Ramgopal Varma. The name is synonymous with films with substance. The name also corresponds with films that rebel against the set-patterns, rules, norms and formulas of Bollywood masala flicks.
His latest venture, EK HASINA THI, directed by Sriram Raghavan, is no exception!
First things first! EK HASINA THI is not a copy of director Bruce Beresford's DOUBLE JEOPARDY [1999; cast: Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood], as is being widely speculated. The story of the film has a miniscule bit of that film of a woman seeking revenge, but the similarities end there.
For that matter, EK HASINA THI also brings back memories of Mahesh Bhatt's GUMRAH [Sridevi, Sanjay Dutt; this film was inspired by BANGKOK HILTON], but one has witnessed the wronged woman seeking revenge in Rakesh Roshan's KHOON BHARI MAANG [Rekha, Kabir Bedi; this film was inspired by RETURN TO EDEN] as well.
EK HASINA THI deals with the fury of a woman wronged, but the story, situations and the treatment of the narrative cannot be compared to any Bollywood flick witnessed so far.
EK HASINA THI is nonconforming and appeals tremendously!
Varma Corporation Ltd. and K. Sera Sera's EK HASINA THI tells the story of Sarika [Urmila Matondkar], a single working woman in Mumbai.
Karan [Saif Ali Khan], a globetrotting dashing bachelor, sweeps Sarika off her feat. The two decide to get married.
But one incident plunges Sarika into a nightmare. She is arrested. Jailed.
Dumped in prison with a bunch of hardened women criminals, she vows to erase the person she once was and emerge anew. But to do so, Karan and Sarika must confront the truth about each other.
Attempting a songless thriller for the third time in one year [BHOOT, DARNA MANA HAI and EK HASINA THI], RGV and debutante director Raghavan come straight to the point at the very start of this film.
EK HASINA THI begins with a flashback and as the reels unfold, the viewer gradually slips into a world of deceit, treachery and betrayal. The narrative moves at a brisk pace, with the viewer being on the edge all the while.
The slimy, mean character [portrayed brilliantly by Saif[ comes to the fore in the first reel itself, yet the turn of events continues to keep you engrossed and immersed. The twist in the tale right from the time Urmila is arrested till her confession in the courtroom takes the film to an all-time high.
The interval point when Saif stands exposed and Urmila decides to take him to task increases the curiosity value tremendously. The viewer awaits with bated breath the course the story would take in the post-interval portions.
The first half has some outstandingly executed sequences, notable among them being the ones that take place in the prison. The transformation of a simple middle class city girl to a hardened woman is amongst the most convincing aspects of the enterprise.
The story takes a different route in the second half. If the first half focuses on Urmila and the unfortunate incidents that take place in her life, the second half throws light on the sequence of events in Saif's life.
Saif's character is more elaborate in this half, as he leads his life in the fast lane, continuing with the murky business. When the two cross path again amidst volatile situations [she is being chased by the cops, he by the underworld], the film takes an interesting turn.
The film reaches a nail-biting crescendo and the culmination to the story appears completely justified. The woman doesn't want to eliminate the culprit so easily she doesn't choose to eliminate him instantly. How she plans to settle scores sends a chill down the spine.
Given the fact that it's a songless film and has an undercurrent of tension all through, the goings-on tend to get slightly heavy towards the second half. If trimmed slightly [in the post-interval portions], it should only prove advantageous.
Director Sriram Raghavan is a director to watch! The expertise with which he has handled the tense-filled moments should win him all-round praise. He strikes the right balance between realism and commercialism, between form and content.
The background music [Amar Mohile] is fantastic, enhancing the impact of sequences considerably. Cinematography [C. K. Murlidharan] is amongst the assets of the film. The sound quality [Dwarak Warrier] is top notch.
Besides a tight screenplay, the film rests on two solid performances, that of Saif Ali Khan and Urmila Matondkar. Saif seems to have emerged as one of the finest actors we have today. If he was lovable in DIL CHAHTA HAI and KAL HO NAA HO, you would hate him for being iniquitous in EK HASINA THI. His second outing at negativity [KYA KEHNA was his first negative role!], Saif handles the part like a pro. This film is sure to multiply his fan following tremendously, besides consolidating his status as one of the bests in the profession.
Urmila delivers yet another knock-out performance. After BHOOT and PINJAR, her romance with author-backed roles continues. The feeling of being used and abused is displayed to perfection by this actress in EK HASINA THI. A tricky role that demands histrionics, the actress takes to her part like a fish takes to water. She leaps ahead with this performance!
Seema Biswas [cop] is fantastic. Pratima Kazmi [gangster operating from prison] is first-rate. Aditya Shrivastav [lawyer] is effective.
On the whole, EK HASINA THI, in the spirit of RGV's other movies, has some fresh things to say about love, passion, deceit and destiny. The film has all the potential to carve a niche for itself. At the box-office, the theme would not only strike a chord with the multiplex audiences, but will appeal at the grassroots level as well. It has all the merits to grow as days progress. Recommended!