Monty (Rishi Kapoor) is a successful pop singer. Whenever he strums a particular tune on his guitar, he has visions of an unknown woman killing a man. The doctor advises Monty to rest and take some time off. Monty takes off for Ooty searching for a young girl, Tina (Tina Munim), with whom he has fallen in love. There the locations seem familiar to him and he discovers that his visions are from his earlier life, where he, Ravi Verma (Raj Kiran), was murdered by his own wife, Kamini (Simi Garewal) shortly after their wedding. Kamini then ruthlessly took charge of all his property, disinheriting his mother (Durga Khote) and sister, Jyoti (Abha Dhulia), making them live in abject poverty. And when he comes face to face with ‘Ranima’ in Ooty, he is shocked to see it is none other than Kamini…
Karz is arguably Subhash Ghai’s best film. The film has all the elements associated with Ghai when he is on song – an interesting tale well-told, good performances from the entire star cast and a brilliant musical score. The film, along with Madhumati (1958), is one of the best Indian films using reincarnation as a plot device. It is no surprise to see the heavy influences of both these films on the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Om Shanti Om (2007).
The film is one of the few better-than-the-original re-workings of a foreign film (The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)) and is ‘Indianised’ extremely well. Ghai and his writers smartly removed the incestious angle of the original totally and converted Karz into the hero’s revenge drama. They also changed the ending of the original film wherein on finding out his true identity, the wife kills her reborn husband again but Karz ensures it caters to Indian sentiments as the murderess gets her just desserts and the film winds its way to a happy ending. What obviously makes the film work and go beyond standard fare is the reincarnation angle and mixing Indian beliefs about reincarnation into the plot as the hero, Ravi Verma, avenges his murder after he is reincarnated as singer Monty. Right from the prologue with Ravi and Kamini’s marriage and his killing (handled extremely well), the typical Bollywood elements or ‘masalas’ are blended expertly to give you a complete entertainer. The film engrosses you and takes you in as you follow Monty through his ‘reincarnation journey.’ And of course, it was novel having two different actors play the hero in different times!
Lifting the film several notches are the performances. Rishi Kapoor is in fine form as the singer who discovers his previous life and excels in all the various shades the role offers him. Just watch his pain and confusion as he tries to come to terms with what is happening to him or the way in which he later masterminds Kamini’s downfall. With Om Shanti Om, Dard-e-Dil and Ek Hasina Thi, he proves there are few to equal him in song and dance sequences. And yes, few actors can carry off shiny, silver trousers better! Tina Munim plays the bimbette heroine adequately enough and scores more with her looks but then her acting ability was never considered her strong point. The master stroke is casting Simi Garewal as Kamini. Simi, playing easily the most memorable role of her career, effortlessly all but steals the film from the rest of the seasoned cast making a great villainess! Another inspired piece of casting is Premnath as Sir Judah, one of Hindi cinema’s memorable villains. Raj Kiran, Pran, Durga Khote, Jalal Agha and Abha Dhulia all add more than able support.
Ghai has always had an extremely good sense of music and Karz is no exception. The music is the highlight of the film though it has to be admitted it is heavily inspired. The standout melody Ek Hasina Thi is taken from George Benson’s As We Love while Om Shanti Om is taken from Trinidad Calypso artist Lord Shorty’s version. This does take away a lot from Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s Filmfare Award for Best Music. Other popular songs include the evergreen Rafi number Dard-e-Dil and the romantic duet Main Solah Baras Ki. Special mention must be made about the picturization of Ek Hasina Thi on stage as well as Dard-e-Dil.
The film for all its highs has it shares of cons. The sequence with the skeletons supposed to be scaring Kamini is highly tacky and yes, even stupid. Tina Munim at times comes off silly, stupid and irritating rather then ‘cute’. Her romantic sequences with Rishi Kapoor are too ordinary and standard. The camerawork, though regarged as innovative in its time, has dated badly. The editing too could have been crisper but again one should remember this sort of pace was very acceptable then in 1980.
Karz was subsequently remade in Tamil as Enakkul Oruvan (1984) with Kamal Haasan taking on Rishi Kapoor’s role and as Yugapurasha in Kannada with Ravichandran.
Hindi, Drama, Thriller, Color