Monday, 21 March 2011

Alibaba aur 40 chor

Directed by: Latif Faiziyev
Starring: Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Zeenath Aman
Released: 1980
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

In some Arabic country, in a city going by the name of Gulabad, there lives Alibaba, younger son of a wealthy merchant Yusuf. However it has been long years since Yusuf left for one of his dealing trips and he has not returned as yet. And so little Alibaba has never seen his face and all he knows is what his mother told him, and what his brother Quasim shared. The family is longing dearly for the return of its head, and unknown to them their dream is about to be fulfilled. Yusuf is coming back. However before he manages to reach the city, he and his caravana are attacked by the feared gang of 40 bandits under the command of even more feared (and rather sleazy looking) Abu Hasan. But fortunatelly Yusuf is saved by a kind king and sends the message home for somebody to come for him. Alibaba is overjoyed at the prospect of finally meeting him and sets out on his journey.
Zeenat Aman looking freakin gorgeous.
Hema Malini looking freakin much like Sridevi.
However as soon as he reaches the destination, a beautiful princess Marjeena falls into his arms (literally) and explains that her father has just been murdered by an usurper, who now is keen on marrying her. Alibaba and his father flee from the city, taking the princess (already in love of course) along with them. But (yes, another but) while on the run Yusuf is killed and Marjeena falls into the hands of a slave trader. Alibaba manages to buy her, but his greedy brother Quasim, who lent him the money, asks him to give up all possible rights on family property. To make a living for himself, Marjeena and also his old mother, Alibaba starts selling wood. While on one of his trips outside the city, he comes across the secret entrance of a cave, that serves the notorious Abu Hasan and his men as a lair and treasury. All he needs to say is a magic chant to be able to step inside...
Alibaba and Marjeena in the bandit´s lair. Private, but not the best place for romance.
The story after this features some more buts and howevers, and also some more WTFs. We get to see some magic, some greedy men, some more usurpators and also we get to see a princess and the woman she´s been chasing singing a song about which one of them is more sexy in a bar. Loads and loads of people swering they will kill Abu Hasan, so if you have not yet noticed he is the bad guy here, this should give you a hint.

As a little child I loved this fairytale, that figures even in Czech story books. The film was the joined effort of Indian and Soviet production, which only added to the attractiveness for me (think whatever you want about Soviet politics, but their movies were excellent). Hence it bears not only the unmistakable stamp of Bollywood (there are songs and dance, indian setting, family ties..) but also reminds us of beautiful Russian fairytales, especially as far as technical background is concerned. If we perceive the film purely as a fairytale, forgiving all the plot holes and some illogical editing, then it is sure to be enjoyable. Should we perceive it more „seriously“, then it does not live up to any standart really.
The three main leads – Dharmendra as Alibaba, Hema Malini as Marjeena and Zeenat Aman as Fatima, give a rather luke-warm performances. Zeenat is the only one who delivers some emotion. Hema Malini in her „just a heroine“ role does not have the space and seemingly not even an interest to shine, the dances she is given are forgettable. Dharmendra is good, but that´s where it ends. All the songs are rather unfittingly forced into the story and the disco colour-flashing floor in the bandit´s lair made me wonder if the shooting took place on the remains of the Saturday Night Fever sets. The visuals were most of the time beautiful though, and so were the costumes. The fight and battle sequences are well done and very convincing – but the convincing bit left me rather uncomfortable because my heart was bleeding for all those horses that simply MUST have been hurt during the shooting.

In the end I can only repeat: If you´re looking for a simple watch and you are willing to let go of reality and logic, or if you are a fan of Dharmendra/Hema/Zeenat (who does look gorgeous by the way), it is not a bad film. If you´re nothing of the above, you can live peacefully without watching it.


  1. I'm not a fan of Dharmendra/Hema/Zeenat and I'm not really looking for a simple watch, but I only want to watch it because this is an Arabian tale first. My roots are speaking for me.

    Did not read the whole review. Is it spoiler-free?

  2. Well, if you know the tale, it is not spoilerish. It definitely doesn´t give in anything from the second part.

  3. I don't remember everything of the tale...I will definitely watch it soon!

  4. On second thoughts better skip the two first paragraphs if you don´t want to know anything.

  5. Zeenat Aman - I want more of you!

  6. So far I have only seen her in this and Don, but she was really gorgeous... Need to watch more.

  7. "Hema Malini looking freakin much like Sridevi." True! I thought that was Sridevi at first, looks like good film, will check it out