August 9, 2007

Shouldn't I get some kind of award for this much devotion?

So how much do I love Shabana Azmi? Enough to watch Son of the Pink Panther.

I didn't plan to watch it. I've got enough DVDs lying around waiting to be watched that if I set out to spend an evening with milady I could do better. Much better. But when I saw this one among my cable provider's offerings, I couldn't resist giving it a look.

I can think of a number of reasons why, at a certain time in her life, Shabana ji would have been interested in testing the waters of Hollywood productions. And some of the Hollywood movies she did in those days were probably not half bad.

Come to think of it, Son of the Pink Panther is also not half bad. It is all bad. (Blake Edwards is responsible for this film, as he is pretty much all of the Pink Panther franchise; he's also responsible for one of my favorite films of all time, Breakfast at Tiffany's. I guess we all have good days and bad days.) IMDB users collectively have given Son of the Pink Panther a rating of 3.3 out of 10 stars. 3.3, folks. That doesn't crack IMDB's bottom 100 - thank God for films like Teen Wolf Too and Shanghai Surprise - but even Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space, which has cult status as the "worst film ever made," has 3.4 stars. Even Warren Beatty's legendary flop Ishtar gets 3.5. Son of the Pink Panther is in some illustrious company, folks.

So what is Shabana Azmi doing in this film? Looking gorgeous, mostly, and outclassing every actor with whom she shares the screen. But even she can't spin gold from the dreadful dialogue or provide any kind of direction to the plot. And she's only on screen for about 4 minutes all told, which left me wading through 91 minutes of incoherent story and tired slapstick.

There you are; "the queen."

Hooray! She doesn't appear until about 35 minutes into the film, but it's worth the wait, because she looks completely fabulous. See that naughty smile?

This lady is up to no good. She is the wife of the emir or sultan or whatever he is of Lugash, the Pink Panther franchise's favorite fictional Middle Eastern nation. The emir's daughter (by his first wife, now deceased) has been kidnapped by some baddies of unspecified provenance, who demand $100 million in exchange for her safe return, plus the emir's abdication. The emir doesn't seem all that concerned about his daughter, and neither does the queen. I think that's because she's behind the plot. But don't quote me on that, because such details of the film's storyline are very sketchy - what the queen is actually up to is never quite made clear. Perhaps she is scheming for the overthrow of the emir, in a bid to grab the throne for her lover, Sinister Military Man. But I'm not certain.

I don't think the crummy screencaps (actually photographs of my TV screen) are really doing justice to the hotness of Shabana, and certainly not to the atrocity of the dialogue.

Shabana: He knows that we are sleeping together.
Sinister Military Man: Do you think that is all he knows?
Shabana: Yes, or by now you would be soup for my supper! *kiss* (Actually, a Bollywood-style fake kiss. What's that all about?)

Later, she phones Sinister Man to confirm some details of the sinister plan, or something. Again, the point of this telephone call is not entirely clear. Sinister Man is in bed with another woman, but he pauses in mid-frolic to answer the phone.

Shabana: Are you alone?
Sinister Man: No. I am in bed with a beautiful woman.
Shabana: Don't tease. Not even in fun.

Vaah, vaah! Javed sahib himself could not have done better. (That's sarcasm, folks.)

That's about it for Shabana ji's scenes. Eventually the film's hero - Inspector Clouseau's son, hence the title - tracks down the princess and, in his familiar blundering way, manages to rescue her. The fate of the queen and her unfaithful mustachioed lover is left unresolved. The last time we see them, they are looking perturbed at the news that Clouseau Jr. is on his way to their little kingdom. "That can mean only one thing," says the queen dramatically, but she doesn't share with us what that one thing might be, and they do not figure in either the film's climax or its denoument.

I can't say for sure that Son of the Pink Panther is Shabana Azmi's worst movie ever. There are bound to be some true clunkers in a career that has generated 140 films. Even today about half of her films are not available on DVD, and this suggests that there are some real stinkers that have been justly forgotten in the mists of time. Still, it's hard to imagine Shabana ji in a film much worse than this one. And yet I sat through it, just for a few moments of milady. Aisa mera pyaar hai!


Daddy's Girl said...

Sounds truly awful... but she does look lovely... and... 'Don't tease. Not even in fun.'??? Terrible.
Love your last line - I can relate to it - I haven't come across anything truly awful with Dharam in it yet ('Jugnu' came close but thankfully got better after a while), but I'm sure I will eventually, and I'm sure I will suffer through it for the love of him... I also love your last line because it moved me to sing 'Sajanaji' to myself (in my head), complete with as much dancing as I can get away with sitting in my office chair...
I will be watching the Azmi/Akhtar KWK episode tonight... I'm really looking forward to it.

fadista da mouraria said...

Thanks for the advice! I've seen a few to-forgets myself and am very, very grateful for your generous insights and warnings!