Red Rose (1980)

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A genre that I haven’t explored much (and by “much” I mean “at all”) in Hindi cinema is that of the horror film. This is not surprising since I dislike being scared, and even the cheesiest of devices employed by the worst directors can cause me several sleepless nights. Examples of movies that have terrified the bejesus out of me include Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and I don’t even want to discuss the ramifications of Jaws on my hygiene in 1975.

But if I’m going to call myself a true connoisseur of Hindi film (and I really really want to!) then I clearly need to suck it up; and since Suhan offered to hold my hand (via an online watchalong) I decided that Rajesh Khanna’s foray into the genre would be a good place for me to start.

Red Rose is a Hindi remake (by the same director) of a Tamil film starring Kamal Hassan and Sridevi (1978′s Sigappu Rojakkal). I haven’t seen that version, and am not likely to; and I have long avoided more contemporary horror films (I finally cut myself off after a Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Eraserhead double feature in college), so my main cinematic comparisons with this were the aforementioned cult horror movies of the 70s which I inflicted on myself as a teen.

The film opens with stylish music by RD Burman (which reminded me of all those 1970′s cop show themes), accompanying scenes of digging at night. These are interspersed with Rajesh Khanna in giant aviator glasses trawling discos, punctuated by screams of “No!” as white roses decay into red ones.

Anand (Rajesh) is a wealthy businessman who lives in a palatial mansion. He employs a creepy gardener (Om Shivpuri) whom we meet as he hacks a rat to death and then buries it, planting a rose on top of the grave. Anand himself is a taciturn and morose man, and when his manservant wakes him up for his bed tea there is evidence of a night of debauchery beside him on the bed.

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Anand is also a very rigid kind of guy as evidenced by his closet, organized by day of the week (although he seems to mostly only wear white; either that or the scenes in the film only take place on Tuesdays).

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His home decor is dominated by the color red, and as he leaves for work every morning the creepy gardener fixes a red rose to his lapel at the gate. This morning his routine is a little different, since it’s his birthday—and every year on his birthday he visits the legendary Central Jail.

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The jailer (Roopesh Kumar, whom Suhan informs me is Mumtaz’s cousin and an alleged Rajesh chamcha) asks Anand about his traditional visit. Anand tells him that his own father was jailed although innocent, and is today back at their home still living as though still in prison. He likes to visit the jail to bring some cheer to any innocent man who might be jailed there today.

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I’m thinking: not so much. At the office, there is a group of young women waiting to be interviewed for a secretarial position. Only one of them—dressed in red—dares to look back at him openly; the rest all drop their eyes demurely. He hires the bold Chitra (Padmini Kapila) after asking the others some strange (and in the US, illegal) questions (“Do you always dress like that?”) and flicking open his musical cigarette case enough times so that we can’t possibly miss the fact that he has a musical cigarette case.

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On his way home he sees a young woman going into a department store. Anand has a strange flashback whenever he looks at women, which is always the same.

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He follows this young woman into the store. Sharda (Poonam Dhillon) works at the handkerchief counter there; he buys a handkerchief from her and begins to do so daily. I find this extremely creepy (as is his whole manner—he is terse to the point of rudeness), but she is young and naive and it doesn’t seem to bother her. In fact, one of her coworkers, Sheela (Aruna Irani), obviously admires him and is a bit envious of Sharda.

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I’m thinking again: not so much. And sure enough, one day Chitra stops showing up for work—not really cause for alarm since she was unreliable to begin with, but still. Then Anand arrives at the store to find Sharda reading a lurid Harold Robbins paperback. He goes to Sheela’s counter instead and buys an undershirt.

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A few days later, Sheela disappears as well after being called to a public park to meet a man dressed in white with a red rose in his lapel. At the same time Anand escalates his weird “courtship” of Sharda, and discovers how very innocent and pure she is. Despite his blandishments she won’t sleep with him before marriage, and she likes to pray! She falls in love with him (although I really just don’t understand WHY—he is seriously weird) and we are treated to several requisite “we have the technology” montages to illustrate their blossoming (pun half-heartedly intended) romance.

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When they get married at the registrar’s office—Sharda has no family nearby—there are intercut scenes with Anand, the creepy gardener and Anand’s father (Satyendra Kapoor) arguing.

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Up unti now, Sharda has irritated me mildly with her hopeless naivete; but now she really begins to get on my last good nerve.

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That night, Anand gets a call from his office before they can “cross their limits” legitimately. Missing secretary Chitra’s brother is looking for her, and wants to talk to Anand. His face twitches in what I assume is supposed to be a scary way, but fortunately for my peace of mind I only find it funny.

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A friend of Chitra’s brother was the waiter serving her on the night she was last seen with her “boyfriend.” The brother has brought the waiter to see if he recognizes anyone from her workplace as that boyfriend. At home, Sharda is *finally* waking up to the fact that her husband is more than a little bit nutty.

What will happen next? Will the waiter be able to identify Anand? Will Sharda find out what her husband has been up to? What HAS he been up to? And why? Well, you’ll have to watch Red Rose to find out (and also to see an amazing twitchy-face scene on the part of the Superstar).

