Benaam Badsha
India 1991
Directed by K. Ravi Shankar.

Anil Kapoor is the "Boss," a bad ass son of a bitch who terrorizes his neighborhood and doesn't give anything a damn. Juhi Chawla is Jyoti, a beautiful girl that moves into the neighborhood, supposedly to get material for her novel. Slowly, she begins to woo the drunken, violent, smelly criminal, renames him "Deepak", and does it all for an appalling reason that is enough to make any modern viewer, especially modern women, somewhat sick.

It turns out the two share several connections, mostly through the villainous Jackal (Amrish Puri). He pays Deepak to commit crimes. On the side, he uses a nearby orphanage as his own private brothel. When Jyoti discovered what was happening at the orphanage, she called the police and the organizers of the sex ring were arrested. On their release from prison, they finger her as the one who exposed them. We learn in flashback that at the time, she was about to be married to a doctor. Jackal pays Deepak to rape her on her wedding night, which he promptly does. She refuses to marry afterwards, since she is a ruined woman that would bring shame on her husbands family. Her future husband, on the other hand, suggests they get married anyway and just forget about it, but she will have nothing of the suggestion. Instead, she resolves to find the rapist again, woo him, and marry him, so that her honor as a woman would still be intact. And so she does, though most of the audience would be in the bathroom during that part of the film vomiting, so they won't see it. Returning to the theater to give the second half of the film a try, we discover that Deepak cleans up his act, takes a bath, shaves, and generally tries to go "good." Naturally, they have to face Jackal in the end before they can truly live happily ever after.

The disturbing message the film carries, which seems to be that if you rape someone, they will try to marry you no matter what, is so overwhelming as to make the good points of the film carry little weight. Or at least that would be the case, were it not for the incredibly, delightfully over-the-top performance by Anil Kapoor. He is quite simply out of control. The opening scene is perhaps worth the price of admission alone -- he stalks out of prison, and accosts everyone he sees for a light for his cigarette. Each time, they don't have one for one reason or another, and at a dramatic musical cue, he gets madder and madder. Finally, he comes across a burning building, with a baby trapped inside, and he strides up to the flames and lights his cig. It's a great character moment, and worth remembering, as beginning in October of 2005, the government has officially banned all depictions of cigarette smoking in new Bollywood movies. We will never see such a great scene again.

Action scenes are well choreographed and over the top, but few and far between. And as the primary joy in watching BENAAM BADSHA comes from watching "bad Deepak," the second half of the story, featuring "good Deepak," drags considerably. And as it goes on and on, the "marry your rapist" storyline becomes harder to ignore and easier to dislike. Until he is domesticated, though, it is a heck of a wild ride.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on July 29, 2005.


Hmm, I'm on an Anil Kapoor binge and so I might just see this anyway. Especially if he flips out a lot! And horribly offensive storylines make for meaty reviews...

Posted by: the Post-Punk Cinema Club at January 4, 2009 08:02 AM
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