I love this film! I first watched it after seeing the amazing Om Shanti Om on a song compilation DVD and thought the rest of the film was just as awesome. It helps that I’m a big fan of Rishi, but there is just so much about Karz that is excellent – the sets, sing-along music and Rishi’s wonderfully sparkly outfits just to name a few. It also features a compelling performance by Simi Garewal as the villainess of the piece with Pran and even the ever-present Iftekhar in support. Although it’s basically a reincarnation/revenge story there’s quite a lot of detail to the plot and it even features dancing skeletons – so much to enjoy!
Rishi Kapoor plays Monty, a successful singer and musician who has a penchant for glitter and flamboyant backing dancers. He’s an orphan and has seemingly has never reconciled to the lack of a mother in his life making him rather melancholy despite his screaming fan club.
Monty tries to put his mercenary manager Mr GG Oberoi (Pinchoo Kapoor) in the role of his father and Mrs Oberoi as his mother, but Oberoi is firm on his stance that Monty is an employee under contract even though he lives with the family. Rejected by Oberoi, in his search for love Monty becomes enamoured of a young girl he sees at a party for his friend Dr Dayal (Jalal Agha) and is inspired by her to sing the beautiful Dard-E-Dil. Normally I get irritated by actors pretending to play the violin and completely messing it up, but here Rishi gets it (almost) right. Just another reason to love Rishi (as if I needed one!)
However the girl leaves before Monty has a chance to speak to her and since Dr Dayal reports that she has left Bombay that same night it seems unlikely that he ever will. But Monty starts to suffer flashbacks of a fatal car accident which seem to be brought on by an old song he plays on his guitar. After a battery of tests fails to reveal the cause for his condition (but did provide me with a lot of amusement), his doctors, including Iftekar as Dr Daniel, prescribe total rest. Monty has discovered that the girl from the party was from Ooty, so he decides to head to the hill stations in the hope that he will find his love there and maybe get rid of his visions too.
Rather coincidentally he ends up in the place where 21 years ago Mr Ravi Verma (Raj Kiran) was murdered by his new wife Kamini (Simi Garewal) as he was returning to his family home. His father’s ex-business partner Sir Judah (Premnath) enlisted Kamini in his plot to steal the Verma tea plantations, promising her a life-long pension and the Verma family mansion for her assistance in removing Ravi. Kamini disposed of Ravi by running him over with her jeep and then evicted his mother and sister for good measure, installing herself as ‘queen’ and enjoying the spoils of her crimes.
Just as coincidentally Kamini happens to be the guardian of Tina (Tina Munim), the girl Monty fell in love with in Bombay, but it’s not a coincidence at all that Monty meets Tina again while boating and singing out on a lake. Because that is the obvious place to find someone – isn’t it?
Monty is the reincarnation of Ravi Verma which he slowly discovers as the various landmarks in the area cause yet more flashbacks. Despite the recurrent dreams of his own death, Monty has time to persuade Tina to marry him even although she is still at school and allegedly 16 while Monty is supposedly 21 (but doesn’t manage to look 21, let alone the 17 he claims in this song). This is still one of my favourite songs though since they manage to look very coy while discussing all the things they are supposedly too young for, but obviously aren’t!
The romance does feel a little uncomfortable when Tina is in her school uniform, particularly since Tina Munim gives her character plenty of childish mannerisms but thankfully the relationship doesn’t get too detailed and most of the rest of the film is centred on Monty and Kamini. However the romance is probably why I don’t enjoy the second half of the film quite as much as the first even though the songs with Monty and Tina are great.
Along with Tina’s uncle Kabira (Pran), Monty sets about making Kamini confess to her evil past which involves a number of elaborate set-ups including the dancing skeletons. I totally love the skeletons which don’t seem particularly scary to me but a guy with a fake scarred face who breaks in and attacks Kamini is much more frightening and makes me jump every single time – even though I know he is hiding outside the window!
Rishi is brilliant here as he changes from the rather naïve young singer to a driven and obsessed man out for revenge. I love his tormented ‘I want her’ to his future father in law as he confronts Kamini in her rather opulent bedroom. It’s nicely ambiguous and sets up Monty’s deceitful plan to force a confession. But even better is Simi Garewal’s portrayal of a woman gradually falling in love and then slowly being driven insane as Monty various schemes convince her that her dead husband is back for revenge. Which of course he is!
It is rather strange that Kamini doesn’t appear to have aged in the 21 years that have passed since Ravi Verma’s death but Subhash Ghai tries to get round that by showing her wearing a succession of wigs which are presumably concealing her age. Plus it’s a touch of vanity to reinforce that Kamini is not a nice person at all.
There are a few other oddities. While the sets for the songs are superb, there are some peculiar pictures scattered around the various rooms. For example, Kamini’s bedroom features some very erotic statues and pictures but just outside the door to her room is a picture of cute kittens. And in the guesthouse where Monty is staying there is a picture of a woman breastfeeding her baby which just seems an odd choice for a guest room.
In fact most of the pictures in this room are of a mother and her child which is perhaps a little too much symbolism – we get the point! I also have to mention the blanket/shawl Monty is wearing – it looks to me like this has pictures of people on it which just seems strange.
But to make up for that there are some wonderful lights in the various houses and guitars absolutely everywhere!
The film has all the requisite masala elements, including the long-suffering ma and disinherited sister, ably played by Durga Khote and Abha Dhulia. Pran is excellent as Kabira and along with his left and right hand men (Viju Khote and Birbal) provides some light relief from all the high drama. Raj Kiran is also good as Ravi Verma and his physical similarity to Rishi Kapoor is a plus too. Premnath is menacing as Sir Judah and Mac Mohan equally sinister as his henchman, although the scariest part was Sir Judah in his bath!
The film highlight is definitely the songs by Laxmikant-Pyarelal with some beautiful lyrics from Anand Bakshi. I love the spinning record set for Om Shanti Om with the flashing orbs that descend for no apparent reason. My favourite part of Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om was the recreation of this set and it’s still one of my favourite songs. Just as awesome is the set for the final song, Ek Haseena Thi and it’s really just the item number featuring Aruna Irani which doesn’t seem to fit and is rather dull by comparison
I think this is Subhash Ghai’s best film and it’s one of my favourites with Rishi Kapoor too. I regularly play the soundtrack and sing along with the songs and if alone will quite happily dance along too – and even if I’m not alone to be honest! There are a few parts I could do without but overall it’s enjoyable and fun to watch – definitely a masala classic! 4½ stars.