Saturday 15 May 2010

The Burning Train (1980)

I'll forever be wondering why this film flopped at the Indian box office, it has everything that makes for a top blockbuster, there's a stellar star cast, pulsating music, action, romance, thrills, you name it but still Indian audiences shunned this lovely film for half baked movies relased the same year like Dostana & Ram Balram which became huge hits. Anyway i forgive bollywood for the injustice done to this movie, if i had to pick my all time favourite films, 'The Burning Train' film will surely be on there

Vinod (Vinod Khanna) & Ashok (Dharmendra) are best buddies, Vinod is a highly ambitious engineer and Ashok a flashy playboy of sorts. They're so close that they both meet and fall in love simultaneously with best friends Seema (Hema Malini) & Sheetal (Parveen Babi)

All is well with both our couples but as we all know, life can't be Ha ha Hee Hee all the time, and drama crops up when Randhir (Danny Denzongpa) proposes marriage to Sheetal who shuts him down in favour of Vinod (In all honesty asides from Vinod being majorly hot, Randhir's chat up lines didn't help matters)
Sheetal's like "yeah whatever"

Randhir is gutted as one would imagine and if all that heartbreak wasn't enough his engineering project is snubbed in favour of Vinod's Super Express Train, Vinod as expected is delighted while Randhir is vengeful
Danny was quite scary in this

Vinod and Sheetal get married while Ashok and Seema get engaged to each other, with Seema promising to marry Ashok when she returns from her pilgrimage

In another case of cruel fate, tragedy strikes when Ashok's dad commits suicide over a debt he's unable to pay, as a result the family property is repossessed leaving Ashok penniless, if all that wasn't bad enough he receives a letter from Seema who writes him to break off their relationship
Poor Ashok, his lovely Sportscar gets repossessed (Does anyone know what car model/brand that is)

Years pass by and all our friends have drifted apart, Vinod is now a family man plus his ambitions and hardworking ways have caused a strain in his marriage to Sheetal. The super express is eventually launched as the fastest train in the world after Japan's, it would reduce Mumbai to Delhi journey time from 23 hours to a mere 14 hours

On board the train are lots of colourful characters like a petty thief Ravi (Jeetendra) and a runaway bride Madhu (Neetu Singh in a similar role she played in Rafoo Chakkar)

my favourite is the gorgeous Ramkalli (Asha Sachdev) draped in a fab red sari and gold trinklets

Also aboard the train is embittered Randhir who is looking to spoil the journey for everyone, he does this by planting a bomb on board the train and blocking the trains brakes

Aboard the super express also is Ashok, who meets Seema on the train

as well as Raju (Master Bittu) who is Vinods' son
Whatever happenned to Mater Bittu, he's one of my favourite Child stars of 70's-80's bollywood
I Loved his cute transistor radio

After a battle of words with Seema, Ashok gets off at Mathura only to be joined by Randhir who reveals his evil deeds to Ashok in a drunken Stupor, Ashok gives him a good beating down before going on a chase to get to the train before the bomb explodes

Oh and someone carelessly left the gas on

Where there is Ranjeet mischief is not far behind, and Ranjit won't be threatened by a burning train

Watch as tension builds both on the part of the passengers and families? Who will make it alive and who wouldn't? The train also becomes a place to revisit and heal wounds of the past

This is one of my all time favourite films, i saw it way back when i was aged 9 and till this day it remains the first and only film i've cried to (more on that later). The burning train brings together bits of action, romance, drama and thriller in just the right amounts, why this film flopped at the Indian box offices is way beyond me, if anyone has answers please comment or email me, i really want to know. For the bollywhat forum users who thrashed this in favour of the Towering inferno, i would rather watch the burning train a million times than the towering inferno, which i found rather boring and a bit too pedicatble

Asides from mixing action, romance and drama perfectly this film also had some snide commentary on the capitalist work ethic and how it wreaks havoc on human relationships, this can be seen through Vinod's character who struggles to keep his family and work life together, he eventually recognises the importance and priority of relationships in the midst of adversity, another thing that jumped at me was how adversity brings everyone together regardless of religion, caste, as the passengers on the train soon found out.

