I know I know, normally this is where I talk about a classic film. But it’s been a busy week, and I didn’t manage to watch anything fancy, and I don’t have the energy to talk about anything fancy, and Gupt was a the library. And it is SO AMUSING!!!! In an “amusingly bad” kind of delightful way.
Do you remember the 90s? Not the stupid American 90s, with our grunge music and computers and neon clothes, but the delightful Indian film 90s! With lots of super tight jeans/skirts on full figured actresses, constant “school functions”, and heroes who were “bad” because they sometimes drank beer, and heroines who were “good” because they believed in love even if they also wore tiny skirts/shirts.
If you feel nostalgic for those 90s, this is the film for you! It is so 90s I’m gonna die. A “bad boy” hero, two “good girl” heroines (One is rich and one is poor!). A plot that uses some vague argument about globalization and politics as a backdrop. Lots and lots of poorly fitting western clothing. Terrible dances that integrate bad disco moves with lazy classical moves. A hero who sometimes has bags under his eyes and terrible hair, but has so much more enthusiasm than the boys today. A heroine with an actual real looking face and body, with pimples and facial hair and pants that are too tight, who is still so beautiful. Raj Babbar instead of Amrish Puri, but otherwise perfection.
Most of all, this is fascinating for the AMAZING female roles! Our hero is Bobby Deol so, you know, whatever. And he is also written kind of “whatever”. Has issues with his stepfather, is a “bad boy”, is wrongfully accused of murder, escapes and tries to clear his name. But the women! The women are way more interesting!
Often in a two heroine film, it feels like it is so the hero can be extra good and romance two heroines. It’s more kind of 1=2. Whereas in this film, the heroines drive the plot a lot more than our hero. More kind of 1=1, with all three being equal to each other. Meaning we have twice as much female character stuff as we have stuff with our male character! So cool!
(See how this whole song is a duel between the two heroines and Bobby is like totally unaware of it?)
See, this is also a 90s thing. There were so many movies coming out, they didn’t each get a big release and big publicity and big budget. So you have terrible clothes and scripts and directing (so many scenes made no sense in terms of space/time), but you can get away with the kind of cheerfully strong female characters that now would be carefully crafted in anticipation of a million think pieces deconstructing everything wrong/right about them.
And now, SPOILERS! And this plot is GOOOOOOOD. If you think you can’t stand a terrible 90s movie straight through, you should DEFINITELY read the spoilers section just to appreciate it. If you think you can appreciate a terrible 90s movie, then you should not read it, because the plot deserves to be unfolded as you watch.
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Okay, can I just get it out of the way how WEIRD it is that Raj Babbar is playing the father of an angry estranged son, and Bobby Deol is playing a son with issues with his parent remarrying? See, this is what you could do in the 90s! Today that kind of casting would be this whole big deal with everyone reporting on it, and all these personal interviews and stuff. But back then, there were so many movies coming out and everyone was working so much, that you could do this kind of casting just sort of as an accident and no one would even notice.
The rest of the casting is similarly random, and super fun because of it! Manisha Koirala as the rich girl/tomboy. Kajol as the poor girl all cheerfully in love. Parash Rawal as the noble father of the poor girl. Om Puri as the dedicated cop. Oh, and Dalip Tahil, because if it’s a film between 1992 and 1999, there’s some kind of law that Dalip Tahil has to be in it.
(Here he is in Baazigar, between Shahrukh and Kajol)
Bobby is the “bad boy” stepson of powerful government official Raj Babbar. Raj loves him (why? Bobby’s got terrible hair!) and forgives all his wearing of leather and motorcycle riding and drinking “bad boy”ness. But Bobby resents him (why? Raj has good hair!). Then one day at college, a random older man walks into the classroom and propositions Kajol. No, we have never seen Kajol before in this film. And we never learn anything more about this older man. He just wanders into college campuses and hits on female students for no reason, and this is our subtle introduction to Kajol.
Bobby is there too (why? how? when?) and throws the guy out. And then apparently sees Kajol for the first time despite them presumably being in this class together all semester? And recognizes her as his childhood sweetheart, daughter of his father’s secretary. Their immediate connection is witnessed by tomboy type Manisha Koirala, also in the same college class and yet somehow never having seen either of them before, who looks a little heartbroken.
(Love triangle alert!)
And then they are in love! Kajol happily tells her father that she has found Bobby again since childhood and won’t let him go. Bobby shows up at her house and insists on inviting her and her father as “special guests” to his birthday party that night. And then at the birthday, Raj Babbar announces that he is engaging his son to Manisha Koirala, a fellow wealthy type person. And Bobby dramatically walks over and talks Kajol’s hand instead.
It’s just all so fast! And so poorly costumed! What was with the neon green miniskirts all the time?
