It was that time of the year again for me. The season changed and being the urban rat that I am — used to living in highly conditioned environments (and stare at the PC for hours on end) — I caught the first bug that has been doing the rounds since the rains started. I had been generally feeling low for much of the latter part of the last week. That developed into a proper fever and chills and all the other bells and whistles on Sunday. My doc sis-in-law who, since the events and episodes described here, hasn't had an opportunity to dose me too my gills with numerous medicines, rubbed her hands in glee and promptly drugged me with an extra big helping of medication. I suffered. But this post is not about that.
It is about something else. What do you do when you are unexpectedly home on a weekday and unable to move about much? There's of course much reading you can catch up on. However you may have the most interesting books at hand (I tried Wodehouse, some Asimov, and a whodunit), but it is a bit tough to read when you are more or less totally doped (on medicine). So I read a bit, watched the rain drizzle down for quite a bit, and MSEB's load shedding schedule (or the lack of one) permitting, watched some TV. Nothing great, but today after many, many years I watched this awesome masala flick.
I missed the opening credits, due to my desultory channel-surfing, so I don't know the title of the movie. It was being beamed by our cable operator — you know one of those local movie channels, probably illegal. But it was entertaining, at least all the bits that I watched were; I was snatching some time every now and then to read a page or two of the whodunit.
It was a Sunny Deol starrer. That was actually what made me pause my desultory channel surfing. With Sunny Paaji around you can expect a decent fight or two and a few blood curdling screams and some very entertaining dancing. Total vasool film.
The movie started (though I missed the opening credits, I am fairly sure I didn't miss much of the beginning), with Sunny Paaji being felicitated with a gallantry award by the Canadian police for saving many Canadian and Indian lives. It is a neat little scene with many wooden actors making speeches and apna Sunny Paaji also making a speech (in English) and assorted extras waving miniature Canadian and Indian flags.
Thereafter I turned to the book. When I looked up again Sunny Paaji was in army uniform in a place which we were supposed to take as being close to the Kashmir border. An inquiring glance at my sis-in-law, and she informed me that a flashback was happening. So we were being told how Sunny Paaji happened to win that gallantry award. Over the next few scenes it was established that Sunny Paaji was an intelligence officer (very funny that), and who was now gathering intelligence on Pakistani terrorists as a colonel in the Indian army. It was also conveyed that Sunny Paaji, being an intelligence officer, was a master of disguise — which basically means that he wears assorted beards and wigs and glasses and continues to look like Sunny Paaji, and we, the audience, recognize him as Sunny Paaji, but the idiotic terrorists and Pakistan's army and ISI officers don't.
Well anyways, I returned to my book. After reading a couple of paragraphs twice (so I could understand them) I looked up to see Sunny Paaji surrounded by assorted army lackeys talking to an obviously Muslim old man and a very coy and demure Preity Zinta. Actually it was the old man who was doing most of the talking with Ms. Zinta continuing to look coy and demure and Sunny Paaji looking serious. After some exchange, it was revealed by the old man that for lack of money the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta had to discontinue her education. So serious looking Sunny Paaji opens his wallet and gives enough money to pay half a year's fees. You know what happens next. The very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta goes to school (or was it college? Doesn't matter), feels indebted to the army "Saabji" — Sunny Paaji, and falls in love with Sunny Paaji.
Then for some unexplained reason (I might have missed a few bits when I returned to my book), in one scene, the old man tells Sunny Paaji that the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta is not a Muslim but a Hindu. Her parents had been killed by terrorists and the old man and his old woman had since then brought her up as their own daughter.
The next time I returned to the movie Sunny Paaji was convincing the old man that for some reason he needs the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta to go across the border and work for a colonel in the Pakistan army there and spy on him. Old man objects, but the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta has actually overheard it all and since it the Saabji Sunny Paaji who is asking and it is important to make sacrifices for the country she over rules the old man and agrees to go. Saabji Sunny Paaji assures the old man that he will train the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta and in case "something happens to her" while on duty for the nation he will take her off the old man's hands and marry her. For some reason this statement ensures that his stock with Ms. Zinta rises up further.
