Awwal Number (1990)

When I first saw Awwal Number (Number One) a few years following its release (I was too little to see it in 1990, given its theme), I thought it was fun for fans of cricket (not many in the era dared to base a film around sport), decent otherwise. With my most recent viewing comes the realization that the blend of cricket and patriotism is something I wish director Dev Anand and his team had worked harder on, because the film could have been so much more than it settled for. This, I trust will not be an issue in what might be Aamir Khan's third appearance (the extent of which is unknown) in a film with emphasis on cricket, this by Vidhu Vinod Chopra; more at the bottom of this post.

Ronnie (Aditya Pancholi) is an ace batsman for the Indian cricket team but has a major attitude problem which plagues the spirits of those around him. For this, his older brother, former police official, and current selection committee chairman Vikram Singh, or Vicky (Dev Anand), leaves him out of the national squad about to play the third in a series of One Day Internationals against Australia. His replacement is newcomer Sunny (Aamir Khan), a slum-dweller who suffers at the hands of the evil through most of his life (to put it mildly, but it must sound familiar?!) but makes it through sheer hard work (very feasible in 'the real world'). What's more, he even makes the mistake of finding mutual attraction with Ronnie's love interest!

Ronnie is devastated in jealousy, and intent on ensuring Sunny fails. For this, he might even go to extreme lengths, including collaborating with terrorists to jeopardize the lives of those in attendance at the upcoming match. Will the terrorists strike? Will Sunny and his love survive? Will Ronnie get his wishes? And how will Vicky react to Ronnie's actions, as he is instructed to resume service as public servant, and perhaps confront his brother? Awwal Number has all the answers, and plenty more.

See this film only if you are a fan of cricket, patriotism/cops (they're ethical here), and the cast. Some really good acting and an effective overall plot which serializes concurrent plot lines to bring them together at the end can only do so much to overshadow all that is inconsistent. The production values, redundant dialogue, editing (or lack thereof), and an actress who could have been so much more with correct development, are among its biggest weaknesses.

Having said that, it certainly has its moments and is engaging enough to where I enjoyed it. What works is the intent behind the effort to combine love of cricket with love for the country. There's equilibrium in how it is used, especially with Dev Anand's character.


Sports fans can certainly appreciate a committee debate on the consequences of dropping (the American term for which is 'benching') the biggest star of the team, complete with product placement for Pan Parag! The only reason the last sentence ends with an exclamation is that my introduction to Shammi Kapoor came through the chewing tobacco (eww) product commercials which also starred Ashok Kumar (a masala commercial if there ever were one, complete with suspense and family drama). I cannot find it online, but raise your hand (or comment) if you remember what I'm talking about!


Playing devil's advocate, how is this cause for termination from the team?


For the record, he is referring to an exhibition match with a very small audience, so the voice of the girl in question could be heard from the stands to as far as the pitch about a hundred yards away :P

There are several interesting characters and issues. Let's begin with Lagaan (2001) alumnus (Raja Puran Singh) Kulbhushan Kharbanda (left), who is a pitch curator and perhaps a traitor to his country at levels more serious than that of sport.


Maria (Neeta Puri) is the lead terrorist and Ronnie's second love interest. She is surprisingly effective.


The same cannot be said of Sunny's girlfriend Aarti Rani (Ekta Sohini). She has great taste...


...and a good heart.


But the screenplay sadly lets her down. There's Anjan Srivastav the game announcer! Remember him in the TV show Wagle Ki Duniya around that time?


Sunny, of course, is a rather good actor. The scope of his role here is very limited; the film clearly belongs to Dev Anand and Aditya Pancholi, who have better roles and much more room to showcase their acting talent.


Aftab Shivdasani plays the little Sunny. No violence against children here to get the point across, just occasional flashbacks (although a few more than needed).


A couple of technical flaws could have been avoided altogether. Never mind the field placements being out of sync with the situation. This bugs me: India was playing Australia, and they used this aerial view for effect, which is great, except that any cricket fan could tell immediately that the bowler is not Australian, but Abdul Qadir from Pakistan! You'd think our filmmakers would have tried to stop fooling around with us almost two decades later, but Jannat last year (a rather good film, I might add) had its share of attempts too!


