Karz was a smash hit in India when it was released. It has those ever-popular elements of reincarnation, deep spiritual connection to one’s mother, revenge and bad disco music. It also has a grandiose plot very characteristic of its director, Subhash Ghai. You might think from these comments that I did not care for the film, but I found it strangely enthralling. It veers crazily from one genre to another — is it a disco movie? a romance? a murder mystery? a supernatural thriller? — the answer of course is yes, all that and more besides!
The story begins with a courtroom judgment being delivered in favor of Ravi Verma (Raj Kiran) and against a mute sinister figure (Premnath), whose name is referred to variously throughout as
Ravi is given his father’s tea estates and family home back. Alas, his fiancee (Simi Garewal) is in cahoots with
and on their honeymoon trip home to Ravi’s newly restored property in Ooty, she runs him over and kills him next to a Kali shrine. As Ravi’s heartbroken mother beseeches Kali to bring her son back, we are told that a man’s wish left unfulfilled will be fulfilled in his next birth…
Credits roll…Cut to 25 years later. I wonder for a minute if I have inadvertently replaced Karz with everyone’s favorite so-bad-it’s-good movie Disco Dancer.
But no. It’s Rishi Kapoor instead of Mithun in the shiny outfit. He is the famous singer Monty, and he sings an atrocious song about money as strobe lights flash and Village-People-meets-burlesque dancers gyrate around him. A word about the music here: the soundtrack was very popular. I hate it. It’s one of those instances where Indian taste just baffles me.
Monty lives with his manager, Mr. G. G. Oberoi, who is fond of boasting that he is “the maker, the star-maker.” He grew up an orphan and feels the lack of a mother keenly. His friend Dr. Dayal convinces Monty to attend a party with him in order to help him impress his boss. At the party Monty spots a pretty girl (Tina Munim) whom he takes for a servant. Sparks fly and Monty is smitten. He sings a less atrocious (but still bad) song this time, “Dard-e-Dil” — and Tina is enchanted in her turn. But she disappears after it ends and Monty is left bereft. His friend Dayal discovers that she is at a school in Ooty.
Time for another song! It’s HMV’s Golden Jubilee (or Diamond — there are signs for both) and Monty sings another dreadful song while spinning around on a large record:
It is followed immediately by another song. I want to fast-forward and yet I somehow cannot. Good thing I don’t, too, since halfway into this song (which is the movie’s signature tune) Monty begins to get flashbacks to Ravi’s murder, and faints. Dayal takes him to the hospital where he is examined by doctors:
Their conclusion is that either he is seeing an episode from a previous life, or it is psychosis. Monty himself says it happened when he played the guitar “high nodes”. Peace and quiet at a hill-station is prescribed.
Off to Ooty to find Tina! She gives him some token resistance and then succumbs to his charm.
He proposes marriage. She says that she wants to wait until her Uncle Kabira returns from “abroad,” where he has been for some years, leaving her in the care of Ranimaa. I am thrilled to see Pran:
Kabira when he arrives gives his consent to the marriage. Meanwhile (I am leaving a lot of fisticuffs and other general mayhem out for reasons of space and lucidity) Monty begins having flashbacks again, recognizing his surroundings and memories of his mother and sister. One evening Tina takes him to a party at Ranimaa’s house. He recognizes her as the wife who murdered him in his past life and all his memories from that life come rushing back.
What does Monty do? What has happened to his mother and sister? Does his obsession ruin his relationship with Tina? Why was Kabira in jail?
I’m not going to tell you. I’ve exhausted myself (and probably you) getting this far. But it’s worth a watch to see how it all ends. Rishi is not ever going to be one of my favorites, but he’s bearable in this. It is pretty much his movie; Tina and Simi don’t have much to do. Pran as usual dominates the screen when he’s on it, but he doesn’t show up until about halfway through.