Cheeta Chaalbaaz (1978)
Cast: Mustafa Qureshi, Naghma, Aalia, Badar Munir, Iqbal Kashmiri
Director: Altaf Hussain
Nutshell: Intriguing, indeed mind bogglingly convoluted plot is delicious fun all the same
What an intoxicating and deadly cocktail of succulent, intertwining bits and pieces this film is – a dazzlingly convoluted plot that will have a viewers head spinning dizzily in sheer wonder at its fangled and fantastically twisted storyline. Cheeta Chaalbaaz is an epic of magnificent intent if not execution and is a truly intriguing and mind altering experience.
Sadly the film arrived just as the military dictatorship of General Zia had just usurped power – therefore an element – and such a necessary element of sauciness and sleaze is sadly missing though the movie does boast a vintage Naheed Akhter number filmed on seasoned Lollywood crumpet Chakori!
The film begins with Mustafa Qureshi the “Cheeta” dressed in his finest leopard skin Cheetah Print outfit heading for his local kotha for an evenings entertainment but his wife intervenes trying to reason with him through philosophy that a husband’s place is with the wife and kids at home and not at the feet of some smelly tart at the Kotha. Mustafa Qureshi isn’t impressed by her reasoning and feels increasingly hen-pecked however as is the case in all Lollywood films “fate has the last word” and things come nastily around when Cheeta’s favourite girl is stolen by archrival Ilyas Kashmiri if only for one night. Humiliated beyond redemption Cheeta now sets about exacting revenge from Kashmiri, whatever the cost.
Later Naghma grows up as the Cheeta’s rather modern, liberal thinking daughter who ends up getting horribly snagged in her father’s web of intrigue. She is sadly torn away from the handsome honourable Pathan Badar Munir to whom she had sworn eternal love. However circumstances are cruel to their love and it is never to be fulfilled. Thrown into the mix are various villains spouses and souten’s and therefore tens of feuds and grudges to sort out in the usual bloodbath ending. The film sadly didn’t click at the Box Office – perhaps due to the missing oomph factor as it seems to offer every other mind boggling ingredient that seems prerequisite to a successful formula movie. Perhaps the film lacked a racy Madame Noor Jehan number or perhaps the hero just wasn’t heroic enough by Sultan Rahi standards. Whatever the case, Cheeta Chaalbaz is an intriguing enough pot-boiler and contains enough of the amazing to make it a strangely endurable experience.
Mustafa Qureshi is decent in the title role and Naghma shines as the lovelorn teenager turned the faithful wife turned the vengeful woman scorned turned the benign mother figure, carrying off her role with admirable spirit and aplomb. Aalia lends good support while Ilyas Kashmiri is all bombast, on auto mode and there is comic relief (that is what they call it) with Kashmiri’s son not proving to be the man his father was hoping for. A memorable moment that is very revealing of the Pathan psyche comes up in the movie in an exchange between Naghma and her Pathan suitor Badar Munir. When she implores him to give up the gun he informs her that a Pathan can never be separated from his gun; the two are intrinsically and almost biologically linked. A real Pathan is virtually born with a gun attached to his limbs and the only time he detaches it from his being is when he is visiting the bathroom or creating more Pathans! A gun therefore, according to the wisdom of this particular film, is a natural extension of the Pathan being and to be without it would be tantamount to a man being without his manhood! Incredible but absolutely true! Cheeta Chaalbaaz is well worth a look in for the curious and those with a taste for the gritty golden age of Lollywood.