The Tribune - Spectrum

, May 26, 2002
Half Note

When films explored new vistas
M.L. Dhawan

Ankush made a strong comment on the urban mafia
Ankush made a strong comment on the urban mafia

IN Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala, the peace and calm of a Gujarati village is disturbed when a despotic subedar Naseeruddin Shah makes life hellish for the women of the village. The menfolk dance to his tunes as he caresses his extravagant moustache. The subedar sets his amorous eyes on the sensuous Sonbai, (Smita Patil). When she rebuffs him by slapping him in public, it stirs his ardour further. To escape his clutches she seeks refuge in a spice factory run by women. With their grit and guts and with no more than piles of peppers for weapons, the women not only hold back the tide of masculine oppression unleashed by the subedar’s men, but also force him to beat a retreat. The film uses the overpowering red colour of peppers which symbolises sexuality, blood, oppression and revolt. Smita exudes fire through her smouldering eyes.

  • N. Chandra’s Ankush makes a strong comment on the urban mafia and its pernicious effect on society. The film showcases the frustration of the youth through its protagonist Nana Patekar. Four educated but unemployed young men are law unto themselves but they turn a new leaf when an educated young woman, Nisha Singh, enters their life. They go berserk when Nisha is raped by a gang leader.

Their revenge is swift as is their remorse and repentance. This creates a vicious cycle of violence, blood and gore. The film lends a halo of glory and glamour to the cult of violence as the four young men are hanged in a manner reminiscent of our freedom fighters. Nana Patekar garners cinematic glory on account of his histrionics.

  • Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili conveys the filmmakers’ concern over the pollution of the Ganga through the predicament of its heroine, Ganga (Mandakani), a highland waif who has a one-night wedding to a tourist Naren (Rajiv Kapoor). She gives birth to a son and leaves Gangotri for Calcutta in search of her missing husband, carrying with her the torment of exploited womanhood. She finds Naren settling down to a new betrothal. She does not demand her rightful due and dances at her lover’s wedding ceremony, covering her face and agony with a long veil. Her ordeal ends when she is united with her husband by his uncle. Instead of the RK trademark of class that had been venerated for decades, what the audiences see in the film is a screenplay that appeals to their voyeuristic instincts. All things superfluous are highlighted resulting in the eclipsing theme of the river’s pollution. Songs like Ek Radha Ek Meera, Yara O Yara, Maine Tujhe Chun Liya, and the title song soar above the movie’s appalling banality and are a tribute to Ravindra Jain’s talent.

    Mirch Masala was peppered with colourful performances
    Mirch Masala was peppered with colourful performances

  • Aparna Sen’s Paroma is a powerful film on a daring theme — personal, including sexual, emancipation of Paroma (Rakhee), a woman in her forties, who is a wife, mother and an ideal daughter-in-law. She meets Rahul (Mukul Sharma), a photographer, and mutual attraction brings them closer. An affair brews between them without any guilt.Some of her photographs taken by Rahul and already appreciated by her family, appear in a magazine. She is criticised and castigated by her family, including her husband. Shocked and shattered, she suffers a mental breakdown. She attempts suicide. Her daughter who finds no guilt in her relationship with Rahul, comes to her rescue and Paroma comes through her ordeals.

The film is notable for its theme rather than its cinematic qualities. Rakhee lights up the screen with a performance that is hard to fault.

  • Utpalendu Chakraborty’s Debshishu is a fable against superstition. In a fair, a freak child — a child with three heads — is exhibited as a miracle-performing child-god. A poor farmer Raghubir (Sadhu Meher), ruined by the fury of floods in his village thinks that such a child can alleviate his poverty and sufferings. Later on he learns that this mishappen child was born to his wife Seeta (Smita Patil) who had clandestinely sold the infant. He tries to obtain royalty on the profits obtained from the exhibition of the supernatural powers of his child, but in vain. He beats his wife black and blue in the hope that she will give birth to another freak child. Smita Patil, Sadhu Meher, Rohini Hattangadi and Om Puri give mesmerising performances.

  • Ramesh Sharma’s New Delhi Times is a political thriller that exposes the nexus between crime and politics. Vikas Pandey (Shashi Kapoor), an honest and conscientious editor of a paper New Delhi Times, throws down the gauntlet to an unscrupulous politician, Ajay Singh (Om Puri), who has links with a lobby of illicit liquor manufacturers.

As Vikas probes the deaths of illicit hooch victims, many skeletons tumble out of the cupboard. The trail of murders, sequestrations in mental asylums, and instigation of communal riots in the state — all lead to the crafty and corrupt chief minister.

The conscientious journalist in particular and the citizens in general realise at the end that they have been manipulated by the powers that be. Shashi Kapoor impresses in a refreshingly difficult and challenging role as an executive editor.

  • J.P. Dutta’s multi-starrer Ghulami depicts the charged communal situation in Rajasthan. Ranjit Singh (Dharmendra) takes up the cudgels against the corrupt, cunning and crafty zamindar (Shivpuri) and his three nephews. Ranjit is joined by a policeman (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and an army officer from the Jat regiment — Mithun Chakraborty.

The objective of the Jats is to seize and destroy the account ledgers of the rapacious money-lending Thakurs so as to free themselves from the curse of bonded labour. They succeed in their mission. When Ranjit Singh dies his wife Moran (Reena Roy) and infant son vow to carry on their struggle to its logical end. Rajasthan’s arid sand-dunes and vultures hovering over the desert landscape impart an exotic ambience to the film.

  • K. Bhagyaraaja’s Aakhri Raasta features Amitabh Bachchan in a double role. In one role he plays David, a devoted union leader and ardent follower of Chaturvedi (Sadashiv Amrapurkar). An unscrupulous politician Chaturvedi rapes and kills David’s wife and frames David for her murder. Released from jail after 24 years, David vows to settle scores with Chaturvedi. In the second role, Amitabh plays Vijay, a police officer. Though the reasons for David turning into a criminal are enough to redeem him, yet Vijay arrests his father saying that crime cannot be justified. The film is not so much about the conflict between a father and a son as between a criminal and a cop. Amitabh sways the audience with his charismatic charm and down-to-earth performance.
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