Khoon Bhari Maang

Ah the Eighties. When hair was big, shoulder pads were bigger and glitter eyeshadow was essential. Khoon Bhari Maang is a quintessential eighties movie that I love, despite its addiction to gore and systematic overuse of Khader Khan. I can’t say that it’s a good movie, or even that it falls into the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ category we all know and love, but somehow once I start watching I’m hooked by Rekha’s transformation and quest for revenge.  It’s over the top, trashy and melodramatic, but for a nostalgic wallow in the swamp that was eighties drama, you can’t go past Khoon Bhari Maang!

The film is based on an Australian miniseries from 1983 called Return to Eden. I’ve never seen the show, but Wikipedia makes sound like Australia does Dallas, so it may be worth tracking down online too.

The story starts with Aarti (Rekha), a young widow with 2 young children, who is also the heir to her father’s huge business empire. In the first 5 minutes her father (Saeed Jaffrey) is murdered by his close friend Hiralal (Kader Khan) who then wastes no time in introducing Aarti to his wastrel nephew Sanjay (Kabir Bedi). Sanjay has a penchant for removing his shirt and a plan to marry Aarti to gain control of her millions, despite carrying on an affair with Aarti’s best friend Nandini (Sonu Walia).

Aarti’s husband Vikram (Rakesh Roshan) was killed in a car accident some years before and she lives for her children, so Sanjay befriends Kavita (Baby Shweta) and Bobby (Master Gaurav) as the way to Aarti’s heart. There are a few flashbacks to happier times with Aarti and her husband where Rakesh Rohan looks incredibly uncomfortable on the other side of the camera, as he frolics with a frumpily dressed Rekha. And for the first part of the movie, Rekha does look rather dreary. She’s still Rekha, but has dark shadows under her eyes, a large mole on her face and rather protuberant teeth. Sanjay describes her as ugly, but she just looks exhausted and in need of a brighter wardrobe, especially when compared to the dazzling Nandini.

Nandini is a model who is drawn into Sanjay’s machinations because of her love for a man who can look good in swimming trunks and very short shorts. It has to be noted that Kabir Bedi does look rather fine, and he makes the most of scenes at the pool and every other possible opportunity to remove his shirt. However, rather than his sleek chat up lines and body flaunting, it’s his attentions to her children that convinces Aarti she should marry Sanjay and provide them with a father figure. With the bonus of someone she trusts to run the business.  

It doesn’t take long after the wedding (actually the next day), for Sanjay to rid himself of his troublesome wife by throwing her to the jaws of a waiting crocodile. Queue screams, lots of fake blood and Sanjay threatening Nandini to keep schtum about her part in his devious plan. But Aarti escapes! After being rescued by an old man (Paidi Jairaj) she sells the jewellery she was wearing at the time of her attempted murder and heads off to the US for some needlessly graphic plastic surgery. The now apparently unrecognisable Aarti returns home as model Jyoti and is immediately picked up by Nandini’s photographer J.D. (Shatrughan Sinha). Naturally this doesn’t go down well with Nandini, and the rivalry between the two models culminates in a wonderfully crazy dance-off where attitude and sheer sass seem to be the criteria needed to win. After destroying Nandini’s professional career, with her new glamourous looks and the support of JD, Jyoti sets out for her next goal: revenge on her murderous husband.

The story builds slowly during the first half, but this is more than made up for by the drama and total fashion insanity of the second half. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of craziness in the first half, but it’s off set by the annoying presence of Khader Khan and Rekha’s irritatingly meek Aarti. Once Rekha transforms into Jyoti, everything gets bigger, bolder and much more dramatic – and that’s just the fashion! Jyoti is determined to get her revenge and she sets out to destroy Sanjay with the sort of bloody single-mindedness usually reserved for male heroes in Bollywood. I love that Rekha is given the opportunity to have her revenge without relying on anyone else, and that revenge is just as satisfyingly gruesome as could be expected. Despite all its faults, the saving grace of the film is that Aarti is quite capable of rescuing herself, saving her family and getting her revenge, all without any male assistance or even advice. You go girl!

