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Bollywood Rewind | Junglee: Shammi Kapoor’s massy potboiler that hasn’t aged well

Starring Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu, Subodh Mukherji's 1961 film Junglee is as mainstream as movies could be, and the true heroes here are music composers Shankar Jaikishen.

junglee movieShammi Kapoor and Saira Banu play the lead role in Junglee.

In this weekly column, we revisit gems from the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we revisit the 1961 release Junglee.

When one watches a formulaic Salman Khan film, they are often left with a slew of questions. Starting with ‘Why?’ and moving to a very existential ‘Who is watching this and appreciating it?’ A lot of us usually make peace with the fact that we are probably not the right audience for it because after all, there is certainly a big crowd that is loving this genre of films. If you thought that these sort of movies came into existence just a couple of decades ago, let me take you back to 1961 and introduce you to one of the biggest hits of that year – Junglee.

Starring Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu, Subodh Mukherji’s Junglee is exactly the kind of film that makes you wonder why it was loved massively. Granted, the music is unmatched but is that all there is to Junglee?

shammi kapoor Shammi Kapoor plays a comically strict disciplinarian in Junglee.

Junglee is the story of a stuck-up man named Shekhar (Shammi Kapoor) who is comically disciplined and walks around with a frown on his face, until he falls in love. From that point onwards, the film declares that he is now “pagal.” He basically throws caution to the wind and transforms into a man who is championing love, doesn’t care about discipline anymore, and is fun to be around.

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Even though Junglee has a larger story arc, most of its run time is spent in picking one character trait of the protagonist at a time and then exaggerating it for the next few scenes. Once a trait like punctuality is established, they move on to something like ‘being orthodox’ and the next few scenes are spent in establishing the same. As an audience member, this feels a bit taxing because the plot isn’t really moving forward but the facts that have already come to our attention are being hammered again and again.

The film’s lead roles are played by Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu, who are both doing what’s expected of them – exaggerating basic emotions so no one misses out on when they are sad or happy or betrayed or heartbroken. While it is the actors who appear on screen, the success of this 1961 hit completely belongs to music composers Shankar Jaikishen.

With songs like “Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe”, “Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujhpar”, “Aai Aai Aa Suku Suku”, Junglee has Mohd Rafi at his best accompanied by a fantastic Lata Mangeshkar. This era of Hindi film music is considered golden for a good reason and after albums like Junglee, you can’t help but feel that a cherished department of Hindi movies is in some dire need of help in 2021.

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Watching Junglee in 2021 made me wonder why the film was a phenomenal success sixty years ago? Well, this will be a question sixty years later when generations ahead of us watch films like Bodyguard and Ready and while the massy appeal of films might be inexplicable, it certainly goes to show that the mood of the audience dictates the fate of the film, rather than the intellectualisation behind its making.

Junglee is not the film that will gain as much appreciation today but what can still enchant the audience is its music. But unlike the 1960s, we don’t really have to be in the cinemas and watch the full movie to watch the music videos. Those are available at your fingertips!

Bollywood Rewind | Yaadein | Sujata | Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje | Jagte Raho | Baazi | Bees Saal Baad | Dosti | Mughal-e-Azam | Mother India | Anari | Chaudhvin Ka Chand | Boot Polish | Do Bigha Zamin | Devdas | Baiju Bawra | Shree 420 | Pyaasa | CID | Madhumati | Naya Daur | Awara | Sharada | Do Aankhen Barah Haath | Bandini | Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam

Junglee is streaming on YouTube.

First published on: 30-10-2021 at 08:19:59 am
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