Really, this isn’t fair, it’s a tie between this movie and The Fog With Irfaan Khan. But I don’t remember The Fog With Irfaan Khan as well, so you have to be contented with just Bal Brahmachari.
I’ve mentioned Bal Brahmachari in comments before, and even in posts. And, one more time for all of our enjoyment, JAI HO JAI HO BAL-a BRAHMACHARI!!!!
Some background so you can appreciate the badness of this film. First, followers of Hanuman, Ram’s worshipper and monkey God assistant, tend to be sort of strong warrior monk types. They dedicate themselves to physical fitness, and part of that is celibacy. The Hindi word for which is “Brahmachari”. Or rather, I think that is the Hindi word for “Person who is Celibate”?
That part isn’t strange, actually that part makes complete sense to me. There feels like a direct logical line between treating your body as a temple in service of God, doing a lot of healthy eating and bodybuilding, and celibacy. No, what is not so great is why our hero has chosen this lifestyle. It involves bad special effects for one thing. And also why he chooses to abandon it. Which involves a fast-unto-death.
Oh, but other backstory you need, why our hero is our hero in the first place. Not the character, the actor. This guy, this very handsome man, is the son of Raaj Kumar, who was also a very handsome man. Raaj Kumar was a Star, but not a super star. He was kind of too good an actor to be a super star, if that makes sense? But at the same time, too handsome to be fully appreciated for his acting. He always kind of reminded me of Arjun Rampal. Anyway, this is “Puru Raajkumar”, the son, and this is his first movie. And he is TERRIBLE. Mostly it’s his voice. His face is great, but then this strange squeaky voice comes out of it.
(This is his father, a Very Handsome Man. Can’t you see Meena Kumari in the background thinking “GOD! That is a Very Handsome Man!”)
Bal Brahmachari opens at a random “function” in which many people are giving each other obviously fake prop flower bouquets and exposition. Including one of my favorite shots of the movie, when a very personal exposition conversation is going on between two people, and the third person is vaguely aware that he is still in the shot but not sure if he can leave his mark or not, so he just sort of looks uncomfortably at the camera and pats his fake flowers.
Thanks to exposition, we learn that the rich man hosting this function had been married many years but still has no children. And his best friend, a poor but noble professor, is about to open a university near by thanks to the generosity of the rich man. And Mrs. Poor-But-Noble-Professor is pregnant. Also, there are loving servants and evil jealous relatives in the background.
The Evil Jealous People later that night, trap Mr. and Mrs. Poor-but-Noble at the deserted construction site for their university and kill them. I can’t remember why, maybe just because they were noble and the other people were Evil? Anyway, Mrs. Poor-but-Noble manages to crawl away towards a nearby Hanuman temple where she asks the priest for help as she gives birth. The priest, having sworn never to touch or look at a woman’s private parts, does the best he can to help her without breaking his vows. And then there is a lot of fake lightening effects and rapid glowing shots of the Hanuman statue, and a baby is born, forever dedicated to Hanuman (obviously).
This baby, our future hero, is given to Rich Man and Mrs. Rich Man to raise. Which makes their servants jealous (???) because they also want their son to be raised by Mr. and Mrs. Rich Man (????????). Oh, and also, Mr. Servant is a drunkard I think? Mr. and Mrs. Rich Man, because they are so nice, agree to raise that baby as well. And then we fast-forward 20 years, and JAI HO JAI HO Bum Bum Ba-Bum BO! The Hanuman child has become a handsome man who always wears red and is dedicated to body building and celibacy, and the servant child has become Deepak Tijori.
(This guy. He’s in EVERYTHING)
Both boys are now going to the college that Mr. and Mrs. Noble-But-Dead wanted to found, which Mr. and Mrs. Rich Man founded in their memory. Also going to this college is Karisma Kapoor, who is trying her darnedest to pour some spark of life into the total dead wood that is Puru Raajkumar.
Karisma falls in love with Puru Raajkumar and we spend really longer than you would think necessary on a plot about a college girl trying to seduce a celibate monk type. First, he has to sing his theme song to explain in the most cheerful manner possible why he is not interested.
(Bum ba-bum ba-bum BOL!)
But it has no effect, she still tries stratagems to spend time alone, like getting rides from him which send her into a romantic fantasy. A fantasy in which, for some reason, her hair is different and much cuter than in real life, and also there is a beret.
Then she tries an ingenious plan, knowing that he will be alone in the family mansion that weekend, she decides to surprise and seduce him. And, as we all know, the one thing college boys can’t resist, the thing that really excites them sexually, is when they are surprised with a massive coordinated song and dance number in their living room!