For once, the betting does not involve match fixing.


The music (Bappi Lahiri) is average at best, a couple of tunes that are about okay. Here's one:



In all, it leaves a lot to be desired. The plot is in place, and it is because of the cast that the film is somewhat effective. They seemed to have settled for far too little in the other departments, which is a shame given the elements. A commercial failure very early in Aamir Khan's career, and one he surely learned well from as he risked making another film involving cricket and patriotism (with a stronger emphasis on the latter, although I've never seen our theaters and living rooms morph into stadiums with as much drama and emotion as they did during the last few minutes of Lagaan) about 10 years later. Maybe his hesitation in owning Lagaan initially stemmed from this experience?

Movie Rating: 2.75/5 (Above Average)

Music Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)

My Classification: 15+ (for violence)

Brabourne Stadium was prominently featured throughout the film, and is the site for many special personal firsts. The first sports arena I went to in my life was this. My older sibling and I won our first sports/athletics medals here (she was always the better athlete). The first cricket match I attended was here (Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli, playing for Bombay!). And the first time I played tennis was at the adjoining courts. Aah, Bombay...


And while on cricket, here's a shout-out to one of the most remarkable stadiums ever in Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Few (if any) significant international matches are played there any longer, but there was something truly special about India-Pakistan matches there on a Friday mornings, with the likes of arguably some of the best who will ever have played the game in Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram (or Kapil Dev and Imran Khan) in that electrifying atmosphere. Here's a wish for the return of South Asian cricket return to its glory days, and fast, before the World Cup to be played across four South Asian countries in 2011! Long live sport!



And finally...
That slum dweller in Awwal Number is inspired by a cricketer and a car. Here's the news that leads me to believe they're taking some elements from this movie and subtracting the patriotism bit. Titled Ferrari Ki Sawaari, a Vidhu Vinod Chopra project also starring (obviously, a cricketer who drives a Ferrari) Sachin Tendulkar, should do it! From this IndiaTimes piece:

Rajesh Mapuskar, associate director and a longtime associate of Raju Hirani, will direct the heartwarming tale of how the pursuit of an Indian cricket legend's Ferrari makes a young boy's dreams of playing cricket at Lords a reality. Vinod Chopra and Rajesh Mapuskar have co-written the script and Rajkumar Hirani will write the dialogue of the film. The film is in pre-production.

Here's a related Zee News story, and a brief news clip at Zoom TV. I haven't come across anything by Aamir that would confirm or deny this. In any case, it would be difficult to imagine more than an extended special appearance (perhaps as coach, or another veteran within the team?), in which case I hope Imran Khan (the actor now) plays the lead role of the aspiring cricketer! Ah, the possibilities (and accompanying uncertainty of another film on cricket; many have tried and failed miserably)...

36 comments:

Darshit said...

Change the game with Hockey. Give the story a new makeover. See 'Chak de India' Now???

Just kidding...but this was really average from Aamir after biggie like Dil. I was a kid [just 7], and so much disappointed by this at that time. I remember whenever me and my brother fight about our favorite stars [his was Amitabh] - he used to poke fun at me by singing the song 'Awwall number....' :-D LOL.

Thanks for Vidhu's update. I never knew about that. And for Aftab too.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

All of Aamir's twinkling (and he twinkled through the movie! he didd!) couldn't save this disaster my poor Dev had slipped into terrible movie making by then- sadly :(- ah for better production values and a tighter script :)
I have forgotten Wagle Ki Duniya- [head hangs in shame]- :P

theBollywoodFan said...

Darshit: I *hoped* you were kidding about Chak De :P You really want to get me in trouble with the Aamir-SRK thing all over again, eh? LOL. Since there was clearly one who tried and conquered them before the rest (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) and Lagaan (2001)), I'm cool :)

Aamir will be the first to tell us he made the mistake of signing too many films too early on in his career. But I think it only helped him, really. All that experience with so many themes! In Awwal Number, he was mostly relegated to an almost extended support role, that's how I look at it. Amitabh and Aamir are certainly worthy all-time favorites, and definitely among the best ever!

