ladymirth

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Reviews

Sangharsh
(1999)

A remake of Silence of the Lambs - Bollywood style, which Autosh Rana saves and makes a must-see.
Granted, Priety Zinta, a newcomer at this time, is no Jodie Foster, but Akshay Kumar delivers one of his best performances to date, as the enigmatic and tempestuous Marxist convict known to the underworld as "The Professor". The role is not at all that of Hannibal Lector, but a misunderstood, troubled hero. Which sounds corny, should be corny and IS corny at times, but over all Akshay Kumar carries it off convincingly and with flair. I fell in love with him in this movie (a situation that was quickly redeemed after seeing all his other dismal roles) and the chemistry between him and Preity is unbelievable! Very Mulder-and- Scully. I think the roles of both Hannibal and Buffalo Bill has been amalgamated and represented by the child killer Lajjashankar, played by Autosh Rana. Rana delivers one of the most outstanding performances as a villain I have ever seen in either Bollywood or Hollywood cinema; I doubt even Anthony Hopkins could have matched him. He was genuinely terrifying and 100% pure delicious psycho, an entire horror movie contained within one character. If everything else in the script had sucked, I'd still be glad I watched this movie just for the privilege of witnessing this master at work.

The script doesn't entirely suck, and one can easily excuse the half-a-dozen deus ex machina plot contrivances (this IS Bollywood after all) but the one peeve I could never get over is the type-casting of female characters as exemplified by Priety. Her character Agent Reetu Oberoi has a very interesting backstory and she's set up with a convincing moral journey, but it folds in on itself due solely to Bollywood directors' conviction that Indian audiences can't stomach a woman who can handle herself. Her character is supposed to be much-lauded agent fresh out of the training academy eager to prove herself, but is written in and acted out as a baby-faced incompetent who's all but scared of her own shadow and plays sidekick and damsel in distress to her anti-hero at the drop of a hat. The scene where the badly wounded Professor single handedly wrestles the slimy black-market pharmacist who tries to blackmail Preity while she is trying to buy medicine for his wounds, make me fume every time. The woman is supposed to be a CIB agent, she's TRAINED to be able to handle that kind of situation! Instead, Reetu predictably gets stuck trying to get herself and the kid to safety while her mortally wounded man kicks some major psycho-ass - only she has to get over her fear of the dark first. Completely pathetic. When it comes to misogyny, the Greeks have nothing on Bollywood.

Apart from the annoyances of Reetu's character however, the film is well-scripted and action-driven and has some very decent songs, some of which should have become classics. I have watched this movie four times so far, and am still not tired of it. Overall, Sangharsh marks an epoch in Indian cinema and is a certified must-see.

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