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May 7, 1999


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The Last Hurrah

Sharmila Taliculam

A still from Kartoos
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Here's yet another last film from Mahesh Bhatt. The encore to his swan-song may never end.

After Zakhm, we have Kartoos, the cartridge. In truth, however, it must be said that Zakhm was the last film signed on, and it just so happened that Kartoos was released later.

Jeet Balraj (Sanjay Dutt) is the eponymous kartoos and the man firing him is policeman Jai Suryavanshi (Jackie Shroff).

The film tells the story of Jeet, who is on death row for various murders, and Suryavanshi, the policeman who wants this convict to kill just once more, this time an international criminal that his department has been chasing for a long time.

This dreaded gangster, Jagat Jogia (Gulshan Grover), is in hiding overseas but he continues spread terror at home. The police can't finish him off because they can't go trigger-happy in a foreign land.

Yet, Suryavanshi wants Jogia killed, by hook or by crook. And the crook is Jeet.

This time round, instead of the Mafiosi, the police makes Jeet an offer he cannot refuse. He is promised release if he can help kill Jogia.

But there is a twist in this tale: In the end, Suryavanshi has bigger plans for Jeet.

Jackie Shroff, as the tough, heartless cop is very convincing. The camera lets him play the ruthless policeman through his eyes alone. But Sanjay Dutt, clearly, lends character to the film. His identification with the helpless man on death row, who is being blackmailed into killing yet again, is total.

A still from Kartoos
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There are scenes where you pity him because he doesn't want to kill anymore and is forced to only because his life is on the line.

There is no love lost between the convict and the policeman and they keep sparring all through.

The sole irritant is Manisha Koirala who looks beautiful but refuses to act. Besides, she looks silly playing a Punjabi girl who is visiting London to get hitched. But the crowning glory of all, is her miserable attempt to speak with a Punjabi accent.

Apart from that, there is no weakness in her role. She is the girl who makes a hardened criminal fall in love and accepts him the way he is.

As usually with Bhatt, emotions have been handled very well. There are several scenes where the victimisation and the helplessness of the killer stand out in contrast to the policeman's pleasure in deploying one killer to eliminate another.

Jackie Shroff, who has played the policeman umpteen times, for once does full justice to the Hindi cinema cliché. Bereft of all theatrics, he convinces the audience of a Suryavanshi who can argue with ethics if it will get the job done.

He doesn't have a romantic angle in the film, and one doesn't miss it either. His well-balanced part is played with confident ease.

A still from Kartoos
Click for bigger pic!
Despite the snake-like, cold-eye character he plays, Jackie Shroff manages to retain the positiveness of an antihero. Once again, here's why it is possible to cast big actors without romance and songs.

The film keeps a good pace throughout. It is a little dramatic at times but then, this is a Mahesh Bhatt film.

The second half of the film is really engrossing. Especially after Jeet, the killer, completes his mission and slays the gangster. Now he only has the policeman to handle.

The beautiful locales in London, South Africa and Sun City are well shot. Kartoos is through and through an action thriller, and thankfully very slick.

Three music directors have worked on the film: Anu Malik, Bally Sagoo and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Khan has sung two songs, and as usual, excelled in both.

The much-publicised Teri yaad number is difficult to comment on. Though the song is good and shot smartly, it does not seem to belong to the film. It begins abruptly and seems to be anchored to nothing in particular. It has some heavy-duty digital graphics, though. Ken Ghosh, the outstanding director of music videos has directed the filming of this song, and it shows.

Sanjay Dutt is, once again, a criminal with a soft heart. But he has executed the role well enough to drain it of any tedium. He gets to do songs, dances and fights. He has a heroine to pair up with too. And still, his central character, of a killer, remains convincing. After all, this is a man who can be blackmailed into killing again.

Fortunately, Mahesh Bhatt doesn't play the shrink and justify the actions of his characters by replaying their pasts for us. No flashbacks, mercifully!

The transformation of the longhaired criminal into a suave gentleman might jar a little. But then, no flashbacks to bore us with reasons!

There is a lot of violence here but it is not repulsive, perhaps because it is all really a part of the story. After all, we are talking about a policeman, a killer and a gangster.

Mahesh Bhatt's last action thriller Angaarey bombed, with both critics and audiences. But he has resiled with Kartoos, which packs in his vintage touch.

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