Cast: Jeetendra, Jaya Prada, Mandakini, Waheeda Rehman, Amjad Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Pran, Kader Khan.
Nutshell: Palace intrigues, deadly Vishkanyas (Poisonous Women), Double roles, sword fighting Raj Kumaris – old school swords and sandals with superb sets, hideous songs. Typical Padmalaya excellence.
Padmalaya Studios churned out some spellbinding classics during the Jeetendra-Sridevi-Jaya Prada-Kader Khan- Shakti Kapoor- Bappi Lahiri era, most of them mind boggling successes as the Box Office. During the mid 80s Bollywood had largely succumbed to bloated egos, the underworld influences of Dawood Ibrahim and friends, crippling strikes and so the scene shifted to the South of India where Jeetendra in particular enjoyed an incredible revival of is career and fortunes. Suddenly an actor who was an also ran in Bollywood became the busiest actor in mainstream Indian cinema churning out hit after hit after hit and Padmalaya’s Singhasan was just one of many such examples.
Jeetendra plays a double role, interchanging between the Royal Prince and the rogue dacoit Vikram Singh. Amjad Khan plays an imbecilic clown prince in waiting who keeps chomping on almonds and blurts out “badaam kha ke” as a fabulous old school “takia kalaam” while Kader Khan and Shakti Kapoor as the charmingly named Ugg Rao is quite endearing. Jaya Prada is in her usual matronly mode but shines when she comes along riding a horse in full war mode, slicing and dicing the bad guys at will. Perhaps the most interesting character in the film is Mandakini as the “venomous woman” who doesn’t know she has been cursed with the Vishkanya affliction. When she realizes her situation she has to make the supreme sacrifice for the sake of her suitor. Meanwhile Pran leads the palace intrigue in his lust for power and easily tricks the Queen played by Waheeda Rehman who is putty in his hands.
The songs by Bappi Lahiri and Indivar are embarrassingly dull which comes as no surprise at all yet the sets are typically spectacular and lurid with the signature Padmalaya touch and lots of conveyor belt shots and diabolical silhouettes.
The numerous battle scenes are a little repetitive and you wonder how many times the same bunch of people are killed during the course of the movie only to pop up again, only to be slaughtered once more. The whole thing builds to a predictable but amusing climax and the disorder is finally restored and evil put in its place rightfully.
Singhasan was good old fashioned lightweight South Indian style fun in typical Padmalaya vein with all the familiar ingredients in place and in that sense it doesn’t disappoint those who found these fangled melodramas entertaining. There is heaps of kitsch in evidence and with well over 600,000 views on YouTube clearly the film has enjoyed a successful and popular afterlife even if it didn’t initially set the box office on fire as the producers had anticipated.
The film pulls no surprises and is true to its origins. It has the trademark style of Kader Khan which may or may not be a compliment depending on your point of view. Kader Khan ruled the 80’s with his scripts and dialog writing and played a massive hand in the era’s cinema being regarded as the “dark ages”, yet there are millions out there who swayed in ecstasy with every double entendre dialogue that he masterfully churned out in his sleep.
Singhasan is indeed the kind of film that was parodied a few years ago by “The Dirty Picture” so delightfully with the “Oo La La” sequence even if the rest of the film was not at all accurate in its depiction of the late great Silk Smita whose presence this movie could have used to its benefit.
Singhasan fails to set pulses racing in the manner that perhaps a “Tohfa” or a “Himmatwala” yet it holds its own in the pantheon of the “dark ages” and wont disappoint those looking for a slice of typical South Asian style Kitsch with the typical Kader Khan touch.