Kudrat (1981)


After months during which this Chetan Anand film was “next” in my to-watch list, I finally got around to it. And I’m glad I did; it is compelling viewing. Having said that, I’m not sure what exactly what else to say about it. Unusual story? Check. Good cast and performances? Check. Nice music? Check. Good movie? Uhhhhhh…I think so? Maybe? In the end it felt a bit schizophrenic: it is a reincarnation story—and leads you firmly down that path—but then also drags in some token debate about reincarnation being a silly belief held by uneducated riff-raff. It also wanted to be a “serious” suspense film (and succeeded to a large degree), but was very lazy about some details (medical and legal practices, for one, and some pretty stringent suspension of disbelief requirements too).

So I spent a lot of time feeling pulled in one direction, and then nudged in another, and the whole never quite came together for me. The fact that the subtitles disappeared entirely during the climactic courtroom speech didn’t help at all either (and thank you to Suhan for sending me a synopsis!).

But: I couldn’t stop watching it, as the suspense was built very nicely, and the performances were really good, especially Vinod Khanna as a doctor who loses his love to the man she loved in a past life; and Rajesh Khanna as the man who is pulled unwillingly into a story involving him but of which he has no memory. The sets and the Simla scenery were beautiful, and the cinematography stunning, and RD Burman’s music very nice too.

We meet Chandramukhi (Hema Malini) as she travels to Simla with her parents. She had been born there, but her family moved to Bombay when she was two; she has long wanted to see her childhood home. Her first glimpse of it, though, clearly strikes an unexpected chord.


They settle in, and meet up with an old friend whose son Dr. Naresh Gupta (Vinod Khanna) is a psychiatrist. He is immediately attracted to Chandramukhi as she is to him, but she is also distracted by memories and knowledge of past events that she should not have.

Chandramukhi’s parents have rented a house from the local Nawab, Choudhury Janak Singh (Raaj Kumar). He is a widower living in a large mansion with his only daughter Karuna (Priya Rajvansh).


Karuna is a lawyer, and Janak Singh’s fondest wish is to get her married to a protege of his, Mohan Kapoor (Rajesh Khanna): he is also a lawyer and has just gotten the job as Public Prosecutor in Simla thanks to Janak Singh’s influence.


Over the next few days Karuna and Mohan become acquainted, as do Naresh and Chandramukhi. Naresh has studied psychiatry in America and plans to go back there as soon as he finds a wife. I’m a *wee bit* insulted by what he has to say when Chandramukhi asks him about marrying an American girl!


Chandramukhi though is having troubled dreams, where she is chasing a man in the mist. She also recognizes odd places and feels that she knows people when she meets them for the first time. At the local theater one night, she is so distressed by the singing of Saraswati Devi (Aruna Irani) that she gets up and leaves. Saraswati Devi herself, meeting Mohan earlier that evening, had also seemed disturbed.


There is a large tree in the forest nearby which really freaks out Chandramukhi when she sees it. The initials of a pair of lovers are carved into the trunk: Paro and Madho. She goes back to it with Naresh and they meet Mohan, Karuna and Mohan’s alcoholic school friend Pyarelal (Deven Verma). Chandramukhi feels drawn to Mohan.


And their outfits match perfectly too! Minty.

The story is interrupted at this point by a glitzy atrocity: a disco cabaret number in a nightclub, the sole purpose of which seems to be to showcase Vinod Khanna’s awful dancing. The baton-carrying leotard-clad background dancers move listlessly through the motions, and even dancing queen Hema looks like she’d rather be elsewhere. I have a love-hate relationship with Indian disco. I find the music awful, on the one hand, but on the other I really appreciate the silver go-go boots on the lead singer.


Also it is quite sparkly, which is always a plus. And the wall decorations are FAB.



But I digress. Chandramukhi tells Naresh about her strange dreams and he offers to treat her with hypnosis. I can picture all my actual psychiatrist friends—and I have quite a few—shuddering at this conflict of interest. Anyway, he puts Chandramukhi under fairly easily, basically by telling her to lie down and go to sleep.


He is amazed—and horrified—when she tells him that the year is 1945 and she is a 20 years old, the daughter of the gardener at “the haveli.” Her name is Paro, and she is engaged to a boy from a nearby village named Madho. His plan was to take her back in time, but not THAT far! He panics.