This is followed by some army style training for the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta to prepare her for the spying mission. I did wonder for a bit that instead of this crash course in crawling through (and under) barbed wire and jumping over pits and weapons training wouldn't a spy need to be trained in things like sending and receiving messages over the radio, ciphers and other things, but didn't dwell on it much. Anyways the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta (carrying a radio transmitter, a buttonhole camera, and an ordinary camera) is soon across the border and joins the household of the Pakistani colonel as a general house-help — a sort of a Girl-Friday. In different scenes she is shown washing utensils (and stowing away the transmitter behind a couple of loose bricks), making tea, serving the tea to assorted Pakistani army officers and terrorists, and massaging the feet of the colonel's mother. Now the colonel, according to the logic of Hindi movies, being a Pakistani is a dolt. So top secret meetings with ISI officials and terrorists are discussed in his home — meetings in which the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta serves tea and refreshments and photographs everyone with her buttonhole camera. Now this buttonhole camera is a nifty piece of technology for it not only captures high resolution video, but also crystal clear sound and beams it live to Sunny Paaji's bunker across the border. The colonel also keeps top secret documents detailing army plans and terrorist plans in an ordinary almirah in his home. For some reason the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta doesn't use her hi-tech button hole camera to beam the document live to Sunny Paaji when she gains access to it. She takes the other ordinary camera and painstakingly photographs each and every page and keeps the film on herself.
Soon the inevitable happens. Amrish Puri and a few assorted terrorist types meet the colonel at his home to discuss the making of a noocleear bomb so that they can free Kashmir. In between discussing this top secret plan, naturally overheard by the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta, Amrish Puri digresses into a tirade on Sunny Paaji and how this Indian intelligence officer is the only thing thwarting the success of their noocleear bomb and acquiring Kashmir. For a good measure he adds that he knows that Sunny Paaji is near the border with the Indian army and since he is so near and it is wrong to waste such heaven sent opportunity, it is resolved unanimously to send someone or a force to eliminate Sunny Paaji. Now naturally this worries the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta after all the villains are talking of murdering her Saabji. So she is flustered and under the pretext of washing utensils transmits a message to Sunny Paaji across the border. For some reason, unfathomable to me, she is not using a transmitter that scrambles the message and so her transmission is picked up by a walkie-talkie wielding terrorist who is a part of the noocleear conclave in the colonel's house. Suspicion falls on the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta but just when she is about to be stripped and searched, the colonel's mother intervenes, gives a lecture to the assorted army officials and terrorists of the noocleear conclave on Islam and the respect accorded to women under Islam's diktats and takes the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta to her room (presumably to have her feet massaged by Ms. Zinta).
But Amrish Puri has not been fooled and he confronts the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta when she is about to pass on the film that has the images of the top secret documents to an expendable extra so that it can be sent to her Saabji. Well, the extra is expended (but not before he makes a transmission to Sunny Paaji that Ms. Zinta is in danger thus ensuring that Sunny Paaji sets out on a rescue mission) but buys enough time for the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta to escape towards the Indian border. So there is a night time chase and the Pakistani army being the Pakistani army is not able to capture the escaped Indian spy even though she is always running no more that a few feet in front of their many jeeps and trucks. Finally, close to border the entire Pakistani army surrounds Ms. Zinta. The Pakistani colonel, her erstwhile employer, even utters that time-honored dialogue, "Now let me see who will rescue you!" Poor guy. He was doomed the minute he said that dialogue for Sunny Paaji jumps into the middle of the entire Pakistani army, hoists Ms. Zinta, who now starts looking coy and demure again, on his shoulders, pulls out two pistols from somewhere and without any heed to the substantial automatic weapons fire by the Pakistani army, slays them all — everyone. He even issues a challenge after killing the last Pakistani soldier — "Is there anyone left?" When he gets no response, Sunny Paaji takes the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta across the border to India. Now if you felt that all of these incidents and happenings took a very long while in the movie, you are mistaken. Along with a song or two (in which Sunny Paaji shows us his dance moves — including one where he flaps his arms and nods his head at the same time) all this is barely an hour into the movie.
