Jadu Tona

Jadu Tona (Black Magic)
Director: Ravikant Nagaich
Year: 1977
Duration: 124 minutes
Music: Hemant Bhonsle

I never ever got around to seeing The Exorcist because when it came out there were all these stories about people in the audience having seizures and epileptic attacks – nothing I wanted to chance. But thankfully now that I have seen Jadu Tona I feel that I never have to see The Exorcist. Jadu Tona has a possessed young girl who throws up on the camera lens and rolls her eyes a lot and I bet Linda Blair didn’t even dance on the ceiling as this one does. So what could The Exorcist have that this film doesn’t? Though I doubt if any audience member in India had a seizure while watching this - unless it was caused by laughter and that wasn’t from the comic relief believe me (though the film has plenty of that for anyone who cherishes that art form - think mental institution=crazy people=comic relief). O.K. so this film wasn’t exactly a scare fest. In fact, the scariest thing about it was a roomful of children and dolls celebrating a birthday in a musical number but that is a personal bogeyman of mine.

The film actually has a terrific cast with the chiseled chinned Feroz Khan looking manly, Reena Roy as the love interest, Prem Chopra who was one of the great sneering villains of Bollywood playing a concerned father for a change, Ashok Kumar, a true legend in the 1940’s and 50’s doing his duty as an Inspector, Aruna Irani who has been popping up in a lot of films I have seen lately doing a basic walk through, Jeevan who is another perennial villain actually being a villain and of course what would any film be without the hilarious antics of Jagdeep. And let us not forget Baby Pinky who portrays the possessed girl as if her allowance was cut off and she throws multiple fits. Two of the playback singers are Asha Bhosle and her daughter Varsha Bhosle (who has since become a right wing nutty Hindi columnist and suicide attempter). So this film is by no means a “B” film, it just feels that way.

Aamir (Prem Chopra) is bringing his two daughters Varsha (Reena) and Harshu (Baby Pinky) to visit his parents in a small rural village where superstitions still run deep. A poor man stops their car on the road and tells them that before entering the village they must pray at the base of the Banyan Tree or bad luck will follow them. Being modern city dwellers, the family of course poo-poo’s this and continues on their merry way to the village where the radio is playing the theme song to Hawaii 5-0. Harshu, who is shaped like an over stuffed vegetable dumpling, goes off to explore while her big sister reads Harold Robbins, a sign I have noticed in Bollywood films of crass modernity. Harshu goes into the fields and performs a musical number for which the Song Gods of India quickly punish her for the crime of subjecting an audience to this sight. Such things should not be allowed in any film industry.

She then wanders into an old ruined house where a ghost tricks her into allowing her to be possessed by him as he has some unfinished business on his mind – revenge. Harshu begins having these little jerking eye-rolling fits but while the villagers want to bring in a priest (Premnath) to chase the evil away, the family just puts it down to silly behavior. Back in the big city of Bombay, they take her to a psychiatrist Dr Arya (Feroz) who diagnoses her as having a multiple paranoid personality and scoffs at the crazy idea that Harshu could be possessed. But not surprisingly he pays many house calls on Harshu and then spends his time with Varsha as he unleashes his masculine and hairy chest on her. He continues to scoff even after Harshu walks on the ceiling, likely kills a man by strangling him and attacks Arya when he takes her up in his little plane – always a wise thing to do with either a possessed person or one who has a multiple paranoid personality! Enter Inspector Jolly Goodman (Ashok) with his irritating habit of initializing everything – i.e. good morning=GM, I need to take a leak=INTTAL – who instantly knows this little vegetable dumpling is behind murder!

This film gets so close to that elevated status of “so bad, it’s good” but sadly just misses the mark even with a rather fun whacked out last 20-minutes of murder, walking on the ceiling, scorpions and exorcism or as Inspector Jolly Goodman would put it “20-miniutes of MWOTCSAE”.

My rating for this film: 3.5