Muqaddar Ka Faisla: Disco Socialism

That title really makes you want to watch this movie, doesn’t it? Or, alternatively, not. If you have no patience for gold chains on glorious chest hair, or long speeches about the sins of money, this may not be for you.

My goodness this is a silly and yet sincere movie! A plot full of coincidences, lots of sparkly dresses and ugly suits, and some truly silly fight scenes. And also, Money is the Root of All Evil, a Good Man Solves Everything, and Have Faith in God. An odd mix.

Muqaddar Ka Faisla (1987) movie posters

Karan Johar talks about how his father only ever produced one successful film, and this is NOT that film. That film was Dostana, which is equally silly, but was the right amount of silly for the time when it came out. Yash Johar had this delightful enthusiasm for any movie, if it was his he thought it was beautiful. So when Prakash Mehra brought this to him, he didn’t think of it as a rambling story from an over the hill director, featuring an actor far past any point of fame, he thought it was WONDERFUL. And he got the top composer of the time (Bappi Laheri) to write the songs, and called up all his old friends like Bindu and Om Prakash and Pran to do little bits in the thing, and over all he tossed in everything but the kitchen sink. And then tied a disco ball on top of it.

Yash Johar really really believed in this movie and somehow he made everyone else believe in it too. Raajkumar, at age 61, really throws himself in to fight scenes and speeches and leisure suits. Raj Babbar, up and coming art actor, goes all out with the gold chains and chest hair. Raakhee brings out the big guns as the long suffering mother. Tina Munim is a nice bubbly sister type, and Meenakshi Seshadri does a whole disco number in a red dress! They thought they were making something meaningful and inspirational and super super popular, that would make people laugh and cheer and think. It’s cute they thought that.

This whole movie is kind of adorable, in the way bad movies very very much of their time can be. Disco will last forever, dialogue can change the world, fight scenes with slow moving kicks and punches will always be exciting.

It’s just a delightful film, if watched the correct way. Don’t look for plot, plot is impossible to find or follow. Just enjoy it moment by moment, delight in the valour and open shirt fronts and striped sports coats, and Bindu as an evil madame and Om Prakash as a noble rich man. If that sounds intriguing to you, watch it!

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Oh boy, this plot! There is a lot of plot in it. Raaj Kumar is an honest priest who struggles for menial jobs to support his family. He and his wife Raakhee have three children, the oldest son they sent away to be raised by Raakhee’s brother. The two youngest, a boy and girl, are still at home. Raaj Kumar takes a job out of town which turns out to be at a brothel run by Bindu. Confused about the purpose of the “hostel” where he is working, he tries to stop some wealthy clients from taking a girl out, when the police appear Bindu fingers him as the one in charge and herself as the innocent who tried to stop him. Raaj Kumar goes to jail. Meanwhile Raakhee and the children are starving and can’t afford rent. She goes to see their landlord, Pran, who of course tries to rape her. Raakhee escapes and rushes home to take her two younger children and flee to the countryside where they meet up with wealthy Om Prakash, guardian of his young granddaughter, who hires Raakhee as a housekeeper/surrogate mother for his granddaughter. Meanwhile, their oldest son is thrown out of his uncle’s house by his evil money obsessed aunt. His loving travels with him to take him back to his parents, but along the way slips on a banana peel and dies. No, really.

Some years later, Raaj Kumar is still wandering around in his priest robes having terrible things happen to him because he is just that unlucky, Raakhee is doing great, the younger son is a doctor and the daughter is a college student, and the oldest son is a thief and Raj Babbar. Raj Babbar rescues Raaj Kumar from being beaten up and befriends him and invites him to be part of his criminal gang as someone he will call “Master” and introduce as a mastermind and great planner. Raaj Kumar finally gets rid of his old robes and shaves his beard and appears mustacheoed and discoed up. Raj successfully convinces him to forswear all his many many years of religion and turn to crime instead in an effort to get vengeance on Pran. As part of their schemes, Raj meets and falls in love with Om Prakash’s granddaughter Meenakshi and immediately names his sister (that he doesn’t know about) as “sister”. Meanwhile Pran’s granddaughter Tina Munim is in love with the Good Doctor son of Raakhee, and this whole time Raakhee and Raaj Kumar keep JUST MISSING each other. Also, at one point Meenakshi puts on a red disco dress and tries really really hard to seduce Raj Babbar just to get him to turn her down, so she can prove to him that he is a good person. The whole movie is that kind of logic. Anyway, Raaj Kumar and Raj Babbar kill everyone, and Raaj Kumar waits and watches them die, then gives them last rites (which you have to admit is pretty hardcore). And then he finds Raakhee, they recognize each other, and they also put together the pieces of Raj Babbar’s story to see what happened with him, Happy Ending.

But oh my is it FUN! So long as you leave your brain by the door. For instance, back in The Past, Raaj Kumar loses a construction job because his boss frames him for the use of bad cement which caused the death of workers. Like, all of this happens within three minutes, he tells the boss about the bad cement, the ceiling falls in, the police show up, and the boss says “arrest Raaj Kumar!” But that’s not the fun bit, at least not the fun bit I am talking about, the fun bit is that coincidentally this same person is a client at Bindu’s brothel! And later on, is a friend of evil Pran! No reason, just that evil people are always friends of each other.

Also, Raj Babbar becomes a successful wealthy thief by…..we don’t know. As a little boy he decides to steal a wallet, and 20 years later he has a mansion. Crime pays very well. And Raaj Kumar spends 20 years being saintly and poor, and then in like 6 months turns thief, and then killer. And then back to being saintly without missing a beat! Om Prakash arrives back in India sad and poor, and then gets all his money back five minutes after he arrives, which is handy.

It’s just a glorious film! If you like that kind of a film. Rich people are evil, poor people struggle but triumph, everything is set to a disco beat, and all colors are blindingly bright. The best world.

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