Karz (1980)

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

surjuda.jpgkarz_sir_juda.jpgkarz_sir_tudor.jpg and karz_judah.jpg

Ravi is given his father’s tea estates and family home back. Alas, his fiancee (Simi Garewal) is in cahoots with

surjuda.jpgkarz_sir_juda.jpgkarz_sir_tudor.jpg and karz_judah.jpg

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…

karz_kali.jpg

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.

karz_disco.jpg

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.

karz_problem.jpg

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:

karz_hmv.jpg

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:

karz_yesmonty.jpg

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.

karz_brain_dept.jpg

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:

karz_kabira.jpg

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.

karz_ranimaa.jpg

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.

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35 Comments to “Karz (1980)”

  1. Wow! that was one entertaining flick….I’m so worried that a sequel(or is remake) that’s being made will not catch the same magic!

  2. It really was SO entertaining :-) So much of its charm is rooted in the time period when it was made…difficult to see how that could be reproduced, for sure!

  3. Hi

    Karz is the indian version of the hollywood movie ” Reincarnation of Peter Proud”

    cheers

  4. …but waaaaaay more fun, I’ll bet!

  5. The most funny part was sir jooda communicating with his cohorts thru wat seemed like a shorthand version of morse code…Pran was good though.

  6. I know! the finger-tapping code was hilarious. Pran was awesome as usual :-)

    • Pran as villian was so succesful there were a few years in India were kids born were not named Pran, and this was attributed to the successfull viiianous image attached to the name,… thanks to Mr Pran!

  7. I have been a lurker here for quite some time, but don’t remember ever having commented before. But gawd u did NOT like the music :P:P:P……Even though this movie was made well before I was even born I luuuuuuurrrrve the music :). Everybody is still crazy abt the Om shanti om track (the one where he spins on the record). But I guess to each her own!

    Great blog though.

  8. Hi Karishma :-) Glad you came out of the woods to speak up. Indian disco hits do just baffle me. They are so cheesy to my western ears. Sorry! I am hugely entertained by them though.

    • The songs..Paisa yeh paisa and Om Shanti Om are cult hit songs..
      SRK’s Om Shanti Om of course was based on this film…Though in the last scene he freely lifted the climax of Madhumati, the Bimal Roy classic..seen that film?

    • Memsaab:

      You bring up an imp point. My observation related to your cheesy disco comment.

      In late 60′s thru mid 80′s lot of Indian music directors mainly RD-God, Bappi Lahiri (mostly 80′s), Laxmi-Pyare to small extent brought western themes to Indian film music. If done well like Rd-God did, these western tones when blended and superimposed by Indian tones, instruments, voices and lyrics makes this fusing very different and conducive to Indianized ears.

      However, when heard without the Indianized senses these disco tunes easily fall back to comparing to Western sounds diluting its flavor. The spices are lost, the sweetness is lessened. They definately sound cheesy.

      It seems to me you have great inkling for Bollywood but you have lot more impression of non-Indian-life than the Indianized experiences. Due to this you are able to appreciate a lot of color and sound but somewhere you do not feel the vibrance and subtleties between the 24 frames per second. Whatsoever, your perspective (and adoraton for Shammi Kapoor) is noteworthy.

  9. you mean to say that premnath is really called sir juda?
    that would either mean joined at the head (with a hard D)
    or seperated (like judaai) from the head (with a soft d)

  10. I have no idea what they actually call him…I was far too distracted by the variance in subtitles to take notice :-D

  11. I don’t think the music was too terrible… Well, okay, the only songs I actually liked were the ‘Om Shanti Om’ one and the end one (though I like that one mostly because of what’s happening on screen during it).

    Unfortunately I got the ‘Paisa Ke Paisa’ song stuck in my head one day at work (I’m a clerk at a small hardware store) when I was giving a customer their change and it wouldn’t leave my head all day (it could have been worse – I could have had ‘my God is an awesome God!’ stuck in my head for a millionth time – curse those infomercials!).

  12. the film was subhash ghai’s one of best films

    a nice film to watch

    Rishi was superb and looked his best too
    the others were good too
    pran was nice

    did u watch the crap remake of this KARZZZ??

    btw this film was a remake of REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD(1975)

  13. does anyone know where is raj kiran now,and if he is still alive.i have contacted,by email,a few film personalities with whom he worked and delievered some hits.it seems that no one knows or bothers to respond queries that are related to raj kiran.

    please members!!!throw some light.

