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11 September 2021

Karz (1980) – Not A Review

Soon after Rishi Kapoor died, Shalini, my long-time watch-a-long friend and I had independently gone through his filmography, agreeing that Rishi was never bad – even in the worst of his films, and he did plenty of those. Karz, on the other hand, is a good film, and I remember watching it in Majestic, a theatre in Bangalore City – it was the first film for which I had accompanied my second brother. (I don’t remember why my sister wasn’t around.) But Shalini had never seen it before – we needed to remedy that. So, we fixed on a date and watched ‘together’.  

[Warning: This is not a review. This is a peek into our scintillating cinematic discussions as we analyse such deeply philosophical topics such as all things Rishi Kapoor.]

Shalini set the ball rolling when she asked:  
“Shall we go ogle Chintu baba? And let’s boo and hiss Tina baby.”
I grinned. “What has she done to you?
S: She’s so boring. 

All the while the credits were rolling, and we are 'introduced' to ‘Sir Judah’ (Premnath) who’s meeting Kamini (Simi Garewal) and her brother, with a proposition.

S: Sir Juda? What kind of name is that?
Me: [at the same time]: “I always see ‘Kamini’ and read ‘Kameeni”.
S: Premnath does not look… good.
[You can see where this review is going!]

Sir Judah speaks in Morse Code, tapping on a glass. Kamini is bad from the start and within three days, she’s ensnared Ravi Verma (Raj Kiran).

S: She’s a fast worker, isn’t she? [And a great negotiator as well, considering she’s upped her price with Sir Judah.]

Head over heels in love with her, Ravi marries her out of hand and calls his mother (Durga Khote – whom we both agree looks very sweet) to tell her he’s bringing her bahu home.  

S: What’s with people in Hindi films having huge photos of themselves in their houses? Are they afraid they will forget what they look like?
Me: Perhaps they’re afraid their gharwalon will.

While we were discussing portraits, Ravi and Kamini are on their way to Verma Estates in Ooty. Just as they drive into the estate property, the car heats up and Ravi gets down to get water. He’s still talking animatedly to his wife when Kamini starts the car and drives right into him.

S: I do sympathize with Kamini a bit – he talks so much! I might have driven over him too.

[See? Hard-hearted woman!]

Having established that Shalini is a wicked woman, we give props to Subhash Ghai for getting the murder out of the way in the first ten minutes. Things are moving along at a pretty fast clip.

Soon, a voice over informs us that Ravi, foully murdered has been incarnated as Monty (Rishi Kapoor).

S: No time wasted on him growing up.
Me: What an efficient way to show Monty is a successful singer.
S: A song about paisa, too, just in case we were confused.

Monty’s friend (Jalal Agha) is busy informing people who are trying to book Monty that Monty doesn’t sing at wedding parties.

Me: Yeah, he’s no SRK or Akshay Kumar
S [grinning at the dialogue]: Paison ke saath mummy daddy kahaan se aa gaye?

But Monty is soon to find out that the man he considers his father only looks upon him as a cash cow.

Monty has been told that according to his contract, he cannot sing at private parties, but that evening, at a party, he spies a girl (Tina Munim) who intrigues him.

S: What about Tina intrigued him exactly? Her cow-like expression?
Me: Woman, you really don’t like her, do you?
S: She had nothing to recommend her, neither looks nor talent! Why did she have a career?
Me: We can blame Dev for that.

Things are happening on screen while we were chatting… and soon it is time for Om Shanti Om.

Me: Rishi really had the energy to be on stage. [But I blink a little at his silver jumpsuit. It is... dazzling.]
S: It must have been hard to dance on a revolving stage, no?

We both agree that the young girl he pulls up on stage is prettier than Tina.

But as the song ends, Monty faints, getting unnerving flashbacks about a murder. He’s soon taken to Iftekhar (who is a doctor, not a police officer), who asks him whether he had ever seen a movie like his visions.

[Rishi resembling a pin cushion.]
It’s a nice touch of realism in ‘filmi’ medicine. But it is a tune that bothers Monty and sets off his visions. We are soon disappointed – filmi medicine rules. We wonder which doctor worth his salt would talk of ‘pichhle janam’.  But the doctor insists that Monty needs rest and relaxation, and Agha, knowing that Tina is in Ooty, promptly books a holiday there.

S [appreciating the logic]: Though why anyone would go after Tina is beyond me!

