DACAIT (1987)

Dacait is a thrilling journey through the life of a simpleton, Arjun (Sunny Deol) who comes back to his village after completing his education and gets entangled in a feud with the local landlords that result in the annihilation of his whole family. Tortured, insulted and beaten up to a pulp, Arjun runs to the ravines and becomes a Dacait who has his eyes set on one and only one thing. A resounding revenge. Helping him in his endeavor is a childhood friend and a girl who is madly in love with him.

Dacait is simple enough to look at being a standard revenge story with the necessary elements that would appeal to the Indian masses as they mostly spring up from our culture and are all too well known to us. However, what makes this film special and a treat to watch is the treatment of the subject, the performances and the individual sequences that assimilate to make a wholesome impact. The basic premise of the film is set up right at the beginning when Arjun is making his way to the village and is being given a lift by a Bullock cart puller. The discussion between the two subtly makes the condition of the village well known to us.

This discussion is pulled further when Arjun meets his elder brother, Amritlal (Suresh Oberoi) and after sharing the basic pleasantries Suresh Oberoi reminds him how their father was killed by the Landlords and how they are still trying their best to take over their farming lands. The same topic is again hammered in when we see Arjun’s childhood friend being pestered by the Landlord’s deputy to sell his land. In spite of all this, Arjun still remains civilized. He doesn’t want an altercation with the landlords but when the landlords realize that the prices of the farmlands are set to skyrocket, they get down to their dirty business which soon results in them crossing paths with the farmers and the situation gets ugly very soon.

The scene where the Landlords launch a calculated onslaught on the village with furious power and uncalled-for brutality lasts for atleast 15 minutes and this sequence is bound to make you uncomfortable. I To see the revered mother character played by Rakhee receiving unthinkable cruelty at the hands of the Landlord was one part of this sequence that made me feel sick in the bones. The clinical ease and confidence with which the landlords destroy lives is one gut-wrenching sight. The law, in this case, played by, Paresh Rawal is no lesser evil. He is basically a henchman for the Landlords and would go to any lengths to save them. Instead of helping the farmers, he reports the whole incident as a gang war and registers a case against Arjun instead of the perpetrators.

The injustice that is done to Arjun and his family makes us excited for the kind of revenge that he will extract on the landlords and that is exactly what the rest of the film is about. His revenge is calculated and ruthless. What I liked further about how he goes about it is the amount of hurry that he is in. Gone is the Bollywood-ish inclination for a larger than life scenario. There are no prolonged dialogues before attacks. Neither is Arjun too keen on making his attacks vicious or beating the enemy to a pulp before he lands a killer blow. He looks for the best window of opportunity and delivers. The death of one of the major perpetrators is nearly an accident. I loved this realistic way of going about the business.

The film is laced with action sequences, especially in the second half and they are extremely well done. There is a chase sequence towards the end where we see Arjun and his gang outrun a police party to get back his love from the clasps of the police. This sequence is brimming with energy and is easily one of the highpoints for the action in the film. There is another similar tense sequence when Arjun’s gang is surrounded by the police and he and the other have to make it out of the ravines. The problem is, Arjun is carrying his pregnant wife and they haven’t had a sip of water for a very long time. There are many more exquisitely shot and choreographed sequences that one has to see to actually understand how well done they are.

Sunny Deol does exceedingly well in a role that demanded range and subtlety. He starts off as a sweet and down-to-earth guy who is even willing to get into an uneasy peace with the landlords who killed his father. But when thrust into a world of pain and hurt, he rises like a phoenix and destroys all those who destroyed his happiness and family. Not only is he great as a son and a Dacait, he is exceptionally warm and believable as a lover. Meenakshi Sheshadri as Javli, Arjun’s love interest is sparkling. The fact that Meenakshi is a great actress contributed to the fact that she is just as great in the romantic sequences as she is in the dramatic ones.

Rakhee Gulzar plays the mother of Arjun. The scene where she is tormented and her subsequent act when she loses her mind is breathtaking. We see her as a revered figure to start off with and this contributes to our shock when she is wronged in such a horrific manner. Raza Murad is a wonderful baddie. You hate him from the first scene that he makes an appearance in. He brings a kind of coolness to all that he is doing which makes him even more hateable. I thoroughly enjoyed his act. Without his antagonist, this film would never have made so much impact. Paresh Rawal is great again. It is difficult to say whether he was a better baddie or a better comedian. His antagonist here works big time. The rest of the cast do their bits.

Dacait is one of the better films that Javed Akhtar wrote after splitting with Salim Khan. It is laced with every trope in the book that can attract and hook the interest of the Indian masses. It is also a film that is deeply rooted in Indian sensibility and will make more sense to the Indian masses than their counterparts abroad. It is a taut film with enough drama, action, and entertainment to satisfy a viewer two folds.

Rating : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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