Shweta: Seriously. I wonder if things might have been even slightly different with Juhi Chawla in the mix (although she probably wouldn't have done this relatively minor role, and most at the time were probably tired of seeing them together). Dev Anand was so comfortable in his role as a cop even here, his performance made the film for me. Plus, helps to be a sucker for cricket :o)

I'm going to try to find 'Wagle Ki Duniya' (did you really forget?) on DVD. I know 'Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi' (the better of the two shows, in my opinion) is available on DVD, so who knows? Wagle was still a lot of fun, though.

Cheers!

Darshit said...

Hey dude, don't worry. I *was* kidding. Even I dont like AK-SRK discussion at all. We can stop here. Amen :-)

Bhargav Saikia said...

Dev Anand has directed some very very average films. I'm not surprised with the mediocrity of Awwal Number. You should watch his Censor and Love At Times Square..they are unbelievably bad. He's much better off as an actor.

bollyviewer said...

O how I wanted to see this movie back then... Guess I was lucky to have missed it. I remember an interview of Aamir's from this time when he was asked about Ekta vs Farha and he refused to commit, citing fears of grievous bodily harm! lol

And was YJHZ better than Wagle Ki Duniya (is it because SRK was in one episode)? I got the DVD of YJHZ and somehow didnt find it quite as funny as before, so, I had higher hopes of WKD.

And which was the third cricket-movie Aamir was in, apart from this and Lagaan?

Siva Parvati said...

Your only intro to Shammi Kapoor was through a commercial. I have never seen this commercial but it does sound like you missed out on a few good old movies. Watch Dil Deke Dekho or Teesri Manzil to start you off. That is if you have the inclination to watch a really good Shammi Kapoor film. DDD being better than TM.

Kanan said...

Aftab Shivdasani is so HOT!!! *drool* :D

I'll go read the post now.

ajnabi said...

This is how slow I am: when I read "Sunny, of course, is a rather good actor," I kept on looking at the picture, thinking, "wow, he looks just like Aamir!"

Ahem.

Anyway, I am almost never a sports-movie lover and have yet to grasp even the most rudimentary principles of cricket, so I'll be giving this one a pass. I appreciate the landmarks info, though!

Pitu said...

I saw this long ago and I never noticed anything besides toooo cute for words Aamir. He looked adorable :-D Anjan Srivastav was a regular fixture at Allahabad Bank, Juhu branch. I've often seen him there (he worked there).

shweta said...

Oh wow- I honestly cant remember the show, no matter how hard I try. Have IMDBed, so I do remember the delightful chemistry between Bharti and Ajan, and the RK Laxman strip, but that's it - tsk :)

Nicki said...

I saw this way too long and didn't like it back then. I just realized that I haven't re-watched any of Aamir's older movies! That I must have to do very soon!

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Darshit: True :)

Bhargav: I think it's fair to say I've enjoyed Dev Anand's performances in each of his films I've seen (but only about four/five). Besides, I hear he was a good friend of my favorite from the era, Guru Dutt, so bonus points for that!

I found the casting in Awwal Number appropriate, and you've got me curious about Censor (2001), which seems to have a great cast. While we're talking of sports, perhaps it might be fitting to suggest it's like an all-star professional failing to show up in an important game? :(

Bollyviewer: Thanks for recalling Ekta v Farha, interesting! You didn't miss much with Awwal Number.

Ref: The TV shows, I'm just going by what I remember about them, which is little (although, on an unrelated note now, I clearly remember loving 'The Sword of Tipu Sultan' starring Sanjay Khan, and reasons why!). And I didn't realize SRK was ever in YJHZ!

The third Aamir film on cricket is speculation. There's been talk of him possibly being in a film titled 'Ferrari Ki Sawaari' (more at the bottom of the post). It's not something I'd typically be real excited about, but if Sachin's there, then why not? Remember Naseeruddin Shah and Sunil Gavaskar in Maalamaal?!

theBollywoodFan said...

