DROHKAAL (1994)

  • Release Date : 31/08/1994
  • Cast: Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Ashish Vidyarthi, Amrish Puri, Mita Vasisth, Annu Kapoor.
  • Director : Govind Nihalani
  • Written By: Govind P. Deshpande (additional dialogue), Govind Nihalani  (additional dialogue, story and script),  Anjum Rajabali (associate script),  Atul Tiwari (dialogue).

Drohkaal is easily one of my favorite cop dramas and one of the best Govind Nihalani films ever made. Sans a few lingering issues that I will get to in a while, Drohkaal is pretty much a perfect film. There have been way too many glossed up and amped up versions of “placing a mole in a terrorist organization” film but none of those will even come close to what Nihalani achieves here with a top class cast and some flawless directing. I watched this film for the first time in 2004 when an uncle of mine gifted me with a VCD of this film. We had just bought a new flat 21-inch Television which was a big deal for a middle-class family back then.

On an overcast evening, my whole family, as well as that of my next door neighbors (who I referred to as my uncle), sat down to watch this film. Even at that age when my taste in movies began and ended with Chinese action films (Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donny Yen), I knew from the get-go that this was a different ball game altogether. I kept going back to the film from time to time ever since but the poor visual quality of the film always proved to be a hindrance. Recently, “Captain” released Drohkaal in full HD print on Youtube and I finally got to enjoy it the way it was supposed to be.

Abhay Singh (Om Puri) is an uptight and honest police officer operating in an area infested with terrorists (most likely Naxals, though they are never referred to as that). He has a lovely family comprising his wife Sumitra (Mita Vashishth) and a son. He has made a name for being a revered interrogator. Apart from him, there is also Abbas Lodhi (Nasseruddin Shah) and IGP Pathak (Amrish Puri) who hold important positions in the police hierarchy of the place. Abbas is head of the clandestine wing and has successfully placed 2 moles in one of the many terrorist organization led by the nefarious Commander Bhadra (a scintillating Ashish Vidyarthi). Only Abhay knows the true identity of the moles apart from Lodhi. Things take an interesting turn when Commander Bhadra is apprehended by the police and one of the moles in the Bhadra outfit is caught by the terrorists. The police too realize that they might have a mole in their midst. The drama heightens as both parties try their best to find out the perpetrators and bring them down.

Drohkaal is immersive and captivating in its approach to the plot at hands. The film plays out like an episodic chain of events that increases in its dramatic output with every ensuing part. What remains constant is the power and charm of the powerhouse performers. Nihalani is able to extract such care and interest for the characters that you cannot help but feel for them. Lodhe is probably the most one-dimensional character in the film owing to the fact that he has no grey shades to his modus oparandi. He is straight, fair and is not bogged down by any weights. Hence he is able to perform in a manner that best suits his job profile. Yet he also has to choose between his own life, the duty that he is doing and his commitment to a cause. That fraction of a second that Shah spends staring into the eyes of his mole who has to subdue him and he can’t resist or kill him speaks great volumes about his acting prowess. There wasn’t a single scene where he was not likable. Shah has such a swag about himself that it is hard not to be inspired by his style. The scenes that he shares with Om Puri who happens to be his dear friend and confidant is exceptionally warm and well done.

Om Puri is spellbinding. He is just so natural and lifelike that you believe every word that comes out of his mouth. He not only looks the part but also feels the part. His character takes the kind of turn towards the end that left me baffled. Lines that were unimaginable for him to overstep are crossed in the blink of an eye. The film’s highest point comes when Abhay Singh is questioned by Bhadra on who runs the clandestine operation wing of the police and who knows about the identity of the moles. This scene will leave any thinking viewer exasperated.

Amrish Puri has a very brief essay but in that role too he is towering. The scene where his identity is revealed and he commits suicide is heartbreaking. Every time he speaks we know what his inner workings are like. After the fate that befalls Abhay Singh, we are even more certain that he might have been a victim of a plot as well. Or maybe he was not. That is one question that is left unanswered. Annu Kapoor is as devilish as the abusive Surinder. You are filled with hatred for his character from the moment he makes an appearance. When he is finally killed, I nearly clapped out in joy.

Ashish Vidyarthi is brilliant. He is the thinking scheming villain that scares you more because he is not the tough guy. He is a thinking individual who can wreck lives. He has his henchmen to do his dirty work and he is not even afraid to shoot a kid. He says he fights for principals but you know that isn’t the case. The manner in which he blackmails Abhay Singh is delightful to watch. The final showdown between him and Om Puri is one for the record books. Mita Vashishth plays Abhay Singh’s wife with great care and panache. It’s hard to believe that such a talented actress disappeared without a trace.

Speaking of the flaws, I could find just two. There is a sequence in between where Bhadra and Abhay Singh have a prolonged discussion on their views of the right and wrong. That scene was tacky and somewhat useless. I couldn’t understand or see the justification of the same as it led to nothing. Also for an inspector to take a dreaded terrorist like that out of his jail cell just to have a chit-chat felt extremely unnecessary and plain out stupid. I am a fan of the Jaws film. The manner in which they use the shark attack signature background tune here every time Abhay’s family is in danger was hilarious. How could Nihalani not know to do better? It was so very distracting that it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it temporarily took me out of the movie experience.

Apart from the above two lingering issues, Drohkaal remains on point throughout. It is one of the best Cop-Dramas to have ever come out of Bollywood and it is that for good reasons. Terrific performances, an intriguing plot and some simmering drama are just some of the reasons that make this film a must watch.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Click here to watch Drohkaal :

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