(I feel like this might have actually worked if it were just Karisma dancing alone in the red sari. Who could resist that?!?!?!)
Finally, she wins him over through that tried and true theory that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Well, her stomach. She goes on a hunger strike unto death, complete with protest signs and fawning admirers at her encampment outside the college, until he gives him. Well, he gives in because Mr. and Mrs. Rich Man ask him too. Apparently all they want in a daughter-in-law is a girl who is willing to starve to death over their celibate son.
Now that the “romance” plot is solved, on to the “action” plot! Oh, I forgot, Deepak Tijori had a whole identity crisis somewhere in here and got drunk, but then got over it. Just in time to be mistaken for his brother (because he was wearing the distinctive red jacket) and RUN OVER BY A CAR DRIVEN BY Evil People! Yes, the Evil People are Back! This time with a new generation, Mini Evil People, the children of the ones who killed Mr. and Mrs. Noble-And-Murdered.
And now we enter my favorite sequence of the WHOLE MOVIE!!!! Deepak Tijori is dying in the hospital. With the usual excellent care I have come to expect from Hindi movie hospitals, the only surgeon who can save his life is going on vacation and doesn’t care. But then, our hero prays really really hard, and miraculously, the flight is canceled! So the doctor decides he might as well go back to the hospital and save a life. No really, that’s what happens, he calls up the hero and says “It’s a miracle! My flight was canceled, so now I will save your brother’s life after all.”
(Hypocratic oath-schmitocratic oath, Indian movie doctors want that suitcase of cash before they do anything! And even then, only if it is convenient for them to help you)
But wait, there’s more! Back at the hospital, the doctor comes out of the surgery to say that he needs “life-saving medicine”. He hands our hero a list of the “life-saving medicine” required. Our hero dashes off, ready to save the day but, oh no! Before he can put the little piece of paper with the name of the particular “Life-saving medicine” required through the little hole in the pharmacy door, the paper blows away! And apparently he never read what was on it, or if he did he can’t remember it, so he can’t tell the pharmacist what he needs. Oh no! And the Pharmacist doesn’t really want to help (probably eager to go on vacation with the Doctor).
But not to worry! Our hero may not have much muscle in between his ears, but he does everywhere else! He wrenches open the entire front of the pharmacy! Letting rain and wind pour in and destroy all the precious medicine that could save the lives of other people! Oh well, those people aren’t related to the hero so they don’t count.
And then he asks the cowering pharmacist, “Where do you keep the Life-Saving Medicine????” The pharmacist points his trembling hand at a cabinet, but then cowardly runs away before he can give our hero the key. What to do?!?!?!?
Back to the hospital, the doctor comes out, and casually asks, “did you get the Life-Saving Medicine?” Yes! He did! But, unable to open the cabinet and not sure which drug was needed because of his short-term memory/illiteracy issues, he just brought THE WHOLE CABINET! And this isn’t like a little bathroom medicine cabinet thing, this is a floor to ceiling cabinet, strapped on to his back. The Doctor: “My God Man!”, and then the button on the scene, “Our elevator is broken, how did you get it up to this floor?” Answer: “I took the stairs.”
Some other stuff happens after that, I don’t remember it really well because I was laughing too hard. But then the finale was so amazing, I had to pause and rewind so I could really focus and I do remember that.
(Me, watching this movie. But less evil)
Remember how Hanuman was always there to support Ram? Well, in this movie, Mr. Rich Man is named Ram. So the whole final sequence is about him being supported and protected by his two sons, representing Hanuman and, I guess, Deepak Tijori. He was in every other narrative of the 90s, why not put him into the Ramayana too?
Puru Raajkumar fights fights fights, that’s all fine. But what I love is Deepak’s fighting technique! See, he’s still recovering from that whole near death thing like a week ago. So he’s got crutches and casts and stuff. Which, at first, seem to hinder his fighting efforts. But then he starts using the casts in order to make his kicks and punches more effective! Until the shatter, and then he uses the crutches to fight people off and brace himself, and finally as just straight up clubs! Because I guess the intoxication of battle and physical therapy of just whaling away on Evil People is enough to cure all his massive life threatening injuries.
Oh, and then Evil People are defeated, Mr. Rich Man shoots the arrow to destroy the Ravaan statue, and we all celebrate Diwale.
And, one more time, all together now:
PS The Fog With Irrfaan Khan is on youtube! No subtitles, but that can only help. Watch, enjoy, and feel free to remember it every time you see Irrfaan at the Oscars. I certainly do!