Haathi Mere Saathi and the World of Love

Pyaar Ki Duniya (World of Love) was the name of a zoo that changed the lives of the protagonists of a film in which elephants Damu, Ramu, Mahesh, and Ganesh were the unlikely heroes. Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) will likely remain a favorite of most young movie watchers of the 1970s and 1980s. Its target audience is hardly just the children, though, and there's plenty grown-ups can enjoy. This was confirmed with my recent viewing of the film, which, as far as I can recall, was among the very first couple of Hindi movies I saw (it was in the mid-1980s, and the very first was this or Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)). All I remembered of it was one song, a group of loyal elephants, a beautiful but foolish woman wearing red, and a zoo. Watching the film after a little over two decades was a lot of fun, and somewhat validated these elements as the most memorable.

Raj Kumar a.k.a. Raju was saved from a cheetah by a bunch of elephants. He was orphaned at an early age, but not before his father's last wish instructed him to protect these elephants, which he did. A grown-up Raju (Rajesh Khanna) was as fond of the friendly animals, but was tested and emerged victorious after his accountant cheated him of his estate in hope he'd sell his elephants to rival Sarwan Kumar (K. N. Singh). Not all was rosy for Raju, though. His wife Tanu (Tanuja) -- the couple overcame the opposition of Tanu's father Ratanlal (Madan Puri) to unite -- presented him with a tough proposition related to his elephants for no fault of theirs. How dumbfounded would the result leave us?

1. First, the things I remembered going in. The title song by Kishore Kumar (watch it at the Bollywood Food Club at this post, through which we learn the film's appeal transcends people -- Sita-ji's pet found it engaging, and so did Gemma, who occasionally provides us with invaluable filmy insight at MemsaabStory)...


...the loyal elephants...


...the beautiful but foolish (this has since changed to paranoid) woman in red...


...and the zoo.


2. The film clearly belonged to the elephants and other animals including lions, tigers, a porcupine, bear, and goat. Was it too much to expect horses? I enjoyed watching the monkeys too, I must admit. South Asia is full of these shows, and they tend to be a lot of fun.


The scenes involving the friendly animals, which constituted the vast majority of the scenes, were very well done. Three decades after its release, the sequences maintain an element of realism to them that is quite remarkable. So it might not be too far-fetched after all to expect an elephant to 'hand' over a phone...


...or play soccer.


How cool must it be to invite lions to dinner?


3. Loved this frame!


4. Rajesh Khanna was brilliant. Conveying messages through the plot required a convincing performance, and he was more than up to the task. Tanuja was very good too, about the only thing about her that bothered me was the make-up she wore in her first scene.


5. Full of some touching moments for which the elephants deserved as much credit as did the actors and filmmakers, the film was engaging. There was always something interesting going on, and always something new the animals would teach the humans, proving, as a key piece of the effective dialogue suggested, that 'the worst kind of animal walks on two feet' (read: humans). If that was the primary message the film set out to convey, it did so easily, courtesy the antagonists and their often varying degrees of wretchedness at various points.

The flaws were easy to overlook, and putting them in the perspective of the era, they hardly took much away. The soundtrack (Laxmikant-Pyarelal) was decent, Dilbar Jaani stood out in addition to the title song, and the background score was delightfully in sync with the screenplay (Salim-Javed). In trying to incorporate several elements consistent with cinema of its era, there was the misunderstanding complete with a surplus of tears, the unexplained and deliberate endangering of a life, the father opposed to a marriage, the deceitful confidant, the merciless villain, and a surprising spunky item number.

Thankfully, these elements yielded center stage to the animals and their friend, which was what made the film work rather well. It could have directed more emphasis to the World of Love as a symbol for a greater good we must all work toward, e.g. more references such as this, to why the Mahatma Gandhi favored simple attire.


But it was always more about friendship and loyalty any way, and let that not take anything away from the end result. Four stars for a novel entertaining film that has stood the test of time, is packed with some of the most unlikely stars, and that incorporates some familiar elements for anything but a familiar product of film. I highly recommend you see it, if only for the enthusiasm Raju shows to his guests!


Yes, Ramu, take a bow... :)



Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)

Music rating: 3/5 (Good)

My classification: U/G (suitable for all viewers)
I'm curious to see how children of the twenty first century react to it, and cannot wait to try it on my little nephew! ;)


27 comments:

Nicki said...

OMG, I have this movie and haven't watched it yet. Now I want to. Thanks for reviewing it.

Filmi Girl said...

I've always wanted to see this one because I LOVE elephants. (I even volunteered at the elephant house at our local zoo for a while.)

I'm going to have to bump it up my viewing list after your review!

PS I didn't want to read your "Kidnap" review because I haven't been to see it yet, but is it worthwhile? I'm crossing my fingers it will still be in the theatre this weekend. :)

ajnabi said...

