Sanjeev Kumar, Shatrugan Sinha starrer Qatl is an entertaining revenge saga relevant even today
Editor's note: Whatever happened to watching a film, just because? When was the last time you watched a film, just because you stumbled upon on it, or heard someone mention it in passing? We're so used to reviews, previews and a barrage of recommendations — it almost feels like it is impossible to enjoy watching a film without it being topical. And so, here's a column we're introducing — Films, Just Because.
Almost every single screenwriting book describes a hero’s journey as one besieged by obstacles forced upon them by the narrative or the villain.
Additionally, if the protagonist also has some physical ailment to overcome, it makes the triumph much sweeter thanks to the insurmountable odds. This elevates the revenge or thriller genres like in the case of Wait Until Dark (1967) where a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) is terrorised by a trio of thugs who think a heroin-stuffed doll is hidden in her apartment or Vipul Shah’s Aankhen, where a disgruntled bank manager (Amitabh Bachchan) trains three blind men (Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal, and Paresh Rawal) to rob a bank.
Last year’s Kaabil ventured into similar territory where a blind man (Hrithik Roshan) sets out to avenge the murder of his blind lover (Yami Gautam). Unique as it may sound, Kaabil or Aankhen, however, is not the first time in Hindi film where a blind man plots revenge. In fact, Qatl (1986), where Sanjeev Kumar plays an actor who loses his eyes while saving his actress wife (Sarika) and later plots her murder when he finds out that she is cheating on him, also predates both Blind Fury (1990) or Daredevil, two of the most popular Hollywood titles featuring visually impaired protagonist.
Ranjeet (Marc Zuber) saves Rohini (Sarika), a struggling actress, when she is caught shoplifting and offers her a job in his theatre company. Rohini gives in to Ranjeet’s sexual advances in order to land a lead role. Later when the director of a play gives Rohini a dressing down for being unable to execute his instructions, Rakesh (Sanjeev Kumar), an actor-director himself, comes to her rescue. He helps her blossom into a fine actress and the two fall in love. They marry each other but tragedy strikes when in an accident while saving Rohini, Rakesh loses his eyesight. Rakesh accepts destiny and with the help of Sita (Ranjeeta), a nurse, he starts learning to live life as a blind man. Rohini tries her best to keep his spirits up and quits acting to take care of Rakesh but a few months down the line she starts missing the stage. She rekindles her affair with Ranjeet and makes Rakesh tell her to go back to acting. Rakesh soon finds out about their affair and decides to kill her. He trains himself to become familiar with his surroundings and begins to plot his revenge. He then gets Sita fired and even gets himself a guide dog to complete the charade. Rakesh kills Rohini and while all evidence points towards Ranjeet, the cop assigned to the case, Inspector Shatru (Shatrughan Sinha) is convinced to call the blind man’s bluff.
One of the last few films that Sanjeev Kumar worked on, Qatl released a few months after his death.
Needless to say, convincing as he always was, Kumar does not leave anything out while playing Rakesh to convince you that the visually impaired man could not only plot but also execute the perfect murder. This R.K. Nayyar directed film does not have any exceptionally choreographed sequences that stand out but that is perhaps also what makes it, in the manner of speaking, unique.
Qatl appears to be two different films at times – the one about a struggling actress meeting a man who exploits her and then marrying someone who nearly dies for her, and the other where Rakesh transforms into this cold-blooded creature determined to kill his philandering wife.
Enough screen time and drama are dedicated to the first portion with a retinue of characters flowing in and out but it is the latter that is truly campy and ergo, a treat to watch. Kumar’s Rakesh is not a very emotional person but comes across as committed, and therefore even when he chooses to teach Rohini a lesson by killing her and framing the lover, it is more about an actor prepping for a role of a lifetime than anything else. Rakesh plots the crime in a nonchalant, dispassionate way but that doesn’t mean he is bereft of emotion; in fact, he cares but not enough.
Written by J.P. Choksey and screenplay by Vinod Ratan, Qatl also has a very typical Hindi film leitmotif running through it in the form of a fakir played by Ashok Kumar singing the same song. The song, ‘Kisi ka dil jo todega’ comes at different places through the course of the film, and sheepishly enough, preempts the visuals.
In some ways, Qatl reminds you of either Daredevil, the superhero series or Blind Fury (1990) where a blind Vietnam vet (Rutger Hauer) trained as a sword fighter, comes to the United States and helps to rescue the son of a fellow soldier. Post-Kaabil and Daredevil, Qatl is more than worthy of a relook.
Other films from the column:
Maha Sangram: A true-blue '90s flick that didn't get its due
Kroadh: A tale of two brothers bent on revenge that deserves a re-examination
Mahesh Bhatt's Kaash: A convincing exploration of the theme of death
Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 17:12 PM