Kubra Aashiq (1973)
Cast: Rangeela, Nisho, Aurangzeb, Nirala
Nutshell: Rangeela’s magnum opus – the Box Office dud that virtually ruined his career
The film was made when Rangeela was at the height of his popularity having become the top most comedian in the country from nowhere, and having directed the smash hit Deea aur Toofan. With Kubra Aashiq he set about making his own magnum opus – his defining moment. Alas, the film has become famous for all the wrong reasons.
First and foremost it was a stinker of a flop which the crowds utterly rejected within the very first week of release. The film was derided out of town by audiences and critics alike and it brought a high flying Rangeela resoundingly down to earth with the rudest of shocks as he had staked his mini-fortune on this costume drama epic of farcical proportions. The films abject failure utterly destroyed Rangeela’s career and it made history as one of the most enormous flops ever to emerge from Lollywood. It was vilified so vigorously that we decided to try to get hold of it and view it with a completely open mind keeping in mind that after all Rangeela was the man behind the amazing Aurat Raj, which was also largely rejected by the masses and the establishment upon release – perhaps it could be that Kubra Aashiq could contain undertones of satire or spoofing that was so evident in Aurat Raj? Perhaps Kubra Aashiq deserved a second chance and might turn out to be yet another lost golden nugget, reviled by condemned by closed minded bigots?
The story starts at the end of World War 2 just as the Allies have vanquished their foes and here in the Indian Sub-continent the people await their own much awaited independence from colonial rule. The colonial rulers are shown to be rejoicing and partying it up in celebration of their victory and to cap off an evening of debauchery, the gora sahib sends for a group of the finest local belles to satisfy their burgeoning lust. As the news of the abduction of the village belles spreads to the local ranks, they rebel against their oppressors to save their sisters honour. A bloody fight ensues and our hero Aurangzeb escapes and drifts off into the ocean. Later he finds himself washed up in a strange jungle inhabited by what look like Pakistani men trying to look like African tribesmen from a Tarzan movie. Our hero is chased through the forest by these nasty cannibalistic jungle folk and just when he is about to be devoured for luncheon, he is saved by Sabu (Rangeela) who is the local community mute-cum-hunchback.
Aurangzeb, referred to in typical filmi style as Ajnabi, is treated back to health by the hunchbacked mute Sabu and they proceed to bond together most touchingly. We are shown in a flashback that Sabu had been framed by the evil and jealous Asif Khan and then punished by the village elders with banishment from the royal jungle kingdom. In fact Sabu was sentenced to die, but the pretty princess Nisho throws a tantrum and has him exiled instead to save his life. Rangeela’s Sabu is inspired by Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the film follows in similar vein. Unfortunately Rangeela’s antics of warbling and grunting start grating on the nerves about thirty seconds after his entry in the film and they just do not relent. The story follows a laborious fable like tale of how the mute, once he is able to express himself (having pleaded to the mighty one in a dramatic and utterly tedious sequence), finds that he was better off as a mute after all – and indeed proceeds to hack off his tongue in an ungrateful and extraordinary display of petulance.
The film really isn’t the monstrosity it was made out to be, it’s far worse! Kubraa Aashiq is an embarrassment from beginning to end – a grand magnum opus gone horribly wrong. Rangeela’s fable based on Quasimodo ends up as one of the most cringe-worthy and lamentably unwatchable films that this reviewer has yet to encounter and to endure the dwarf-like mutant Rangeela behaving like a demented moron for two and a half hours is about as difficult to stomach as a two hour dose of MTV or Kashmir File. The film is a resounding failure in every aspect, even the sets and costumes upon which Rangeela spent his fortune are appallingly tacky and the overt attempts at comedy are pathetic at best. The film is mind numbingly dull and not even a succession of rather promising men in bear suits in the beginning of film materialize into anything of any worth. Kubra Aashiq is all they said it was, but worse! The film could have its uses though – as an instrument of torture for errant children or to rid yourself of unwanted company.