Monday, 17 September 2007

Darr (1993)

Many have charted the origins of Shah Rukh Khan's rise to fame, and major way-stations on that road to glitz can be found in his double-whammy of demented lover roles from back in the early 90s. These two roles are, of course, in the films Baazigar and Darr (Fear). The films are really quite similar. In both, Shah Rukh Khan is clearly insane and villainous. In both, he suddenly switches everything around on you so that, by the last ten minutes, you realize he's actually charming in a vulnerable, schizo way, and, in both, you suddenly gasp, "Nooooooo!" when you realize the inevitable end of most Bollywood villains (falling into a vat of lava, or similar).

But if Baazigar is Luke Skywalker, then Darr is Han Solo. If Baazigar is Veeru, Darr is Jai. (Hot damn, we made a Sholay reference!) Darr is edgier. Darr is darrker (hee). Darr is just a little... bit... more.


You're mine, K-K-K-Kiran.


There's little ambiguity to Shah Rukh's character in Darr, Rahul. Whereas Baazigar's Ajay/Vicky was a bit of a mystery, and much of the film's delight came in unravelling just what the hell he thought he was doing, Rahul is pretty straightforward: "I love you, K-K-K-K-Kiran!" Yes, he's insane, in the way only movie characters can be insane. He even has a Stutter of the Demented, a la Jeremy Irons in Die Hard 2. He flashes pictures of Kiran (Juhi Chawla) on the walls of his (admittedly totally awesomely furnished) bedroom. He carves KIRAN into his chest. He has lengthy conversations with his late mother. And he calls Kiran night after night, terrorizing her and her fiancee, Action Man Sunil (Sunny Deol). In the usual irony of Hindi cinema, Rahul is actually Sunil's boss' son, so there are many moments when everyone is together and no one (except Rahul... and us!) realize who's been calling who.

Like Baazigar, this is all very fun and engaging in a B-movie way. Ooh, Rahul snuck into the family's Holi festivities! Aah, Rahul is violating Kiran's personal space yet again by invading her home! Ooh, Rahul's junkie friend has provided the perfect cover!


They're singing the Silsila Holi song!


And we at the PPCC knew what was coming. We had heard that you suddenly Feel for Rahul, that Shah Rukh's magical touch makes even this seemingly one-dimensional (or, at least, obviously scary) villain into someone you end up sympathizing with. What we at the PPCC did not expect was just how effective this transformation is. In the final scenes, (apparently intentionally) reminiscent of that oldie but goldie Dead Calm, when Rahul rocks himself in his seat, holding himself and singing pathetically, Tu hai meri, Kiran... Tu hai meri..., we suddenly exclaimed, "Oh no, I don't want him to fall into a vat of bubbly lava!"

Indeed, they say that, for the first time in filmi history, the cinema audiences cheered when the villain stabbed the hero. When the hero, being an Action Man, improbably returns to life to then beat up the villain, our insides went all funny and compassionate. Oh, don't do it, Sunil, he can't help being mental. He just needs a girlfriend! He just needs his mother's love!


The bestest, bad-assest song in the film.


Indeed, Shah Rukh's powers are truly a marvel in Darr. He goes at it with energy and intelligence, and he knows eeeeegg-zactly what he's doing to us, the viewer. Another rumor is that Sunny Deol was so upset with how he was portrayed in Darr (like a boring, wooden, lame-o) that he broke ties with director Yash Chopra altogether. Aamir Khan also backed out, as he was initially cast as Rahul, and yet he didn't like the way Chopra "played games" - telling the hero he was the hero and the villain he was actually the anti-hero? Whatever Chopra said, it's clear that Rahul was a role that came with baggage. Shah Rukh stepped in and delivered a whollop, sending him high onto the popularity charts and knocking Sunny Deol back a bit.

Once again, we must note that the female characters in some mainstream movies alternate between tearful, frightened and demure, with little personality in between all that. Juhi Chawla, who is usually quite fun (see Naajayaz or Paheli), basically just sits along for this ride, playing victim and then, briefly, heartless tart. Sunny Deol, as we said, comes across as a boring, wooden, lame-o.

In true Yash Chopra style, the settings are marvellous and the Swiss Alps, yes, feature again. Thankfully, Yashji spares us his poetry and the waterfalls, and instead presents us with some delicious tension and suspense. Yay for thrillers! But most of all, yay for SRK!

2 comments:

Beth said...

I'm torn. I startle very easily, but I know Bollywood violence tends to be so schlocky that even I can handle it. Hmmmm.

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Nice review! I enjoyed what a freak SRK was in this film. Check out his picture in this post I did:

http://bollywoodfoodclub.wordpress.com/2007/11/21/mad-tales-from-bollywood-portrayal-of-mental-illness-in-conventional-hindi-cinema/

I love spying Johnnie Walker drinking in Bollywood moives, and Daar has one of my all time favorite scenes, when Sunny's character uses it as a tool to break down SRK's character. It's the Johnnie Walker that reveals the truth of just who SRK's character is.

All the best!
Sita-ji