Dir. Kirti Kumar
I am planning to give a collective report on my recent five-film Govinda marathon (I was calling it a binge, but marathon is a much more pleasant metaphor). But the last film of the five, Hatya, is so different, and so excellent, that it deserves comments of its own.
It's hard to even imagine how this film could share a post with a bunch of David Dhawan flicks. Hatya is a thriller that makes minimal use of Govinda's comic skills, and yet showcases the breadth and depth of his talents. He does some dancing (and does it quite well, of course) but for the most part, he gives a serious and tender performance as a troubled man. His character, Sagar, has lost his wife and child, and has turned to drink an in attempt at slow suicide. In a very effective scene that signals how different Sagar is from the archetypical trickster of his comedy films, Sagar reveals a touching self-awareness as he tells a friend that he drinks in hopes of pickling himself to death, and picks fights with goons in hopes of being beaten to death. Sagar is a smart fellow, but not a happy one.
Most affecting in Govinda's performance is the tenderness Sagar shows when he takes in a deaf, dumb boy he names Raja (Sujitha). His Sagar is a man who wants to love and nurture, and is in agony because the world has taken away his chance to do that. There is redemption in caring for Raja, and Sagar takes to it fiercely, defending Raja almost like a mother bear. Raja responds to the Sagar's intensity and the intensity of his love; he is desperate for safety and protection and senses that Raja can provide both. Before meeting Sagar, Raja witnesses two murders, including that of his own mother. The killers, Surendra (Anupam Kher, in a small but chillingly sociopathic role) and Ranjit (Babu Antony), come after Raja, who cannot do more than gesticulate in vain attempts to tell Sagar what he has endured. Sagar senses the boy's anxiety, and bond created by their complementary needs - Raja's for security and stability, and Sagar's for something to do with his powerful instinct toward love and protection - is rendered sweetly and powerfully. It is the emotional heart of the film, and it is thoroughly riveting.
Hatya doesn't let you forget that it is a 1980s Hindi film or that it stars Govinda. It has a few songs, especially early on, that give him a chance to shake his stuff. Sagar is an engineering graduate and, judging by his home, a fairly wealthy fellow - but by the time the movie starts, his troubles have left him working as a professional wedding guest and cabaret dancer. There are silly filmi coincidences, too. Sagar is a gifted painter, which allows him to create a police-style suspect sketch of Ranjit just when one is needed. And the young woman Sapna (Neelam) who lives in Sagar's neighborhood and falls in love with him just happens to be the estranged sister of Raja's murdered mother. On top of all this, little too much of Sagar's arc of redemption is made explicit in windy, wordy dramatic speeches.
Don't forget it's the 80s!
But these are minor complaints against a movie that is for the most part taut and engaging and made with a great deal of craft. Kirti Kumar (Govinda's brother) supplements the fairly well-tuned script with the occasional arresting visual, a delicate bit of characterization, a subtlety in performance. From the tense, dark, dialogue-less opening sequence of the murders, it is clear that Hatya is wrought with attention to framing and mood. In one striking scene, Ranjit lures Raja down a hospital corridor with a motorized toy dog. The shot down the antiseptic hospital corridor is shot from floor level, the dog barking creepily in the foreground, Raja small and vulnerable in the chilly distance. And while there isn't a whole lot for women to do in Hatya, it is enjoyable that Sapna initiates the romance with Sagar, nervily declaring her feelings to Sagar. This isn't unheard of, but it isn't common, either. Sapna's love is stirred by the gentle tenderness he shows toward Raja, the same feeling that makes Sagar's story stand apart from usual thriller fare. The romance underscores Sagar's redemption arc, rather than distracting from it or seeming tacked on. Even the fight scenes are crafted with care - one of them is set to one of Bappi Lahiri's jaunty disco vamps, adding an almost humorous bounce to the drama. It all adds up to make Hatya a thoroughly satisfying film.
One of Hatya's thoughtfully crafted shots.