Awaargi (1990) is a little tale about a prostitute with a heart of gold who is rescued from the brothel while she’s still chaste, by a goonda who also possesses a heart of gold under his rough exterior. This picture rolled at the film’s start and aren’t we all grateful to Hema for something? Allow a moment to reflect…
The lead Meena (Meenakshi Shishandri) never actually becomes a full-fledged prostitute, but I like to write prostitute with a heart of gold, so let’s just leave it like that, instead of the more clumsy nearly became a prostitute with a heart of gold. That sounds too awkward, doesn’t it? Here’s a nice little collection of screen captures of Meenakshi/Meena as a nautch girl before the lovable scoundrel Azaad, played by a well-mulletted Anil Kapoor, saves her from that fate.
I just loved Meenakshi and can’t believe I hadn’t seen her in more films. I now would love to see her entire filmography and was able to find a mutual love for her at Nicki’s Hmong Chick Who Loves Indian Cinema’s blog and also at Bollywooddeewana. Meena’s innocent past included singing at the mandir and studying music under the guidance of her music teacher father. After a near miss at a prostitution career, Meena is catapulted toward super stardom and is half of the singing and dancing duo. How does that happen you may wonder? Well as it so happens, pop star Dhiren (Govinda!) sees Meena performing in a hotel lounge singing gig that Azaad secured for her and is immediately enthralled by her. Govinda is very luscious in this film. How would YOU like to be the focus of Govinda’s gaze here?
Doesn’t that make your heart skip a beat? He invites her to become his song and dance partner and to go on tour with him. She’s so nervous! But look how he helps encourage her to go!I didn’t realize that Bollywood invented flamenco dancing until I saw this film and the song Ae Mere Saathiya featuring playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Aziz, with music by Anu Malik, and lyrics by Anand Bakshi. This is proof:
This wonderful flamenco inspired number includes an impressive backdrop of chandeliers that Apni East India would covet. It’s so hard to capture the fluid and graceful Govinda in the dance, but despite the blurred focus, these are still something to behold. Govinda and chandelier:
Meena stays with Azaad, and he begins to fall in love with her and dream of a life away from the one he’s lived as a goonda.
Ever since Azaad has lost his drive for the goonda lifestyle, his don, played by Anupam Kher, notices this change and tries to encourage Azaad to not lose his focus on crime.
And if this isn’t enough trouble for Azaad, now Meena realizes that she’s falling in love with Dhiren, and the Bollywood love triangle begins!Meena is aware that Azaad is the one who saved her from the fate of being a nautch girl/prostitute, so she is indebted to him and thus rejects Dhiren’s love to fulfill her perceived obligation to Azaad. Eventually she lets Azaad know her feelings are conflicted.
Azaad finds out about the feelings Meena and Dhiren have for each other and to stop their love from blooming rushes ahead with a marriage proposal. Dhiren falls into a sea of despair, thinking he’s lost his chance with Meena. Normally I see Govinda as a jolly good time guy, dancing and prancing about, but behold the deliciously rare emo-Govinda!
At a party to announce his engagement to Meena, Azaad becomes drunk and decides to deal with his jealousy over Dhiren and Meena’s love by telling everyone that he bought Meena from a brothel. Now that somehow did not help smooth things over.
Dhiren is at the party, and witnesses Azaad humiliate Meena and can’t understand how she could agreed to marry Azaad.
So *spoiler alert* Dhiren goes to comfort Meena after her public humiliation and ends up (as we say in the USA) going all the way with her during the time that Azaad is sleeping off his drunkness. When Azaad wakes up, his friends tell him about what an idiot he was at the party and he goes to look for Meena to apologize. Remember, Azaad is a goonda, savvy to the ways of the world, so when he sees a clue like this…
Now you are most likely not a goonda, and perhaps a bit more naive than Azaad, so I’ll help you out with a clue. Look beyond that bottle of Johnnie Walker on the table, and take a closer look at what Azaad sees…
That’s right! Lipstick on the glass, a glass that is emptied of its Johnnie Walker red liable whiskey! Which can only mean *spoiler alert* that Meena and Dhiren went all the way! Meena tells a Azaad something like, yeah I slept with Dhiren, and! Then of course the fight begins over her love and a love triangle Bollywood brawl begins.
How does it end? I’ll let you guess! The entire movie has been uploaded to YouTube with English subtitles HERE so if you need to know who ends up with who, give it a watch. Have you already seen this film? If so, tell me what you remember. Now before I leave, I have to share with you that Awaargi had so many instances of Johnnie Walker bottles, that felt obliged to make a visual record of it. Some bottles are red label, others are black label, but they all show up in scenes here that warn of trouble brewing. Let this be a lesson to you: When you see a Johnnie Walker bottle in a Bollywood film, trouble is not far behind.
Now just LOOK and how lucky this shot is! It includes BOTH the Johnny Walker bottle and a threat of the tight slap in the same shot! These of course are two of the things I track in all Bollywood films, so for this reason, I say Awaargi is a classic, because I really don’t take a Bollywood film seriously until I see a tight slap, or at least the threat of one, and a bottle of Johnnie Walker.