Rekha is awesome throughout. She nails the meek and mild-mannered Aarti, but is so much better as the stunning model out for revenge. Her Jyoti is stardom personified with attitude that simply sizzles off the screen with a sneer sharp enough to draw blood. Rekha takes ownership of all the ridiculous outfits and outlandish hairstyles too, so that when she ends up in black leather and wielding a whip, it seems less an erotic fantasy and more a practical outfit for revenge – easier to get blood off leather I imagine.  Kabir Bedi is excellent too in this negative role where he hams it up as a seductive suitor who quickly shows his true colours once the knot is tied. It’s a great performance and who can complain if he spends most of his time by the pool in various stages of undress. I do draw the line though at the needless appropriation of Vangelis Chariots of Fire theme into a tacky song visualising a romp in the pool between Kabir Bedi and Sonu Walia. But for the rest, Kabir is nicely wicked and appropriately charming as he woos Aarti and then Jyoti. Poor Sonu Walia doesn’t have anything like as good a time as her Nandini is a bit of a wet blanket who falls over herself to do whatever Sanjay wants.

One of the best parts of the film for me is right near the end when Jyoti removes her green contact lenses. A move that makes her INSTANTLY RECOGNISABLE!!! Who knew just changing the colour of your eyes could have such an effect? Also worth looking out for are Aarti’s heroic dog Jumbo and smart horse Raja, who know what is going on well before any of the human characters, and the various servants and supporters of Aarti who add more drama to the proceedings whenever possible.

Khoon Bhari Maang is not a good film, but Rekha makes it worth watching for her crazy outfits, huge eighties hairstyles and bloodthirsty quest for revenge. I know most people skip straight to the second half, but I like the slow build-up through the first half and the gradual monsterisation of Kabir Bedi as his true colours start to show through. For fans of 80’s Bollywood, big hair, crocodiles and revenge, this is surely as good as it gets. 4 stars.


As it seems has been the case with many other people, my path to Bollywood addiction started with Shah Rukh Khan. A late night chance viewing of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge on TV and I was instantly hooked. So I was slowly working my way through his older films (and loving pretty much all of them) when we had a discussion in Hindi class about films that were so bad they were good (you know exactly what I mean here!) and the subject of Rakesh Roshan’s Koyla came up. So of course after hearing the description, this became a must see film, and despite all the violence, gore and trashy OTT characters it’s fun and quite frankly an addictive film to watch. Koyla is certainly not my favourite SRK film, but hidden amongst all the craziness there are some really wonderful moments, particularly in the songs where Madhuri also shines.

But of course the main reason for watching is this:

And a bit of this:

Where to start with such a crazy film? Shah Rukh Khan is Shankar, a mute slave to the incredibly evil and megalomaniacal Rajashahib (Amrish Puri). Shankar is introduced running with the dogs he has trained and the implication is clear that Raja regards him as just another one of his well-trained animals. Leaving aside the fact that Shankar has a truly terrible mullet, as does Raja himself, there is also the very questionable decision to make Shankar wear such immense shoulder pads. It’s hard to believe this film was made in 1997 and not the mid eighties considering some of the fashion choices in this song:

Raja is obviously a bad man with his bad hair and a ’mark of evil’ mole. He also has an even more sadistic and quite insane brother Brijwa who, in trashy bodice ripper novel style, tries to drag off every young woman he encounters.