Oh, and then boom-boom-boom, Raj Babbar is stabbed to death, Bobby is found over the body and arrested, then immediately convicted and sent to jail (my goodness fictional-Indian-court-system is fast! Much better than the real-Indian-court-system. Although, also much more likely to convict an innocent man, so there is that). And as he is dragged from court, he hands Manisha the locket he found clutched in his father’s dead hand. Because I guess he was never searched and his possessions collected through out this whole arrest/jail/trial period?
The plot meanders on, now we are in jail semi-ripping off Ghayal with Bobby falling in with terrible criminals and convincing them to help him escape, and somehow getting word to Manisha to be waiting with a speedboat at the end of their tunnel. Manisha saves him, takes him home, and has a sexy fantasy about him (Bobby? Really? ANY OTHER DEOL, I can see it. But Bobby? Sexy?) And then Bobby immediately tracks down Kajol, who is thrilled to see him, and the two of them go on the run together to various hide outs found and sponsored by Manisha.
(So, Manisha put on this very uncomfortable looking sexy outfit just to stand there and watch him sleep?)
This is the part I find mildly interesting! The way all 3 of them are handling this love triangle. Sometimes Kajol gets slightly possessive, but mostly there is an understanding that both women love Bobby, and Bobby cares for both of them (he may really love Kajol, but he cares about Manisha), and so the three of them will form an awkward truce. Also, how fascinating is Manisha’s character?!?!? A rich girl, but not a spoiled one, one who loves her man and isn’t just giving him up and marrying someone else, but also isn’t evilly trying to break him up. She is in there as long as he needs her with the kind of faithful selfless one sided devotion we usually see in male characters (Aarya, say).
Bobby keeps tracking down and beating up the men he thinks may have killed his father, but none of them seem guilty. Meanwhile, Om Puri is on the case tracking down the escaped criminals. He finds the other 4 who are all really “bad men”, and then starts looking for Bobby. Quickly figures out that Manisha is helping him, but then as Bobby beats up the other suspects in his father’s case, Om starts to think he is telling the truth about being innocent.
After many many occurrences (including a Hamletian stage show to evoke guilt!), finally Om tracks down the guilty party, based on the Tibetan knives on display on his wall with 2 (or 3? I’ve completely lost track of how many murders there were) missing knives. Parash Rawal! Kajol’s kindly father!
You see, he hated Raj Babbar for what he was doing to Kajol. Back when Bobby and Kajol were tiny children, they were so in love (as children? really?) that Bobby had to be sent away to boarding school to keep them apart. And now, with Bobby declaring his love in front of the world and all that, it was just going to happen again, Raj Babbar would somehow drive a wedge between them and Parash Rawal couldn’t let him. So he brutally stabbed him to death. And then killed 1 (or 2?) more people to hide his crime.
Happy ending! Parash Rawal is in jail, Kajol seems surprisingly unconcerned so long as she gets to be with Bobby, Manisha is still a little sad, but she’s a strong person, she will survive. Oh, and Bobby’s mother has welcomed him back into the family home. Great scene earlier where his little half-brother wanted to run and hug him and his mother was all “NO! He’s terrible and killed your father!”
But then! MINDBLOWING TWIST THAT IS THE ONLY REASON THIS MOVIE IS REMEMBERED/I WANTED TO WATCH IT!!!! The little brother manages to open the locket, and it’s got two photos, one of Kajol and one of Bobby!
Pausing a moment here, maybe if Bobby had handed it over to the police as evidence the way he should have, they could have opened the locket ages ago and solved this case. Maybe, just possibly, escaping from jail and beating people up is not the best way to investigate a complex crime.
Oh right, this makes Bobby suspicious of Kajol. And Om Puri is getting suspicious too, because Pawash’s story just doesn’t add up. So he goes to visit him in jail and we get this really cool flashback!
Kajol is just so amazing. She plays it as the typical 90s “heroine in love” but just slightly over the top. She loves Bobby, she needs Bobby, everything has to work out, it just has to. And so when they were threatened, she went and killed Raj Babbar. And her father knew it and helped hide the crime, because she was too nutty to even see the need. And then she killed 1 (or 2?) more people to hide it. And now she is ABOUT TO KILL MANISHA!!!
It’s such a fun role for the two heroines. So fun! Manisha gets to be all tough and investigating and interesting, and Kajol gets to be all slightly-psychotic-but-she-keeps-it-inside-mostly. And then they get this awesome ending action sequence just to themselves, Kajol with a bloody knife slashing away and Manisha running and screaming and hiding. Such a disappointment when Bobby shows up and interrupts it with his stupid man-ness. But it’s also really fun to see Kajol turn on a dime and be all “sweetheart! You’re hear! Manisha’s crazy, save me!”
Oh, and then the movie’s over. Bobby stops Kajol and ends up with Manisha, just like his father wanted. It’s all very sudden in the best 90s “well, we ran out of money, so I guess the movie is over” kind of way.