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As for me, well—I’ve grown up a bit I guess. I wasn’t frightened after the first half an hour or so, and by the end I was only annoyed by how really really stupid Sharda is (when you are in danger, girl, don’t stop to pack a suitcase—leave the house immediately), and how misogynistic the story turns out to be (which is, to be fair, a hallmark of lots of slasher flicks). Once again, some poor schmuck has been ill-treated in life by women and (reasonably, it is implied) found his only recourse in murder. Aww. Bad girls deserve whatever they get!

I think the film wanted to be a character study of a psychopath, but it devolved pretty rapidly into cliches of both the Indian and the horror-genre sort. Still, I am relieved that I made it all the way through with no resulting bad-dream fallout, and I would like to thank Rajesh and his hamming for that. (His choosing to play such a negative character when he was still getting hero roles is admirable though.)

Still love you, Rajesh! Mwah!

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82 Comments to “Red Rose (1980)”

  1. Dumb slasher films frequently include hopelessly lame attempts at psychological motivation…but in this case it was so unnecessary. The disco and the polyester were more than enough to explain his craziness!

  2. Hai hai! In the face of such a sweeping indictment of the film, I have nothing to offer by way of defence that won’t sound like I am debating with you :-) Hamming, hamming you say? A filmfare award type performance it was, truly :-) To see apna Kaka sans what he’s always accused of doing “”naughty eyes, stylish shake of the head, enigmatic smile”, that my friend in itself is a feat :-)

    My more learned friends who are fans of Rajesh say that this was very adeptly adapted to the Indian context from the Italian masters of the giallo (or budget Italian horror genre) such as Fulci and Argento. (I hasten to add that I am not much acquainted or enamored of this genre). I will quote my friend Anaad’s take which I think sums up what RK fans think of him here:

    “Honestly it is the most tongue in cheek and irreverent take off on conventional films and baddies and a towering performance. filmfare should give an award to kaka in retrospect for redrose. it is a performance that no other hero ever in bollywood will have the guts to repeat. a true classic of a great actor enjoying himself. most people think that aavishkaar was kaka’s offbeat role. no no , red rose wins hands down….of course, followed by naukri !!!!”

    In the meantime, I leave you with a kindlier assessment of the film from a Nov. 2007 review in The Economic Times. *retires hurt* :-(

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Business_of_Bollywood/A_rose_by_any_name/articleshow/2547342.cms

    • I’m sorry :( I’m glad to have seen it, but I have to say I found it on par with the campiest of serial killer films. Which is not a bad thing in itself! but high art it is not. I hope RK had a good time with it (he was awfully morose throughout it all though)…I like his naughty eyes, stylish shake of the head and enigmatic smile better :-) He was creepy in bits and pieces, but didn’t sustain it for me…sorry again :(

      ps I haven’t seen any Italian horror films; as I point out at the beginning, my only reference is a few 70s slasher flicks and I would never pretend to be an expert on this genre (and don’t want to be!)…but as far as my references go, it’s not any better a film than any of them.

  3. I think this film is more psychological thriller than horror/slasher.

    The scenes where Poonam Dhillon’s character is lying on the bed with flower petals falling and in the bath (full of petals? – don’t remember) reminds me of American Beauty (1999).

  4. It WANTED to be a psychological thriller, but in its execution became a slasher film. The explanation of the psychology behind the killer’s motivation is pretty lame and in all other respects, by the end it resembled a Friday the 13th or Halloween type of film.

  5. I heard of this movie (not seen either version). However friends have been raving about Kamal Hasan’s performance in the original tamil version.

    Brave of you to watch this memsaab despite a weak heart for horror films. I would like to say “join the club”. I don’t like horror movies either although like you I sat through “Damien”, “Exorcist” etc as a teen. Years late in the early 90s, I walked out of the last few minutes of “Fatal Attraction” coz couldn’t stand it. The scene where glenn close (?) tries to put a small rabbit in hot water or something – can’t recall – that’s it – i just walked out!

    • When animals get involved, I really can’t stomach it for different reasons. And I’m glad I did watch this; have a couple of other “horror” films lined up including Hotel and the now-legendary (thanks to Keith and Todd at Teleport City) Shaitani Dracula :-) I thought this one might be a different class of film than those two and it certainly tried, but for me it just didn’t work.

  6. Red Rose had a nice song: Kiski Sadayen…did you like it? Personally I did not like Red Rose….I liked the build up and everything, but yes, the naivete of Poonam Dhillon and hamming of Rajesh Khanna does get on my nerves and I hated how flatly the movie ended.

    Another dumb horror movie was “Gehrayee”, which had a nice, creepy and eerie build up, but was damp apart from lifting from exorcist. The partial nudity of Padmini Kolhapure was also misplaced and was done only to gather audience, me thinks :P

    Have you seen “Raat”? It’s by RGV, and has shades of exorcist and other lifts….but the movie stands on its own for the most part. Most of the other bollywood horror movies are copies of this or that….can’t really recommend you some :(

    Hey Memsaab, can you just have a peek on my recent blog entry? I would really feel honoured… It’s on bollywood and I thought it might interest you :)

    • I love your recent blog entry Koyel, you are an amazing procrastinator: salaam!!!!

      And yes, this film started off well, but just didn’t sustain the suspense—and by the end became comical, unfortunately.

