1980's was the decade when Hindi cinema had touched an abysmal low. The severe menace of piracy had robbed the sheen out of the films of those times. Due to a shrinkage in market, producers indulged in cost-cutting techniques resulting in substandard productions. Poor picture quality, inferior production-values and cheap disco-numbers took away the glamour quotient of the films. Facing a budgetary constraint, film-makers started focusing more on kitchen-sink dramas to woo the lower middle-class audiences. Even when there was some action, they were way below the 70's standards.
But from time-to-time, there were the big-ticket ventures like 'Karma' (1986), 'Mr.India' (1987), 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak' (1988), 'Ram Lakkhan' (1989), 'Maine Pyar Kiya'(1989), 'Tridev' (1989), etc which offered some much needed respite from the constant nightmare of mediocrity. One of those films was N.N.Chandra's 'Tezaab'(1988).
When I saw the film 2 years back, I wasn't much impressed as I felt the script was quite wayward and overall not good enough. But after being exposed to some more regular 80's fare, I happened to watch this film recently again. And this time I was just blown away!
I have realised that I wasn't being fare to this film by judging it solely on the basis of it's script; as compared to the regular 80's fare, this film offered so much more! First of all, this was a big- budget film. From the picture quality, sets and locales to its hard- hitting action, the film was shot on a huge scale. The film has a sort of grandeur which is bound to be a breath of fresh air for cine-goers of those times.
But for me, the 3 assets of the film are its dialogues, editing and background music. The dialogues are extremely hard-hitting and create a severe impact. The editing is extremely fast-paced and makes a solid impact from the opening scene itself. In fact it could even compete with any film of the mid-2000 period. On this front, the film was clearly way ahead of its time! And Laxmikant-Pyarelal seem to have given their all in creating a high-voltage background score that turbo-charges the film non-stop for the entire duration. That's not to say, they fared any worse when it came to the songs. 'Kehdo Ki Tum'and 'So Gayi Yeh Zameen' deliver the goods with 'Ek Do Teen' remaining a timeless classic till now!
Performance is another strong point for the film. Almost the entire cast comprising of Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Anupam Kher, Kiran Kumar, Annu Kapoor, etc deliver some power-packed performances. But it's Suresh Oberoi who stands out as the righteous and sympathetic cop, who ensures justice is finally delivered at the end. Even Chunky Pandey delivers a surprisingly heart-felt performance which is probably his best act till date. This was one of Johny Lever's earlier films and he is as usual wonderful; especially in the Telugu-mouthing Arabian act! Mandakini appears in a small cameo in what is probably the only poorly etched out character.
Many might consider the 'Ek Do Teen' number to be the highlight of the film; but for me the highlight was the demolition sequence of Lotiya Pathan's empire. With explosions, car-crashes, collapsing towers this was one of the most expensive action-sequences back then and clearly takes one's breath away! Even on the 1st occasion when I didn't like the film, I was still blown away by this particular sequence. In fact the sequence is so good, that I expected this to be the grand-climax for the film. But I was quite surprised to see that the film still went on for another half-an-hour. Still after watching a sequence like this, one expected the climactic battle to be even more stunning. But the final confrontation, filmed aboard a ship, simply drags on and falls way below expectations. This leaves a sour taste to an otherwise gripping drama.
The title (meaning 'acid') and the tag-line ('A Violent Love-Story') suit the film to the tee. The script might be a bit wayward; but the performances, dialogues, music, production quality, action and above all the editing make it a riveting experience for the viewers. This high-voltage concoction generates a heavy reaction on the viewer's psyche. Although it's nowhere near Anil Kapoor's best works, it's still one of the better films of the 1980's. Overall it's a spicy potboiler that is delicious for the regular Bollywood fans; but could give 'acidity' to those who aren't accustomed to stuffs like these!