Friday, January 16, 2004

Ek Hasina Thi 

Ek Hasina Thi:

A women’s prison seems to be a cool place, you meet some movers and shakers, learn to shoot a gun, drive a car, fight like a “lioness” and get over fear of rats and other phobias! A woman as dumb as the protagonist of Ek Hasina Thi, needed a crash course in survival skills, and what better place than the friendly neighbourhood prison!

Sriram Raghavan’s debut film, tells the story of middle-class Maharashtrian ‘mulgi’ Sarika Vartak (Urmila Matondkar), who works in a travel agency, lives in a rented apartment and fobs off a persistent creepy neighbour.

She is pursued and wooed by the wicked Karan Rathore (Saif Ali Khan), and one fine day, she ends up in prison due to a gangster friend of his. Just because he tells her to, she keeps his name out of the mess, and self-preservation does not kick in even when she passed down a stiff jail sentence. Strange that women in films live in a vacuum, where they don’t see films or read newspapers or use common sense—nor do their mothers teach them any caution.

In jail, there are rats and rotten food and a fat butch bully, but also a kindly ‘godmother’ (Pratima Kazmi), who, out of the goodness of her heart, helps Sarika escape, provides her with a house in Delhi, a car, a wardrobe of sequined kurtas, a gun and enough money to check into a five-star hotel in the pursuit of Karan. All Sarika has to do, is cut her hair, looks ferocious and everything falls easily into her lap.

She happens to be in the right place at the right time, overhears the right conversations, murders the right bad guys and revenge is easily accomplished.

Raghavan, tells the story well, moves it a brisk pace (though it makes one wish, rather perversely, for some songs and a bit of comic relief), builds up the relentless brutality, once the whirlwind romance is out of the way—sadly the story itself is a far-fetched and uninteresting mix of Bangkok Hilton and Double Jeopardy.

So, one should applaud the fact that a girl is the ‘hero’, she needs no man to do the kicking and shooting for her, but heck, she is just an ‘angry young man’ in female garb—a ‘Rambolina’ as Shabana Azmi once called such superficial characters.

Urmila Matondkar is terrific in the dramatic parts which she can tackle full-throatedly, but the overacts where subtlety is needed. Saif Ali Khan looks classy, but cannot muster up from within the air of reckless cruelty required for the part. Seema Biswas has an ineffectual cameo of a grim-faced cop.

Raghavan is undoubtedly talented, and one can look forward to his next film.


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