Saturday, May 31, 2008

Akshay Shah Reviews KUDRAT (Hindi, 1981)

Akshay Shah Reviews KUDRAT (Hindi, 1981)

The reincarnation genre is one I have a great weakness for, not only does it make up for a riveting watch if done correctly, it’s a genre that has given Hindi cinema one of it’s finest films. Chetan Anand’s KUDRAT is without a doubt the finest entry in to the genre (alongside Roy’s MADHUMATI and Ghai’s KARZ). An eerie, haunting and suspenseful murder mystery executed to utmost perfection, enhanced by excellent performances and featuring one of the finest album’s music albums EVER in a Hindi film….KUDRAT is a bona-fide classic. And yes, despite 22 years passing since it’s release the movie is just as exhilarating now as it was back when it released.

The film revolves around Chandramukhi (Hema Malini) who with her parents goes on holiday to Simla. Chandramukhi’s mum runs in to her childhood who lives im Simla with her psychiatrist son Naresh (Vinod Khanna). There is instant attraction between Chandramukhi and Naresh however their joy is short-loved as Chandramukhi has a horrific nightmare on her first night there where she’s chasing a man who. The night mare occurs again on the second night which prompts Naresh to hypnotize her , he starts by walking her through her adult years, then younger years and before he knows it he’s taken her back to her previous life where her name was Paro! Inexperienced in the field, Naresh stops the hypnosis immediately. However Chandramukhi’s situation keeps on getting worse as slowly she starts recollecting bits and pieces of her previous life as she spends more time in Simla. She also finds herself getting strangely attracted to Public Prosecutor Mohan Kapoor (Rajesh Khanna) who is to marry Advocate Karuna (Priya Raajvansh). Karuna is the daughter of Simla’s wealthiest and most respected man; Choudhury Jannak Singh (Raaj Kumar). Chandramukhi is convinced that Mohan is her lover Madhao from a previous life however Mohan doesn’t believe in reincarnation at first, though eventually something clicks in him and he realises that Chandramukhi is telling the truth and he breaks off his engagement to Karuna. Choudhury Jannak Singh decides to announce the engagement of his daughter to Mohan regardless, Chandramukhi is also invited to the party, and when she meets Choudhury she reacts with a blood-curdling scream. Skeletons now tumble out of the closet one by one as an age old investigation is taken to court. The crime? Rape and murder of an innocent village girl called Paro by Choudhury Jannak Singh. The race against time is on as Mohan and Naresh start trying to gather evidence to prove that this heinous crime did actually occur.

Chetan Anand’s story is simply a work of art. Anand is no doubt a passionate writer who has taken his time to painstakingly craft this remarkable tale with total conviction. Like any great story-teller Anand doesn’t rush in to his tale, and takes his time in establishing the core crux of the story and allows the viewer to completely become involved into the proceedings. It’s hard to slot KUDRAT in to a genre as such, as unlike other reincarnation tales, this is one that truly brings out the “horror” of reincarnation, and genre’s flawlessly merge in to one. There are parts of the movie which has enough chills to give most Hindi horror films a run for their money, the suspense is spellbinding and riveting at the same time, and this is without a doubt one of the greatest murder mysteries ever told in Hindi cinema. At the same time, Anand ensures there is enough heart in his love story for the viewers to really become attached to Madhao and Paro. The story of KUDRAT is a benchmark for directors still as it’s a tightly woven , multi-layered, highly complex tale which doesn’t falter once, and manages to only get better and better with each passing frame.

The screenplay of the movie much like Anand’s story is again a work of a master craftsman at the very top of his game. Right from the start when Hema Malini is first entering Simla, the viewers know they are in for a experience like no other. The first half of the movie keeps the viewer in tenterhooks throughout as one never quiet knows where the story is going. The manner in which the mystery is built-up slowly as each piece of the puzzle is revealed with each subsequent flashback is a brilliant touch. The sequence at the party when Hema Malini comes face to face with Raaj Kumar is a classic one, and one that is still used as a reference point, or copied until today. From that point the movie again takes a number of sharp turns which leaves the viewer breathless right up to the finale.

As a director this in my view is his finest film to date; a exemplary effort which remains completely unmatched. As a story-teller his narrative is like reading the most gripping novel one could imagine. He takes his time and reveals each layer of the story one by one leaving the viewer completely engrossed in the proceedings. The shift in genres, the use of flashbacks in the narrative and the subsequent twists and turns in the story are all perfectly done. Anand’s understand of the complex theme at hand is commendable, and while other film-makers have attempted the subject before, it’s Anand’s unique fusion of terrifying horror, chilling suspense, pounding murder mystery, poignant love story and above all a dramatic fight for justice which sets KUDRAT aside from the rest. It’s evident in each frame that Chetan Anand was a passionate film-maker, and quiet frankly one whom was clearly a cut above a number of directors in the industry at that time. His work is classy, elegant and certainly very polished. He pushes the envelope constantly and avoids clich├ęs throughout. Even taking the story to the court-room finale could’ve come across as staged however again this is a refreshing touch here which is a perfect narrative device. Also his ability to visually transport the viewer to different era’s too is simply amazing. The entire British Raaj sequence is simply surreal and an absolute pleasure to watch.

