Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Burning Train

Directed by: Ravi Chopra
Starring: Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, Danny Denzongpa, Simi Garewal
Released: 1980
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Choo choo! This ride gave me quite a few surprises. Firstly, I was a bit skeptical about a film with a title basically giving away the whole plot. Secondly, the post-Sholay action films are not always my cup of tea. And finally there was Jeetendra listed among the cast, which so far has always been enough to turn me off a movie completely. However in the end curiosity got the better out of me and I ended up not only enjoying the this speeding and flaming journey, but even spent a whole day thinking about it and singing the songs from it in my head.

A mix of masala and American catastrophic genre, The Burning Train may not be completely original when it comes to situations it chooses to show, especially as the big tragedy starts, but at the same time it manages not to feel wanna-be-ish. It starts like a standart Indian masala – since childhood Vinod and Ashok were the best of friends, brushing aside easily angered Randhir (and being actually quite assholes to him for no reason), and the relations remained unchanged even after they grew up into Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra and Danny Denzongpa respectively. After being pushed out from a little train by Vinod, after being rejected by Parveen Babi in favour of Vinod, as well as being rejected as a supervisor and creator of a new luxury train in favour of Vinod, Randhir decides that enough is enough and once the ambitious „Super Express“ is launched with great fanfare, he has a way to sabotage the train and thus taking his merciless revenge. Soon enough Super Express is racing through the countryside with no breaks. And to ensure the film title is accurate, somebody leaves the gas running in the kitchen.....

From the beginning of the ride we are one by one introduced to quite a few people and couples, each having a little story of their own to told – a pregnant woman, a smuggler on the run and a detective going after him, a newly-married couple, a teacher supervising little kids...... Most notable among them being none other than Ashok and Seema (Hema Malini), who have once upon a time planned a wedding, but all went wrong and they drifted apart, and then there is also a thief Ravi (Jeetendra) hoping to rob the runaway bride Madhu (Neetu Singh).... As the film progresses, everything that can go wrong does, to the point one asks themselves what are the chances.

Flaws in logic bugged me. It is great that we have heroic men willing to take a risk, but why in the world would you not try and lessen the possibility of killing yourself? Why, when they first decide to climb on the top of the train in order to reach the locomotive, don´t they normally walk to the first boogie right behind it and THEN climb out? Not only safer, but also lot quicker, and would have spared us the whole burning drama. I guess our heroes had the logic blackout for the sake of the film not to be called „Speeding train“. This was not the only instance when I had to roll my eyes and accept that movie logic is not even a distant cousin of real life logic.

Super Express has more than an impressive starcast. There are so many well -known faces it was impossible to list them all above. From Dharam and Vinod and Jeetendra, to their three girlfriends and Simi Garewal singing religious songs with bunch of kids and many, many more. Everybody does their job well (except for Hema Malini, who just fails to impress me yet again, but thankfully has not much screentime), nobody really overshadows anyone and the many pieces of the star puzzle fit nicely together. As I have mentioned, I was properly shocked by actually liking Jeetendra. I don´t know what happened to him later in the 80s, that he became was utterly boring, bad and ridiculous, but here he was watchable enough. Makes one wonder what it was that kept the filmstars so much without ego, because there is no way one could pull off three major male and three major female stars in one film casting coup today.

The Burning Train has a great thrill and tension factor. The pace is even and not slowed down by the songs (brilliant album overall – meaning you remember them all after just one listening!) or emotional scenes. There is not time to loose as the fire gets nearer, and so the filmmakers do not loose it – something that is not always considered an option. One only wishes there was more shown about our villain Randhir, then again I suppose we are not supposed to feel for him, no matter how unreasonably awful our heroes had been to him.


  1. this was really amazing.......... great blog...

  2. The Burning Train was one of the popular movie of its time with a huge number of Star cast.