Maha Sangram (Mukul Anand, 1990)
Before Ekka Raja Rani, there was Maha Sangram. The film that, as far as I can tell, originally brought the world one of the most unlikely, regrettably shortlived, yet touchingly convincing jodis ever. (Some might say it’s a weird, vaguely homoerotic, albeit strangely emotional jodi. To these people I say: oh boy, you’re REALLY GONNA LOVE Maha Sangram, and I’m not even being ironic).
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (for the second time this week): Vinod and Govinda. Or as I like to secretly refer to them: Vininda.
Maha Sangram (or “Great Conflict” more or less) is about as EPIC as the title suggests. Vinod and Chi Chi play Vishal and Arjun, brothers from a rural village. Vishal drives a tractor for a living , occasionally (inexplicably) kicks some badmaash butt
and then doles out advice to the local goons about how to live better.
He dreams of his younger brother Arjun moving to the city and going to school to become a doctor or a lawyer, even though the pain of being separated from the one person he refers to as the love of his life would be great.
Cue tears. The first, you will soon realize, of MANY.
You have to understand, the brothers are very close. THEY EVEN SLEEP IN THE SAME BED. Not because they have to…just because they prefer to share. To be fair to Vishal, it’s Arjun that instigates this. Vishal is such a loving brother though, he even tolerates his younger bhai stealing the blankets.
But Maha Sangram is not a happy, brothers frolicking
in bed with each other in the village with each other kind of film. I’m not spoiling anything by telling you this: the film opens with Vishal finding out that Arjun, having moved to the city, has washed up dead on the beach, apparently having committed suicide. But THAT’S NOT HOW THE ARJUN VISHAL KNOWS WOULD HAVE ROLLED! And so Vishal goes to the city for answers, and to collect his bhai’s ashes.
On the way, he loses his shirt in front of MADHURI DIXIT!
And discovers the title Maha Sangram refers to a Montague/Capulet situation with two families battling it out in a bloody gang war (how many films do I have to watch where Vinod gets embroiled in a bloody gang war?)... AND GABBAR SINGH IS THE BIG DADDY OF ONE OF THE FAMILIES!
To be honest, this film is actually more of a Govinda vehicle than anything else – Hot Papa Khanna disappears from the action for the lengthy middle section as a flashback explains to us what happened to Arjun during his time in Mumbai. (Hint: he became inadvertently embroiled in the brewing family gang war, and all because he fell in love....awwww Chi Chi, will you never learn?)
Among other things: Chi Chi gets involved in what appears to be a West Side Story influenced street fight – you know, with the finger clicking? I’M NOT KIDDING and I think it was supposed to be intense, not HILARIOUS (it was hilarious, Flight of the Conchord styles).
Vinod Khanna’s most notable and memorable contribution to this film, as I mentioned earlier in the week, is the sheer frequency and quality of his crying.
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius.And related to Vinod's glorious crying jag, one of the most awkward reactions to a declaration of love, like, EVER.
Just to set the scene, late-period yet surprisingly well-put-together and still SMOKING HOT TOPLESS PAPA KHANNA demands to know from a gorgeous and likeable (for me, this is the first time I have ever liked her!) Madhuri Dixit JUST WHAT THEIR RISHTA IS!
If you're gonna ask, VK, you better be prepared for the answer.
Madhuri couldn't really be less subtle with her answer.
But THIS FACE is not EVER the desired result of a frank and honest declaration of love.
Nor is this: HE STARTS CRYING AND SINGING ABOUT HIS DEAD BROTHER
Um. Not the response Madhuri was hoping for, I'm betting.
Though Maha Sangram is certainly long, clocking in at a good three hours, its pros:
- epic dishoom dishoom (Vinod, Govinda...and the POWERHOUSE COMBO: VININDA!), including one of my alltime favourite things: a climactic fight scenario featuring sword-fighting set in the present day (with Madhuri Dixit joining in saying "I TOOK THE REVENGE")
- VINOD KHANNA ACTUALLY DANCING
- a remarkable lack of bad hair on Vinod's end, despite the later period setting. This is further offset in HPK's favour by Chi Chi's outrageous pouffy mullet and HEADBANDS.
- Awesome Chi Chi dancing in STUPID-RIDICULOUS OUTFITS.
- FREAKING GABBAR SINGH (okay, Amjad Khan) is in this film!
- The chemistry between Chi Chi and Vinod. The sheer emotional awesome of their brotherly jodi, or 'brodi', if you will. THESE GUYS LOVE EACH OTHER, I totally believe it. Plus, Akshaye (or, as I think of him in my house "the most enigmatic Khanna") offers some insight as to why these guys ever got paired up in the first place: they are EQUALLY POWERFUL BEINGS WHO BOTH INTIMIDATE AKSHAYE.
outweigh its one con:
- screamy mustache guy who cannot say a line if he can scream it. He gets annoying very quickly. And he plays ANGRY SON in one of the warring families, so gets a lot of
scream screen time.
He is so annoying, I even found fondness in my heart for Shakti Kapoor.