“Oh, God. Where to start….”
It’s through this film that I backed into my discovery of early Bollywood star, Fearless Nadia. For doing some post-view Googling, I realized this 1988 Pakistani film is actually inspired by an Indian one of the same name, from more than 50 years earlier. That’s an entirely different rabbit-hole however: let’s consider this on its own, highly psychotronic merits.
The plot concerns two sisters, Bano and Bali (Anjuman), the latter also known as Hunterwali. Bano is demure and quiet, Bali… is not. In fact, she’s a totally wild child by local standards. Mind you, local standards apparently also involve killing girls who have the temerity to want to marry someone of their own choice. Still, there are three suitors for Bali’s hand. #1 is Umri, a warrior type, who tames her horse. However, after taking vengeance on the man who kills Umri’s entire clan, he is forced to become an outlaw. Potential husband #2 is the son of a family friend, who is her father’s choice. He is entirely useless and can be ignored, since he is present largely for comic-relief.
Finally, there’s Shahreyar, he helps rescue Hunterwali from attack by a gang. However, turns out that’s a ruse to gain her confidence. When she elopes with him, he takes her to a seedy cave – we know it’s seedy, because it has posters of Madonna and Brooke Shields on the wall! – and assaults her, along with the rest of the gang. The disgrace this brings to the family, causes Hunterwali’s dad to kill himself. In the fracas, Bano is also killed, but Bali takes the identity of her sister, who is married to the local police commander. This allows her to go out on vigilante missions, masked and with her whip, to hunt down the perps. She’s not messing around either: she shoots their eyes out and hangs them from the cave roof. While she eventually works her way up the chain to Shahreyar, he has an entire new gang. Fortunately, she has the help of Umri. And her horse. And her dog.
This has not dated well. Indeed, I suspect this wasn’t very good, even for the time – 1988 was the year Hollywood gave us Die Hard. The thing about the Fearless Nadia films is they’re not incomparable to what Hollywood was making at the time. You can’t say the same about this, which has all the technical quality of a bad 50’s B-movie. The director’s sole cinematic trick is the snap zoom, which is used so often it becomes a surreal joke, as does the single horse noise apparently available to the foley team. Yet there’s a loopy energy, and Anjuman has screen presence, which means the two and a half hours certainly do not drag. If you’re looking for a bizarre combination of Zorro with a musical version of I Spit on Your Grave, also including a dog riding to the rescue of its owner on the back of a horse, the entire thing is on YouTube [enable closed captions for the English subs]. Just don’t say, I didn’t warn you…
Dir: Iqbal Kashmiri
Star: Anjuman, Sultan Rahi, Mustafa Qureshi, Jameel Babar