ANJAAM (1994)

Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit in a still from Anjaam
  • Release Date: 22/04/1994
  • Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Kiran Kumar, Deepak Tijori, Tinnu Anand, Sudha Chandran
  • Director: Rahul Rawail

A brutal and unflinching portrayal of how evil obsession can be

Anjaam released 4 months after Darr. Anjaam’s star Shahrukh Khan played an anti-hero in Darr where he was obsessively in love with the character of Kiran played by Juhi Chawla. He plots, cheats, kills, and kidnaps his way to nearly taking control of Kiran’s life before her fiancé played by Sunny Deol pummels him to death. There was a sense of helpless love and obsession associated with the character that Khan played in the film and most viewers connected with him and they cheered more for him than they did for Sunny Deol. Even though he does all things evil, he was by no means the villain of the film. He was more of an anti-hero and was doing what he was doing just to make the girl of his dreams his own.

However, In Anjaam, Vijay Agnihotri (Shahrukh Khan) is pure evil. From the moment he lays his eyes on Shivani (Madhuri Dixit) at a party, he starts wrecking her life for doing his bidding. He is rich and spoilt and believes that whatever he desires ought to be his. Vijay believes that he is in Love with Shivani and since he is rich and good looking, there cannot be any reason for Shivani to not reciprocate his romantic advances. However, Shivani is in love with Ashok (Deepak Tijori) and the two get married in a hurry leaving Vijay perplexed. Now, his so-called love turns into a dangerous obsession and he starts planning to separate the two that quickly escalates to a piling body count for Shivani. Vijay is not suffering from any psychological illness. On the contrary, he is an efficient schemer and would go to any lengths to possess Shivani. Anjaam portrayed Shahrukh Khan in an avatar that most of his compatriots would not have the courage to attempt even today.

Anjaam is an extremely difficult film to watch even with all its songs, dances, and forced comedy. The kind of brutality that the film depicts committed on a woman by the hero of the film sent shivers down my spine. I watched it in 1994 when I was an 8-year-old and I still remember my experience from the viewing. Up till that time, I hadn’t seen anything like it in Hindi cinema where the lines between the hero and villain were always very clearly defined. Over the years I have re-visited the film numerous times and I have come to appreciate it even more for the audacious performances by Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit and the kind of risks that the film took in terms of its story and treatment. They ditched most of the norms of that era and experimented with a brave and different film.

Madhuri Dixit in a still from Anjaam

The way the tragedies pile up against Shivani was just horrifying to watch. Vijay beats up Shivani’s husband Ashok to a pulp for hitting her. By the time Shivani learns of it, Ashok is already in the hospital and battling for his life. Vijay comes to visit her and tells her to divorce Ashok then and there and marry him instead. As crazy as it may sound, this discussion proceeds in a direction that results in Vijay pulling the oxygen mask off Ashok resulting in his death. I was dumbstruck by this sequence. When Shivani tries to get justice from the law, her muddled statements are used against her to prove Vijay’s innocence. The corrupt police officer played by Kiran Kumar who is also a friend of Vijay plays his part in this portion. Vijay walks free.

Following this, He again forces Shivani to accept his proposal and when she refuses him again, this time he conjures up an imaginary attack and frames Shivani for attempting to murder him. Shivani is unable to defend herself in the court of law and is imprisoned. If that was not enough, Vijay meets with an accident a few scenes later as he was driving drunk. In the accident, he runs over Shivani’s elder sister and her infant daughter.

Shivani soon gets the news and learns that it was Vijay with whose car the accident of her family happened. She again must accept her fate and is unable to do anything about it. Shivani’s nightmare is completed when she is beaten up mercilessly by the jailer doubting that she has been snitching about the jailor’s wrongdoings in the jail and this leads to her having a miscarriage. The circle of hell is completed. She has nothing left now in the world except for a sense of purpose that spirals from her unflinching desire to exact revenge on the man who wrecked her life. Revenge is all that she has left now, and she would go to any distance to extract it.

Madhuri Dixit and Shahrukh Khan in a still from Anjaam

Shahrukh Khan is shown doing some of the most despicable things that any Indian leading man was ever shown doing on-screen. There are moments when one gets to peek inside his evil mind with just a look to his eyes. He does the cruelest of things but does it all with a straight face and calm demeanor. One of the highlights of his performance is his testimony in the court against Shivani. Unlike Darr, where his character was theatrical from time to time, In Anjaam, he plays a composed and menacing villain who hardly raises his voice. The few times when he is shown losing his cool are the moments when Shivani is psychically harmed by some other character. The contrast is almost baffling in these sequences as he is the person who is causing her more harm than anyone else. The fact that Shahrukh Khan perfectly complements Madhuri Dixit and the two share a flawless timing for each other’s histrionics elevates their respective performances.

Madhuri Dixit’s Shivani is made to endure some of the most horrific injustice that a Hindi film heroine has ever been shown enduring. She effectively makes the viewer feel every punch, every injustice, every loss, and every sorrow meted out to her. We watch helplessly as her tragedies wreck and ultimately tear apart her life bit by bit. If it was not for Madhuri’s engaging and heartbreaking rendering of the character, Anjaam would not have been half as affecting as it ended up being. Even though the film has its share of 90s cliché associated with the heroine like her singing and dancing from time to time (some of those are dream sequences), Shivani’s character never loses her punch, affectivity, and realism and for that Madhuri deserves all the praise in the world.

Anjaam was a far cry from anything that Bollywood was dishing out in 1994. It took a leaf out of Darr and turned it into something very different and sinister. The film ends in a tragedy with Vijay and Shivani contributing to each other’s death. Shivani roars “my living on is unimportant, what is more, important is that you die” before she flings herself off a cliff with Vijay lodged at her feet. Shivani’s final words to Vijay document her unflinching hatred for the man that was inspired by his heinous and brutal atrocities on her. Anjaam is as much about the end of the evil as it is about his atrocities and how his end is brought about. The greatest strength of the film lies in the journey and not so much at the end which, by the way, is undeniably wish-fulfilling.

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

Here is the link to the full movie :

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