Tange Wali (1981)
Cast: Shabnam, Mohammad Ali, Nisho, Rangeela, Nanna, Allaudin, Afzal Ahmed, Shahnawaz
Director: M. J. Rana
Nutshell: a vehicle for 70’s superstar Shabnam is well past its sell by date. Stale, formulaic and too late in arriving.
It was interesting to note Syed Noor’s comments speaking at a University in Sind where he said the film industry needed some star power like the old days when people would go out to watch a Nadeem, or a Waheed Murad or Shabnam movie simply on star-power alone. He may have a point but the world and indeed cinema has evolved all over and the multiplex thing is not exactly a new “enemy on the block” as he appears to suggest. Oddly enough, nobody recognizes the fact that the arrival of technology in the form of the VCR and the flood of Bollywood films subsequently available on the market caused a huge decline in the fortunes of local films, especially those in the Urdu language.
Tange Wali arrived in 1981 by which time there was a Video Rental shop on every street corner in every locality in the land and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to state that 94% of their trade was in Bollywood films, 5% Pirated Hollywood films and 1% Pakistani films. Urdu films, which shared the same marketplace as the Bollywood films lost out horribly and by 1981 their production was dwindling rapidly and cinema had started its post VCR decline. So, technology had a role to play and a prominent one for Urdu cinema from which it has never quite recovered and never indeed found its own identity. This film too smacks of the very same problem using Sholay as a template (yawn, yet again!) even if the plot is switched up, dumbed down and shot on a microscopic budget in a studio set.
Laali, Shabnam’s character is modelled on the Hema Malini role from Sholay. Fast talking Tange Wali who cares for her blind father (Allaudin) who curses himself at every given opportunity for not being able to be more of a help for his children. He says it so often that you would think its more a ploy for attention and self-pity but he actually does mean it, earnestly weaving baskets while Laali goes off to the “Tayshun” (station but village bumpkins always call it Tayshun and thus) to try to pick up some rides on her Tanga. Times are rough and she’s only had no income for four days.
On her way to the “Tayshun”, Shabnam is obstructed by Afzal Ahmed who has the habit of bursting into loud guffaws for no reason other than to indicate to the audience that he is an evil man of dubious intent. Point taken. After several cackles he attempts to get cute with Shabnam who disdainfully and slickly steers her Tanga clear of the sleaze-ball and makes off for the “Tayshun” as planned.
There a portly Mohammad Ali with that really strange hairstyle he carried in his latter years as a “romantic hero” who arrives looking for a ride and flips for Laali the moment he sets eyes on her. After that follows much playful, romantic banter in just a day or two Mohammad Ali, the slick guy from the city has Laali bursting into songs about love with her BFF’s. The first such song even contains her catchphrase “Bachh Mor To” (Watch the curb).
Alauddin warns her that village people ought never to get entangled with city folk who are not to be trusted but love finds its way until things turn nasty as Afzal Ahmed turns out to the be local “Chaudhry’s” son and as all Chaudhry’s sons must behave, he has to be a Don on the street and have his way with everything he desires, and he desires Laali.
Alauddin is caught up in the sleazy drama and demands that his “Mere Haath Kaat Do” Sholay style while Laali has some false case taken out against her while Mohammad Ali has Afzal Ahmed’s goons to contend with. Meanwhile there is a parallel comedy track featuring the talents of Rangeela, Khalid Saleem Mota, and led by Nanna who are also doing their Bhopali accent inspired by Sholay but borrowed already in dozens of films and really very stale by 1981. Later, Nisho is thrown into the mix as the film heads to a dreary and predictable conclusion.
The whole film has the feel of being at least ten years too late on the scene. Shabnam does a fine job but she doesn’t look a day under 40 while Mohammad Ali still has presence but he also has a girth which has to be camouflaged by open jacket at a certain angle to conceal the enormous waistline. The comedy is juvenile, the songs forgettable and on the whole the film falls just a tad short of its lofty Sholay-esque ambitions.