  14. @kong:
    Raj Kiran is very much alive, working in Tamil Movies and mostly in Chennai..It is his home anyway…He does very few films now…

    Read about him here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raj_Kiran

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0456093/

  15. @Nagesh

    I am not talking about the South Indian actor.I am talking about Raj Kiran who played Ravi Verma in Karz.In a small role,he enthused life.What a dedicated and sincere actor he was.Dino Moria played the same role in its remake which flopped.His acting is more shameless than him.Memsaab and knowledgable members,please,please,please,let me know if RK is still alive.He is one of the BHOOLE BISRE actors who just disappeared from the face of earth.I have been losing my sleep over this issue.

  16. Yaaro!!Koi to Bolo Raj Kiran Ka Kuch Pata Nahi Hain.Zameen Kha Gayee,Ya Aasmaan Nigal Gaya……..

    • I did a search on “Raj Kiran” and sure enough got a thousand hits on the Tamil actor. I was looking for the Hindi actor Raj Kiran like you and just amazed that in this day and age, he cannot be traced. This is bizarre considering he was a reputed actor of his day (“Arth” for gods sake!!).

      I read an article on Ronit Roy (another good actor who got buried in Television) where he mentions in passing about Raj Kiran reduced to driving a taxi to make ends meet. Not sure how true this is but if it were then it’s really sad!

  17. Hey guys…its the same with me!!!I am trying like hell to trace out Raj Kiran!!!Where IS the man!!I have read the same article about Ronit Roy too…and yes…I am confused with him and the Tamil Actor…!!are they athe same???Dont think so!!Please someone tell me where is RAJ KIRAN.Honestly, I am losing sleep over the same as well…Pls pls pls…someone would know!!

  18. I think there is something very embarrassing behind Raj Kiran’s disappearance. A long long while ago I remember reading something hinting that he was in trouble – sort of a knowing ‘hint hint nudge nudge’ remark knowledgeable to those in the know but maddeningly enigmatic to those out of the loop. And I do recall that it was more or less about the time that he just disappeared from the screen!

  19. Hi ! Guys

    Got the below write up which was published in Outlook Dated June 96.

    The Private Hell of Raj
    BOLLYWOOD will find it hard to play down its desertion of Raj Kiran, while he was locked up in Bangalore Central Jail for over a month. Known for his roles in Arth and Karz, Kiran had been locked up since June 5 for trespassing, after three attempts, on Satya Sai Baba’s Vrindavan Ashram near Bangalore. None of his Bollywood friends helped. His father, who read about Kiran in press reports, came to the rescue. The actor has reportedly been mentally unstable after his wife and two kids left him to settle in the US. “I don’t believe in godmen. My children are my gods,” says he.

  20. Hi Memsaab,

    Please accept my appreciation for the extensive work you do in terms of reviewing movies present and from a bygone era. I accidentaly bumped into this site while looking for insights into ” Aakhri Khat” and ” Chetan Anand”. and later ” Dulhan Ek Raat Ki”. You are a fine connoisseur of Indian movies. May I also request you to share your review on the 1975 movie ” Kagaz ke Nao”. if you have it in your repertoire. The songs at least one ” Har Janam mein tumhara Milan” was a melody worth remembering. Sapan Jagmohan was the music directors and the movie was directed by B R Ishara. Sarika and Raj Kiran both were talented artistes. Sadly didnt achieve the levels they deserved to attain.

    • Thanks Sai :) I have never heard of Kagaz Ke Nao! Will have to look for it although it is probably not available with subtitles :( Sarika must have been very young when it was made—I haven’t seen her in much, but always think she is so gorgeous.

  21. I felt “Karz” started off quite promising, strong camera angles and lots of development, even the colors reminded me somewhat of that mother of all masala flicks, Amar Akhbar Anthony, i also felt parallels to Seeta aur Geeta. Later i felt the movie lost steam, track and the revenge theme was too overpowering (just as in Karz predecessor Om Shanti Om of 2007, which is less attractive after intermission and especially towards the end).
    I personally like the “Om Shanti Om” song of “Karz” a lot, but think Rishi is not a good showman impersonator and in these Elvis outfits he looks like a bit like a human rights deprived teddy bear.
    Nice enough masala all in all, and nice recount here, but the above mentioned movies are much better.

