Tehelka (1992)- Why Dharam is garam

I know it’s been a long long time since I updated this blog, and since the reasons demand a completely new post I won’t dwell on them. And yaa…I know the 10 comic Hindi movie list is still not complete, but I had to absolutely write about this movie after I read Memsaab’s review of Ajooba.

Now you might think there is no connection between a children’s fantasy tale with a masked hero, shaitan vazir, and a 50 feet stone monster, and a ‘garam spewing dharam’ starrer, blood bathed orgy of bad acting made by Anil Sharma, the then reigning badshah of bad ass ‘dishum dishum’ kicking movies (Elaan e Jung, Hukumat, Farishte, all starring our Dharam-man). But as you might have guessed by now- there is.

The first being that I had the privilege of watching both of them on video in a full family gathering!!  I always wondered why my dad allowed me to watch a blood splattered movie like Tehelka, but I guess he had no choice once my uncle got the cassette.  And remember those were the days when Madhuri was doing the “Choli” and the “Dhak dhak”, Karan Johar was in his nappies, Yash Chopra had made a yawner called ‘Lamhe’, and god knows what was Sooraj Barjatya doing after ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’.  Okay, I can see that you have got the point…there were no options!!!

The second, and the actual reason for the Ajooba connection, is that we kids (like all kids) used to play quite silly games, and one of the favorite was playing Ajooba.  After watching Tehelka that game was modified, so we had  Ajooba, and the Tehelka vigilante team fighting Vazir, and the Dong (who btw is never wrong).  And since it was the time before Harry came and taught everyone the actual use of a broom (to FLY!!!!) we simply used them as guns, and swords, and guns which Ajooba’s magic would turn into swords.  It not only was fun, but also convenient because that meant that more people can play the “heroes”, so it meant lesser fights among cousins.  Although I’m not sure if our parents ever appreciated our ingenuity, they thought we were not fighting because we are “all grown up”.

Tehelka starts off with an introduction to ‘Dong’, dictator of ‘Dongri-la’, a typical bollywood-ean ‘padosi mulk, jiski buri nazar Bharat pe hai’.  Dong, played maliciously by Amrish Puri (who else) is a blood-thirsty despot, who is given little touches to show that he is not Indian (hakka noodle, nudge nudge, wink wink). He kills his own men if they are two minutes late, smuggles drugs, arms, wants to destroy India, and basically is typical Amrish.  The only additional evil is smuggling Indian women, making the good looking ones prostitutes, and brainwashing the mediocre looking ones into becoming suicide bombers (inspired by Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination).

To make it more contemporary, ‘Gadar’ Sharma provides Dong with numerous look-alikes (ala Saddam Hussein), using whom he enters India, sits inside an Indian-army tank, enters the Army parade, and blows up India’s Army Chief (poor Parikshit Sahani), ala Anwar Saddat (nudge nudge, wink wink)

But why would he play the veena (or Sitar?), holds feasts for brahmins, keeps fasts, and above all speak fluent hindi, and sing “Shom shom shom shamo sha sha”? Ahhh…who cares as long as there’s Dharam to kick ass.

Now, coming to Dharam he plays a disgraced Army major Dharam Singh, who got suspended from the army after he killed a thousand (yups, 1000!!)  of Dong’s soldiers against the orders of his superior (and you thought his Sonny boy taking out a handpump was friggin’ awesome).  He is majorly pissed off,  which explains why he wants to put “ghunghroo on my feet”.

He is met by another pissed off major, Krishna Kant (hereafter KK), played by Mukesh Khanna.  Now Krishna Kant is pissed off at both the Dong (for first kicking his ass, and then taking away his daughter), and his boss Brigadier Kapoor (Shammi Kapoor, wasted) for not allowing him to attack Dong.  He persuades Kapoor to send a crack team of elite commandos that are best in India, and they include: Javed Jafrey, Naseeruddin Shah, Aditya Pancholi (seriously, commandos, India’s best!!!! I think Anil’s budget was exhausted on Dong and his Dongri-la), and Ekta (the mandatory siren, I had no idea who she was until I googled her).  Now, since apart from KK the team has no real men (the 3 idiots dress up in a drag), and he needs to increase the maa-cho quotient he hires the Dharam-man, who has one condition- he won’t take orders from anyone (WTF!).

Now allow me to do my arbit, and talk about Mukesh Khanna for a while.  The man was ruling Indian tele in those days as the grand ol’ daddy of all (Bhishm in Mahabharata), and possesses an amazing baritone perfect for maa-cho dialogues like “Badalnewali hum cheez nahin, arrey hum mard hain kameez nahin” (translated: Im not a thing to be changed, Im a maa-cho man not a shirt). His only fault was that his most popular role was a thousand years older than him, and he got typecast as daddy/grand daddy macho, so much so that in another 90’s kickasser “Yalgaar” he actually played Feroze Khan’s father (maa-cho father that is).  I wonder how many deaths he was dying when he called Feroze, who probably was older than his father “pyaare bête” (lovely sonny boy).  But Mukesh had his revenge, when at a ripe age he played a superhero in a televised serial “Shaktiman” that became all the craze.  (he produced it is a different matter altogether!)

So, here he was doing his Gandalf bit to lead his fellowship to Sauron’s den.  As usual, with such trips there are steep mountains to be climbed (during which KK is revealed to have a fake leg), thin ice to be walked on (during which the siren would fall down, and Aditya Pancholi would save her, but not before killing a green python, and then getting ‘some’ ), a hole up in a hospital, where the ‘ladies’ try to operate KKs legs (at least they were making themselves useful), an addition to the gang, a traitor in the gang, a traitor outside the gang, cute kids, cute kids dying, urine passed off as water, and drunk (by Dong’s men obviously), and all culminating in a grand finale where the team of Indian “crack” commandos kill and finish the entire Dongri-la army (and you thought you have seen it all in Gadar).

Dharam is in full blast, and he is the reason this movie was made- to show that Dharam can kick ass, and beat the crap out of anyone. In one of the scenes, when the traitor is holding them at gun point, and trash talking, Dharam shoots him and says “when you wanna shoot, shoot, don’t talk” (in Dharam-inglish) , Mukesh Khanna is awesome, but only if you can withstand the trite dialogues (and the movie is full of them).  Amrish as usual is all evil (so whats new?), it was cartoonish to have him play the veena (or Sitar? I can’t tell the difference), but he does that with such evil perfection, that you want Dharam and gang to kick his ass, and this is where Amrish was so good.

The movie was made at a time, when the producer’s were vary of naming Pakistan (i still don’t understand why), and almost all the spy movies either referred to ‘padosi mulk’, or simply made Chinese sounding noises like bum chiki chiki bum.

Its edge of the seat, extremely cheesy, extremely jingoistic with bombastic dialogues (KK, Dharam, and Dong are in full form), poor special effects (and they were ‘special’), and some great dhishum dhishum. In short full 90s kickassery!!


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2 Responses to Tehelka (1992)- Why Dharam is garam

  1. shachijn says:

    i am not really a big fan of this movie… honestly i think its more comic and irritating for the most part… but interesting analysis of various things… liked the post… though i think u shud now get back to the comic movies… waiting for the next 8 comic movies!!

    • Ankit says:

      You either love or hate such movies, there is no middle ground, and I know which side Im firmly on :).

      Can’t wait to get back to the list myself.

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