Another thing which Chetan Anand must be given full credit for is taking a A-list multi cast and giving each and every cast member an unforgettable role. Much like Ramesh Sippy’s SHOLAY, KUDRAT is a film where every cast member, not matter how big or small, is given a role that the viewer simply can’t forget.

Raaj Kumar as an actor is one who I’ve always found relatively overrated. No doubt one of the most stylish men to ever grace the silver screen in Hindi cinema, his unique voice, and unmatched style made him an immense pleasure to watch, however on the acting front I found him relatively wooden a lot of the times. In saying that KUDRAT is quiet easily one of my favourite Raaj Kumar performances ever. His diction and delivery is absolutely amazing here, and his presence simply electrifying. He brings out the negative shade in his character with aplomb and ignites the screen each time. Be it the flashback sequence when he’s shown as the younger and devious rapist or scenes like his verbal showdown with Rajesh Khanna (“ehsaan faramosh”); this is a unforgettable performance.

Rajesh Khanna is great here too. He plays both the dual roles of Madhao and Mohan with aplomb and leaves his mark. Though he doesn’t have that much to do in the first half (which is only 1 hour 9 minutes); but he comes forth in the second half with a dynamic performance. He ensures that both Madhao and Mohan are completely contrasting and is convincing in both roles. His courtroom sequences in the finale are dynamite!

This is quiet easily one of Hema Malini’s best performance. Overall she’s an actress who always annoyed me quiet a bit with her whiney delivery, however in KUDRAT she is fabulous. As the troubled an disturbed Chandramukhi she plays out the inner complexities of her character perfectly.

Vinod Khanna’s performance here is one of my favorites, and one I can rank quiet highly. Despite being a supporting turn Khanna manages to steal quiet a number of scenes he’s in with a natural performance as the helpful Dr. Naresh. He looks dashing as ever, and his confidence, presence and delivery are all exemplary.

If there is one huge flaw in the movie that stands out like a sore thumb, it’s Priya Raajvansh. The character she plays is crucial to the movie, however her performance is one that grates on the viewers nerves, and in many scenes it’s as annoying as nails on a chalkboard. Her voice modulation and delivery is very poor, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. She does surprise in a few scenes in the climax, however in the hands of a more capable actress this role could’ve been something else.
As I mentioned earlier, each and every smaller character stands out with a class act. Infact, the cast features quiet a number of my favourite performances. Aruna Irani is delightful as Satto and this is no doubt one of her finest. Satyen Kapoo is reliable as ever. Tom Alter is fantastic in a brief role. Devan Verma leaves his mark. Keshto Mukherjee is a knock-out in his part. Ditto for A.K Hangal who features in one of best sequences in the whole movie. Despite only being on-screen for a few minutes, his “deewarr ke peeche” sequence is piece of cinematic gold.

KUDRAT also features what is quiet easily the best soundtrack to ever feature in a Hindi film. Never has a soundtrack been so complete, so perfect and so absolutely legendary as R.D Burman’s evergreen tunes in KUDRAT. Each and every song is so diametrically different. HUMEIN TUMSE PYAAR KITNA is a “anthem” of sorts in the music world, and one that is still looked up to today. The song itself is very simple, and that’s what works for it. It features in the movie a number of times, and each version is absolutely amazing. TUNE O RANGEELE is again a soothing romantic number which is gold. CHODO SANAM is a personal favourite, a club number which quiet easily gives most of today’s club numbers a run for their money. SAAWAN BADHO is a splendid rural song which is lilting and foot-tapping. And finally, my favourite, the title song which plays at various intervals throughout the movie, again a haunting number which acts as part of the narrative as it tells it’s own story.

Technically KUDRAT surprised me after al these years. The movie is slick, classy, and very elegant. Each and every shot is a visual delight, and in today’s modern age it holds it’s own like a classic vintage painting. The camerawork by Jai Mistry deserves a standing ovation. The entire landscape and surrounding of Shimla has been magically captured. Sudhendu Roy’s art-work too is a feast for the eyes. Keshav Naidu’s editing is slick.

All up KUDRAT is a bona-fide masterpiece. A fully accomplished piece of work from a master-craftsman which has aged like fine wine.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10.0


Akshay Shah Reviews ANAMIKA (Hindi, 2008)

Akshay Shah Reviews ANAMIKA (Hindi, 2008)

Believe it or not I had some level of hopes from ANAMIKA for a number of reasons, firstly because this was to be Ananth Mahadevan’s last film in his thriller trilogy (AKSAR and AGGAR were the other two which were relatively good time-pass thrillers) and secondly because Dino Morera’s last thriller BHRAM was again a decent effort…however ANAMIKA is a complete dud which leaves the viewer totally disappointed and the biggest culprit is the story.

