Kranti
India 1981
Directed by Manoj Kumar.


"Freedom was not a present from the British, presented on a silver platter on a warm august night. It was the culmination of a long and bloody struggle spread over centuries..." I'm sorry, Gandhi who? KRANTI means, "Revolution." And this movie is for Indians everywhere who are still irritated that the British were not removed violently from the subcontinent in a cathartic bloodbath, and instead actually (shudder) were swayed by peaceful protest and political negotiation. The horror! Instead, stumble across the dead body of a fallen woman, shot for no purpose by the evil British, soak a rag in her blood and throw it in the sky, where the bloody rag bursts asunder to form the letters KRANTI as the music swells and the singer repeats, ever more urgently, ever higher, "Kranti....Kranti!!!...."

Titles at the beginning of the film thank the Indian Archeological Society, then mention the film is a tribute to revolutionaries who fought against the British from 1825-1875 but who were not mentioned in the history books. In other words, we're just making this stuff up, none of it really happened.

The film takes place in Northern India, in the early ninetieeth century, with the British negotiating a treaty with a local lord to use his port. A traitor at the court ensures the British get their way, and soon the king is assassinated. Our hero, Sanga (Dilip Kumar), is a simple peasant with a family, working the soil and obeying his lord, only to find that his lord has been assassinated by the Kings brother, and the crime is pinned on him. He escapes, losing children and his wife, believing them dead, and heads for the open water, to fight British ships whenever he is able. His name is forgotten and he becomes known only as Kranti.

His family survived, his son getting sent Moses-style down river to be picked up and made a Prince (Shashi Kapoor). Mom (Nirupa Roy) is sent to work as slave labor breaking rocks, as slaves are always shown doing for no purpose whatsover in these types of epic productions. Another man, Bharat (Manoj Kumar -- also the director, writer, and producer of the picture) fighting the British under the name Kranti comes to her rescue. So there is a land Kranti and a sea Kranti. The British (and the "traitors") conspire to get the two to misunderstand each other and fight, at which point they are captured. Upon their escape, the sea Kranti stays on land while the land Kranti is shipped out to sea.

The movie is jam-packed with action and drama. Of course, the prince is the one sent to subdue Kranti, without realizing they are father and son. Mother India is played to the hilt. The movie suggests that if only no one was a traitor to their country, the British would never have gotten in. However, since India and a "national" identity was pretty much created by the British, this idea only serves to pander to base elements who want someone to hate. The British are portrayed here as evil incarnate, shouting commands like, "Take all the men as slaves, shoot the women and children, they are useless." The slaves are made to crawl on their bellies with their backs whipped whenever the British show up. And of course, one of them tries to rape the heroine (Hema Malini).

In KRANTI's enthusiasm to portray British influence as evil, it props up and celebrates feudalism. The rebel Sanga only wanted to be granted the peace to till his farm, raise his family, and obey his lord. In another scene, Bharat finds converts to the revolutionary effort when he shows off some of the victims of the British, one of whom was a woman who "wished to die with her husband as is our tradition, but was prevented from doing so by the British" who subsequently gang rape her, but one wonders which violation the writers were more upset over.

There are a couple of good songs in Kranti. Hema Malini dances and lip-syncs to a few too many for my tastes, but one is a wet sari song that is engaging to watch. The real beauty of the film however is Parveen Babi, who plays a revolutionary sent to court to spy. She has one song, "Mara Thumpka," and it's the best of the movie, mainly because she is terrifically attractive and hangs from a chandelier at one point. But the best song is the revolutionary "Kranti Kranti," because I guarantee you will be singing it for the next week or so.

KRANTI is a grand spectacle (even sea battles!!) but burdened by a simpleminded and hateful view of colonial history and a touch overlong. Parveen Babi is removed from the scene far too early, and Hema Malini cannot prop up the romance end of the story adequately without her. The beginning of the film is rushed and confused, but it eventually finds its pace and settles down. The melodrama is too orchestrated to stir the emotions, and many moments that may have been meant seriously elicit a laugh. Despite these and many other flaws, in KRANTI, there is never a dull moment.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 02, 2004.


Comments

Totally agree with this review in every detail - especially the demonization of the British to the extent that it was totally unbelievable. The scene where the king was killed and the British commander was behind the chair with the killer, approving of the action and holding his little monocle was too much. Some of the characterizations, like this one, bordered on caricature. The film was redeemed by the acting - especially by Dilip Kumar and Manoj Kumar. I knew that Dilip was terrific but I liked Manoj's performance so well that I will have to check out more of his films. Also concur completely on Parveen Babi.

Posted by: Dave Abbott at June 28, 2006 03:23 PM

FANTASTIC MOVIE

Posted by: NADEEM at July 16, 2006 05:38 AM

Nice review. In fact, this movie is one of my al-time favourites. mainly because of it's epic proportions of everything including the flaws. Apart from the portryal of british there are so many moemnts in the movie that i was like " Oh my god" and this can't be happening. There is a scene in the beginning where enters Manoj Kumar and he is addressing a group of revolutionaries and which are supposed to be conspiring. He starts by shouting aloud and all of them are standing with torches in an open area. Some conspiracy. then there is the scene where they are shooting garlands from a cannon right to Kareem Khan's ( Shatrughan Sinha) neck. absolutely amazing!! believe me the movie is full of this. but i still love the movie and the music is definitely worth it.plus their is a whole fortress made of cardboard in the movie.

Posted by: Leo Sharma at May 10, 2007 08:54 AM

Let me, first of all congratulate you for watching films which even the most ardent Bollywood fans would avoid. You might be missing the best of Bollywood but we are having fun. I remember my school days when I dragged my parents at least 6-7 times to watch this film. It was one of my favorites (maybe as the reviewer pointed out it gave an alternative and more action packed version of Indian freedom struggle -- but then I was a kid then)I recently bought the DVD. It's faults are more (glaringly) obvious but I still enjoyed it. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Saif Khan at December 13, 2007 02:45 AM
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