So, GOOD NEWS (depending on how you define good news)!
I found a film that I LOVE Shashi in. I think I found a way to heart the Shash!
But first, the background.
The Shashi Problem.
I've mentioned before (albeit briefly and kind of vaguely – even I can't really explain it properly in detail) the weird 'thing' I have with Shashi Kapoor. Shashi has always been the one Kapoor I've just never really “got”- while other people (HUNDREDS of other people! THOUSANDS of other people!) wax lyrical about the man, about his eyelashes and his voice and his adorable wonky teeth; about his curls, his dapper dress sense and ...actually I can't even keep making this list because I REALLY JUST DON'T GET WHAT PEOPLE LIKE ABOUT HIM.
Because the honest truth is that I own A CRAPLOAD of Shashi Kapoor films, like A WHOLE LOT, because for some reason I go through these weird cravings when I order a pile of Shashi films and then I just want to watch the man and...I guess test myself, which ALWAYS ENDS UP BEING AKIN TO POKING A SORE TOOTH REPEATEDLY AND ESSENTIALLY BEING UNABLE TO LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE.
It inevitably ends with a film being switched off halfway through, and a feeling of intense dissatisfaction, because Shashi Kapoor, for whatever reason, IRRITATES THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME 90 percent of the time*. He's too perky and “nice” and OMFG is it grating**. I swear to god, I've tried watching Pyar Kiya Jaa like 47 times, and IT ONLY MAKES ME ANGRY.
And it's ridiculous, because when I watched him receive that lifetime achievement award at the Filmfare Awards I TOTALLY CRIED and was SO SUPER EMOTIONAL ABOUT IT and it made no sense because HELLO, not even a fan, don't even know the guy, but BOY was I angry about Big B not even showing up. WHAT A DICK.
And when I was reading the Kapoor book (the Madhu Jain one, we've all read it, right?) it was Shashi who seemed like the coolest guy, the one guy from the family I would totally want to hang out with. WHICH MAKES ME FEEL BAD THAT I CAN'T EVEN GET THROUGH HALF HIS FILMS.
I know. I have issues. This is what I am referring to when I refer to The Shashi Problem.
Now: HOW I TURNED MY BACK ON ALL THAT CRAZY
Farz Ki Jung (R.P. Swamy, 1989)
Did you totally guess that the secret to Vanessa loving Shashi would be
a) Put him in a film alongside Govinda with a soundtrack by Bappi Lahiri (um? Hello? Made for me!)
b) Make it a masala-riffic 80s film (favourite decade!) complete with a fight in a godown!
c) Make the film about corruption (like apparently every second film in the 80s) but make it really about THE DRUG MENACE. Incredibly unsubtly about the drug menace.
d) Take away Shashi's matinee-idol looks. 1989 Shashi is fatter and older and for some magical, mysterious reason, this makes him seem more accessible and likeable to me.
(I also realise that the dramatic change in Shashi's appearance is partially due to very sad reasons that I don't really want to think about so we won't go there).
Farz Ki Jung is supremely entertaining, and, as is quite typical of the period, luridly melodramatic. The film opens with Vishal (Govinda) praying with his politician father Jaikishan (Amrish Puri). We soon learn that though the family is massively wealthy, Jaikishan is apparently a pious, humble man who believes in living a simple, quiet life.
OR DOES HE?
DUDES – it's AMRISH PURI! What do YOU think?
He’s secretly the head of a DRUG SMUGGLING SYNDICATE with a secret underground lair and everything. Jaikishan's public front is “kindly altruistic politician family man”, but in his spare time he GETS HIS FREAK ON
and plots to bring down Indian youth by getting them all addicted to The Drugs.
Obviously Jaikishan's son is too busy being The Hottest Guy in School
...and in fact the hottest guy in the world?
to be aware that his dad is a super-pimping-master-criminal; besides, a new girl – Kavita (Neelam) has just started at the high school and she is SO beautiful that she actually inspires boys to proclaim poetry in her name.
She also (awesomely) totally kicks ass. Like, LITERALLY KICKS ASS.
For all of you who have been disappointed with the unempowered depictions of women in 80s films, please note that this is not the first time I have come across female characters actively sticking up for themselves and acting like awesome, kickass independent women in 80s films.
Anyway – Vishal and Kavita are cosmically destined to be together (because, duh, Govinda and Neelam)
but there's a huge problem.
Kavita’s brother, Inspector Vikram (Shashi Kapoor) is the toughest cop Bombay has ever seen – he has a zero tolerance policy on bribery and corruption, and has been responsible for the eradication of smuggling in the other areas he’s been posted in.
Basically, despite appearing slightly too old and a bit out of shape, he’s a super-cop and all criminals fear him. Obviously this makes him enemy number 1 for Jaikishan, which is a problem for Vishal and Kavita - a problem the audience can see coming a thousand years before any of the characters in the film can, when Jaikishan frames Vikram (for drug possession! Shashi as a coke fiend!) and gets him sent to jail.
Oh hai, movie title! War for duty = Farz ki Jung
On his release Vikram vows revenge and in time honoured 80s Bollywood tradition, figures that since the law didn’t work for him, he will fight fire with fire and become a rogue like Jaikishan to get even.
Shallowest justification: I think older Shashi is WAY hotter than younger Shashi. MAYBE THAT'S MY MOVIE WATCHING BOILED DOWN TO ESSENTIALS.
(AND THEN IT GETS SUPER DUPER AWESOME BUT I CAN'T TELL YOU JUST HOW AWESOME, BECAUSE I'D BE GIVING AWAY THE BEST BIT).
Shashi gets top billing in this film, and with good reason – even though this was at the peak of Govinda's fame, Shashi really is the hero of Farz Ki Jung and I'm not just saying it – I REALLY REALLY liked him in this film. It's pretty pulpy and kind of lurid melodramatic rubbish, but it's fun, and maybe that's why I like him in this better than anything else I've tried watching him in – he's alternately totally cuddly and lovable (and err kind of hot?), and completely kickass.
I've found my Shashi!
And he's ADORABLE.
* For what it's worth, I have found that I'm TOTALLY down with emo Shashi, when he channels the dark side. In fact, I kind of love emo, tortured Shashi. And Kaala Patthar? LOVE that film, Shashi rocks it (ha, see what I did there?). But I've pretty much given up on perky, dapper Shashi, because OMFG I HATE THAT GUY.
** And seriously now: look at the kind of guys I adore: Govinda, Sunny Deol, Akshay Kumar. They're kinda 'of the people, for the people' earthy village types, and Shashi is kind of more “distinguished, polished professor”. I was discussing this a while back with the ultimate Shashi fan, Beth – we decided maybe HE'S JUST NOT MY TYPE.