Siva: Thank you for your comment, and welcome! That commercial was just the intro (and I think I was maybe six/seven years old back then). I have seen some of Shammi Kapoor's movies since, including Teesri Manzil, which I really enjoyed. Dil Deke Dekho I'll hope to catch soon too! :) You might well have been to her blog already, but if you haven't, definitely check out MemsaabStory. Memsaab is a huge Shammi fan.

Kanan: I knew when I saw that kid that his face looked familiar. This frame leaves no doubt! Sure enough, the end credits confirmed that it was indeed Aftab :) Do you have a favorite film starring him?

Ajnabi: LOL, better late than never ;) Avoid this if you are not a fan of sports-themed movies, although you must see Lagaan (now with less ajnabi-ness than when you saw it first) to grasp the rudimentary principles of cricket! Let's incentivize it further...it'll only enhance understanding of cricket terminology that is embedded in popular culture, hence language and film dialogue, which will improve the overall Hindi movie viewing experience! Okay, perhaps a bad sell, but you do get the point!

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: You're definitely more of an expert judge on male cuteness, so I'll take your word (and Shweta's!) for it. LOL. Isn't it cool to see an actor outside of film and in person? I remember when Srivastav showed up in Yuvvraaj, I went, "look it's Wagle!", only to get two very confused looks and one nod.

Shweta: Let's try finding the Wagle Ki Duniya DVD. It's on my list for the next visit to Artesia!

Nicki: It's good to revisit the Aamir classics every once in a while. The next one I hope to review is better overall. Do keep us posted on your adventures (there's an adventure film in that list too!).

Cheers!

bollyviewer said...

SRK was in one episode of WKD (and was very annoying, if memory serves correctly) - so I was just wondering if thats why you preferred YJHZ! ;-)

And Nasseer+Sunny in a movie! I dont remember Maalamaal at all - in fact I'm not even sure I've ever heard of it. Do tell....

theBollywoodFan said...

Aah, see, I had it the other way, but you do know I like some of SRK's work in TV shows! =)

Maalamaal (1988) was based on Brewster's Millions (1985), I thought Naseer was just fantastic! Here's the plot summary. If I remember correctly (and I haven't seen it since), the bit with Gavaskar involved the two playing cricket at one of the Gymkhanas (I think the Parsi Gymkhana, might be wrong) on Marine Drive!

bollyviewer said...

OMG Maalamaal sounds EXACTLY the kind of movie I need to watch - Naseer+masala! :-) Cant believe I didnt know about it. Guess I should be more charitable towards 80s and early 90s movies - there were some very good movies made then. But the unfortunate fashions, very bad music and usually fugly actors tends to put me off...

theBollywoodFan said...

At the very least, it stars a brilliant actor in a lead role. I remember it in a very pleasant light (found it hilarious), and would certainly recommend you check it out if you're a fan of Naseer+masala!

theBollywoodFan said...

Kanan: Thought you'd find this update on Aftab Shivdasani interesting. He's got several releases this year!

pitu said...

I saw the first 2 dvds of YJHZ from Netflix and while it was a fun trip down memory lane (and Swaroop looked gorgeous), it got too slow after a while so I stopped adding more of the dvds. They had some phenomenal TV sitcoms back then tho, compared to the horrors now. My fave YJHZ epi was the one where they sing the following song-

Mere dil ka kamra kar lo occupy
Mat dena pyare rent tum single pai
Pam pam pam pam pam..

Mere dil mein hai aisi accomodation
Jiska hai har ek kamra air-conditioned
Mere dil ka kamra kar lo occupy
Mat dena pyar rent tum single pai..

My mom tells me I used to sing it over and over and over lol :D

theBollywoodFan said...

That's a hilarious song, Pitu. ROTFL! Thanks for sharing. You must have a big (i.e. generous) and cool (pun intended) heart, as any true sultan must! Can you imagine it being sung in a film, perhaps to the tune of 'Mere dil ka tum se hai kehna' (with a couple additional syllables) from Armaan (2003), except that 'Pam pam...' is replaced with 'nahin toh, samjhe?'? <|:o)

I've felt some of the pace issues you mention when revisiting films/shows from the era, but have always blamed my impatience (an obvious result of aging, in my case) for it. Been out of the TV show circuit (both Indian and American) for over a decade now. You've got me thinking about whether that's why I like film so much...

pitu said...

