Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thikana (1987)

There was a time when Mahesh Bhatt used to make films. Good, bad, ugly- whatever- but they were never business projects, just stories that he used to put to life on celluloid. And more often than not they were stories that emanated from the heart that aimed to strike a cord with the hearts of the patrons. Strike a cord with hearts. Nothing above. Nothing below!

Thikana is one such story that is quintessential Mahesh Bhatt of the 1980s. Emotionally verbose, melodramatically intricate, perfectly imperfect, and remarkably sinuous. And yet at the core the film’s simplicity is akin to a child bawling in pain in front of his mother. Save the last thirty minutes when it deep-dives into the pits of mediocrity, the film could have been a well remembered one.

The genre of the movie can be defined as pulp fiction at best- the kind which is available in abundance in the bookstalls of the railway stations across the country. The sub-genres can be described as concentric circles- with mystery forming the outermost circle, and drama forming the central core. The story is woven around the travails of an idealist lawyer, Ravi, who is also unabashed drunkard. Anil Kapoor plays this wasted young man who is pitied, detested, and admired in equal measure. This is established by scene early on in the movie when an inebriated Ravi returns home one night to the caustic remarks of his widowed mother and the comforting presence of his elder sister Shashi (essayed by Smita Patil). What follows next is a full blown melodrama where a semblance of sobriety is incorporated through some wonderful dialogue. The very next morning, however, normalcy is restored, acting as a subtle metaphor to the new day and the fresh start it indicates.

Some other powerful scenes follow, one in which when Ravi’s self-respect is questioned he decides to do away with the ideals he had inherited from his father. In the court of law, he is asked to prove that a young girl is of legally marriageable age, when she clearly looks like being years away from that. How Ravi’s hands waver while signing the testimony and how he admits to have been led astray by his own insecurities, is a study in how a single powerful scene can etch out a characterization that in most movies a series of scenes cannot. Some remarkable scenes between Shashi’s fiancĂ© Ranbir Singh (a police officer- enacted by a superb Suresh Oberoi) and Ravi follow. In fact it is the relationship between these two men and their confrontations constitute the most emphatic part of the movie. A cameo by Anupam Kher is worth mentioning, but just like the movie- it is overstretched and redundant beyond a point.

The most striking part of this movie however is that each and every character has grey shades. And thus the dialogue is so forthright that it gets uncomfortable for an average Hindi movie watcher after a while. But what’s not unusual here is the generous use of songs, and none of them worth a mention. And neither the unnecessary and completely headache inducing last part of the movie, which kind of overshadows the merits of the first three-fourth of the movie to a certain extent. It looks like a lot of it shot keeping the commercial prospects of the film in mind. But in retrospect it might have just backfired.

Performances from Anil Kapoor and Suresh Oberoi are the highlights. Smita Patil is her usual poor weepy self and Amrita Singh (who plays Ravi’s love interest) is in her usual flashy yet lost avatar.

Parting Note: The film is engrossing for most parts and has some remarkably well-written moments of drama. However the last half an hour prevents this movie from being a fondly recalled one.

Trivia: This film was released after Smita Patil's demise and thus its release was dedicated to her.


  1. The first few paragraphs of your review made me think, "I should watch this film!". Thank you for the disclaimer regarding the songs and the melodrama - I think I'll give this a miss for now.

    1. Ya, I think you will be having much better movies to watch in your collection.