DAMAN, meaning domination, is the journey of Durga (Raveena Tandon), who being a meek woman, is subjected to constant physical and psychological torture by her husband, Sanjay Saikia (Sayaji Shinde), a tea plantation owner in Assam. Her spirit is shattered when he rapes her once night. Her only emotional anchor through all this is Sunil Saikia (Sanjay Suri), her brother-in-law.
Durga bears a daughter, Deepa (Raima Sen), but Sanjay refuses to acknowledge her, saying that he will only accept a son. With Sunil's unspoken support and for the sake of her daughter, Durga is willing to endure all the pain and the humiliation.
Durga is forced to run away from Sanjay, when despite her protests he wants to marry off their daughter Deepa, who is just thirteen years old. Her only support is brutally snatched away from her when Sanjay kills his own brother in a fit of drunken rage, accusing Sunil of having an illicit relationship with Durga, and that he is the father of Deepa. Durga decides to leave home for the sake of her daughter.
Time passes by, but Sanjay's greed soon finds them both when Deepa is bequeathed all the property. He tries to kill Deepa, but Durga emerges as a raging lioness and the immense strength of Goddess Durga helps her to keep the resolve of not allowing her daughter to suffer the same fate as her.
DAMAN pales in comparison to the director's earlier works ? EK PAL, RUDAALI and DARMIYAAN. And that's primarily because the storytelling is not as compelling as one expected it to be.
What could've been a hard-hitting expose on the sadistic attitude of men in a segment of our society, fails to captivate your attention. That's mainly because the film suffers on two levels:-
One, the scripting leaves a lot to be desired. The realism portrayed gets too stark at times, thereby making the scenario gloomy. Sayaji Shinde physically abusing Raveena is one such example.
But the most glaring shortcoming in the script is depicting Raveena meek and helpless till the last scene of the film. Despite suffering physically and emotionally at the hands of her husband, she shows no signs of revolting against him or even divorcing him on grounds of physical and psychological abuse.
As a director, Kalpana Lajmi offers no solutions to the problems her protagonist faces from her husband. On the contrary, the film sends out wrong signals to egoistic males who treat their wives as a sex object or slave.
A handful of sequences between Raveena and Sanjay Suri are well executed, but Suri's exit from the story looks too sudden. Moreover, the attraction between them tends to confuse the viewer. Also, the romance between Raima Sen and Shaan in the second half is least exciting.
Surprisingly, Kalpana Lajmi hasn't captured the beauty of Assam to the fullest. The locales are mediocre and don't contribute in enhancing the visual appeal of the film. Bhupen Hazarika's music is soothing, with a few melodious numbers. 'Gumsum Gumsum' is a gem, while 'Sun Sun Goriya' is likeable. But the film lacks a hit score to mesmerise the audience.
If at all the film scores in any department, it is the performances of the three main characters. Raveena Tandon lends credibility to the role of a battered wife and walks away with the honours. The pathos she conveys through her expressions makes you realise that she's a performer of substance.
Sayaji Shinde is remarkable as the evil husband, though his character seems stretched at times. Sanjay Suri proves yet again that he is a fine actor. How one wishes his role was lengthier too. Shaan makes a lousy debut as an actor. Raima Sen is just okay.
On the whole, DAMAN is a poorly scripted film with just Raveena Tandon's performance as the sole saving grace. The film has nothing for the masses and will thus end up getting bruised at the box-office. However, the tax-free tag will help to an extent.