Awaargi (1990)


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.

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16 thoughts on “Awaargi (1990)

  1. Oooh, I have this but I haven’t watched it yet. I CANNOT IMAGINE WHY NOT because it looks awesome.

    Believe it or not though, emo Govinda is actually not *that* rare (it is most definitely delicious though) from what I can tell of his 80s fillums anyway. Sometimes he even gets the emo beard going ;-)

    • Ness-ji,
      I only have about a dozen Govinda films under my belt, so I was premature in calling the emo-Govinda a rare thing. Please recommned his most emoestest rolls to me and fast! Please also watch Awaargi and report back to me with your impressions. Thanks for stopping by to comment. :)

  2. As far as I can remember, this may be the first instance of both JW-B & JW-R in a single shot.
    And since this is a triangle, I tried to develop a JW association theory to see who gets the girl.
    If you are shown with a JW-B, then you must rank higher; and hence get the girl.
    The first is JW-R when Anil Kapoor discovers the clue. Since that JW-R must have been with Govinda, Govinda probably does not get the girl.
    But the next shot has Govinda being welcomed with a JW-B, I guess he still has some chance.
    The next two shots of Anil Kapoor are blurred in the sense I cannot make out if it is JW-B or JW-R; so he too is still in the game.
    Now I am confused :)
    ROFL on the review.

    • Samir-ji
      I touch your feet, since as one of royal Hindustani blood, of course you would come up with the bahut Bharat idea of a Johnnie Walker algorithm for solving who gets the girl! In general in the films I have noticed that the black label is used to symbolize the darker souls and the fancier types, much as it also occurs in real life. I get extra excited when I see that black label, knowing something evil lurks. When Anil’s Azaad is sitting on the floor eating some snacks, I believe he’s washing them down with red label only, this image is from early on in the film, before he leaves goondaism. I have yet to see instances of the ultra fancy blue, green and gold labels appear in Bollywood. I like to make sure and pay a visit to green, blue and gold Johnnie Walker bottle displays when I am in duty free shops to see if they cost less than they do in the regular liquor stores…they never really do, but they sometimes come with tote bags, or umbrellas with Johnnie Walker logos. AnyVay, I believe you are onto something with your Johnnie Walker red vs. black label love triangle algorithm. Go with it! Thanks for your visit and brilliant comments as usual. :)

  3. Thanks so much for the shoutout!

    I am glad you see the Meenakshi love now ;) She’s awesome and very underrated. I must watch Awaargi again. Thanks for reviewing it.

    Isn’t Govinda just full of awesomeness?? I just <3 him!

    • Nicki-ji,
      I was glad to see your post on Meenakshi. I’d only seen her in Meri Jung (1985), but that role didn’t allow her as much space to shine as her part in Awaargi. Let me know what you think after watching Awaargi again. I can’t wait to see more of Meenakshi. Yes, Govinda is always awesome! :)

  4. Ahh Awaargi has been lying on my floor for months, i’ll be sure to move it up. I really like how you take note of the most obscure things and make them fun, i bet i’ll be laughing and remembering your post when i spot black labels while watching

    • bollywooddeewana-ji,
      Well you better watch Awaargi soon and tell me what you think. But HOW DARE YOU call the things I notice like the Johnnie Walker bottle obscure! HOW.DARE.YOU!? ;) It won’t be hard to miss those whiskey bottles in this film.

  5. Love this post! I really have been most careless in my viewing habits. I still haven’t spotted any Johnny Walker on my own, so still need the big red arrows, I guess. Chandeliers, now that’s different, as you don’t have to be quite so observant to spot them. And big staircases.

    Perhaps because I mostly only watch post-Dil Se movies (apart from my Raj Kapoor season this year) I haven’t seen either Anil Kapoor or Govinda in a hero role. I only know Anil in Slumdog and Govinda dancing on the bar in OSO, so I don’t think I could take them seriously as heroes.

    Thanks for the entertaining post. It must have taken you hours!

    • Joss-ji,
      Thanks for your nice comment! :) I find it very hard to believe the Indian movies you’ve watched have not had any Johnny Walker bottles, since their inclusion spans the history of the genre, and are most definitely in the Post Dil Se era. ;) Govinda and Anil Kapoor are the finest of heroes! You must see them in those roles, you will love them, I swear. May I suggest Beta, where Anil starts as a simpleton, and grows to become a real man, or Meri Jung or in the bizarre quasi incestuous Lamhe, or the wild Virasat, or 1942: A Love Story, or his more whimsical hero in Taal. You don’t know what you’re missing! And ditto for Govinda. Try Hatya, where Govinda adopts a boy who is orphaned and turns mute by witnessing his parents’ murder. DEKH:

      • Oh wahwahwah! Hey, I saw him to do that move he does in OSO, with the back of his hand against his forehead, with the fingers pointing up like red-indian head-dress. I love it when I spot references like that in the choreography. That dance in OSO was full of them, of course. I’ll add one or two of these recommendations to my list. Thanks. And I’ll be more vigilant about the liquid refreshments from now on.

    • Joss-ji,
      LOL on that move you speak of, I’ll always think of it now as you’ve described, “that move he does in OSO, with the back of his hand against his forehead, with the fingers pointing up like red-indian head-dress.” Instead of red Indian, I say feather not dot in this case. ;) Thanks for keeping your eyes peeled for the Johnnie Walker bottles.

  6. I was a little kid when I saw this, and accordingly found it very risque :) That said, I think everyone acted pretty well in it, and it was just nice to see an 80s film without the usually buffoonery of the era. And Anil was so tragic and so fabulous- That song “Chamakte Chand ko toota taara”- still one of my favs. V magical- thanks Sitaji!

    • Shweta-ji,
      I think it is quite risque even as an adult, and I agree the acting was done well, though of course it was a melodramatic movie. I don’t care for buffoonery myself, and you’re right this film really didn’t have much if any. There was of course the wacky sidekick to Anil, but that part was much reduced to the normal slapstick scenes added, “for the villagers,” as I once heard Ajay Devgan say. My favorite scenes were when Meenakshi and Govinda’s characters were shunning each others phone calls due to misperceived snubs. Govinda’s character really got into a snit, I loved it! Thanks for coming by to comment. :)

  7. Sita-ji
    Oh, how the presence of a good whiskey can lead to all sorts of trouble!
    I’m with Josh, in that I’ve not a lot of either Anil or Govinda under my belt. Me thinks I must continue to branch out – esp Govinda. Who knew he could smoulder so?

    However, can someone please give Anil a lesson on waxing? I think seeing that much back and arm hair may cause me to have nightmares.

    • Shellie-ji,
      Yes the whiskey hints at trouble ahead. Please see some of my recommendations above for Joss about Govinda and Anil filums you may enjoy. Also, Nicki and Bollywooddeewana have lots on their blogs on Govinda. I really enjoy Govinda and Anil Kapoor in everything I’ve seen them in, and I bet you would too. Well I’m sure Anil’s well waxed now, since that’s all the rage, but I think he’s absolutely fine in his natural state too, in fact some people prefer such things, for example, Briyanshu: http://briyanshu.blogspot.com/search?q=hairy+backs ;)

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