s cave where there is hardly any human interaction at all. Habib is floored by her charm and beauty and now the film lapses into a lull where songs follow each other with alarming regularity every few minutes and where the film should be heading towards some sort of climax it instead meanders along with songs following quickly one after another until there are around 5 or more songs in only the second half of the movie causing the pace to suffer badly.
Then matters come to a head when the city boy and the jungle girl fall in love with one another but he must first convince the girl’s father who alarmingly hangs out in full Viking regalia, horns and all. Talish, the father warns Habib to stay away from their part of the mountain but Habib is adamant and total besotted with Husna, the beautiful daughter and continues to try to win her hand. Little does he know that Talish the Viking and his beautiful young daughter harbor a terrible dark secret? Will Talish be able to keep a lid on his strange night time hobbies experimenting with animal and human DNA or will the cat soon be out of the bag? Will Habib be able to win her over despite Haboo also having eyes for Husna? And finally who is that hairy man lying on the adjacent bed in the cave at the Vikings home?
After a very long romantic interlude with hardly any animal action and no appearance by Haboo finally things pick up for a gripping finale with shades of Frankenstein along with the same classic element of tragedy and pathos.
Haboo has its strong moments, especially the scenes involving the cannibals and some of the comedy though juvenile is not insufferable. The songs are fairly tuneful but all they do is slow the tempo of the movie down to a snail’s pace in the second half when the balance of the film is tipped resoundingly in favour of romance at the expense of jungle thrills.
What could have been a truly great Lollywood King Kong meets Dr. Frankenstein mutation is somewhat underdone by its emphasis on the romantic and musical elements and the film is frustratingly short on emphasis on the character the film is named after; Haboo.