Manmohan Desai’s Mard isn’t quite Amitabh Bachchan’s worst movie (*cough*Ajooba*cough*) but it comes pretty darn close. And yet, this is probably one of my favorite movies, mainly because of one single sequence.
Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Amrita Singh, Prem Chopra, Dara Singh, and Bachchan mainstay Nirupa Roy, Mard is your quintessential Gothic romance, Bolly-fied 1980s style.
There is a young(ish) man who lives under the dastardly bootheel of a tyrant, unaware that he is in fact the long-lost, betrayed heir to the miserable land in which he’s just about eking out a living as a second class citizen. Eventually he falls in love with the tyrant’s daughter and after many trials and tribulations, he frees his enslaved/tortured parents and his people, reclaims his land and lives happily ever after with his bride. The End.
Because this is a Desai movie, however, there are obviously other touches of 80s masala: a horse called Badal that can outrun a convertible, a dog called Moti that is billed as the Wonder Dog, etc. But the reason I love this movie is the complex relationship between the lead pair: Bachchan and Singh.
Bollywood doesn’t believe in contemplating its navel and the last time someone (Jessica Hines) tried to write a no-holds barred biography of Bachchan, he threatened to sue, so credible information about the cinematic process in Hindi filmdom is severely restricted and erratic. Hence I have no idea if the filmmakers knew what they were up to or whether the whole thing just grew out of the 80s trend of Reformed Bitch as Heroine – but the fact is Singh’s turn as the rich “white” chick who falls in love with the lowly brownie is at once bizarre and deeply fascinating.
She dresses in cowboy boots, frilly off-the-shoulder dresses and wields a riding whip as a fashion accessory. At one moment she’s in full Victorian get up, the next she’s in a skimpy swimsuit getting a massage on the top of the palace (don’t look at me – I didn’t write it). To top it all off, her evil Daddy dearest – the Grand Poobah of those parts – is called Dr. Harry and is supported by other “white” guys dressed in vaguely British uniforms.
The initial clash of wills (involving a whip – see clip below) leads her to have him trussed up and selected for some exquisitely painful whipping from her own lily white hands. When he refuses to scream in pain, she orders salt to be rubbed into his wounds. Oooh!
Well, next thing you know, he’s broken out of his chains and he grabs her, gets on a horse and heads for the salt mines! Don’t ask me where they came from – they’re the good part!
So… salt mines. And as they ride hell for leather, the vicious vegetation of the kingdom administers a whipping of its own to the delectably bared shoulders of the bitchy princess. At the end of a long hard ride, Bachchan flings her onto a pile of salt, then jumps on top of her and rubs her thoroughly all over with it. It’s been a while since I saw the movie, but this is approximately how it goes:
“There!” he pants, his hand running all over her as she writhes underneath him. “Did that hurt? Did that hurt?!”
“No,” she breathes, staring deep into his eyes. “I loved it!”
They exchange a Look of Great Meaning. Then his eyes fall bashfully from hers and she smiles a little smile of “Gotcha!”
Ladies and gentlemen, how can you not love Mard? Watch it. That one scene alone is thoroughly worth it.
[From Take Two Vol. 2. See more at Desicritics]