Hehehhe now my husband's gonna complain abt singing it over and over that too with the samjhe? addition :D

Agree abt pacing. I have been having pacing issues with even films now!!!! esp some of the 90s films which are not that old. Funnily enuff, some of those 80s revenge sagas starring Anil Kapoor are still so fast paced and hi drama that it cracks me up. Apparently I don't get bored if I have dukhiyari maa/andhi behen/hashish smuggler villains to worry abt :p

theBollywoodFan said...

Pacing is always interesting. At my patient best, I've clocked 60+ hours on a drawing. The largest Lego set I've built took around 40 hours. And I love music by Saigal and C. H. Atma as much as I love music by Rahman. But gosh, some movies are just difficult to sit through, you're absolutely right. 2008 had some, and no one is immune to them it seems, from a Baweja to a Bachchan and a Khan. Lord bless us!

Meanwhile, to confirm my acceptance of the 80s+90s stuff (all the ingredients you mention are mandatory -- Awwal Number had a couple, LOL), I have Tridev and Judwaa to see again soon! So excited, it's been ages. And speaking of Tridev (and a certain song from it, *ahem*), I think someone should submit this idea of the song from YJHZ, with a tune now, to Farhan Akhtar for use on 'Oye! It's Friday' Valentine's Day special -- totally my kind of humor! =)

pitu said...

Haha seems we are both on an 80s kick!!!!! - u won't believe what I got from netflix today, unabashed Madhuri fan that I am :p Khilaaf and Uttar Dakshin :D Had I got Tridev, would have been a Mads trifecta :D Enjoy Judwa and pls review it, I absolutely adore Sallu in it!

theBollywoodFan said...

True Madhuri fan! Splendid picks! :o) There are several more I have in my to-watch queue, so maybe I'll cheat and move Judwaa forward some. ROTFL, the 80s rock! On a non-Bollywood but note, this recently was such music to my ears!!! =) Of course, it could go wrong like the one from the 80s, yet...

theBollywoodFan said...

Times of India reports: Aamir to take a year off:

Though Aamir is taking time off from work to travel, read scripts, watch films and spend time with his children; his production house, Aamir Khan Productions, will function uninterrupted. The filming of Abhinay Deo's Delhi Belly and Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat will not be affected. Work, however, will have to wait.

I wonder what their definition of 'work' is. For an actor who has done, on average, less than one film a year (he's had seven this decade), does one year matter?

pitu said...

ooooooooooo I HAVE the POWERRRRRRRR! rofl

theBollywoodFan said...

Cool na? So this year we have another Transformers film, a G. I. Joe film too. When will they get to Voltron?

memsaabstory said...

I really need to revisit all of Aamir's 90's films. He was one of the first actors I became addicted to, so I watched them early on before I knew ANYTHING. Would be interesting to see them again now...

:)

theBollywoodFan said...

They're more of the hit or miss kind than his (albeit fewer) films in the 2000s, but there are several worth revisiting. I was watching Akele Hum Akele Tum the other day, good stuff! :)

Pitu said...

memsaab, watch 'Tum mere ho' :-D

*runs away while memsaab is entangled by icchhadhari naags and naagins* :-p

theBollywoodFan said...

Memsaab: I'd start with Qayaamat Se Qayaamat Tak (1988), Dil (1990), Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin (1991), and then through the 1990s.

Piu: ROTFL, sure! Did you not know any film with the Aamir-Juhi pairing is inherently blessed with the goodness of the greatest filmy couple ever? Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi indeed, but that's news from 20 years ago! ;)

theBollywoodFan said...

PS: Oh, and Pitu, we'll get around to discussing 'Tum Mere Ho', yeh waada raha! :)

yogesh said...

can anyone tell from which film is the song" mere dil ka quqrter kar lo occupy.." i m not getting it on net ..can any one upload it if possible..

himanshu said...

can anyone please help me by telling frm whr does the sng "mere dil ka " came......i mean which film ...or which episode of YJHZ....