The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, December 2, 2001

When substance was more important
M.L. Dhawan

A scene from Insaaf ka Tarazu
A scene from Insaaf ka Tarazu

SUBHASH Ghai’s Karz is the story of transmigration of a soul that had been annihilated in its previous birth. The film reiterates the leitmotif of revenge. Simi Garewal marries Raj Kiran for money. She embodies the ruthlessness of Lady Macbeth. She crushes her husband with a jeep and after this heinous act leads a life of luxurious remorselessly. Twenty years later, her husband returns as singing, dancing Rishi Kapoor. He pretends to love her just to lure her towards a state of self-confession but repentance is an alien word in this woman’s lexicon. She wants to taste blood once again, but in an act of divine justice, the victim outmanoeuvres her and takes belated revenge.

In Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh, a ‘tribal, Om Puri, is accused of murdering his wife Smita Patil. He refuses to speak a word. Investigations reveal that Smita was raped and murdered by a group of politicians and businessmen. When Puri is bailed out to attend the cremation of his father, he kills his young sister to protect her from the fate that befell his wife. Puri carries the film on his shoulders with the sheer soliloquy of angry silence.

  • B.R. Chopra’s Insaaf ka tarazu was inspired by Lamont Johnson’s Lipstick. It features Zeenat Amman and Padmini Kohlapure — the two sisters who get raped by the same man — Raj Babbar. When he is exonerated by the court. Zeenat Amman shoots him dead. Many eyebrows are raised at the exploitative rape sequences where camera plays the Peeping Tom. The film was a superhit. Raj Babbar as the chillingly suave rapist, with eyes glinting and steely determination writ large on his face, emerges as the most dynamic and dashing anti-hero. Like most of Chopra films, the dramatic tension of the theme remains confined to the court room.

    Feroze Khan and Vinod Khanna in Qurbani
    Feroze Khan and Vinod Khanna in Qurbani

  • In Rishikesh Mukherjee’s breezy entertaining comedy Khubsoorat, a fiercely dominating Dina Pathak is a stickler of norms no fun, frolic, no late nights. Rekha visits her sister-in-law’s house turns everything topsy-turvy. She takes wind out of the sails of the lady of the house by exciting members of the family to rise in revolt against the tyranny and terrorism of Dina Pathak, playing the lead role herself. The result is a lively comedy. Rekha’s spunky performance gives the film its natural zing. Moreover, coming after the Emergency, the film carries resonances that are almost political in tone and tenor.

  • In Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai, the complexity and ambivalence of Albert’s personality are interesting dimensions. Albert (Naseeruddin Shah) is a garage mechanic who builds castles in the air by dreaming of owning the expensive cars he drives for his customers. He is offended by his girl friend’s Shabana Azmi, pragmatic attitude. He comes to know the wayward ways of the world when his father is attacked by the hoodlums of his employer. Smita Patil as Albert’s sister — a salesgirl with a limp — outshone Shabana and Shah with her stunning performance.

  • Feroze Khan’s blockbuster Qurbani is the story of two friends — Feroze Khan and Vinod Khanna — who boast and brag that their yaari, will weather all wordly storms, remain unbroken even if the world turns against them. But their bond breaks up when Feroze learns that Vinod is wooing the same girl — Zeenat Amman — that he loves. There is a load of action and drama that follows. Eventually, Khanna sacrifices his life for his estranged friend. The foot-tapping numbers like Aap jaise koi, Laila O Laila, Kiya dekhte ho, etc are rage. Nazia Hassan’s husky voice adds to the sensual flavour of Zeenat Amman.

  • M.S. Sathyu’s Sookha, starring Anant Nag, Madhu Lavlin, Nitin Sethi, and Uma Sivakumar etc is a tale of political chicanery between two ministers who try to fish out of the troubled waters of Sookha. One of them appeals to a mad psychic to resolve a crisis. They are unable to overcome a disastrous drought in a district. When Anant Nag — the Deputy Commissioner — resorts to a crazy water diviner to sort out the problem, a crisis erupts out and major riot ensues, leading to the resignation of a minister. But it is the cleverer of the two who manages to have the much needed grains transported there to consolidate his political hold over the voters.

  • Ketan Mehta’s Andher Nagri traces the history of untouchability when Harijans used to have broomsticks tied to their backs in order to erase their footmarks while walking. When the elder queen of the king (Nasseruddin Shah) delivers a male heir, his younger queen transpires to get the child killed. Luckily the child survives and is brought up by a harijan couple. He grows up into a handsome Jivo (Mohan Gokhale) who falls in love with an Adivasi girl Ujjan (Smita Patil). The younger queen comes to know about the true identity of Jivo and poisons king’s mind against him when Jovo pleads with the king that his peers (untouchables) be allowed to dress like everybody else. The harijans dig a well to propitiate God. Shah as an idiot king was at his all time creative best.

  • Chitrath Singh’s Chann pardesi — one of the few Punjabi films is an epic melodrama spanning two generations of feudal warfare. The peasant Kulbhushan Kharbanda loves Rama Vij, but she is seduced by landlord Amrish Puri. Rama gives birth to Puri’s baby after she is married to Kharbanda, leading to Kharbanda’s lifelong enmity and vendetta against Puri. Kharbanda becomes a bandit and attacks Puri’s house. Law takes its course. Kharbanda gets life imprisonment punishment. Years rolled by. Rama’s son — Raj Babbar — falls in love with Puri’s daughter, unaware that she is his half-sister.
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