He does manage to awaken her, and things start to really happen now. He is determined to help her find out where her memories are coming from, and why they are so distressing to her. She begins to have flashbacks to her life as Paro, where she lived in the gardener’s cottage next to the Nawab’s huge mansion and was in love with Madho, who worked for the British army. They come off a bit as simpletons, which slightly annoys me; we are meant to understand that they are innocent, naive village folk. In one amusing incident they spy on a newly-married British Army officer (Tom Alter) and his bride on their wedding night.


Outside the flashbacks, when Naresh asks Mohan to help them, Mohan scoffs at the idea of them being connected in a past life. But when Chandramukhi asks for his help he cannot say no, and is gradually convinced. Soon Chandramukhi and Mohan are falling in love (poor Naresh and Karuna!). And we are drawn into that past life, where Paro and Madho’s lives became entangled with that of the Chhote Sarkar—who is now no other than Janak Singh—with disastrous results.

I won’t say any more about the plot; as I said, the film (aided by the performances of the main actors) does lay out the groundwork deliberately and skillfully builds the suspense, although the end did feel rushed.

I really liked Priya Rajvansh as Karuna—she portrayed a difficult character very believably. I thought her quite lovely.


And Raaj Kumar was a towering figure, both as a young man and as the wealthy Nawab in present times.

I only wish that closer attention had been paid to some of the details (for example, why did Paro and Madho look exactly the same in the past as in the present to us, but apparently not to those who had known them in their previous lives?) and that the script had not wrapped things up so conveniently. Easy for me to say! but then it could have been a great film instead of just an interesting one. It is well worth a watch, though!

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36 Comments to “Kudrat (1981)”

  1. hey the movie sounds good!

    So, Priya Rajvansh learnt acting by then. Iremember her in Hanste Zakhm with Navin Nischol, where her acting was awful. She had an emotionless face coupled with a very bad dialogue delivery.

    Maybe it is just me, because one hears people sings hymns of her acting glory (in internet).

    The mint sari and shirt are a hit. Wonder what Chetan Anand wanted to convey with this act. A bad dress sense?

    The music is great from this movie! Well Panchamda knows what is good.


  2. It is a good movie :-) I’m glad I watched it.

    I haven’t seen Priya in anything else. Her role was really hard in this, and I thought she was great. And I have no clue if the minty green matching outfits were just a coincidence or not!

  3. I saw this movie almost an year ago, and forced my Mummy to watch it too. Lol.

    As u said, I dont know if I REALLY liked it, but the suspense was well kept. And I simply loved Hema Malini and how innocent she looked in the ‘Toone o Rangeele’ song.

    Would certainly watch it again, just for better judgement may be. ;)

    Nice post. Keep watching movies which I’ve watched so that I feel free to comment. :)


  4. The suspense was very nicely done. I think the film’s weak spot performance-wise was probably Hema—she was okay, but certainly was capable of better. Vinod, Rajesh and Raaj Kumar along with Priya though were great.

  5. Didn’t like it much Memsaab? I imagine one of the culprits is bad subtitling from what I see of your screencaps. E.g., when they talk about American and Indian girls what Vinod actually says is that “You can LOVE American girls but not MARRY them” to which she replies “Ah so you can MARRY desi girls but not LOVE them” which is much more ambiguous and nuanced. One of the main reasons people faltered in their relationships with non-Indians (ethnic i.e.) was the whole marriage issue in India with its ‘marrying into the family’ concept, as opposed to the more individualistic approach that obtains in the West. So love was not the problem but marriage was—and indeed a lot of people marry to satisfy family and don’t love the folks they marry. Much more subtext here than the subs suggest. Got to get you to learn Hindi :-)

    Quite a few things bugged me too but such a large dose of suspension of disbelief is required in any event for most Hindi mainstream films, let alone those on reincarnation. Like you I was annoyed that Paro and Madho were played as simpletons, especially RK was OTT in that regard. Seemed totally patronizing but read somewhere else that that was a concession to the masses which I’m not sure I agree with at all. The masses saw intelligent and sensitive portrayals of rural folk especially in Gulzar’s mainstream work. The other thing which I hope the subtitles managed to convey was the reason for Madho’s suicidal reaction to what happens to Paro later. The intensity of his feelings is indicated in a couple of blink-and-you-will-miss-it dialogues but mostly in the beautiful male version of “Humein tumse pyaar kitna”. Here he says in the song “If I see you with someone else, I burn up inside with jealousy, you don’t know how you torture me”, etc.