Tina is the Rani Sahiba’s ward. She happens to also be Kabira’s [Pran] daughter. Kabira, with a penchant for quoting Kabir’s dohas has just got out of prison. He has two sidekicks calls Daaya and Baaya. But the comic side plot isn’t as annoying as it usually is, thanks to Pran.

Tina is still in school. Shalini is thrilled to see that Monty agrees with her about Tina’s mental capabilities. But much to her disgust, Monty and Tina are soon billing and cooing. We agree that Rishi, in his late twenties, looked much younger.

Shalini is not the only person disgusted with the Monty-Tina romance; Kabira, watching from hiding, is also wondering who Monty is.

But Monty has bigger problems – the sight of the estate brings back his visions and he hears the signature tune… he doesn’t yet recall his past birth or that he’s reincarnated, and the confusion is palpable. The visions are getting stronger, and more defined, and Monty is curious enough to ask the locals about the estate. The bits and pieces he gets from different people make him increasingly disturbed.

And so he learns about how Ravi Verma’s mother and daughter left the estate and how Kamini became Rani Sahiba, on behalf of Sir Juda, who’s the power behind the throne.

Soon, Monty is semi-stalking Rani Sahiba, and the tension is building up. We both agree that we would be afraid of Rishi in this mood. Kamini is getting unnerved and Tina is getting increasingly upset with her boyfriend.

We soon learn that Kabira was responsible for the death of Kamini’s brother. And there’s a reason why his daughter is the Rani Sahiba’s ward. Soon, Monty is filling Kabira in on the real story. We are happy that Kabira takes his time believing the story.

Monty is still remembering his past in bits and pieces. (But Shalini and I are too busy ogling Rishi in his all-black look to worry about the story.)

He remembers how Ravi was interested in music, and was learning to play the guitar; once, he had quipped that he would have to be reborn to really learn to play it. We agree it’s a nice touch.

But Monty, now increasingly desperate to find ‘his’ mother and sister is frustrated and angry. The next morning, he wakes up with a hangover. He wakes up to find the maid cleaning up. Getting up to pour himself another drink, he realizes it’s his missing sister.

His reaction frightens the maid. He follows her and finds… Ma!

S: I love these beats of old Hindi masala movies.
Me: Done well, as here, they are emotionally satisfying.

Durga Khote does such a wonderful job. The way she talks is like an old woman who’s lost her senses, someone who’s still grieving her son, and mistakes another man for him.

Monty consoles her, even though he’s emotionally overwrought himself. We both like that he doesn’t tell them that he’s Ravi Verma, reincarnated.

I’m finding Rishi so good in the emotional scenes (and so good to look at.)

S: The man is sad and bewildered and you’re leering at him! Kya aurat hai!
Me: I’m still red-blooded!

We realize that Tina has disappeared from the film. Neither of us mind.

Soon there’s a daf song.

S: This movie is a one-stop film for Rishi lovers.
Me: Yes, like us.

Everyone, now, is conspiring to wear Rani Sahiba down. Monty is still pretend-romancing Rani Sahiba, igniting a desire for a much-younger man. 

Rani Sahiba is frightened of being old… and her desire frightens her. As does Monty’s persistence.  Soon Monty is playing the signature tune – Rani Sahiba has a vague recollection of having heard it before, is initially charmed but is soon disturbed.

And the plan to frighten her out of her wits is diabolical. Kabira and his sidekicks do a lot of play-acting.

S: Dancing skeletons would probably freak me out too, and I haven’t killed anyone… yet.
Me: It’s a nice job of gaslighting.
S: Yes, it’s worse than outright killing her.

We agree that Rishi is brilliant at micro-expressions.

Me: He’s got a fabulous smile, has Rishi.
S: He does, very warm.

On screen, Monty, along with Kabira and his troupe are doing their best to drive Rani Sahiba insane.

We like the coldness in Rishi’s eyes.

But there’s Sir Judah – the joker in the pack. And Rani Sahiba, finally learning the truth, the fear taking its toll on her.

S is wondering how her straight hair turned curly.

Me: Monty would have been better off with Rani Sahiba – she may have been a killer, but at least she had brains. What’s one murder between true love?
S: But she murdered him – I think he would find it rather difficult to forgive that.
Me: Yeah, but who among us is perfect?
S: Oh, god, the imbecile! (Tina has shown up again.)

Poor Monty – stuck with this imbecile for life.

But Shalini concurred that this was a definitely good film and she wasn’t bored for a minute.  High praise indeed! 

[I might put  out an actual review... sometime.]

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