October 18, 2002 
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Sanju's shot in the dark
Hathyar gives you no respite from the action and violence

Sukanya Verma

Violence is the way of life in Mahesh Manjrekar's Hathyar, a sequel to his 1999 hit Vaastav (which, like Hathyar was also released in the second week of October in 1999).

If life in Vaastav was suffocating, it is intolerable in Hathyar.

One bone of contention I have with this movie is that for those who have not seen Vaastav, Hathyar may seem incomprehensible and confusing. Also, the script is jammed with too many flashbacks which do not add to the narrative in this film.

Manjrekar obviously has a fondness for flashbacks --- Vaastav was narrated in a flashback.Rewind time present: Raghu (Sanjay Dutt), a pav bhaji stall owner, gets embroiled with the underworld after he accidentally murders a member of the Fracture gang. One thing leads to another. And he becomes an integral part of the heinous scene. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, disturbed with a guilty conscience, Raghu is finally released from his frustrations, when his mother (Reema Lagoo) shoots him in the head.

And Manjrekar's Hathyar, earlier titled Pratibimb, was born as an attempt to look into what happens to the family of a ganglord when he dies.

So Raghu's son Rohit (Sanjay Dutt) is denied admission in a convent school because he is a gangster's son, and is sent to a local municipality school. When they notice his affinity towards academics, Rohit's mother (Namrata Shirodkar, in a brief appearance) and aged grandmother (an insipid Reema Lagoo sporting awful makeup) dream about him growing up to be a doctor or lawyer.

Meanwhile, Rohit's grandfather (Shivaji Satam) is diagnosed with liver sclerosis. To make ends meet and raise the money for his treatment, Rohit's mother takes to prostitution (she was a sex worker in Vaastav).

Fast-forward a few years and Rohit is now a happy-go-lucky college student and ace boxer. But his father's past catches up with him and he finds himself treading the same path his father did. Rohit is easily provoked when a classmate's nasty remarks about his father's infamy.

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The two get into a scuffle and Rohit ends up murdering the classmate. Another tragedy takes place and Rohit discovers his mother is no more. On the run from the police, Rohit seeks refuge from a gangster (Shakti Kapoor). Soon, he becomes Mumbai's leading hitman along with his band of brothers (Sharad Kapoor, Sachin Khedekar).

The pace of the film is super fast. There is no time to breathe, gasp, feel, absorb, react, relate. Bat an eyelid and you will miss four funerals and Rohit aka Boxer bhai's wedding to Gauri (an impressive Shilpa Shetty reduced to a bit role).

Gauri is Rohit's sweetheart, who is married off to an abusive husband (Harsh Chhaya). Husband is then publicly bumped off and Gauri marries her true love. Hathyar

Boxer bhai then stands for elections and becomes a corporator, while simultaneously carrying out his nefarious deals.

Though Hathyar is no milestone in Sanjay Dutt's career, as was Vaastav, he lends vulnerability to Boxer. It is perhaps because of his own personal crisis that his eyes automatically exude hurt and helplessness, which blend with his character in the film. For trivia buffs, Dutt also starred in the earlier Hathyar made by J P Dutta.

Vaastav essentially worked because of Raghu's superb characterisation. Hathyar's Rohit is sketchy. Sanjay Dutt's transition in Vaastav from an unassuming guy to a killer machine was strategically portrayed. In Hathyar, the metamorphosis lacks conviction and emotional appeal. There are stray moments where Dutt succumbs to melodrama. Like when he shoots his best friend (Sachin Khedekar) in a fit of jealousy and later repents in a drunken state.

Hathyar does not have a storyline, if you look for it. The narration is episodic. And gives you no respite from the relentless action and violence. One scene show Gulshan Grover's severely battered head with the brains hanging out. How morbid is that? The sound editor seems to have had a field day with this movie.

Manjrekar seems to have completed this film in a rush. The movie has potential --- delving into the psyche of a gangster's son and family. Here, he merely skims the surface, making Hathyar no different from regular mindless action flicks. Manjrekar does thread the characters of Raghu and Boxer. Like his father, Boxer sports flashy gold chains and rings and enjoys carrom. He, too, is hot-headed, sarcastic and drinks like a fish. Hathyar

One thing has to be said: the climax lacks the novelty and unexpectedness of Vaastav. And Rohit justifies his tragic past with a trite, 'I wasn't born like this.'

In sum, Hathyar is like a shot in the dark. Aimless. It neither preaches nor entertains.

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