Cast: Sultan Rahi, Saima, Ismail Shah, Talish, Sitara
Director: Akram Khan
Renowned sleaze merchant Akram Khan (Aaj Da Badmash, Nawabzada, Khanzada) came out of semi-retirement in 1990 to produce this masala laden pot-boiler. He was undoubtedly inspired by two quite unrelated events. Firstly he discovered the busty and vivacious Saima at a “function” where she stunned him with her beauty and other prodigious god given talents. He pursued her, starry eyed, until she had signed on the dotted line. This was to be the film in which his new “raw diamond” was to be unfurled for the very first time and he was certain the masses would go at least as wild as he had. The second reason for his return from the wilderness was the ill-fated C –130 air-crash that finally brought the curtains down on a decade long military dictatorship. All his earlier classics had been produced in the relatively relaxed climate of the early to mid 70’s but the arrival in 1977 of the pseudo-Islamic military dictatorship meant trouble for directors like Akram who had a penchant for lewd, cheap trashy excellence.
Khatarnaak has nothing to do with the rollicking and masterfully cheap film of the same name from 1974 that set the box office counters ringing due in large part to the panty flashing antics of the curvaceous Anita – the film celebrated a “Golden Jubilee” in all the major centres of the country. This film begins with an honest but financially struggling father going off to get a job somewhere, but before long he returns home to inform a forlorn wife and kids that the job he was being offered was one which forced him to compromise his values – something he refused to do. Moments later the goons (with giant rubber ears!) he refused storm into his house, threatening him with dire consequences unless he join them for a pressing “errand”. The earnest father is enraged when he finds his employers are involved in kidnapping little tots off the street and selling them off for slave labour, most likely as fodder for the falcon flying, camel racing sheikhs of the oil rich Persian Gulf.
The heroic father decides to take on the posse of criminals on his own and ends as a cold lump of dead meat, shot dead right in front of his own toddlers. The kids return home to find that their mother has also expired (cause of death: overdosing on make-up) and their lives lying in tatters all around them. However the resilient eldest brother takes matters into his own hands and decides that he will do all that it takes in order to make something out of his two younger brothers – his wish being that one brother makes it as a lawyer while the other becomes a Police inspector. The eldest brother grows up to become Sultan Rahi while Ismail Shah plays one brother with the lawyer brother played by an unknown. The glamour is provided in large doses by new discovery Saima and her dress designer has gone out of his way to highlight her spectacular curves. Some of the clothes she wears are simply nasty – blonde wig, shiny Lycra figure hugging pedal-pushers, tinsel blouse with a polythene see-through jacket and various unidentifiable accessories – stuff to take the breath away!
Sultan Rahi appears to be doddering ever so slightly and his paunch had spread to alarming proportions, even bulging grotesquely below his trouser belt – he should have stuck to wearing shalwars rather than trousers. There is sometimes a hint of a slur to his dialogue delivery – clearly the great man was well past his prime and many say that by this time in life his paans were filled with a lot more than just tobacco. No disrespect to the man – but in this particular film, the spark is missing. Ismail Shah shows just what a major loss his untimely death was for the industry, robbing it of a bright young star. He performs with admirable spunk and his disco dances are a sight to behold.
Akram Khan hasn’t been able to capture anything like top form with this farcical piece of nonsense – and there simply isn’t anywhere near enough sleaze. The highlight of the film is the horrifying appearance of a bloodthirsty Cyclops monster that goes on a bloody rampage before being tackled by the great Rahi. There are also delightful reappearances of a couple of memorable songs from Akram’s older, classier films including one from Aaj da Badmash. The newer songs fail to match the glorious standards of the classic Madame Noor Jehan – Naheed Akhter 70’s era. Despite its numerous shortcomings Khatarnaak manages (perversely) to entertain for most of the part simply due to its stupendous awfulness. Sadly the sleaze that one associates with such master directors as Akram Khan are not evident this time around – not a panty in sight and not a single “night club” number either which is a sore disappointment for his devotees.
The film will be remembered (if at all) as the film which started Saima’s career – no one realized at the time that Akram Khan had discovered a major talent that would blossom into the nation’s top most actress in times to come. The Cyclops creature too will not be easily forgotten. Khatarnaak finds Akram Khan well below vintage form, yet there is just enough masala to satisfy, if barely so.