Saturday, January 21, 2012
There are many different views regarding the number of basic plots possible in storytelling. Some say that there seven; a few argue that there could be twenty. An argument also claims that all kind of plots center on conflict (either internal or external), and in that sense there is only one basic plot in all stories. Whatever be the case, it leaves very little room for storytellers and film-makers to experiment. Or does it? The finest film-makers have, at times, taken the most mundane of stories and have presented them in such a novel manner that they have left the audiences spellbound. They have proven that though the plots may be limited, the possibilities are endless. And this is what essentially Chetan Anand did in his 1981 feature Kudrat starring Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Raajkumar, and Priya Rajvansh in principal roles.
Kudrat is Chetan Anand’s intricate version of Madhumati set entirely in the serene locales of Shimla. It begins with Chandramukhi (Hema Malini) and her family returning to the place of her birth, Shimla, after twenty years. Even though the twenty years haven’t seen the twenty something Chandramukhi return to Shimla, she starts finding a lot of things about the city very familiar. Just two days into their stay, she meets Dr. Naresh Gupta (Vinod Khanna), a family friend, and they start dating all over the city. Just when things look like they couldn’t go any better, Chandramukhi runs into Mohan Kapoor, a city advocate who has the city’s richest man Choudhary Janak Singh (Rajkumar) for his guardian. Although Mohan Kapoor is a stranger to her, she feels a quaint pull towards him, as if they had been romantically involved at some point in their lives. For his part, even Mohan seems a bit perturbed when Chandramukhi is around him, despite having Choudhary Janak Singh’s daughter and his fiancée Karuna (Priya Rajvansh) with him.
Over the next few days, Chandramukhi starts getting flashes of her past life triggered by her visiting the places she used to visit with Madho (Rajesh Khanna) in her previous birth. Not only this, she starts getting nightmares that leave her feeling utterly depressed and scared. To help her, Naresh, also a psychiatrist, decides to do a past life regression on her and through it he discovers that what Chandramukhi was claiming was absolutely the truth. She and Mohan Kapoor had been lovers in their past lives and had lived in the very city in which they were present at that point of time. He relays all this to Mohan Kapoor who refuses to believe the story. But soon, even he starts getting convinced about Chandramukhi’s claim. In fact, she makes him recall something more sinister. He and Paro (Chandramukhi in her previous birth) had been separated in their past lives because of a terrible crime. Paro had been raped and killed by an otherwise honorable man who turns out to be none other than Choudhary Janak Singh. What follows next is a riveting courtroom drama in which Mohan Kapoor accuses the most reputable man in Shimla (and also his beloved guardian) of a crime that he had committed twenty years ago. What adds more drama to the proceedings is that the man is defended by none other than his own daughter Karuna, who refuses to believe that her father could commit such a ghastly act.
Chetan Anand laces the screenplay with some brilliant sequences that are truly one of their kinds in Hindi cinema. The past life of the two actors is set in the pre-independence era when Shimla was the summer capital for the Britishers. The past-life regression is done very authentically and the way it has been shot is way ahead of its times. The entire court-room battle and the superb culmination are captivating, and in fact haunt you till much later after finishing the movie. Also, the scene of the crime and the subsequent few minutes, are shot in a style that is not usual for the Hindi cinema. The inherent drama in the script is accentuated by superbly designed situations and some wonderful dialogues. The performances by all the actors complement the brilliantly written screenplay. Hema Malini has the most complex role of all and she does well while looking absolutely gorgeous throughout the movie. Vinod Khanna and Rajesh Khanna are able, while Rajkumar is his usual flair and glory. Priya Rajvansh looks a misfit in the cast as despite the tons of make-up she looks far from the young lady she plays (But then she and Chetan Anand were romantically linked and he used to cast her in all his movies). Even Aruna Irani has a critical role which she performs well.
The entire feel of the movie is of melancholy and suspense. The setting is akin to an old English mystery drama- and rightly so for Shimla is indeed a Victorian town in many ways. What adds to the whole atmospherics is a wonderful tune by RD Burman, who is at his best in the movie. The tune which forms the song ‘Humein Tumse Pyaar Kitna’ comes more than once in the film and complements the soul of the story wonderfully well. The other memorable song in the enterprise is ‘Tune O Rangeele’ which is like a beautiful show-reel of both Shimla’s beauty and Paro and Madho’s romance. The other songs too are good, though not as fondly recalled.
Parting Note: Kudrat is an excellent suspense-mystery-reincarnation-drama movie that boasts of some remarkable sequences and some memorable songs. Although its story seems to be a homage to Madhumati, it has its own uniqueness and own charm which is a result of the brilliant screenplay and direction by Chetan Anand.