Friday, March 18, 2011

Krodhi

With Dharmendra in a fleet of bad wigs - at one point even wearing one on top of another (a disguise wig on top of his regular characters wig) - and occasionally painted green, this movie ought to have been better.

The silver is the disguise wig; the black Chia Pet look is the "regular" one for his character in bad-guy mode.
To its credit, it has a weird bad guy (Dharmendra as Vicky/Acharya) with henchmen and a hide-out full of long hallways with blinking lights, offices, and even a department devoted to sketching hand-drawn images of his foes.


There doesn't seem to be a bar or dance floor; that Subhash Ghai did not give us a spectacular musical number just underscores my disappointment with this 1981 film. At least Vicky's inner sanctum has a large light-up command center and various pieces of art, including this one.

That's right: this man decorates with a tiger skin rug, statues of Shiva, and a large painted portrait of Hitler. Based on the childhood flashback in the film's introduction, it is clear that Vicky was not always, and will not remain, baaaad, but between you and me I had a hard time taking moral advice from him after I saw that.

Speaking of interiors, before Vicky's ethical transformation, his nefarious doings take us to two important masala staple locations: The Room* appears as some sort of gathering place for Vicky's associates (note his calling card has been plastered on the walls)


and the pool attached to it, here masquerading as Amrish Puri's hangout.**

I have never before seen the location in this next shot; in the film it is in the same location as the pool above, but who knows whether that's true or just a trick of editing.

I do love the idea of both of these eye-scarring rooms being in the same hotel.

Krodhi spends far more time and energy on its capital-M Message than it does on disguises and dishoom. What starts out as criminal masterminds and damaged idealism takes a sharp, preachy detour towards the world of Guide, full of community-building and personal-betterment-through-spirituality.

Wait wait. I don't get it.

Still fuzzy.

Maybe Moses Charleton Heston Dharmendra can show me.

The right side of this weapon says "Allah" on it, so the Amar Akbar Anthony bases are covered.
Vicky's most prominent foil during his evil years is Inspector Kumar, Shashi Kapoor in an uninspiring turn as Officer Uptight.

In this speech, Shashi says "izzat," thus dooming any hope I had for the film.
I chose to post about Krodhi today in honor of both Deol Dhamaka and Shashi's 73rd birthday, but honestly, there's little Shashi goodness here to write about. When he isn't wearing uncle specs, he looks pretty good, but he is both too stiff at work and too chattering in love to make Kumar at all sympathetic. Shashi and Dharmendra are not on screen together very much, and their moments together are not noteworthy. I had been told Krodhi is the only film to star Shashi and Dharmendra; I have since discovered Akhri Muqabla, but it doesn't sound very good either. Anyway. There's nothing to say about them as a pair in this film, that's for sure.

Vicky's principal companion (associate? employee? disciple? I'm unclear of their exact relationship) in both bad and good times is Neera (Zeenat Aman, also kind of boring performance-wise), a point I liked simply because I don't think I've seen a woman be a top associate of a male character who is not also her love interest. Neera's love interest is, of course, Kumar, and her adherence to Vicky in all his incarnations causes a lot of tension in their relationship.

Also interesting is that Vicky's conversion from criminal-on-the-run to messiah is fostered by...PRAN!

Hema Malini and Prem Nath have small roles that further emphasize Vicky's moral transformation into the community organizer and general do-gooder Acharya.

It's not that I find character and ethical growth boring automatically. In this case, Ghai wrote them too simply and too obviously. Dharmendra's lines are mostly philosophies, as subtle in words and ideas as you would guess based on the brick-bat imagery above. I am not as well-versed in Dharmenda as I am in Shashi, but I would propose he is not at his finest here either - not that he has much to work with. The way his characters are written leaves no room for the charm and ease I love in other performances. Even rage-filled characters can have soul and vitality in their words - as Amitabh does again and again - but Vicky/Acharya usually stomps and shouts, and Dharmendra's delivery is just too heavy and pronouncement-y. Of special note are his beloved English dialogues, which you can sample in this compilation.