    Priya Rajvansh—terrible, terrible dialogue delivery, very often been likened to a block of wood for her lack of histrionic capabilities! I must mention Deven Varma here who I thought was fabulous in that little role as the sozzled Punjabi. Incidentally, in the disco number, the main dancer was Kalpana Iyer, who essentially became the vamp-type dancer of the 80s. She is pretty slinky here, isn’t she? They should’ve just let her and Vinod get on with it instead of Hema who must’ve really had to work at this—did you notice all the sweat, her kurta is almost soaked at the back. Looks like multiple takes were in order :-) I guess classically trained Hema just can’t disco!

    Maybe we can make you feel better by seeing the other reincarnation film that RK and Hema starred in—Shakti Samanta’s Mehbooba of 1976 where Hema shows off her dance moves on a plate in tandem with Manna Dey’s vocals :-) Thanks for this, a fun read as always.

  6. Thank YOU Suhan for filling in some blanks as always :-) I don’t have a problem with suspension of disbelief in most films, but it seemed unnecessary here…I guess I had higher standards for this because it did do so many things right. I know for sure I can’t show it to my friends who are shrinks, they would just be cringing over his diagnosis: “she’ll go MAD if we don’t cure her!”…it seemed pointless to keep on about that.

    And I DID like it! :-) Just didn’t love it. Re: Priya, she had flashes of woodenness, but they were fewer and far between (either that or the language barrier rendered her dialogue delivery less annoying for me? I don’t know)…I guess she was Chetan Anand’s “muse” for a long time!

    And I like your translation of the American girls thing much much better :-D

  7. This brought back memories.. A father’s friend took all of us to see it at a cinema in Bandra (Bombay)…. As Suhan mentioned, I still remember Hema’s drenched back.. I guess they did not have time for dress changes back then… Also about Kalpana Iyer… did some good “bad disco” numbers… Hari Om Hari and Ramba Ho Samba Ho (Pyaara Dushman and Armaan)… You can google all about Priya’s sad death… she was pretty good in Hindustan Ki Kasam.. another Chetan Anand prodcution.

  8. Well, #3 of the standard rules for reincarnation states that the reincarnated person looks exactly like how he/she looked in earlier life.

    Although they seem to have broken rule #4: there should be at least one person who will be shocked/surprised at seeing the earlier-life-self who he thinks is dead. ;)

  9. turbanhead: Simi is too much! :-) I loved Karz, it is so OTT…but Kudrat was much more thoughtful about it all.

    Southie: Oh, Priya’s demise was very sad indeed :( I didn’t know about it, happened before I watched Hindi movies. Yikes.

    Amey: They totally broke rule #4; nobody recognized poor Paro/Chandramukhi and Madho/Mohan at all!!! Even their blood relatives! (and Karz broke rule #3, but it was believable).

  10. Memsaab

    I am glad you liked this movie for all the reasons that I did.

    Thanks to Suhan for explaining the dialogue about marrying indian women vs american women. I have noticed that subtitling in recent movies is much bette, more apt ie in the right context. Sub titles in old movies are awful – poor, appearing after the scene has passed etc

    Priya is a No No for me – wooden and all other negatives which other comments have discussed above. She was murdered – a sad end indeed for anyone.

    This film’s music continues to be a highlight even now.

  11. Thanks Memsaab on another RK movie review.

    Great musics “yes!”…but I got totally “nudged in another direction”…and the reincarnation stuffs is alien to me.

  12. Reincarnation story but with a difference
    The story of Kudrat is based in the city of Shimla where two lovers are born again. SuperStar Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini. They were separated in their earlier lives by the evil desires of Raaj Kumar. How the story unfolds is told very differently. It has the stamp of the master director Chetan Anand who has used his talented cast very well. Raaj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna play their roles to their best and are ably supported by Vinod Khanna, Priya Rajwansh and Hema Malini. The music by R D Burman is excellent and few songs are immortal. A true classic movie with a lot of British Era period buildings, atmosphere of the era goneby. It has suspense which chills you and holds you till the end. The court scenes are good. Over all a must see as to how Super Star Rajesh Khanna takes on the stylish Raaj Kumar. Rajesh creates a difference in the 2 characters essayed by him.