Despite an intimate relationship with his secretary Bindya, Raja is hungry for another young woman, and eventually tricks Gauri (Madhuri Dixit) into marriage. We first see Gauri frolicking around the fields with a gang of children all high after eating cannabis laddoos. Possibly this is supposed to show how innocent she is, but it’s really just very ‘what the?’ instead. She’s easily tricked when Raja sends a photograph of Shankar instead of himself as the potential bridegroom. A sadistic tyrant Raja may be, but at least he is somewhat aware of his own shortcomings as a potential groom. After a sham of a wedding, Gauri tries to escape but she’s a typical wishy-washy heroine and doesn’t manage anything effectual. Although perhaps fainting is understandable when she tears off the grooms veil to show Raja instead of Shankar! Compare and contrast:

Bindya is displaced in Raja’s affections and ends up as all fallen women do as she is disposed of into the local brothel. This treatment of Raja’s former lover starts to open Shankar’s eyes to the depravity of his owner – it’s taken him 20 years but it’s a start. When he discovers the deception behind Raja and Gauri’s marriage he feels compelled to protect her and when finally Raja kills Gauri’s brother Ashok (Mohnish Behl in a very brief guest appearance) Shankar finally escapes with her into the jungle.

So how do you pursue your wife and slave when they have run off together? By helicopter of course! There is plenty of First Blood style action and Shankar does manage some amazingly intricate traps for a man on the run with no obvious resources. Finally Raja manages to catch up to the fugitives and cuts Shankar’s throat before sending him to his death over a cliff. Amazingly, Shankar just happens to be discovered by a local healer who sews him back up again and restores his voice as a useful side benefit. Gauri meanwhile is destined for the brothel (Raja is not a man of novel ideas), where she finds a protector in Bindya. Because of course, the impure fallen woman has to come good before she is killed in any proper Bollywood film.

There are explosions, plenty of revenge killings and bucket-loads of blood, but finally Shankar does prove that good will always win over evil, especially when good has such an excellent (and frequently used) hero run.

The story has plenty of holes and yet it all makes sense if you just ignore the questions of why and how. There is a flashback to explain exactly how Shankar lost his voice in the first place and why Raja rose to his current level of power. The end ties everything up with the greedy exposed and everyone important and still left alive is redeemed in the end, even Ashok Saraf’s irritating Vedji. This is one of the first films I saw where Johny Lever’s character had a more serious role to play and he pulls it off very well, with only one or two dips into irritating comedy as Vedji’s son and Shankar’s friend. This is probably the best song of the film featuring the two with Shankar’s friend supplying his ‘voice’.

What really does work well in this film is the slowly developing relationship between Shankar and Gauri. There is plenty of chemistry between the two, as there always seems to be with SRK and his leading lady, and they have some very heart-felt scenes particularly when Shankar has no voice and SRK is relying on facial expressions and body language alone. This is one time when SRK’s tendency to overact works very well in his favour and his emotions are excellently expressed. The gradual maturation of Gauri from frightened girl into a woman who helps fight back at the end is well handled. And of course any time Madhuri is dancing she is entrancing. The songs by Rajesh Roshan (lyrics by Indeevar) are the high points of the film and Saroj Khan has done an excellent job with the choreography in each.

But the rest is just plenty of OTT wonderfulness and a surfeit of blood and gore with a healthy helping of revenge. The violence is too cartoonish to be difficult to watch, although there is a dark undercurrent as much of the violence is directed against women. Thankfully though, all the bad guys get their comeuppance and there is always a good song just when the death count is in danger of getting too extreme. It does have an 18 rating which I presume is as a result of the number of attempted rape scenes and general adult themes throughout, although it’s really not as suggestive as many Hollywood films. The bush surgery is excellent and I did particularly like the casts for Shanka’s broken arm and leg which imploded with no apparent ill effects when he started running. Of course he was back to full health and fighting fit in a very short time like all true heroes should be. And perhaps it’s that heavy vengeance burden that explains those shoulder pads earlier!

Koyla is not a film for the faint hearted and I wouldn’t recommend it as a must see film for everyone. But if you like your BW to have the baddest villain and the most extreme trials for a hero and heroine, then it’s definitely a film you should see. 3 stars.