Ooh wow, I can't wait to show this to the kiddos! They're addicted to HHRPK and I cannot bear another viewing. LOL

memsaab said...

Seriously, Gemma can't take her eyes off the screen. It's the only film where she doesn't eventually look at me, roll her eyes as if to say "God! humans are boring" and walk away.

Family night. I love it too. Plus, Rajesh Khanna!

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you all for your comments.


Nicki: Sure thing, and have fun watching!


Filmi Girl: You'll LOVE this, go for it soon! The elephants (especially Ramu) are the real stars. And that's fantastic that you volunteered at the elephant house! I knew I had to re-visit Haathi Mere Saathi when I got my annual reminder in the form of a donor packet from the World Wildlife Fund, complete with some beautiful postcards and a calendar...you'd think Bollywood would have more movies devoted to animals...are there any others that anyone else is aware of?

Kidnap was interesting, and despite what many reviewers are calling its 'flaws', it worked well for me. If you have no issues taking off your thinking caps, you might just like it!


Ajnabi: This is a go, then. Just make sure they get back to HHRPK after a couple of viewings, LOL.


Memsaab: I get she's seen it more than once, which is awesome! She must look forward to family night ;)

bollyviewer said...

I havent seen this since I was a kid but I remember I loved it. Just not sure how I will react to it now - I tend to feel bad for the animals who are trained (usually) quite cruelly to perform all these super-cute acts.

If you are looking for more animal-starring stories my personal childhood favorite was Tapan Sinha's heartwarming Safed Haathi. The elephant was awesome and Shatrughan Sinha was so convincingly (to my childhood self) evil! I also remember one Jackie Shroff movie from the 80s (I think it was Teri Meherbaaniyaan) that had a dog in a major role!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Bollyviewer: That's a good point that's often easy to overlook. I hope the 'greater good' in this case made up for any such treatment, assuming some of it happened.

'Safed Haathi' and 'Teri Meherbaaniyaan' sound great, I'll be checking them out, starting with the former. Thank you!

Cheers!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

oh god oh god- EVERYONE loves this movie- and I love Tanuja and elephants- but I dont like this movie!!!! my disability to care for this is making me mental!

I guess I have issues :B

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Shweta: If it's these issues that bother you, then you're in a good position, my friend :P

Don't we all have those movies that did well, but that we reacted to with, "and they liked *this*?"? :) I'd share the ones I don't like too much, but I'm afraid it'd be classified as blasphemy, and with, "and you call yourself a Bollywood fan?!", LOL...

Cheers!

Now tell us, was it because of Rajesh Khanna? ;)

Pitu said...

OMG I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie! I have a photo of myself with a baby elephant that I should scan and put up on my blog :-) The title song of this film is wonderful! If you're ever in TN, visit the Hohenwald Sanctuary for elephants :-)

Pitu said...

Hmm I dunno any other films 'focusing' on animals, but some films did have an animal playing a pivotal role. I second Teri Meherbaniyan. And also in Noorie (Poonam-Fahrooq) Noorie's rapists I think are defeated by her dog. Other than that, Barjatya's films have the doves of MPK and the doggy (Tuffy) from HAHK which from a plot perspective plays an important role given that he intercepts the letter and makes sure it reaches Mohnish Behl.

I suppose plenty of pivotal roles have been played by an assortment of snakes in the tons of ichhadhari naag movies we have lol but I'm not sure I want to go there. As an Aamir fan, I'm sure you have seen the disaster known as Tum Mere Ho ;-) produced by his dad no less :-p How come no movie features the tiger, India's national animal? One of the most awesome films I have ever seen is 'Two Brothers', an incredibly beautiful film about 2 tiger cubs. It is a MUST watch!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

err yes, that is true- I am sure RK is a wonderful person- but I cant stand his acting- like 95% of the time :S

one day i will get over it [guilt guilt]

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Pitu: The title song is wonderful indeed, and thanks for the tip on the Sanctuary. You must share that picture!

The animals in MPK and HAHK were brilliant! And 'Tum Mere Ho' a disaster? You're kidding, right? :P

Kaal (2005) had tigers, but I didn't like how they were used, which is understandable given we're talking about a Bollywood scary movie. I remember seeing it at a ranch in Texas, where I spent the night in a guest house alone, and I wasn't scared ONE BIT, LOL...

I'll definitely check out 'Two Brothers', thanks! As for Bollywood, I guess we'll just have to rely on the animated flicks 'Roadside Romeo' and 'Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang' (I wonder if they made mosquito repellent commercials of it!).

Cheers!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Shweta: If there's a film that falls in the 5% of time during which you can stand RK, do let me know. I haven't seen many of his movies at all, and given that we tend to agree on most movies, I'll at least know where to go, LOL.