    • I’d say “Gehrayee” is one of the best Hindi horror films I’ve seen. But of course, “best” is a tough adjective when dealing with such an acquired taste. :)

  7. I think the Tamil version Sigappu Rojakkal startting Kamal Hassan and Sridevi was brilliant. It was a genuine portrayal of a psychopathic sexual killer and Kamal was in top form. The last half an hour , basically the chase scenes between Kamal and Sridevi was tightly done. Fabulous editing I must say. Illayaraja’s music was a plus too
    Rajesh Khanna had beed edged out of the seventies by Amitabh Bachhan and even I would think Vinod Khanna. So I guess this was more of a desperate attempt by RK to stay in the league I guess. There were parts in the movie where he was good, but messed it with excessive hamming in other parts.

  8. I think Red Rose is all about:-
    1. A crazy man who becomes normal finding Love
    2. He goes Mad when realising he is going to lose her
    3. A movie no actor would have dared to do in his career- a very challenging role of an anti-hero.
    4. Stylish performance by Kaka as a man trying to woo females
    5. Excellent performance in the end – the jail scene is a gem when he himself is in jail. Other wise a very controlled performance by Kaka. No mannerisms, style of his earlier movies. Here he is proving a point that he is the only SuperStar who dares to be different.
    6. Lovely nos by R D Burman – Tere bin jeena kya, Kis Ki sadayen
    7. Haunting back groud scrore
    8. A different story of a mental wreck which would not go well with normal humans.
    9. Very unusual eerie set up to give the movie the look of a suspense movie
    10. Strange characters all around to give it a different feel.
    Yes such people do live in the society, they were there and they are there.
    It is a great offbeat movie, very special to Kaka fans

    • Thanks for sharing your view of this, Alok. I wish I liked it better (you know I am a Rajesh fan in general) but it just didn’t work for me overall. I didn’t find the character’s “pathology” convincing (and I found the “explanation” for it sexist in the extreme) and the romance fell flat too. I know that Poonam’s character was a girl from a village who is unsophisticated, but at some point the survival instinct should kick in for even the dumbest of creatures! Rajesh did a good job of conveying “creepy” but for me the charm that needed to be there too was missing. Sure, psychopaths exist in society, but if you are going to make a successful (for me) movie about one, I need a more thoughtful look at the workings of his (or her) mind.

      I did like the sets and the background music! :-)

  9. Thanks Memsaab and very good review on Red Rose.

    An unique phenomenon – Super Star Rajesh Khanna
    Years may have passed, blockbusters may have happened, the film galaxy may have produced several other stars, but those who have seen Super Star Rajesh Khanna in his heydays (first super star of the nation) still believe that there was, there still is or there will be, no one like him. Because he is an Unparalleled Phenomenon.

  10. It is a ridiculous write up by Memsab; it is the first time I have gone through such a negative view point about Red Rose and Kaka. However, in the end she admits the guts of Kaka for taking such a challenging role.

    • I’m sorry you find it ridiculous Abhijit, but I doubt somehow that I am the first to find this an unsuccessful film and performance! But to each his/her own.

  11. I didnt like this movie one bit. Dint Rajesh Khanna wear a silly look on his face in the last scene? However, we had seen the movie in a group and were able to laugh at the silly scenes. For weeks my cousin would keep recommending the movie to others as a joke – Go See Red Rose – Its a Classic !

  12. This movie, i would say, Kaka did when he was in the process of resurrection…..It was easy for the media to dismiss this movie as a bad one….To be honest, this movie was beyond the comprehension of our “cow-belt”. Bharatiraja, I would say missed this point. Kamal on the other hand was riding high on popularity when his version of the movie was released….and Tamil viewers give lot of importance to style as against substance (many times)…. On the other hand, Kaka didn’t have any of those advantages…..His Act was a class apart….Economic times acknowledged this after some 25 years……

    • It was beyond the comprehension of this cow-belt too :-) Or else, it was just bad.

      • Please read the story of Sigappu Rojakkal in Wikipedia and see this movie again…Comprehension issues would be sorted out…

        Its bad? well, “But to each his/her own.”

        • Truthfully, I don’t think it was beyond my comprehension, I am reasonably intelligent and worldly. I really have no wish to see it again. I’ve explained why I disliked it in the post and in more detail in my comment replies—I found the story at best unbelievable and at worst misogynistic and glib, the characters unlikable and/or idiotic, and the acting for the most part pretty inadequate and at times even comically bad. I won’t try to convince people who enjoyed it not to enjoy it, but nobody will convince me that I should enjoy it too.

  13. This is from a English movie of the 60′s. I saw that first and, years later, saw this. It might be No Way to Treat a Lady. Somehow that comes to mind.

    • It reminded me of something throughout too—after the scene with the Harold Robbins book I thought maybe it was something of his I’d read. But I haven’t seen No Way to Treat a Lady so that wasn’t it (at least for me). I thought in the end that it was probably just an amalgamation of lots of those 70s suspense-thriller-horror films.

  14. Awww God!
    Thsi sound sreal awful!
    Did it really have all these cheesy dialogues of pure and untainted and such!
    This is a hindi movie, I’m clearly going to steer away from!
    But like Koyel I like the song ‘Kiski sadayen…’ and also ‘tere bin jeena kya..’
    Thanks for the review!