The movie draws inspiration from the classic novel REBECCA which itself was made by Alfred Hitchcock in to a stunningly crafted thriller. Sadly ANAMIKA decides to add it’s own twists and turns which fall totally flat. The movie revolves around an escort(no, not the LAAGA CHUNARI MEIN DAAG type) called Jia (Minissha Lambha) who meets and within 2 days (very hard to believe) gets married to Vikram Sisodiya (Dino Morera). Before their wedding Vikram admits to Jia that he used to be married before to Anamika (Aarti Chhabira) who had died under mysterious circumstances.

After marriage Vikram and Jia fly to Gajner (Rajasthan) to his ancestral home. His home is a palace which is managed by Vikram’s childhood friend Malini (Koena Mitra). This is when the story really begins, as everyone in Gajner can’t stop talking about Anamika (and still refer to her as Mrs Sisodiya), it turns out the entire town is obsessed with Anamika, and to make matters worse Jia is constantly compared with her as well. And if that’s not enough one night Jia sees Anamika’s spirit in the palace as well. In a turn of events Anamika’s body resurfaces and all fingers point to Vikram…what is the mystery behind Anamika’s death? How did she die?
Sounds like the premise for a nail-biting thriller? Think again! Writers Ananth Mahadevan and Anand Vardhan had the perfect story to make the best thriller in Mahadevan’s trilogy, however the constant loopholes in the first half, and a completely disappointing climax hinder the movies quality. After the initial hiccup of having Jia say YES to marriage in one day, the movie is well written, the suspense is slow-moving but well built and keeps the viewers at the edge of their seat. When Jia sees Anamika’s spirit again the movie gets exciting, however the second half is a lazy piece of work which clearly rips off films like GUPT and KUCCH TO HAI and leaves a lot to be desired for.

Anand Vardhan’s screenplay is a letdown. While there are moments in the first half which are well done and set the scene for a riveting thriller, it’s the lazily written second half which leaves the viewer exasperated. One wishes that Vardhan had stayed true to his material as there are plenty of other facets which could’ve been explored here. For example, ANAMIKA could’ve been a brilliant ghost story with it’s ambience and setting with the ghost of Anamika possessing Jia? Or perhaps a psychological thriller where Jia gets obsessed with Anamika and starts behaving lke her(which is hinted at in certain parts but never explored).
Ananth Mahadevan clearly had way too much on his plate. ANAMIKA is a film he put on hold after he got half way, and then rushed and made VICTORIA NO.203 and AGGAR, and this has affected the films quality. While the first half is a atmospheric and effective thriller, the second half is a rushed piece of work which he has hurriedly directed for the sake of it. The entire premise of the movie falls apart once the suspense if revealed and nothing makes sense. Why is everyone obsessed with Anamika? Why does Dino never tell his wife the truth in the first place? Why does Gulshan Grover’s character behave the way he does? No doubt Mahadevan is a director who knows the genre well, there is ample evidence in the first half with scenes which are superbly canned however these few scenes don’t make the whole movie….majorly disappointing.

The performances in the movie are flat for the most.

Dino Morera does a re-run of his BRHAM role and is just about OK here. The character is clearly out of his depth and he seems to be struggling in places. Though what is surprising is that Dino pulls off the regal look with complete conviction.

Minissha Lambha is the best thing about the movie. This girl is seriously talented and stunningly gorgeous and needs some better films and roles ASAP! After YAHAAN and SHAURYA, this is another performance which totally impresses. She looks bewitching, and adds a certain aura of innocence and naivety which enhance the characters appeal. Her delivery and presence are splendid, and one feels her talent is wasted in the movie.

Koena Mitra is wooden as a plank of wood and would give Arjun Rampal a run for his money. The girl clearly is easy on the eyes and makes good eye candy but just cannot act, this is the exact same problem I have with Celina Jaitley too.

Aarti Chhabria has nothing to do, infact one hardly gets to see her in the movie. Vishwajeet Pradhan has a confusing role which leads nowhere. Gulshan Grover is reliable as ever.

Technically the movie is good. Pushan Kriplani’s camerawork is splendid, and he captures the atmosphere of the film very well. It’s rather refreshing to see a thriller at the backdrop of a old haveli after such a long time, certainly harks back to yesteryear thrillers of a past era which adds a nice touch, and that’s why it’s all the more frustrating the movie goes so wrong. Sanjib Datta’s editing could’ve been tighter. Jai Singh’s action is OK.

Anu Malik’s music fails to leave a mark which is surprising given AKSAR had a blockbuster soundtrack, and AGGAR even had a decent score.

All up ANAMIKA is a colossal let-down.

Overall Rating: 2.0/10.0


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