Black Mail (1985)
Cast: Sultan Rahi, Mustafa Qureshi, Nazli, Shehnaz Khan, Qavi
Dir: Iqbal Kashmiri
Nutshell: Murder, revenge, bloodshed, song and dance, the usual Lollywood thing elevated by Qureshi’s marvellous villainy and some flashes of style and flair from Director Iqbal Kashmiri.
When notorious cold hearted thug receives news from his minion that his fiancée has ditched him and decided to get married elsewhere he is none too pleased. A furious Daara (Mustafa Qureshi) cuts short his massage and heads off to give a piece of his mind to the family that dares to betray him. Upon confronting the head of the family Saqi, he is informed that the family had heard he was going to prison again and in any case, had decided against him as a son in law having learned about his history of murder, looting and extortion; not what they consider the ideal characteristics for a good husband for their daughter. Daara is incensed and disgusted at what he considers is an outright betrayal and not only is this decision insulting but it is also highly disloyal and massively disrespectful. His punishment is swift and brutal and the young daughter is murdered in cold blood and her young brother smashed against the wall resulting in the complete loss of the kid’s eyesight.
As Daara leaves a devastated family, the young boy swears revenge even if he has been rendered incapable of even tying his own shoelaces.
The action switches to another notorious town outlaw played rather gallantly by Sultan Rahi in his finest kung Fu-cowboy style. But this outlaw is the opposite of the evil murderous Daara. Sultan Rahi plays the usual corruption busting, nationalistic Robin Hood who robs the crooks to provide relief for the poor and elderly. He is as feared as he is loved and is often found hanging out at the local night club where the star attraction Nazli is quite smitten by him.
There is also Qavi as a status symbol and money preaching Seth Sahib who is supremely rich monetarily but absolutely bankrupt when it comes to morals and cannot for the life of him understand why his young and beautiful daughter is interested in serving the poor people as a doctor rather than in enjoying the luxuries of high society. One afternoon the daughter (Shehnaz khan) insults a poverty-stricken man not realising he was blind and when she returns to her comfortable home she is tormented by guilt and extremely ashamed of her exhibition of shallow, bratty behaviour.
The unfortunate blind man is of course the same young boy victimised by Daara and he is barely making ends meet trying to patch together the money to be able to pay for the operation that may cure his blindness. Poor fellows home has recently been burgled and all the money he had diligently saved up over a period of time is ripped away viciously by fate. But he continues his struggle and this ill-tempered meeting with the feisty and nasty woman proves to be a turning point in his struggles as she soon seeks him out and promises to cure his blindness herself at the hospital she practices.
Soon, love blossoms between the Dr. and her blind patient but when her father finds out that his daughter is romancing some blind pauper he is mortified. Everything he worked to attain in life; status, wealth, influence and power stand to be destroyed by the thoughtless acts of his daughter and he racks his brain for a way to put a stop to their romance, even if it means murder.
Onto the scene arrives Daara who obviously has a score to settle with the rich Seth and returns to demand his money back at which point the conniving seth promises a massive pay-out if and when Daara kills the blind man who is threatening to ruin his reputation and status in society.
The rest of the movie is Daara going on a man-hunt for Ghulam Mohiuddin and if it means slaughtering his entire family, then so it must be. Sultan Rahi is employed by the bad guys to help track down and kill Ghulam Mohiuddin and he is well on the way to accomplishing his task when he realises that he is on the wrong side. They join hands to take on Daara and to try to make sure Mohiuddin eyes can be restored before Daara strikes.
While the film is in thriller mode it is actually fairly compelling with some stylish sequences but when it veers towards the prerequisite musical interludes and endless fight scenes the film loses steam badly and flags quite desperately to make it to the finish line. It should have been 30 minutes shorter but the film was made when even running times of feature films pandered to formula and thus a film like Black Mail is massively padded with fights and songs to make sure it achieves the correct running time of round about 2 and a half hours which is about one hour too long!
Yet some of this movie works which is largely due to the quite excellent performance by mustafa qureshi who had the ability to turn the most mundane and potentially stereotypical and boring character into a quite memorable one and his Daara with his signature mannerisms and splendid blonde wig is yet another shade in the actor’s impressive spectrum.
One odd and slightly jarring aspect of the movie was that Sultan Rahi’s words were very frequently overdubbed and it is clearly noticeable. Each time his character says the word “sala” or “salay”, the word is over dubbed with “kala” or “kalay” which lends his dialogues a bizarre touch especially as the words are used very frequently every time he speaks.
It could be that the film makers anticipated the words being objected to by the censor board and dubbed the film words in a pre-emptive move or then the censors did actually object to the words which had to subsequently be dubbed over for the theatrical release. Either way, all it does is attract attention to the words and also it is applied so randomly that numerous “sala’s and salay’s” escape the over dub. Doesn’t really make any difference to the movie but just illustrates what was and was not acceptable around 1985, well into the regime of General Zia Ul Haq.