  22. Memsaab,
    the soundtrack for Karz was indeed popular albeit falling into the category of bad disco music as you claimed…the songs are super-cult classics even to this day…songs like the sweet adorable jugalbandi Main Solah Baras Ki, the upbeat Ek Haseena Thi (I can actually feel the vibes of vengeance in this song!) and the lovey-dovey Dard-E-Dil still resonate clearly-as-crystal whenever they come to my mind…
    I can understand your exasperation at the soundtrack of this film because at times it does sound like a doomed last-ditch effort to keep up with the times…nevertheless, I beg to differ regarding the song Dard-E-Dil, Dard-E-Jigar…I was quite surprised when you found it to be a “bad song” although it was, according to you again, the less atrocious of the lot…this song is actually a love ghazal in florid Urdu set to Western music…in my humble opinion, Dard-E-Dil is a milestone in Bollywood film music because it is quite a Herculean achievement in its own right: a classical Urdu ghazal is given a contemporary (at that time) and Westernised makeover in spite of its distinctive lyrical structure that all too often calls for pure classical raaga-based Hindustani sangeet (picture Lataji’s gem Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha from the 1962 film Anpadh composed by the Prince of Ghazals himself, the late Madan Mohan)…Laxmikant-Pyarelal received accolades for daring to merge East and West through Dard-E-Dil, and it fetched them the much coveted Filmfare Award for Best Music Director in 1981…Dard-E-Dil is also one of Rafi Sahab’s last songs shortly before his demise that same year (1980), and it is, in my opinion, a sterling swan song befitting his colourful and multi-hued repertoire…holistically speaking, Dard-E-Dil remains a firm favourite because of its sheer authenticity and not to mention Rafi Sahab’s immaculate voice…I am not seeking to change your opinion of the music from Karz, because I am a firm believer of the saying “to each his own”; I am merely doing the revolutionary tunes of this film the justice it deserves…cheers…

    • Gaby, thanks for the background of Dard-e-Dil – very interesting. I quite liked the music of Karz including Dard-e-Dil, but had no idea of the ghazal roots. That was interesting to read.
      The Filmfare Award is sometimes said to be for sale, i am never sure how serious i should take it. If i see it right, Rishi also sings ghazals in Amar Akhbar Anthony – they sound definitely different from the one in Karz.

  23. Henrik,
    I am shocked to hear about the Filmfare Awards being for sale and all that…though to be honest I have heard rumours about it yet chose to shrug them off…perhaps that’s the reason why Madhubala did not win the Best Actress Award for her impeccable performance in Mughal E Azam way back in ’60…the award that year went to the late Bina Rai for her performance in Ghunghat…I have nothing against Bina Rai and I do believe that she is a seasoned thespian in her own right, but then again, there were rumours that some nominees had a bad habit of rigging the votes etc…which is why like you, I’m not much of an avid Filmfare Awards fan…I am more towards the National Film Awards…now Karz is definitely no National Film Award winner material, but it truly is a revolution in a way of its own…ghazals like Parda Hai Parda from Amar Akbar Anthony sung by Rafi Sahab and picturised on Rishi Kapoor 3 years before Karz was released definitely sound different from Dard-E-Dil because they are all strictly raaga-based and rely heavily on pure classical Hindustani sangeet, whereas Dard-E-Dil is an unconventional classic subtly dressed in Western tunes…I really love listening to Dard-E-Dil…cheers…

  24. I just wish to highlight one fact . The events as unfolded in Karz have occurred in real life also. In early1920s Prince OF Bhawal ( a princely state of west bengal ) also underwent similar life . This royal prince was betrayed by his wife and associates while being ill and declared dead and cremated as well But, nature they say has its own ways to ensure justice …..Prince Bhawal resurfaced after few years in nepal as Bhawal Sanyasi … returned to his state … on an elephant …. restored honour of his mother and sister … brought his cheat wife and associates to justice….won a law suite (review petition ) in great Britain… who after examining the intriguing chain of events ….decided that …. The man in question is indeed …The real prince Bhawal…

  25. As if other people have not said enough about it, but still I would say that Karz has a fantastic soundtrack (though a song or two might grate the ears) and I consider “Dard-eDil” one of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s best. Why? Because the very idea of taking a romantic ghazal, getting the God Mohammad Rafi to sing it and then creating that signature LP sound with a complete 100-piece orchestra to make it a party scene is really difficult. This is also personally close to many people because this song is one of the last hits sung by Mohd. Rafi. Other songs may have flaws but Dard-e-Dil is perhaps the best example of what I call the “LP sound”: Indian based melody with a no-holds-barred orchestra backing it! Maybe I love it because I was born in the years (early 1980) when LP and RD Burman were resonating everywhere.

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