Rum said...

this looks like the only overt non-harming animals movie I've ever seen. As i watched the drivel that was Dharamendra's Maa about elephants and tigers and leopards all getting beaten by him or Ranjeet, this one looks great, and i do love me some elephants!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I like RK's Mehbooba- primarily cos its a murder mystery, and I am sucker for those, + has Vinod and Hema to distract one most of the time :B

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Rum: Thanks for visiting! It's always nice to have films that portray any being in a good light (so what if its at the expense of humans?!). Haathi Mere Saathi, as you say, was a welcome outlier as far as Bollywood's concerned.

Shweta: RK with Vinod and Hema, sounds awesome! Thanks!

Pitu said...

TBF, you actually liked Tum Mere Ho?? I hope you're being sarcastic lol. I hate ichhadhari naag films as a rule and even the adorable pair of Aamir-Juhi couldn't save it for me.

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: By definition, an Aamir-Juhi film cannot be less than good, LOL. And yes, I was being sarcastic about Tum Mere Ho ;)

Aamir's best film (by far) in 1990 was Dil, with Madhuri.

Pitu said...

Yes, agreed. And on the topic of animals, Dil had a pomeranian regarding whom Madhuri quips "Iske saath to meri .. bhi shaadi nahi karegi".. can't remember the dog's name, was it Chinky? This was the shaadi ki baatcheet scene. Aamir-Mads had FABULOUS chemistry esp in the 'Mujhe need na aaye' song. *Sigh*

theBollywoodFan said...

Aha, you remember that scene well Pitu! It was Chinky indeed. And I think Aamir's response was on the lines of, "main is [Chinky, or what she was/edited for content :D] se shaadi karne ke liye tayyar hoon, par is chudail se nahin", ROTFL!

Aamir and Madhuri not acting together after Deewaana Mujh Sa Nahin (also from 1990) was a big loss for fans of both. They were fabulous together, yes!

Cheers!

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Thanks for the mention in the post, dost. I think this movie would work in any century. Nice review! What still sticks with me from this moive is that careless, careless nanny, letting the little baby crawl off into danger and the great elephant to the rescue, and Tanuja's harsh misjudgement of the haathi! Now you make me want to see this again.

All the best!
Sita-ji

p.s.
Shweta, Maybe you'll like Rajesh Khanna in Namak Haraam (1973)?

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Sita-ji: That nanny should have known better than to lie; I guess the theme through the second half was forgiveness, but it would've been nice to have her put on the spot. Tanuja's misjudgement was ridiculous, but I understand it a lot, lot better now than I did in first grade or so, LOL. Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

RK - Vinod Khanna and Hema Malini appear together in the movie "Kudraat" - the movie is really good for music, acting, etc

Mehbooba was a good movie too - Hema Malini and RK with some good music by RD Burman.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous: Thank you for stopping by. Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, and R. D. Burman -- sounds like a great team! As does Vinod/Hema. I haven't seen either; thanks for your recommendations!

V. Manohar said...

This movie is one the biggest hits of Super Star Rajesh Khanna and is a movie which made him popular with kids who grew up seeing his future movies. This movie is about the relationship/bondage between man and animal. Elephants play an equally important role with Rajesh Khanna in the movie and the movie revolves around them. Tanuja playing the heroine also contributes. The movie has excellent music by Laxmikant Pyarelal who have composed some great hits for this movie sung by Kishore Kumar. One song of Mohammad Rafi is a class. The movie is a must see for movie watchers of all ages and especially the kids will enjoy this classic.



• Taking movies ahead in quantam leaps – Super Star Rajesh Khanna
Super Star Rajesh Khanna evoked a type of hysteria in India that only Elvis and the Beatles did in the West. The receptivity to his persona was due to the actor’s exuberant presence on screen. The masses felt a type of "deliverance" to a higher and better level through his films. They were elevated and taken forward. They wanted this progress; to cast off the "static" patterns of the past. There was no mere identification with Super Star Rajesh Khanna. He broke all previous success barriers without a godfather or godmother to guide him or shower their favouritism to him. He did it alone and so was called "superstar" for the same reason. Super Star Rajesh Khanna in the eyes of the Indian cinema-goer was taking movies ahead in quantam leaps. Wherever he took them, they would follow. This was a celluolid utopia no one had experienced before or since. As an actor, he broke out of orbit to become a "superstar" and lead. Super Star Rajesh Khanna delivered the cinema from a usual place, and ended "where they lived well" to the other, "but we lived better". Until another breaks his unforgettable groundbreaking precedent of euphoric conditions, he is still ’the pride of the nation" and the "National Super Star."

dilip_raj pal said...

i am always like pets so for that movie is very nice n fine ........

whenever we go to seen movie always remember that movie. so this is my best movie now days.

in that movie rajesh khanna role was very nice.
he play our role is very nicely.