  15. Second the rec for the Tamil version – I am as much a wimp as you say you are, memsaab – and Sigappu Rojakkal (seen with cousins, so I had to kep my rep up!) terrified me! But yes, Kamal was fantastic in it, RK never could be. Ilayaraja’s music too was wonderful. Sri always irritates me, but she suited the part :-)

    M

    • Well, if I decide that I need to become a Tamil film connoisseur (and you never know!) then I’ll give it a try maybe, but otherwise there are way too many other films I might really love out there waiting for me! :-)

  16. I detest RK. He had no style (aargh@ his clothes)(and his lapels). I’m aghast that a public that could choose a Vinod K, Shammi K, a Guru Dutt and even a Sunil Dutt could stomach this guy beyond the first couple of movies.

    His mannerisms were irritating in the extreme. (His caricature of that crinkling eyes and jerking his head sideways… eeeeeesh). To make it worse, he starred in a number of films that were extremely good, or could have been but for his hamming it through. Worst of all, almost had great music, which is why I avoid watching the video : ).

    Red Rose is a prime example of the man hacking his way through a truly awful performance. Only, neither the movie nor the music did enough to redeem him, unlike a dozen other instances.

    No wonder you have assorted err… gents commenting here on this one : )

    • Ooh, you really DO detest him. I like him, myself, in many films…and I don’t know why he always gets the bad rep for “mannerisms” when almost every Hindi film actor had their own as well. But this one: ugh on ALL counts (not just Rajesh ;-)…I do appreciate hearing the other viewpoints too, though, even if I don’t agree!

  17. I remember watching this movie as a kid on DD. It was an Adult rated movie of course and I still remember my eyes being closed by my mother in the flashback. :D
    It was quite scary for me in places.
    The last half an hour could have been better though.

  18. Is this inspired by Argento’s Profondo Rosso? Shades of giallo.

  19. Scratch that – Hatchet for the Honeymoon by Bava, and not Profondo Rosso.

    • Hatchet for the Honeymoon sounds about right :-) I am not familiar with giallo but it is my understanding that this was an attempt to pay tribute to it…and maybe it succeeded on that score, I don’t know (but I still don’t need to see it ever again).

  20. ve gMemsaab I agree with Abhijit there is flaw in your review. Was it intentionally reviewed. I am also fan of Kamal Hasan and I have seen this movie in Hindi and Tamil. But it compared Red Rose movie was best in Hindi. And more thing I want to bring to you that Rajesh Khanna’s performance was better than Kamal Hasan and this movie was successfuly movie and well appriciated.

    • My review may be flawed, but it isn’t nearly as flawed as the film! :-D Sorry—I do appreciate a lot of Rajesh’s work, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this movie.

  21. While RK may not be everybody’s idea of a favourite actor, I think the guy was really good at acting and did act in a number of good films – Safar, Aradhna, Namak Haram, Amar Prem, Kati Patang, Thodisi Bewafai etc. To dismiss him i think is a bit uncharitable. BTW, I am not a die hard fan of RK but I do enjoy good performances by various actors

  22. Thank you for sitting through that and warning us off. I’m not a late 70′s-early (or any) 80′s fan, but might just have watched this for Rajesh Khanna… ugh. Sounds awful. Poor you!

    • I don’t regret watching it (especially since I had Suhan sitting through it with me) but wouldn’t recommend it unless you love “so bad it’s good” kinds of movies. Did have some cool sets and unusual cinematography (although my T Series DVD picture quality was awful).

  23. Ha, ha. I was clever and never watched that film. Rajesh Khanna’s twitchy face is truly horrifying, though. Wonder how you did escape having nightmares.

  24. Memsaab–I’ve been made the designated purveyor of information from the RK forum :-) and in that capacity, please see below from my friend Anaad.

    “Saw a dvd of redrose today again and was truly amazed. kaka is awesome in it. if this flick was dubbed in italian and shown there even the masters of the genre like fulci and argento would have stood up and applauded. it is one of the most intelligent and nuanced movies made by a director at the top of his form in any genre in india.bharti raja is great here . the film has so many involved and cross linked plots that if you dont follow closely, the fun is lost. charandas shokh s dialogues are creepy as hell and poonam is perfect as the innocent virginal female protagonist. kaka is really enjoying himself in this movie and makes kamals performance looks amateurish for a change. this is a film that was not meant for the average truck driver so it flopped but when seen for a second time when one understands the reasons behind the sudden cuts and flashbacks, the movie works brilliantly. Best thriller cum horror ever made in india.not for [those] who dont understand the slyness of this genre. filmfare award winning type eerie performance by rajesh khanna.”

    • I would be very interested to see what those Italian directors might think of this. My feeling is still that it’s just BAD. If you have to defend a film’s worth by degrading the audience’s social standing and intelligence then you don’t have much of a case. A truly good movie should be able to stand on its own.

      I would also love to hear what those cross-linked and involved plots were, because I certainly did miss them if they were there. And as for Rajesh’s performance: his monosyllabic dialogues got boring really fast, and his OTT twitching at the end is just too funny to take seriously. The scene of him in the jail at the end reminded me painfully of Hrithik’s attempt to act in Koi Mil Gaya (although there were plenty of people who thought that was brilliant too). And Poonam’s insistence on remaining lovingly faithful to a man who tried to kill her (and did kill numerous other women) is just an ABYSMAL message to send.