Back in India, Sunny Paaji and the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta sing a song at the army base and get engaged. But at the end of the song just when they are gazing particularly soulfully into each others' eyes, Amrish Puri's terrorists attack the base. There is a huge explosion and the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta is blown into a very convenient and handy river which sweeps her away to Pakistan where she is rescued coincidentally by a doctor (or at least I think he was a doctor but he could just have been one of those model looking types). Now all this shock and trauma (the explosion and the belief that her Saabji has been killed in the explosion) has left the legs of Ms. Zinta paralyzed. So she is in a Pakistani hospital where her rescuer and his family pat themselves for doing such a noble deed in rescuing her — they already know she is an Indian and that she was engaged to an Indian army officer — and decide that they shouldn't inform the Pakistani army or police that they are harboring an Indian. Instead they discuss how Ms. Zinta should be taken to Canada where she will receive the best treatment and they proceed to make all the arrangements. Just exactly how they manage to get Ms. Zinta a passport, a visa, and onto an international flight without any hassle is not explained, but these are merely trifling details and shouldn't block the flow of the story.
Meanwhile Sunny Paaji is angry. His very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta is dead (or so he believes) in a terrorist attack. So he takes up a bazooka and some soldiers and starts destroying the terrorist camps. He is also looking for information on the noocleear weapon plan of the ISI and Pakistani terrorists. After destroying some hundred or more terrorist camps and Pakistani army bases, Sunny Paaji with his bazooka and his band of merry men land at this terrorist camp/Pakistani army base. Sunny Paaji blows a couple of vehicles and bunkers with his bazooka. His band of merry men meanwhile have got their hands on a Pakistani flag and are about to shred it to pieces and throw the shreds to the ground when Sunny Paaji intervenes and stops them. Then with bullets flying all around, Sunny Paaji delivers a short sermon to his band of merry men on the need of respecting the flag of your enemy because your enemy nation's people respect it as a symbol of their nationhood. So the Pakistani flag is left standing and having delivered his sermon, Sunny Paaji picks up his bazooka and blasts the incompetent Pakistani army/terrorists who all this while have been firing in his direction and that of his band of merry men without hitting anyone. Anyways at the base they find an important microchip which has the coded plans. A few taps of keyboard keys and the code is broken down and it is clear that Sunny Paaji now has to go to Canada to thwart the noocleear plans of the Pakistani terrorists. For the Pakistani terrorists have realized that its is not easy to buy weapons grade Uranium on the market and are hence synthesizing weapons grade plutonium in the lab of a pharmaceutical company of a Pakistani sympathizer in Canada. And while the plutonium is synthesized and extracted from spent fuel from noocleear power stations, the terrorists multi-task and also try to get the other parts of a noocleear bomb and blueprints to help assemble the bomb. They also are looking for noocleear scientists who will understand the blueprints and assemble the bomb that will free Kashmir from India.
So . . .
So Sunny Paaji travels to Canada as a world renowned nooclear scientist who is of Pakistani and Indonesian parentage and is now working for the Atomic Association of Canada or other some such similar sounding organization. Coincidentally Sunny Paaji and the now paralyzed but still coy and demure looking Preity Zinta are on the same plane (don't know how for it is shown that Ms. Zinta boards a PIA flight and Sunny Paaji boards an AI flight but they somehow end in the same BA flight), and are separated by only a couple of rows. But they never see each other on the flight. The same happens at the airport where they keep missing each other by about a second or two — you know how it is — one clears immigration and walks away just as the other is joining the line or how one gets into a taxi just when the other comes out of the airport looking for a cab. Very cruel fate is and it leaves us audience ruing fate and feeling very, very sad.
Sunny Paaji in Canada meanwhile gets into full intelligence officer mode and tries out all his disguises while following the terrorists and the pharma industry owner. So he has long dark hair in one scene, short blonde in one, blonde hair and dark sunglasses in another and all the while he keeps a few feet away from the terrorists and overhears and notes everything and is very brave in spite of the risks. In doing this him and the now paralyzed but still coy and demure looking Preity Zinta almost run into each other quite a few times. Alas cruel fate, they never meet. Then in one scene in a shopping mall while Sunny Paaji is following his terrorists the woolen scarf around his neck comes undone and flutters and falls down a couple of floors where it is picked up by the wheelchair bound paralyzed but still coy and demure looking Preity Zinta. She recognizes it as the one she had made for her Saabji (it has her initials or something like that) and suddenly there is HOPE in her life. She starts responding to treatment very quickly much to the surprise of Priyanka Chopra, the doctor who is treating her. Ms. Zinta explains it is due to the strength of her love and Dr. Priyanka who has lately fallen in love with a dashing noocleear scientist agrees that love is very powerful.
