Love in Jungle (1970)
Cast: Aaliya, Azeem, Nanna, Tarana, Adeeb, Gul Hameed as The Jungle Man.
Nutshell: Lollywood does the Tarzan thing on cruise control cloaked in a quick-fix history lesson and a rather chillingly familiar refugee exodus fraught with peril and certain death.
Love in Jungle arrived in 1970 hitting a multitude of screens all across the nation with considerable fanfare. The adverts featured the physique of Bodybuilder “new face” Gul Hameed as the local version of Tarzan and the delectable belly-dancer moves of rising star Aaliya. The trailers also featured startling footage of an array of fearsome animals from all corners of the planet and one or two from beyond.
The movie starts with a map of Burma and the land beside it, which is currently Bangladesh and India but when this film was produced the land on world maps would have been marked East Pakistan at the time of release. Political tensions were at a peak between Pakistan and neighboring India keeping in mind that the two had been a single nation till just a generation ago.
The Map scene is then followed by scenes with huge air force planes dropping kilo upon kilo of bombs upon the area causing massive death and destruction. There are horrifying scenes of mayhem and carnage as wretched civilians scramble for safety. Amidst this hell, there is an exodus to flee the war-torn area and reach any area that will shelter them and hundreds set off on foot down a perilous road while still being ravaged from above by bomb spewing death planes.
There is further carnage as half the refugees succumb along the way but among those who find their way into the areas thick forest are a couple of friends who are joined along the way by a young lad by the name of Maula Bux who intrigues one of the friends (played by East Pakistani actor Azeem). There is a bit of tongue in cheek banter along the way as the audience can easily recognize that Maula Bux is indeed the beautiful Aaliya in disguise. Azeem has a side kick in the form of Nanna who is more than a little confused about his own identity and every time he confronts a fearful situation, as though encouraged by the effeminate Maula Bux, Nanna loses all sense of his own masculinity and begins a rapid and quite remarkable transformation from a male into someone who now believes himself to be a woman (think Loretta from The Life of Brian) and thus behaves as he feels he should and refers to himself as a “she” rather than as a “he”. Indeed, the more Maula Bux turns into Aaliya, the more Nanna transforms into a rather shapely young thing. Fortunately the female Nanna is later cured when he meets a biological woman who he rescues after which she rejects his advances as he informs her that he is himself a woman!
Lollywood perfected the art of acting in front of a green screen ages before they came into operation and here in Love in Jungle you have a succession of shots using stock footage from a heap of National Geographic style film and skillfully splicing it into the film with the actors having to shoot countless shots looking startled with each of them in turn going….”oh look at that and pointing in some direction”. Then there is footage of some cheetah chasing some bird or what not. They walk a few steps further and Nanna goes “Oh, look at that!” pointing in a certain direction and they all looked startled and we get more stock film footage of some animals chasing another or just flying around or baring its fangs or what not. Then we go a few steps further and Aaliya screams….” ooh look at that” and it this happens for about two thirds of the movie.
In the rest are crammed a few songs and dances, and some villainous nasty tribal sorts who are ugly, deceitful and nasty; bit like New Yorkers on a bad day. They live in straw huts and have obligatory nasty mask faces and Indian style teepee thingies as furniture; clearly godless heathens. They also shout a lot and are behave rather like Serena Williams when she’s being thrashed and then riled for being called a cheat! Occasionally they cause a problem or two along the way like capturing our friends and or running away with Aaliya. But perhaps their worst habit is that they are prone to laughing very loudly like just to make sure you are very clear in your mind that they are nasty people. Let’s just say they revel in being nasty, ugly and very, very loud. They also like to make themselves appear terribly dark for reasons best known to them. The end result is duly menacing though.
People could look at this film today and find a lot that is politically incorrect but it was a different world back then and Pakistani attitudes towards “tribals” or “Africans” or non-Europeans usually were as racist and stereo-typically offensive as any and sadly haven’t changed a lot since then. Political correctness may have reached laughable extremes in some cases in the West but here in Southern Asia, it has not only not arrived, its arrival seems to get further and further away with time.
Luckily for our group of friends, each time there is some major trouble, a musculary Tarzan appears, swinging on his vines arriving in the nick of time to save the day however one day things get a little awkward as Tarzan himself feels he needs to have a woman of his own and carries away Aalia at which point the audience may start to keep a count of how many times she is abducted by various men, savages, tribals or animals during the course of the film.
Tarzan is quite rough with her but then she decides to do what any sane woman would do at that stage. She intoxicates him with a song and dance number that has him feeling some type of way and they get on like a house on fire even if his expression remains the same throughout the movie. No, actually he as two expressions; a moronic smile and a sad expression the type you get when you are in an enclosed place and somebody emits some wind of a most ferocious constitution. Time and again Tarzan saves the day and he and Aaliya bond quite closely but her heart remains with the sickly Azeem, no doubt for his money as he is really not the type of guy a bad bitch would want to step out in high society with, knowhatamsayin?
The film is a crashing bore and a total rip off and even a few dances by Aaliya and an appearance by Tarana cannot save this ship from sinking rapidly into high tedium. The only animal of any interest was a man in a hairy gorilla suit and literally everything else was stock footage from wildlife films. Nanna tries hard with his “Pakhpal e Zamboor!” interjections, but the gay oriented banter is not only juvenile but also offensive especially considering the holier than thou attitude of most around these lands.
Political offensiveness aside the film really just fails abysmally to entertain and that is the bottom line. A complete failure and easy to see why. The producers and the directors try to dupe and audience pretending to be a film shot in “the jungle” and it simply doesn’t work, not by a long shot. Sad to say that this movie of which there were considerable hopes is a total waste of time unless you are some crazed psychotic Tarzan movie freak or you must watch all Aliya movies or you are one of those geeks who brags to eye-rolling friends about “yeah man, I watched this Tarzan movie from Pakistan last night”. In which case long may you thrive and read these reviews!!!