A lot of effort went into making this film and yes i know some might jump on my throat for the toy train models in the ending scene but the credits list some Twentieth century fox expert in charge of the Special effects plus the prints were made in Hollywood, I'm thinking this must have cost BR. Chopra the producer a lot of money

Performance wise, everyone is on fine form and i have to sat that this is one of my favourite Vinod Khanna films, he's not the lead character, (no lead characters amongst the plethora of stars) but Vinod's role is very crucial in this, as not only did he come up with the idea of the Super Express, he also had a major role to play in bringing it to halt

I also loved Dharema (Dharmendra+ Hema) in this, their romance and chemistry was just so real, i'm guessing they were freshly married around the time this film was released and it shows, the romance was way too real

The Super express train had lovely interiors, i love the marble type walls and the red plush seats of the First class carriage, why can't the train i travel in everyday look like this
Economy Class no doubt
the first class seating area

Please people even if you don't like 80's bollywood, make it a point to get this one, its well worth it, a word of warning though, avoid the Yash Raj dvd release as it snips a whopping 30minutes out, buy the moserbaer or shemaroo versions instead as they both feature the complete movie.

Fabulous songs by R.D. Burman i loved them all, from the funky title music to the the fun 'Pehli nazar mein hamne' where we see our lovers cycling simultaneously, the romantic 'jab tak amber par' my favourites though are the lovely prayer song 'Teri hai zameen, tera aasman' its the scene that made me cry as a little boy, this film still holds the record for the only movie i've ever sobbed to

an awesome qawwali and one of my all time favourite filmi qawwalis 'pal do pal ka'

and the absolutely fabulous 'Meri Nazar hai tujpe' a east meets west blend of music and dance off between Hema Malini and Parveen Babi

Paisa Vasool Rating: 9/10 (One of my all time favourites)

For all you cheap skates you'll be pleased to know some kind soul has uploaded the movie unto dailymoton in 17 parts with english subtitles or better yet still, buy the dvd here


Unknown said...

I must see this movie.

bollywooddeewana said...

Do Juzé It's utterly fantastic, i loved every minute of it and i can rewatch it a million times

Ness said...

this looks awesome, another one I HAVE to get!

Ibirá Machado said...

Ok, understood. It's a perfect must see. To main dekhunga!

Anonymous said...

I had no idea this flopped - somehow I had the impression people liked it a lot. Or maybe everybody I knew liked it a lot! It's still shown very regularly on TV channels, and it's one of the few movies I don't mind watching all over again: so much good wholesome entertainment. Super!

Nasir said...

I love that qawwali, PAL DOH PAL KAA SAATH HAMAARAA...for fab voices of Rafi and Asha and the telling lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi as well as it composition by RDB.

Rum said...

I was just watching a marathon of the trashy Airport movies that came out in the 70's and the last shockingly with the refined Alain Delon, but i would sooo pick The Burning Train over a Towering Inferno, Earthquake and the million other disaster films that came out back then! Plus its much better to have a Vinod, Dharam and Jeetendra than some aging Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin!

Bollyviewer said...

"I'll forever be wondering why this film flopped at the Indian box office"

You mean you didnt notice how unrealistic it is?! As a friend of mine pointed out - the film has three heroes, and it still takes all of them almost a whole film to stop one train!!! We KNOW that a true Bollywood hero has to but put a hand out and stop the train, or stand in its path and block its progress (after out-running the train on horse-back). So anything like this is just too far from reality to be accepted by an audience of very highly developed tastes. ;-)

Your post reminds me that its too long since I saw this - off to Rajshri for a re-watch.

PS: Is that Navin Nischol with Hema in the last screencap? I didn't even remember that he was in the film!

Anonymous said...

@bollyviewer: Yes, Navin Nischol was in this film. Dharmendra sees Hema with him and thinks she jilted him (Dharmendra) to take up with him (Nischol)...

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Ness it is indeed, make sure you avoid the yash raj copy as i've said

@ Ibirá Lol, i love your use of hindi it is a must see indeed

@ dusted off according to various news, it did flop but with subsequnt re runs and perhaps the home video market and tv rights the film became a classic

@ Nasir yes indeed Pal do pal ka is an amazing song, one of my all time favourite qawallis

@ Rum So true, the other one i remember seeing was Cassandra's crossing and i would watch the burning train a million times over that one too

@ bollyviewer Lol... Vah! what great insight, indeed that might have been been a reason, and that is indeed Navin as Dusted off notes, there were way too many stars/character actors in this, i couldn't even count them all

Cricketer said...

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bollywooddeewana said...

Thanks for stopping by Gaurav, i've just signed up to your blog now

sophy said...

Hi bollywooddeewana,
From what I gather, the movie was a big hit among the Bollywood watching crowd in Nigeria. I was in India when this movie was released (though I didn't know about it till now) and I can only say that the tacky clothes with aging heros would have put me off then. I would have gone and seen the more stylish Qurbani (with better music and everything). Of course this is me now saying what I would have done then.

bollywooddeewana said...