His best passage is Vicky's break-neck descent from disappointed man of learning and principles to green-faced gun-toting heavy. After returning from his studies in America to find himself unemployable in India, Vicky has all his hopes for the future pinned on his childhood sweetheart, Aarti (Moushumi Chatterjee). Aarti is under the "care" of her ethically bankrupt uncle, who actually sells her virginity to a group of his friends. When faced with this gang of rapists, Aarti kills herself with a knife,

and Vicky goes into the kind of rage you would expect of the beefier Deols.

It's a horrible scene: Aarti's decision is so grim and Vicky's despair so wild. Briefly continuing the discussion of rape from my last post, I'll just say that I never know what to make of scenes in which victims take their own lives rather than live with the consequences of the crime committed against them. In a strange way, I want to support these women's individual agency, but when scenes are coupled with shaming from family or onlookers (which this one is not), it's harder to work out whether they actually had (or felt they had) any choice at all. In Krodhi, I think the threatened rape stands for the sin and moral decline of the larger world, since the character who perpetrates it is so minor and he acts out of uncontextualized greed rather than revenge against her victim herself or the hero. A portrait of Aarti, who enabled Vicky's rise out of poverty through education in his orphan childhood, also hangs in Vicky's HQ, and there are a few flashbacks to her smiling face and her tragic end, indicating that both her love and her suffering are motivations for Vicky throughout his life, even when he uses them for vengeful or violent actions rather than kindness. Hema's role as Phoolwati, the local brothel-owner, is another feisty and interesting woman who balances individual choices with the welfare of others.

Krodhi can certainly be skipped. I suspect Ghai had a better seed of an idea than this turned out to be. With a lighter touch, particularly in the dialogue, it could have been an interesting look at how an individual chooses to deal with hardships and to relate to their fellow human beings. Somehow Vicky's arc is not as well-integrated with all the rich secondary characters as it could be. In fact, it's the male leads' roles that sink this, and in Shashi's case the performance as well (sorry Shashi - but man did you ever overdo the word-chewing and -spitting here). So as not to end on a bad note, though, let me leave you with two pictures of Shashi, who gets a prize on his birthday for winning the handsome contest in this particular pairing, almost by default since he is unencumbered by wigs and face paint.


Too bad he's so annoying. At least he gets a Kalyanji-Anandji qawwali!


* Not to be confused with the film The Room, which people keep insisting is the worst film ever made, a claim to which I respond "Worse than Shaitani Dracula? Bring it!"

** Amrish's role in this film is really brief (see it here), but he makes the most of it, spending all of his screen time in either a white suit or floating in his pool, accompanied by bathing beauties, a drink, a gun, and poolside phone service.

10 comments:

memsaab said...

Oh such squandered potential :( I still might have to see this, but I will not be able to say I wasn't warned! Lovely write-up as usual.

Lime(tte) said...

Doesn't look really interesting...

Beth said...

Memsaab - That is it exactly - it could have been interesting AND entertaining and it failed to be consistent on either front.

Lime(tte) - Yeah. No reason to watch this one, really.

Filmbuff said...

This one is in my new pile of "To Watch" movies. I saw it for about 10 mins but it didn't hold my attention, so I switched on to another movie.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks ds movie ws loud...norice hw hard d bells ring wn Dharamendra utters "Bhagwan" (God) aftr Pran's death?

alax said...
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Glamour.Raafatrola said...
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bangalore said...
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Anonymous said...

Sweet review. Btw jus a lil clear-up, the right side of his weapon actually says "Kidwana" i guess which is the name of a town, where the jat community is prominent. I usually stay away from these 80s masala flicks :P

my reading said...

Thanks so much for this write-up. I watched this late last night and woke up with details of the film in my head, yet I couldn't remember the ending! I enjoyed all your comments and now don't feel guilty for not liking Shashi here - he was so uptight and inflexible. Zeenat sure puts up with a lot when she is with him (think Satyam Shivam Sundaram : Love Sublime)