SHEELA (1987)
Page 3: Songs

The songs of Bollywood movies are, theoretically, supposed to
advance the plot and character development but all too often
are used merely for decoration. The six songs in this film, surprisingly, are used to resonably good effect, in that at the end of each song you are more well-informed about the characters' motivations.  I have decided to add a section for every song for two reasons - most people love Bollywood songs because they are highly amusing and they are a good excuse to provide more video captures.

Song No. 1: Sheela, Queen of the Jungle
      This device is used to show the passage of time as Sheela grows to womanhood.  Firstly we see the baby Sheela being suckled by her ape mother.  Next we see her as a young child frolicking with her animal friends - apes, turtles, elephants, etc.  We finally see her as the statuesque jungle queen mounted on her trusty jungle steed, a la Tanya Roberts.  The song is a brassy James Bond-style number with a lot of English words sung by a Madonna-sounding woman accompanied by both male and female choruses - "Sheela, Sheela, Sheela.  Daughter of nay-tuuure, Queen of the Jun-gooool!"  It is really an excuse for a feast of eye candy, as we see Sheela swinging on vines, galloping her zebra along the top of the ridges above Victoria Falls, and standing on top of rocky outcrops, hands on hips.  

Song No. 2: The Jungle Disco Trading Post
      This is a truly bizarre moment.  When Rajah and his boys first arrive upriver they visit a strange bar-cum-nightclub-cum-discotheque (complete with mirror balls).  It is populated by a motley crew of jungle low life.  They meet a tall dark stranger who we later learn is a nasty poacher.  We also meet Téhéhé, and the implication is that she is a woman of the night.  We are treated to a saucy bump-and-grind dance number by Téhéhé and a bevy of native girls wearing African tribal outfits and glam rock eye-make.  The men dance with the women and there is plenty of pelvic thrusting.   I would love to show you a frame from this but the scene is missing from my 90 minute dubbed-into-Turkish DVD.  It is present on my 2-hour Hindi video.  Until I upgrade my equipment, here is Tehehe sunbaking as solace.

Song No. 3: Jungle Campfire Drunken Orgy
      This is Bollywood at it's best - a truly wonderfully tacky and lurid dance number with exotic costumes and blatant sexuality.  Sheela has been lured into a cage by the bad guys using lion cubs as bait.  To celebrate the success of their mission they have a drunken party, entertained by Téhéhé beautifully dressed in a spangled orange harem outfit trimmed with gold.  The tune is an up-tempo number with lots of throbbing drums, staccato horn sections, a grunting male chorus, and a fast killer riff played on a surf guitar.  Téhéhé pulls out all of the stops to tantalise the men with her abundant sexuality, using plenty of pelvic thrusting, shimmying and pouting.  As the men get drunker they hallucinate that Sheela has left her cage and joined the party.

Song No. 4: Sheela and Shankar Jungle Love Song
      This lighthearted number is used to develop the relationship between Sheela and Shankar.  Following a slightly racy nude swimming scene, obviously inspired by the similar scene in the Tanya Roberts film, the worlds of Sheela and Shankar begin to blend.  Prior to this Sheela has been completely wordless and her vocalisations have been chimpanzee-like animal grunts.  As she introduces Shankar to all of her animal friends he begins to introduce her to the words for these creatures.  A constant refrain of the piece is Sheela stuttering ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-nee to indicate her desire to talk.  There is lots of water splashing, cutesy dancing, playful frolicking and generally fun-filled light romance.  It is worth noting that this is a fairly typical genre of Bollywood song. (Note the gloves.)

Song No. 5: Sheela My Sheela Love Song
      The next tune is a variation on this sappy, sentimental love song theme, and is my least favourite Bollywood song and dance genre.  The target audience is obviously teenage girls and lonely rickshaw wallahs.  Shankar fantasises that he has taken Sheela back to his world to show her the delights of civilisaton.  The tune is a moderate tempo reggae number with steel drum accompaniment and a slightly mournful trombone solo.  We are subjected to several minutes of wide-eyed Sheela taking in the deserted streets of Harare, she and Shankar skipping down the pavements, dancing on the flat roof of tour boats, rolling in the grass and twirling in slow motion (Sheela's long raven-haired tresses are a delight in these scenes).  Warning - this scene contains several near kisses!

Song No. 6: Sheela Queen of the Jungle - Reprise & Farewell
      This is the same tune used for song number one while Sheela was growing up.  Here it is used as an economical recapping and resolution device.  Sheela and Shankar have just finished fighting Rajah and the poacher in the animal compound, the poacher has become croc bait and Rajah has been pummeled to a pulp by Sheela's ape mother.  As the ape walks over to join Sheela Rajah manages to revive and blast the ape with his double-barrel shotgun.  Sheela is distraught and rolls down the rock face with the bleeding body of her ape mother.  As the song starts (Sheela, Sheela, Sheela!  Queen of the Jun-gooool!) she relives her whole life, animal friends and all.  A lone, forlorn Shankar is intercut to signal his fate as an abandoned man as Sheela rides off into the sunset on her trusty zebra steed, content to return to her own happy world.

• Many thanks to Frank Bonilla for providing the abridged, Turkish-dubbed DVD of this film at the last minute
• All vidcaps are from the abridged, Turkish-dubbed DVD of this film

• To obtain this film - pray hard, it is near impossible to find

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, non-profit, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006 Paul Wickham