Hi Sophie and thanks for stopping by, apologies about the late reply

You're indeed right Sophie i remember reading somewhere that The Burning Train became the first hit movie in Nigeria, i'm not surprised at all :0)

Funny you mentioned Qurbani as much as i love the songs i think i'd pick those of the burning train over it, plus Qurbani in my opinion pales in comparison to this, i'd watch this over and over again whereas i don't see myself watching Qurbani (well apart from the songs) over and over again

sunheriyaadein said...

I have always loved this movie and had no idea that it had flopped.
I have seen it so many times that I have lost the count now. But everytime I watch it I feel like I am watching it for the first time - I always get so anxious and excited about how they all try to stop the train. Pal do pal ka saath is my favourite too.

bollywooddeewana said...

Many people seem to have no idea it flopped, i guess that shows its greatness and yes its one film i never get tired of watching too


i still remember d scene wherein Asha Sachdev readily offers her red sari so tat it cud act as a signal 2 alert others abt d burning train..maybe it was 2 ahead of its time n hence, wasnt recd well by d indian audience then..

else "pal do pal ka..." was an quawali sung by rafi saheb..maybe d last few songs tat he recored b4 his demise...

bollywooddeewana said...

@ The Bard well i'd like beleive the same as you, and yes that is RAFI ON PAL do pal ka, i'm thinking he must have recorded it a year before the film released

Anonymous said...

Hi Hello

Shashi said...

The reason why this film flopped was because the actual story began only after the interval. Viewers were not used to sitting this long for a story to begin.

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Anonymous Hi Thanks for sopping by

@ Shashi Thanks for stopping by, but the long wait was for the story to be set up rather nicely, had it jumped right into the story, the movie wouldn't have been as great

GKK said...

you see, at the time of the release, the film was one of the most-hyped and also boasted of an enviable multi-starcast.
The major reason i think it bombed was because of the duration of the film as most critics felt, the editing was quite unimpressive.
Frankly speaking,this movie boasts of anything short of a super-duper hit from excellent cinematography, melodious tunes, wonderful plot and powerhouse performances.
And yes, it was one of the most popular films in nigeria back then (even up till now)along with the likes of Sholay, Ghazab, Mard, Dus-numbri, jugnu, The promise,etc.
The starcast is so impressive and vinod does a good job of being the super-express designer.
But for me and undoubtedly, the star of this film is none other than The "Virtuoso" Dharmendra.
Dharmendra conveys comedy, action, anger, emotion, love, romance and above all Bravery in one full blend..It was indeed a remarkable performance from the punjabi hero..
His poetic Dialogue delivery is indeed a one-man treat and he shines above all effortlessly.This will also rank as one of Dharam-hema's greatest ever jodi which cemented their status as india's Golden 'onscreen' couple.Their love, sorrow and fabulous chemistry is so convincing.Infact, who would hema have ever married(in real life), if not Dharam.I als love parveen babi.Jeetu is lovable and lastly, the villain ranjeet is simply superb.
Great film and a must watch for any film lover!!

GKK said...

@bollywooddewaana: i noticed the tere hazameen song is not quite complete, all let me say is 89.5% complete.At the last part of the song, Dharam-hema and Jeetu-Neetu are shown one last time.Compared to my casette edition that has everything embedded from sons to important scenes, My new vcd version doesnt even have this above song at all..What a pity.
Another favorite song of mine is the Dharam-Hema duet, "Vaadaa!!..ahn ji Vaadah!".Am surprised, its not posted here.
Anyways, nice job and keep treating us to a spectacular billing as always
lots of love!!

GKK said...

And also, Dharam-hema were definitely not yet married at the time.The film got released sometime in the latter months of 1980, which suggests that filming might have started as far back as 1979(cus its a very expensive and detailed movie) or even early 1980 as the case may be.Dharam and hema got married on May 2nd, 1980, but of cos, obviously, their real-lfe love had already blossomed to the peak at the time..But one thing is sure, they weren't married yet.
Lets just say, its a mere coincidence of Professionalism with a little bit of OFF-SCREEN lovey-dovey of!

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Gkk thanks a lot, i included the vaada song, i call it 'jab tak amber par' as opposed to vaada

Unknown said...

