PRAHAAR (1991)

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  • Release Date: 29/11/1991
  • Cast: Nana Patekar, Gautam Joglekar, Madhuri Dixit, Dimple Kapadia
  • Director: Nana Patekar
  • Written by: Hriday Lani, Nana Patekar, Sujit Sen

Prahaar was the directorial debut of Nana Patekar and having seen it multiple times, I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t make anymore. Perhaps it was his passion project and he might just be the kind of man who would make nothing else but films that he was wholeheartedly passionate about. When you see Prahaar you can’t help but feel that passion dripping from every frame of it and I believe it was this passion at the heart of the project that made Prahaar into the film that it turned out to be. If you look at it, it is a simplistic tale of a soldier, Major Chauhan (Patekar) who forms a unique connect with his students during a commando course. When one of his soldiers (who has been rendered handicap after a mission) is brutally killed by local goons for refusing to pay ransom money, he swings into action and kills off the goons in a fit a rage.

However when you try to explore the themes and thematic elements of the film it has a lot more to offer than what it presents on the surface. Major Chauhan himself is a highly complex character. His mother was apparently a courtesan who was forcefully abducted leaving Chauhan in the hands of a teacher who taught him the way of life. His inability to do the right thing when his mother was being abducted remains in his heart as a sore tear and his insatiable desire to do the right thing swings out of it. There are multiple references to his past. We see his past through his memories that are triggered by different incidents in his current life. These flashbacks are extremely well done.

The next facet of Chauhan’s life is with his commandos. While on one hand, he is extremely strict and rigid with them, he is also shown sharing a tender bond with them which is only strengthened as the film progresses. Peter D’Souza (Gautam Joglekar) hates him for his strictness and has almost made up his mind to leave the unit. But Chauhan’s scathing remarks about his decision forces him to stay back and he ends up becoming the best commando of the unit. Peter now shares a strong bond with Chauhan who is crestfallen when Peter loses his legs while carrying out a raid to save some abducted children. Peter is sent home and his girlfriend decides to marry him and he invites Chauhan for the marriage. When Chauhan arrives for the marriage he learns that Peter has been killed by goons for refusing to pay ransom money. From this point on, the film takes a different turn.

I just loved the manner in which Nana’s character transforms from this point onwards. He seems to be in a constant state of discomfort and awe with the way the city life goes on. He is constantly disillusioned by the way the people treat each other and comes to the realization that he has to take the matter into his own hands. One scene in particular that explains his state of mind is where a woman is shown to be in labor who is not allowed to cross the path to reach a hospital as a convoy of a minister is apparently on the way to the same road. The lady gives birth on the road and the infant dies instantly. Nana’s reaction to this atrocity is heartbreaking. His reaction is as much out of anger as it is at the total lack of humanity in the men and women of the city.

Prahaar documents some of the most realistic and best commando training that we have seen in Indian cinema. Nana himself leads from the front and is shown doing all his stunts himself. I call them stunts because when you see them you realize how difficult those routines are. Apart from the physicality, Nana also gets the character, mannerisms and the gusto spot on. The way he interacts with the men and carries himself will constantly give you a feeling of seeing a real documentary and not a scripted film.

But the heart of Prahaar lies in its humanity and it’s protagonist’s connect and dissociation from it. Chauhan finds some solace in the company of Kiran (Dimple Kapadia) and her son Chiku in whom he is able to confine. It’s these two people who actually get the man and they support him throughout his stay. However, he doesn’t receive a semblance of support from the men of the locality who on the contrary pelt him with stones and ask him to leave them at their fate when Chauhan straighten outs a few goons. Just watch out for Nana’s performance in this scene.

By now it must be clear that Prahaar is an extremely performance-driven film and thankfully each and every actor in the film remains true to the quality. Even the smaller role actors do a hell of a job. Madhuri Dixit is barely recognizable in a role that is a far cry from her glamorous outings that made her who she was. She is at many junctures irritating but that is all in keeping with the character. Even Jahangir Khan who plays a terrorist is a perfect choice for the role with his rugged look and menacing demeanor.

Prahaar is bolstered by some simmering drama, terrific action which is always a result of an emotional outburst or necessity and some unbelievably good performances. It is an example of what a passion’s project can be if realized with clinical authority and an almost OCD-esc focus. It is easily one of Nana Patekar’s best performances till date and will remain right up there with his best. This was one of those roles that gave him a format and range of emotions of which he tried different variations over the years successfully. Prahaar will, however, remain a cornerstone for him and in many ways, he was never able to equal its achievement.

Prahaar is a must watch for one and all. Anyone who is interested in Indian films will love this film. It is devoid of comedy, song and dance routines and many of the masala tropes but what it has is an intriguing story, heartwarming performances and an engulfing drama that is bound to get you.

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

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