  25. I would also like to say that I appreciate the ongoing debate on this movie’s merits (or lack thereof)…so please don’t take my ongoing criticism of it personally, anybody :-)

  26. What a debate! I will probably never see this film, as horror is one genre I don’t watch – even hollywood ones. Back when I was a larkee, I watched through covered eyes, but I can’t seem to stomach them in my older age. I don’t think, Memsaab, that one needs to see every movie in every genre in order to call themselves a connoisseur. The sheer volume that one can view by taking in most genres should be enough in itself to qualify. I, on the other hand, have a looooong way to go in order to call myself the same!

  27. Judging by your screencaps, this film looks kind of homely and drab visually. BTW, I saw that same double bill of Texas Chainsaw and Eraserhead — at the UC Theater in Berkeley — back in the day. I had the opposite reaction to you, of course. It was basically “Give me more!”

    • The DVD quality is really awful, but I actually did like the sets and lots of the other visuals. They suited the characters and story well, such as they were :) Would love to hear your view on Red Rose if you get around to seeing it.

      Wonder if TCM/Eraserhead are still a popular double feature for college students (it was really really far back in the day for me!). A high-def version of Eraserhead was a pay-per-view option at my brother’s this weekend, but we decided that Eraserhead in high definition might be too much. Okay, I decided that, along with his wife.

      And I’ve gotten my grubby hands on Shaitani Dracula, finally :)

  28. –> Shakes his head.

    Oh well. She lives in a culture that made Simon Cowell a star.

    Had to stumble upon Kakaji in Hindi filmdom : )

    Ok, that was mean. But frankly, for over a decade, this potbellied man with a bald patch gave increasingly atrocious performances (Disco Dancer, Avtaar, Souten etc spring to mind). With ever younger heroines. And, (most horribly), stuck with the so-cute mannerisms that my parents probably saw as stylish a decade+ earlier. And do not forget that he continued those lapels far beyond what any right-thinking society would have had him committed for.

    I guess seeing this at an impressionable age sorta wrote him off as far as most of my friends were concerned. By the time we did see the movies where he was actually fresh-faced, we were already jaundiced : )

    • I have never in my life watched Simon Cowell do anything and refuse to take responsibility for the people WORLD-WIDE who watch him and the numerous shows their own cultures copy from his.

      In any case, I was fortunate enough to encounter young Rajesh first, and that probably does make a difference. I am often glad that I can approach these films with an open mind uncluttered by childhood memories and prejudices.

  29. Oh my goodness, this sounds–exactly as lame as every other horror flick I’ve tried to endure. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be seeking this one out.

  30. Red Rose – 1980 Super Star Rajesh Khanna taken on the role of a serial killer in the unsettling and original Red Rose. We learn that Rajesh Khanna’s character was beaten by his mother as a child and then went through a number of unsavoury relationships with women leaving him disturbed and unhinged. In a much more radical move than the Shahrukhs and Sunjay Dutts of today, Khanna broke with his lover boy screen image and portrayed the disturbed woman hater who lured young women to his house, murdered them and buried them in his garden. Director Baharatirajaa tackled this unsavoury topic in a surprisingly direct manner but his slasher film was seen as anti women and triggered protests by feminists in Bombay and Delhi.

  31. V Manohar, Abhijit and co. will cry “murder” (intentional bad joke) but I think Memsaab has been, as she usually is, more charitable to this bad film than it deserves.

    I never could stand RK’s mannersims, the only film I enjoyed by him was Hathi Mere Sathi as a kid, but that was because we were watching the elephants. There are films in which he appears that are good but never could bring myself to like him and I think he only acts as himself in all his films.

    May I add that any film that includes the dialogue “a wife’s peace blah blah blah” is No No No for me. Bur perhaps some Indian males might not mind it that much. It immediately wants to make me want to start throwing things at the director.
    Obviously some people posting also share this attitude as they seem to think the rest of us don’t really “understand” whats going on…yes we do, only all too well!

    When people actually Defend the totally imbecile explanation of the reason for going around murdering women, what can you add?

  32. One of my major major problems with this is that his pathology was all blamed on women, but all that was really showed of his backstory was a (step?)mother who hit him because he let some bullocks he was supposed to be watching eat all the crops in their garden (my mom would have smacked me for that too) and secondly a female relative who cried “rape!” when her parents caught her in a compromising position with him (which she had initiated)—not a nice thing to do, but what options does a girl in a society where she’ll be punished for life for one transgression have? And then a woman who takes him in off the streets and feeds him and gives him shelter cheats on her husband, who then kills her—and justifiably so, it is implied. UGH. I can totally understand why feminists hated this and protested. The women that he murders are portrayed as fun-loving, outgoing, confident girls—how awful! Such terrible women who don’t know their place clearly deserve it. The only woman “worthy” of him is the cringe-inducing sati savitri Poonam, who doesn’t mind when he tells her that she can never leave his house without his permission and that he will be watching everything she does for the rest of her life. UGH UGH UGH!!!! And yet we are supposed to feel sorry for his sick twisted mind because it’s all the fault of women in his past. So completely LAME. UGH. I will say no more. (Have I added enough, bawa? :-)

  33. Memsaab, I rest my case on both points.

    1. Imbecile explanation is way too nice a description for such crap.
    2. You ARE Too Charitable!! (This I have long suspected:))

  34. Greta—I really wanted to let this be but feel compelled to respond to some of your observations above mainly perhaps to establish that those of us who actually liked the film are not as monumentally stupid as we’re being made to feel after reading sundry comments on this post.

