[My Schlock Treatment intro, originally broadcast on Briz 31 TV 15/05/11]
Neelam and the silver-haired gangster Hiralal are also behind the disappearance of fellow agent Jackson (no last name), whom his family believed to be dead, as his body was delivered to their front door in a crate! Believed, that is, until Gopi pries open his coffin and finds a skeleton with some elaborate plastic surgeon performed on it. His frantic search leads him and his comic disciple Kabadi to the beautifully aloof Priya – no mere conquest this time, as Gopi falls deeply and desperately in love - and to the real brains behind the criminally awful Shiv Shakti Organization. And a suitably over-the-top Bond villain he is: perched in his underwater lair, surrounded by kung fu experts and zombie butlers, Dr Shiva is a self-proclaimed genius with one eye and metal hand who declares himself more powerful than all gods, Shiva included, and intends to destroy the world – but not before he demands our hero dance for his life in a contest with the surprisingly musical Hiralal!
The first thing you notice about this Bond-on-a-hundredth-the-budget clone is its incredible array of miniatures which put Thunderbirds to shame, setting fire to toy cars and planes and throwing them off a dirt hill. What are very real are the snakes: one found in Gopi’s dinner tray, and hundreds of them in tanks, all slithering to life during a smash-em-up kung fu battle at a water snake farm. The great leveller in that particular scene, for me, is the moment when Gopi’s opponent falls into a giant vat – only to be menaced by the same rubber shark I owned as ten year old. Dr Shiva’s lair itself is a masterpiece of modernist pap, a triumph of bullshit over budget, and quite simply the most implausible Bondian villain’s lair committed to celluloid, from its glass wall showing dangerously magnified goldfish to Shiva’s wall of clunky 70s TV sets – all six of them, the wood veneer types with the chunky channel dial. This is one underwater layer whose sinking wouldn’t raise a fart bubble in a bath tub, and believe me, this is a supreme compliment.
Gunmaster G9 has everything you want in a James Bond movie. Comedy! Romance! Musical numbers! Try spotting every intentional reference to a Bond film: the underwater lair from The Spy Who Loved Me/Dr No, the poison string routine from You Only Live Twice, the funeral procession from Live And Let Die, and Goldfinger’s card game via binoculars… I’m sure I missed a few too, and please let me know what you discover. Best of all, Gunmaster G9 races along like a runaway Datsun and clocks in at just over two hours with nary a dull moment – a rarity for Mumbai’s regulation three hour masala marathons.
Gunmaster G9 will return to Schlock Treatment in the near future in Wardaat from 1981. Meanwhile, settle back, put your eye patch on and your BeeGees album on 45 as we watch our favourite Bond moments forced through the Bollywood mincing machine in Gunmaster G9 In Surakksha!