BAAZIGAR (1993)

“Baazigar” was released in 1993 and I was in preparatory in that year. But that didn’t stop me from collecting every picture of it that came out in the local dailies. You see, it was part of the job for the newspapers in those days to publish movie schedules and they did it in great style using posters of the films. Apart from that, I nearly memorized every poster of the film that I saw on the way to school and back and if that was not enough, I watched and re-watched the songs that came on the national television until my parents made me stop forcibly. Such was the craze of the film. I was, however, too young to be allowed to go to a theater to watch the film and hence had to wait quite a while before I got my chance to watch this film.

Baazigar documents the story of Ajay Sharma (Shahrukh Khan), a man gravely wronged by Madan Chopra (Dalip Tahil) as she systematically destroys Chopra’s empire and sets the record straight. In doing so he has to commit many crimes and cross many a line but Ajay is hell-bent on getting what he wants until he falls in love with Priya (Kajol), Madan Chopra’s willful daughter.

Baazigar marked a first for many things for Bollywood, especially in terms of the leading man. The film has no other hero. Ajay is what can be called a mishmash between the perfect sanskari Indian hero and murdering sociopath who kills innocents effortlessly just to protect his façade. Too many in Bollywood that were a first primarily because of the fact that the seminal Bollywood hero is the one who would endure it all in the hands of the antagonist but still wouldn’t kill an innocent fly if it meant killing the baddy. Ajay/Vicky was a far cry from that persona.

SRK did such a great job with the role that every time he was on the brink of getting caught because of someone or the other recognizing him, I prayed that he be successful in killing that person without getting caught. That was how charismatic his essay was. Just to imagine myself wanting the death of innocents proved the kind of sympathy and love he was able to extract. This has to be credited to not only the way the character was written but more so how it was acted.

The film does have its share of song and dance routines and they were a huge hit in the 90s. I particularly don’t like these songs apart from one “Aye Mere Humsafar” which till date remains one of my favorite romantic songs. If the songs and dances were axed from the screenplay, this would have been a far tighter and affecting film. But that was never going to be the case in the 90s. The film has very little action though. Being an Abbas- Mustan film, it is sensationally low key in the action department. Whatever little action it has is concentrated in the climax of the film and boy! It’s brutal. Shahrukh Khan really gives it all in this sequences and coupled with some interesting stunt choreography, the action feels both organic and brimming with physicality.

Baazigar is essentially a thriller. A lot of that has to be attributed to the manner in which it is edited. I loved the way the film proceeds and now that we have seen so much of Hollywood and so much of its themes’ being trodden in multiple Bollywood film, the approach might not feel the same but in the 90s this was truly a “hatke” film.

The film’s climax though really questions why Ajay did what he did when in the end all of it had to boil down to a fist fight but it felt fitting in some strange way. One has to agree that the Bollywood sensibility and the sense of completion of the Bollywood audience are very different.

Having said all that, the film does have its share of irritations. Kajol as Priya is at the top of the list. She is so shrill and clingy and irritating that you are bound to feel an insatiable urge to shove something in her mouth so that you didn’t have to hear that irritating voice one more time. I believe it has a lot more to do with the manner in which her character was written then Kajol’s performance but whatever it was, it was mighty irritating. Johnny Lever as the forgetful servant is another unnecessary frill. The film could have easily done away without him and yet he has a lot of scenes. A film like this works best when it is gritty brief and real. That is, however, an issue with Baazigar as it time and again dwells into the 90’s Bollywood inclination of being everything at the same time. The song and dance routines ensure that the film screeches to a halt every now and then.

Having said all that, Baazigar was still a path-breaking film for that era and it was a Box-Office smash. The novelty in treatment, the scintillating act of Shahrukh Khan, the numerous twists, and turns in the plots and the gripping drama went a long way into making this film one of the biggest success stories of all times. Sometimes I just wonder, when someone will get the bright idea of remaking and re-packaging this one for the new generation.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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