    I assume that to establish his pathology, vignettes from what happened in his life would suffice as opposed to a series of incidents which clearly would pose problems for a film that is bound within a finite timeframe. One gets that just the one incident with his mother may not be enough, there clearly needed to have been a pattern of abuse that frightened him enough to run away. Poor little kids in villages in India are not prone to running away from home just because of one thwack on the behind. Secondly, the “female relative” crying rape wasn’t a female relative. He’d just been given refuge and work as a servant in someone’s house who wasn’t related to him. It was easy, therefore, for them to take the stance they did because he was a stranger. Third, the folks whom he eventually landed up with (Satyen Kappoo and wife) clearly had issues. In conversations between husband and wife, it was pretty clear that the husband’s work entailed him being away from home for a couple of months at a time. The wife’s infidelity didn’t appear to be a one-off issue. Regardless of whether that would induce a normal person to murder, the fact is that there are many cases of this happening, it’s not uncommon. Whether all of this could or could not turn a young, afflicted mind cuckoo is debatable. What is not, however, is that he is alone in the world, and Satyen Kappoo vows to bring him up but clearly in such fashion that he will never forgive the opposite sex again and in fact, do active harm.

    And of course, “fast” girls are fair game because they’re more accessible for a party, night out, etc. “Nice” girls wouldn’t have given him the time of day so obviously he couldn’t be bothered to target them unless one actually caught his fancy and Poonam did. The fact is that he fully intended her to be his victim especially when he saw her reading the Harold Robbins (anyone who reads HR is fast as it’s really all about sex and “nice” girls don’t do/think sex) and thought that she was the Sheela whose name was in the book. When he called the store up he asked for Sheela (Poonam he thought) and it was only when Aruna Irani (the real Sheela) turned up at the park that he realized his mistake. This presumably establishes Poonam’s innocence as far as he’s concerned and she’s pretty enough, obviously virginal, and “innocent” for her to appeal to his jaded psyche and fall in love. That she was so much of an antithesis of the kind of person he normally accosted was clearly the main attraction. Yes, she was unbelievably naïve and ‘sati savitri’, but there are several instances where he’s pretty dismissive of that quality of hers where he tells her that you’re still living in the age of Ramayana, clearly not approving of it, but willing to accept her as she is. So to say that particular aspect endeared her to him is not quite correct. As I said, what drew him to her was her obvious beauty and virginal innocence. She had “values”, she wouldn’t get into bed with him without marriage and so he went ahead with it though one might have supposed that he’d have had misgivings on that account given his past. But it also shows that he thought he could get out of the vicious cycle he’d been caught in. When he killed the waiter, before doing so when he tries to negotiate his way out with money, he tells him that for the first time I’ve found some light in my dark life through love, don’t take that away from me. It is this fact, that there is the possibility of redemption, that makes him not an unsympathetic character. Many people love to believe in the redemptive power of true love—it’s not practical (I think) but that’s one of the reasons why folks stay in physically and mentally abusive marriages/relationships because “he really loves me”. It may be cringe inducing but it does happen quite often.

    A normal person’s psyche clearly wouldn’t take the arc that Anand’s did but his was not a normal psyche and in fact he was actively nurtured to be despicable by his adoptive father who derived his kicks by watching snuff films of his son’s activities. As Alok pointed out, folks like this do exist. This is not a movie about the average Joe next door. For those of us who liked this film, these were the nuances we saw that seemed entirely believable. A fairer assessment would be to not see it so literally—one runaway buffalo, one girl wrongfully alleging rape, one instance of infidelity. There were nuances, as Anaad said, there were cross-linkages, there were blink-and-you-will-miss-it dialogues, the telling lyrics of the two wonderful songs (Tere bin jeena kya and Kiski sadayen, great stuff from RD Burman and beautifully executed by Kishore and Asha), etc.

    I’ve felt pretty stupid in my life thus far in many instances but it is sobering to find out that I am actually way more stupid than I thought I was given all the stuff I’m reading from folks (on the blog) who really seem to get it. Frankly, I’m rather astonished at myself as to why I’ve spent so much time on something that is really as trivial as a mainstream Hindi film which pretty much bombed so it’s not like it’s been an event changer in the annals of Hindi cinema……..

    • You are one of the least stupid people I know (and that’s saying something, because I don’t generally hang out with stupid people). We’ll just have to agree that what worked for you didn’t work for me :-) But it’s an excellent explanation of why it did work for you!

    • Suhan ji thats a great analysis…Of course you will have Feminists crying “murder”…but then lets face the facts..

    • Hello there! saw ur assessment of red rose! I have to tell u, i am a great fan of this movie and am fascinated with the movie for a long time. You r so correct about rajehs khanna being all alone in the film, it shows that there is absolutely no support system which could help him out. He kills, but he has been taught this by his adopted father. And u have put it brilliantly that there must have been several instances and hence one shd watch the movie and dialogues and indications closely , else u will miss it. Rajesh Khanna does try to seek out from all the killings, but it does not happen for him as everything comes out suddenly and the girl is horrified. Another point here, is that he really liked poonam dhillon, and wants a kind of affection from her, that one wd ant from a wife or mother, it is shown when he loses his temper(nothing, nothing), and the next second he is almost sobbing and saying sorry to her, it does show that all is not lost, and he still thinks he can become ok and all will be forgiven. Its a great movie and a great review by u. cheers.

