In my blog ‘Soft Targets’, I have highlighted this fact that the poor and innocent animals who are killed for the sake of their flesh and skin by the human-beings are also a soft target like many others. The so-called animal rights activists also make much noise but do very little substantial work in this direction. Today I am reviewing an old Hindi movie whose theme is wildlife protection only. It’s Habari (1979).
The story of Habari is related to the protection of poor wild animals from the merciless and greedy hunters working for the smugglers of skins of wild animals. Though a number of movies were made during the seventies (mainly by Devar Films of M.M.A. Chinnappa Devar) rendering the message of showing kindness to animals and underscoring their inseparable role in the life of human-beings, Habari is perhaps unique in the sense that the theme of the movie itself is protection of wild animals only. Produced by Hitkarn Singh, this movie is a presentation of Pix International.
The story starts with certain areas of the vast jungle in some part of India being declared as national parks by the Govt. of India and an animal-loving researcher being appointed as the incharge of that area for wildlife protection. However with the greedy and fearless hunters looming at large, the job of that researcher-cum-government appointed officer is very difficult. He alongwith his wife gets killed in the hands of a dangerous hunter named as Ranbir (Narender Nath) who works for a businessman Shikaarwala (D.K. Sapru) illegally dealing in animal skins. The team of Ranbir with his hired henchmen and associates now face a new game warden of the area named as Ajeet (Mahendra Sandhu) who is actually the brother-in-law of the killed officer (brother of his wife getting killed with him). Ajeet alongwith his little nephew (Raju Desai) who has survived in the lethal attack made on his family, now starts taking care of the animals and taking on the hunters after them in the stewardship of Ranbir.
Ajeet comes into contact with Shikaarwala’s daughter Pinky (Preeti Sapru) who was earlier enjoying the killing of the animals and set to marry Ranbir only in due course of time but now starts loving Ajeet, his little nephew and the innocent animals. Coming to know of her love for Ajeet, her greedy father, i.e., Shikaarwala offers Ajeet to take care of his illegal animal skin business after marrying Pinky. Quite naturally, Ajeet has only to turn down this offer. After some misunderstandings between himself and Pinky, the story finally reaches its predictable Bollywoodish climax with the elimination of Shikaarwala and Ranbir.
The title – Habaari is a word used for greeting in the language Swahili (exact meaning is asking the concerned person – what’s new or how do you do). Shooting of the movie in the jungles of Kenya must be the reason behind keeping this title as Swahili is the national language of Kenya.
The biggest USP and plus point of this movie is its theme only. Wildlife and wild animals are to be protected not only from humanitarian viewpoint but also from ecological viewpoint. By cutting the jungles and killing the wild animals, we are bringing the ultimate disaster for the mankind closer and closer. Natural calamities have increased like anything in the recent past due to this reason only. And when we have a right to live, they also have so. We have no business killing them mercilessly for their flesh, skin and the likewise.
Shot in Kenya, the whole movie is a grand visual treat with the scenes studded with views of forestry and wild animals. The movie contains many touching sequences teaching us to love the animals, care for them and understand their feelings.
I fully endorse the viewpoint of the storyteller expressed at many places in the movie that the animals don’t unnecessarily harm the human-beings. It’s we, the so-called civilized species, only who harm them for our needs and more than that for our greed which knows no limit.
The idea that the animals understand our communication and love for them and may reciprocate our love by helping us in our hour of need, may be somewhat exaggerated but not completely unrealistic. I know through personal experience that animals do identify and feel the love shown to them and they reciprocate it in their own way despite not understanding our language. In fact, love and emotions have their own language.
The narrator has emphatically underscored that there is no limit to the greed and the linked insensitivity of the hunters and the smugglers of animal skin, flesh and limbs by showing their killing of those female animals who are in the very very advanced stage of their pregnancy so that the almost completely developed cubs can be drawn from the wombs.
The minus point of this movie is presence of regular Bollywood formulae of romance, comedy and fight with nothing extra-ordinary about any of these. Plus there are many plot-holes in the script. Many things deserve proper explanation. However since the version of the movie seen by me on internet (uploaded through the CD of Ultra) is not complete with several scenes missing, the viewer who is able to watch its complete version may be in a better position to comprehend the script. I fail to understand why the makers of VCD / DVD present the moth eaten versions of the movies instead of their full released versions as I have found this fact in several VCDs / DVDs.
The movie is very interesting though and keeps the viewer engrossed despite its predictable conclusion. In fact, the scenes showing the activities of innocent wild animals and their interaction with the hero, the heroine and the child artist are sufficient to keep the audience glued to the screen.
Director Sher Jung Singh has drawn the script of Ajit Deol on the screen quite satisfactorily. Dialogs are good. Veeru Devgan’s action plus other technical aspects are well in place. Since the shooting has been done in the real jungles of Kenya, the real wildlife has come alive on the screen with the brilliant cinematography of Kamalakar Rao. The length of the movie is appropriate.
Mahendra Sandhu has done exceedingly well as the hero. Narender Nath, a well-known villain of the seventies, is the perfect choice for the role of the villain here also, considering his personality and stylish dialog delivery. Preeti Sapru has given her best despite not appearing as heroine material. Child artist Raju Desai has got ample footage and he fits the bill. All others are routine. Interestingly, Preeti Sapru’s real life father D.K. Sapru only has played the role of her father in the movie.
Sapan Jagmohan have prepared good music for the movie with the help of the very touching and high quality lyrics of M.G. Hashmat. Songs like Juda Na Karo Chalti Saansen Jism Se, Dilwaala Jag Mein Diler Banega and Pyaara Safar Pyaara Lage are all heart-conquerors.
Habari did not do well on the box office which is sad but not surprising because meaningful and purposeful Bollywood movies despite their entertainment value, have seldom been able to succeed commercially. One and a half decade back, Sanjay Dutt-Juhi Chawla starrer Safari (1999) also dealt with the issue of preservation of nature and ecological balance but it was also a flop.
I have found that in the popular film review column Chanchal Chhaya of Hindi magazine Sarita, the reviewer had given zero star to this movie in 1979 which again strengthens my belief that most of the film-reviewers of India are biased. They praise sub-standard and formulaic movies but do not give deserving movies their due. That’s the reason that I started writing my own Bollywood movie reviews.
It’s a pity that such movies cannot be made today because of the hullabaloo of the animal rights activists who can’t protect the lives of those innocent ones because the lobbies of the killers are much stronger but they can stop the people working in the art-world to utilize them for movies, circuses and the likewise. Now it’s impossible at least in India to make movies using real animals and the makers have to depend on animation and computer graphics only. How sad!
My final assessment is that despite deficiencies, Habari is a highly admirable movie. Protection of environment and wildlife is not just the duty of the various governments but also of all of us. Let’s not refrain from it. I wholeheartedly recommend this very interesting movie to all those who are sensitive and have kindness for the innocent animals in their hearts like the author of this review. Like us, the animals also have a right to live. Don’t they?
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