Anyway to cut a long story short (and without describing a scene which was later modified and copied by the Mission Impossible movies — you know the one where the hero is winched down from a height into a secure room where he operates a computer and steals secret encoded data), Sunny Paaji insinuates himself into the affections of Dr. Priyanka. This helps him get closer to her dad — her dad being the pharma industry owner in whose labs the plutonium is being synthesized (such a small world we live in). And during his wooing of the Dr. Priyanka, the good doctor keeps mentioning that Sunny Paaji should meet this patient of hers who is recuperating and healing at a super fast rate because of her belief in the power of love. Sunny Paaji looks serious whenever the patient is mentioned and nods. He does go to visit her one day but coincidentally when he reaches the hospital; the said patient has just acquired crutches and is hence perambulating around the hospital disgustingly happy that her love makes her move around and about. So . . . sigh! Fate can be so cruel.
Anyways Dr. Priyanka's dad is maha-impressed by this noocleear scientist beau of his daughter. Coincidentally the terrorists are also in need of a nooclear scientist who can get them blue prints of a noocleear bomb and then assemble it for them. So during a hilarious song sequence in which Sunny Paaji spouts shaayari, dances, and shows the terrorists that he is super smart and already knows their requirements and that he is the savior they were looking for, introductions with the terrorists happen (who don't recognize their arch enemy because he is in disguise) and Sunny Paaji finally infiltrates the noocleear conclave of terrorists. Mr. Pharma, dad of Dr. Priyanka, can't believe that his daughter has managed to snare such a useful fellow and so he pushes Sunny Paaji to marry his daughter (who of course doesn't know that her dad supports noocleear terrorism on the side). That will strengthen Sunny Paaji's ties with the family and they can then plan the freedom of Kashmir together. So Sunny Paaji agrees to marry Dr. Priyanka (Couldn't figure out if it was out of national duty or Dr. Priyanka's charms) and wedding preparations are made.
The very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta is by now totally healed and bounces around the venue at the wedding. She helps the bride get ready and then dances around and sings a song looking and behaving as if she was never paralyzed in her life (Ah! the wonders of modern medicine and the strength of love!). Soon it is evident that this is the occasion where Sunny Paaji and the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta are finally going to run into each other and raise the drama in this very excellent story a notch higher.
Unfortunately, MSEB played spoil sport at this juncture. Load shedding, that bane of the life of a Mumbai suburbanite, started in my area. The TV had to be switched off and I spent the rest of the evening and wondering how it all ended. Do Sunny Paaji and the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta finally get together? Then what happens of the very leggy (and innocent) Dr. Priyanka? Who "sacrifices" her love for the other? Is one of them bumped off — taking a bullet meant for Sunny Paaji? What happens to Mr. Pharma? If he marries Mr. Pharma's daughter, will Sunny Paaji kill his father-in-law? I know for sure Amrish Puri and the other assorted terrorists will be killed and that the noocleear bomb will never go off (remember the start?) but how will Sunny Paaji manage it all? And what will happen of the Pakistani model type and his family who had rescued the very coy and demure looking Preity Zinta and arranged and paid for her treatment in Canada?
So many questions, no answers. If I don't have these questions answered, I don't know how my "fevered" brain will take it. I need to pick up the VCD of this movie and see how it all ends. This, people, is a classic of its genre. For starters can someone tell me the title of this very excellent movie?
Update: Lunch time conversation in office revealed the title of this movie: The Hero: Love Story of a Spy.
Another gem was discussed, Sarhad Paar, starring Sanjay Dutt. We plan to get sozzled a bit and do a back to back viewing of these films sometime soon.