Karz (1980)

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.


Venghai is the latest offering from writer and director Hari and although it follows a fairly predictable path it’s still a reasonably entertaining film.

The story is set in a small town somewhere in Tamil Nadu, but presumably not too far from Trichy since the action moves there for some time. Veera Pandi is a well respected figure in the area and feels it’s his responsibility to look after the wellbeing of the local people. He is aided in this by the members of his family, including his son Selvam (Dhanush) who tries to follow in his father’s footsteps. All seems well until the arrival of a new MLA in the form of Rajalingham (Prakash Raj) who sees his position purely as a way to make money. He is corrupt, greedy for power and wealth, and wastes no time in his bid to take control of the area. Veera Pandi tries to keep Rajalingham in check but he can see the way things are going and in an attempt to stop his son becoming involved in the inevitable battle, sends Selvam off to Trichy.

Although he should be safe enough working for his uncle, Selvam soon becomes involved in another stand-off between local gangsters in Trichy who also seem to have some connection back to Rajalingam. Once in Trichy, Selvam sees Radhika (Tamannaah), and exhibits amazing powers of memory and facial recognition as he realises she is a girl he used to know many years ago in school. As may be expected, Selvam falls in love with Radhika even although she wants nothing to do with him and spends most of her time trying to get rid of him. However, after a few song and dance routines in exotic locations, and watching him throughly beat the gangsters at her college, she starts to change her mind and reciprocate his feelings. There is more to her change of heart than first appears though, and it turns out that Radhika has her own private agenda involving Veera Pandi and needs Selvam to help achieve her goal. In the end Selvam has to deal with Radhika and the local thugs before he can attempt to put an end to Rajalingam’s plans to eliminate his father.

The story is a predictable hero against bad guys with added in love interest, which does have one advantage of making it easier to follow the story without subtitles. It works as an entertainer because of the excellent performances by the lead actors. Prakash Raj is fantastic as the corrupt politician and makes the most of his bad guy persona. He swaggers around, generally looking angry as he schemes his way to more power. I think it may be to make sure that we know he’s the villain, but Rajalingham sports a really unusual moustache with rounded ends. I apologize for the quality but this is the only picture I could find. I think you will agree that it makes quite a statement and is pretty spectacular. A couple of his henchmen have mo’s which match so I’m taking it as a method of recognition for the bad guys rather than a fashion statement, but it could very well be both.

Dhanush does a good job as the son trying to follow his father’s wishes but drawn into the fight despite his best efforts. He is excellent in the scenes with his father and although I have no idea what they are saying, the emotion comes through very well. Raj Kiran is also good as Veera Pandi and the two have some effective father-son moments. Less successful is the romance between Selvam and Radhika. Tamannaah’s performance is very flat in the first half and she really only comes to life in the songs. This makes the contrast much more obvious, as when the action switches back to the romance she loses all of the vivacity which makes her so attractive when dancing. In addition, there is no chemistry between the lead pair at all. Some of this is possibly due to Radhika’s initial reluctance to recognise Selvam, but it never gets any better and it’s hard to understand why Selvam would want to continue the relationship once her true motives are revealed. Tamannaah is better in the second half when there is more for her character to get her teeth into, but it is still a very lifeless performance from an actress who has been much better in a number of other films.

I really liked the sound track by Devi Sri Prasad when I first heard it, and the songs are generally well pictured, although the person responsible for Tamannaah’s outfits has a lot to answer for. The general brief seems to have been to make sure her navel is exposed at all times! Despite some of these questionable wardrobe choices Tamannaah does look beautiful and the songs are definitely the best parts of her performance. I do think it was a little strange to go to Malaysia and then stick to a few shots of buildings and bridges as the location isn’t terribly obvious and could really have been anywhere. However the best parts of this film for me are the locations in Trichy. I work near Trichy for a few weeks every year and really love the city. So when I see the Rock Fort Temple, main bus station and St Joseph’s college it’s as exciting as seeing my home town up on screen. Judging by the reaction there were a few people from Trichy in the crowd as well!

The fight scenes are generally well choreographed and although it’s rather unbelievable to see Selvam singlehandedly take out an entire gang of thugs, at least he does it with the help of machetes, posts, sticks and any other weapon that comes to hand. There is a probably unnecessary comedy track which features Ganja Karuppa as Selvam’s friend in Trichy. As usual I missed most of the comedy as it was in the dialogue, but the two actors play well off each other and the physical comedy was reasonably funny although it really doesn’t add anything to the story.

Although the film follows a very well used storyline, the journey to get to the inevitable showdown at the end is reasonably entertaining, thanks mainly to Prakash Raj  and his gang of merry men. Not a bad film but definitely could have been better.