  35. I rest my case even more after reading Suhan’s post.

    May I remind that the debate was started by people who were not able to stomach the fact that we didn’t admire the film, not memsaab (and definitely not me)?

    So girls that are outgoing and like to go out and enjoy themselves are “fast” (interesting hypothesis). Reading Harold Robbins is bad. I agree it is in bad taste. Now I realise that my poor elder sister, who is so good and conservative, was in fact “fast”… and probably committed the ultimate crime of reading about sex.

    Gasp, gasp…nice girls don’t think about sex. Really? Have you alone or many Indian males have passed this judgement? Babies come in little packets from DHL until the day you get “married” and husband knows best.

    You can defend and imagine a lot more about the motives than what the film says, but it is still crap and sexist defence. May I ask you to look at the number of women murdered by spouse/partner/boyfriend/ex-spouse-partner-BF etc. around the world? Oh I forgot, according to you, they were probably “fast” and “thinking about sex” deserved to be knifed, run over, shot at. And I suppose I shouldn’t even have brought up the word boyfriend. Any girl or woman who has that is obviously not “nice” at all.

    PS I am still cheering for the Supreme Court bench in India. Day before yesterday this is what it said to someone appealing against a life sentence for setting his wife on fire…

    http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090602/main3.htm

  36. Bawa—I’m afraid in your haste to score points off me, you appear to have missed the main point. In my post, words such as “fast”, “nice”, “values” were in quotes for a reason. Similarly, the way folks who read Mr. Robbins are perceived were put in brackets. Ergo, they’re not what my definitions of these words in the context that they appear are, but what this particular film espouses.

    And, far be it from me that I should burst your bubble of righteousness that has to lecture the Indian male at large about gender issues, but sorry I am not male. In fact, when I read your above, I thought I’d clean drifted into an alternate universe! Enough said? I for one am heartily sick of Red Rose. Memsaab, I rue the day, I do, when we sat down to watch this together :-)

  37. In defence of Suhan—I know her well and she most definitely does not espouse those ideas.

    In defence of my dislike of this movie, that IS exactly what the film espouses. If I am to have sympathy (or even just understanding) for a pathology as horrible as the Rajesh character’s I personally require more than mere nuance to examine it, especially when the manifestation of it is so misogynistic.

    I don’t mind debate, but please do give people the benefit of the doubt here. It’s okay for us all to not see eye to eye on a film!

  38. Memsaab, this started when someone took an issue with some of your criticisms of the movie.

    My post didn’t take issue with the fact that people liked/not liked the movie- up to them and it takes all sorts and the world is a better place for it. Said what I didn’t like about such attitudes in films.

    Suhan, it seems that I have misjudged your write-up, am truly sorry for the same. Please accept my apologies. Your post came after a few others above, so I took it literally in the same vein.

    And if I came across as righteous, perhaps you too have misjudged me? Do you not agree that generally speaking many many Indian males (and many females too), do have very real gender issues? If one has to lecture on that, so be it. Yes, it is true this discrimination, and its general acceptance, is something that really really gets me. If that is my righteousness, then I am not ashamed of it.

    I truly believe that any film maker has the choice, even in the most light-hearted film, not to go beyond certain limits, and perhaps choose to help to undermine outdated attitudes, rather than reinforcing prejudices and status quo 99% of the time. Maybe over time they would help to wear certain things down.

    Totally agree memsaab that Red Rose has taken up much more time than it deserves, but some of the comments really made me see “Red”! :)

  39. Thanks for the link to the Supreme Court article, bawa—I love that the defendant tried to blame his wife for him setting him on fire (good old “honour” killing again) and they totally shut him down. Some day (hopefully in my lifetime) that excuse won’t even be brought up any more!

  40. Wow, this thread most certainly has evoked more fiery and passionate responses than any other thread I have read here.

    My take :

    The debate is on multiple levels. The content, interpretation of the content, the film-making and the acting (esp RK).

    Memsaab has reviewed many films here. What I have always admired about these reviews (apart from their sheer fun content and style) is that “she says it as she sees it”.

    She has no Indian baggage/background so her way of looking at a film can be quite different from a typically Indian angle. This applies not just for Red Rose but for any film reviewed by her.

    A film review, esp on one’s own blog, is essentially the personal view of the reviewer. A film like Red Rose, which is different from the usual fluffy Indian movie, was always going to give much scope for intense discussion. Fine and most welcome – as long as this discussion is done with an open stance and not with a “I am right, you are wrong” stand.

    Coming to the film itself, we need to realise that this was late-70s. At that time, Harold Robbins in India was a symbol of “reading about sex”. Whatever were the symbols or definitions in society to denote certain characteristics would obviously find their way into films of that time. Whether these symbols were right or wrong is not relevant, they were the easiest way for the director to make his audience identify with the point he was trying to make to them.

    Another point of discussion here. Were RK’s childhood experiences mind-scarring enough that his adult obsession with murder as revenge was justifiable ? Hey, come on. OK, maybe the childhood experiences could have been made more horrific. Maybe any experience does not justify such behaviour in adult life. Whatever it is (and again different viewers will have their own sensibility on this), we need to see it as a director’s attempt to weave a story to us about a pathological killer, his motivations, mannerisms and machinations. Whether the story was convincing enough is just each person’s own opinion.