I have seen it about 10 times or more so far. And I have always seen it for two reasons:
a. It was and is probably is still the only truly realistic adventure movie so far made in Bollywood

b. The second reason is personal. I had my fav babe Asha Sachdev in it. She looked fabulous in this esp when she strips off her red saree and stands only in her red blouse and petticoat. My My..her huge breasts were looking very delicious and waiting to be sucked upon. No wonder the director ridiculously didnt find anyone else on the train with anything red other than my babe's saree. And in the last shots, where she is holding an infant to her chest. OMG. How I wish I was replaced with the infant. I would give up a fortune to be so close to her breasts

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Prakash Thanks for stopping by and for your rather funny comments,Asha is indeed a gorgeous woman and what an amazing screen presence she had in this, I only wish she did a lot more lead roles

Anonymous said...


first i hv to tell you ... I WATCHED THIS MOVIE MORE THAN 400 TIMES ... IM A DAMN HARDCORE FAN OF IT ... even for this movie i meat to ravi chopra to saying thanks for making this fantastic movie ( my god i think fantastic word is smaller for it ) nd secand .. who says this movie is a floopbuster .........
i have some prooves ...

1. 20 march 1980 ... this movie released ... for some more releases this movie didn't get attention of audience but after this its become a blockbuster of that time .....

2. my grandmother traveled 1500km. for watch this ... that tym cost of ticket of this movie was 125/-rs. (not in black , only coz huge crowd busted their for watch dis)

3. i saw the record of year 1980 which is also proves that this movie was bumper blast on office

im so sad to see everyone have wrong information about business of this movie ... please update your information .... and i will say one more thing ... b.r.chopra's print, moserbear's print, shemaroo's print ... all these prints have cut of some other editworks .. none of it have complete version of it .... i think only i have full extended unrated unspoofed version coz mr.chopra gifted me this version in VHS tape ..... presently im going to upload this print on internet with permission of mr.chopra

for anyother information about this movie please contact me :

BillyWitchDoctor said...

I would love to find that poster at the top of the post. I've tracked down so many other posters for The Burning Train but that one is truly amazing--and I can't find it! ...Aside from small-to-medium Internet images, of which the one above is the best.

If anyone has a source, or the poster itself for sale, please let me know by replying here!

Anonymous said...

Coming to villain, look of villain matters and Danny Denzongpa had one of the most fearsome villain look. Burning Train(1980), Dhund(1973), Andar Bahar(1985), Jawab (1985) and 36 Ghante (that monkey faced Dilawar Khan) were best of villain roles of Danny. Burning Train villain was full of jealousy whereas 36 Ghante's Dilawar was a cold-blooded ruthless killer. Danny and also Amjad Khan of Sholay (1975), Muqaddar ka Sikander (1978)and Inkaar (1977)were two of best villains of Bollywood in 70's decade. Pran and Madan Puri had their own style as shown in Gumnaam (1967), Deewar (1975)and Gaddar (1973). Even Amitabh was an excellent villain in 1st half of Don(1978) and mona darling fame Ajit had his own style but none of them looked cruel and ruthless like Danny and Amjad Khan. Amjad Khan and Danny were slim in 70's. The way Danny shoots the coca-cola man Deven Varma in 36 Ghante (1971) or the way in which Amjad Khan aka Gabbar threatens Sanjeev Kumar when he is imprisoned-chill in the spine-Two best villains Bollywood has seen

kisna said...

Guys..what about that smoking hot red car...?
I think that's an opel.

kisna said...

Guys..what about that smoking hot red car...?
I think that's an opel.

Unknown said...

Yes this movie is one of my favorites too. Though it was released in the year 1980 ( when I was around 10) , I saw this movie in 1984.

Indian middle class during these time mostly used to travel in trains and yes Indian Railways was everyone favorite.

There are a few snippets I want to share:

The route taken by this train is the same route followed by the current 12952 New Delhi - Mumbai Rajdhani Express which covers this distance of 1385 kms in 16 hrs 10 minutes, with average speed touching 90 kmph

If you closely watch this movie , Iftekar reprimands to Vinod Khanna as how he can send a message across to the passengers on the burning train when train is speeding at "sau meel" means at 160 kmph.

Indian Railways made this a reality after 36 years when "Gatiman Express" made it a reality , when it clocked this speed between New Delhi and Agra.

I remember having read in newspaper then that the producers of this film did not pay Indian Railways for renting the rakes.May be poor Ravi Chopra exceeded the budget and had to use train models in the climax seen.

Danny Denzongpa prophecy in this movie that in future Indian moving to upscale incomes will shift to planes from trains, which is what is happening now.

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Nav Sikand said...

I saw this movie in the cinema twice in the UK ages 8. The whole family loved it. The scene I remember most and the one that traumatised me was the young newly weds, Ritu and Udesh getting burned to death! It was brutal!
As far as it being termed as a flop, it's purely because of the huge production cost measured against profit. Even though it was one of the top ten films at the Box office, it still didn't turn enough of a profit to be deemed a "hit" . It went down extremely well with audiences .Technically even Gone with the wind was a box office flop by that yard stick: everybody went to see it and loved it too, but the production costs , marketing costs etc were astronomical.