    Coming to the backdrop of the movie, and the times. Helps to put some things in context.

    The original “Sigappu Rojakkal” made in 1978 (possibly inspired by a Hollywood film) was a psychological thriller and super-duper hit in Tamil. Considering that until then most movies in India in THIS genre had been laughably pathetic, this Tamil film stood out and received rave reviews from critics. (I just want to mention here that one should not compare with Hollywood. India was miles behind at that time in this genre for sure).

    That is why it was decided to make this film in Hindi also – with Bharati Raaja (director of the original) directing the Hindi version too. (In the late 70s, South Indian production houses were beginning to make a comeback into the Hindi industry. Movies like Swarg Narak, Sargam…).

    Rajesh Khanna at that time was nowhere the superstar he had been a few years ago. He was desperately in need of a revival in his fortunes. He was acting in sundry films, mostly without success. This film, being a remake of a successful, much-acclaimed regional film presented an opportunity for him to make a strong come back, albeit in a non-romantic role. (By then, his soft, “romantic” image was anyway not bringing in the crowds. The mood of the country had gone off romance and was totally into multi-starrers and action movies).

    The movie was very much publicised before its release. As a different, “chilling” movie – with Rajesh in a “very different role”. He himself in interviews said that he had high hopes from this film and that people would see another facet to his acting.

    Unfortunately for him, the movie bombed badly. It suffered from “remake-complex”. Bharati Raaja could not recreate the magic he had created with the original. Rajesh was invariably compared with Kamal Hasan – and fell short in the comparison. The direction also seemed to be less intense here than in the original.

    I have seen both versions. Personally I preferred the original. I felt it had more credibility than Red Rose. But then maybe another reason I did not like Red Rose is that I stopped liking Rajesh movies after the mid-70s. I used to avoid his movies after 1975. Even when I saw the odd movie made thereafter, I usually winced at the sight of him. I prefer memories of the Rajesh of Roti and Kati Patang. But that is just me.

    All in all, I think it is important to keep the backdrop of the period in mind to get a context while watching a movie. It helps to understand why the movie says what it does. Whether you like it or not.

    I grew up in the 1970s, through the Rajesh heydays, through Amitabh’s rise and Rajesh’s drop from dizzy heights – it is difficult to isolate all this while watching a movie 30 years on.

    Which is possibly why I like reading these reviews. Like I said, memsaab carries no baggage. :-)

  41. You *almost* make me want to watch the Tamil original, Raja! Thanks for your thoughtful comments :)

  42. You don’t really want to watch the original. :-)

    I liked it more than Red Rose for reasons already mentioned.
    And I think it became a huge hit partly because of the relative novelty factor in Indian cinema at that time. In the midst of routine romantic stories this was something “hatke (different)”. And Kamal Hasan and Sridevi were both “hot” in Tamil cinema at that time.

  43. Hi,
    As per the inspiration part is concerned,

    Red Rose (1980) had a Basic Plot Inspired from “The Boston Strangler” (1968).

    • Not true, the Boston Strangler was based on a true life serial killer. Both movies had serial killers as protagonist but that is where the similarity ends. Red Rosé I’d in the same genre but not a copy at all!

  44. kaka is a legend and red eose proves. he was remarkably good in thefilm. he performed his job very well. the truth is that he is not our first, but only superstar.

  45. I do like the movie :)
    Moreover I LOVE THE 2 SONGS! Another magnum opus from the Burman musicroom.
    However, I have a terribly beat up version of the Stylish Title Music. If anyone finds a good version, can they please post a link here??? Thanks! :)

    Harshi

  46. RED ROSE was may 1980 release,on his part Rajesh Khanna sir,uncle wanted/try altogether different from the past,as to my best of rememberence,shades/or was altogther negative shade,and succeded in it,but in those days(thirty three years) ago people had a prefix image of a star which accumalated to success or faliure of movie,mind you the picture by itself was at bad at all,but people were not ready to accept RAJESH KHANNA in out n out negative role in entire career of himslf this was only one negative outing,so it faltered,hereby I must mention that JUNE 1980was THODI SE BEWAAFI,AUG1980 was suspense thriller directed by Danny sir”PHIR WOHI RAAT” and OCT1980 was BANDISH,all did good business at box office,ISaw them at age of fifteen and can see even today at age of fourty seven, Respeceted Rajesh uncle never failed only the subject he choose sometimes let him down,Ihope his soul must be in peace,though he went through lot of pain during his last few months,this age in noway was to go,but destiny always win irrespective whoso ever he may be,we will always remember yourself.RAVINDER MINHAS JALANDHAR CITY,PANJAB.minhas35@yahoo.com.

  47. Kammal Hassan is one of the greatest actors inthe world. I think his performances in so many movies, too many for me to name, have been unlike anything in Indian cinema. He is up there with Brandoo as the greatest in the world. I say this without a hint of irony or exaggeration. The man can sing, classicly dance, write screenplays , novels,direct, edit and compose music. He makes world class cinema I am a big fan. And yet Rajesh Khanna was so much better than Kammal Hassan in the remake. I have watched both versions and thought RK gave a much more complex and creeper performance. That is saying a lot for RK and his acting chops. Misogyny or not ,Red Rose is a good thriller.

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