  13. Long. long time since I saw this movie, so I remember very little of it except the climax. All I recall is that it was engrossing enough in the first half (and perhaps a little beyond), but then suddenly everything was happening all at once.
    Now I’m in the mood to see some more reincarnation movies… Madhumati, of course. What else? But not utter bilge. There was this awful Biswajit starrer called Bin Badal Barsaat: pretty senseless.

  14. I am surprised u didnt have nething to say about the music….good,bad,?

  15. American girlfriends! A lot of my friends felt the same, and I found them so idiotic. Indian women however seemed to be quite happy to marry American or foreign men. Maybe it’s different these days.

    I never quite understood what I felt for ‘Kudrat’ myself. On the one hand, I was dismissive of the entire reincarnation business, and yet the love story between Paro and Madho makes you very, very sad. It is a compelling watch.

    Yes, isn’t Priya Rajvansh lovely? She didn’t do much here except in Chetan Anand films, and not many people liked her, but I think she’s beautiful, and I love that husky tone with a slight lisp. Plus her diction is awesome.

    Have you seen ‘Heer Ranjha’ with Priya and Raaj Kumar? You must, though half the beauty of that film is in its dialogue. The entire film is in verse.

  16. I love this movie, its much better Karzz which was great but monstrously OTT such as the “bhoooooot” scene! I felt so sorry for Vinod as he became outdone by a very less-than-cute Rajesh! And Hema was great but she could been soo much better!
    I second Banno’s comment Heer Ranjha is gorgeous and i love how it was all in verse and i could listen to Raaj Kumar’s sexy voice all through it

  17. I have watched this one. I liked it then and the famous song ‘tere naina saawan bhaado’. Rajesh Khanna’s second innings. Hema also looks heavier.

  18. Oh! and wasn’t Priya Rajvansh murdered by Chetan Anand’s sons for property?

    I have seen her in couple of films and she is just wooden. She was wooden much before Soha Ali Khan:)

  19. Thank you for this good review, you are the best (sorry I know you are modest and you probably wouldn’t like me saying this).

    The quote about not marrying American woman is related to the men’s expectation from the marriage I suppose. As Suhan mentioned, it is less to do with individual desires, more to do with family and cultural conformism (I’m not Indian but a Turk and the attitude is very similar)

  20. Anonymous: As Suhan also pointed out, it would be really worthwhile for me to just learn Hindi! Although a lot of things would still pass right over my head. But…a long stay in India might be in order if I can figure out how to support myself there!

    radzi: Interestingly, reincarnation is not an idea that I find unbelievable…I have been to places and had “flashbacks” that had nothing to do with my life now, but I felt very strong recognition. So I’m always happy to watch a reincarnation film.

    alok c: Very nice summation :-)

    dustedoff: Yes, the first half was very engrossing, but they did hurry through the ending a bit.

    pranay: I did say that I liked the music, except the disco cabaret number which was just awful (and yet, strangely compelling for the reasons noted) :-)

    Banno: I’ve noticed here in America that Indian women marry American (non-Indian) men much more often than the other way around. My feeling in general about marriage anywhere is that there’s much less in it for a woman (which is why I’ve managed to avoid it—and it’s much easier for an American woman to stay unmarried than an Indian woman, I would guess). I think I’ve told you before that my answer when people ask why I’m not married is that I’m overqualified for it :-)

    If I may be allowed to generalize, I can see why Indian women would be happy to have husbands who don’t have the expectations that Indian men do—and how those same expectations would make an Indian man’s marriage with a western woman very difficult indeed. (Please to note that this is only my opinion, and I admit that I am generalizing! but I think Indian women have a heavy cross to bear sometimes) :-)

    I have Heer Ranjha, will watch it soon! but I will miss the nuances and beauty of the verse :(

    Rum: It’s a very different kind of film than Karz :-) I liked both. And I’ll watch Heer Ranjha for Raaj Kumar and Priya if nothing else!

    Solilo: Vinod was just as hot as usual, but both Hema and Rajesh were showing their age a bit. It happens! And yes, Priya was murdered by Chetan’s sons apparently for their joint property. Really tragic :( LOL@ Soha (I do find her wooden too)…

    Eliza: You are nice :-) and I’m glad you enjoy my reviews. And I agree re: the marriage issue (see above)…

  21. Of course Hume tumse pyaar, for the lyrics and Kishore, will always ensure this movie is remembered. I thought it was pretty much weak otherwise though. In fact I thought it had the other Rajesh -Hema reincarnation song too, Mere Naina, till I was reminded here about Mehbooba. Another superhit song(s, there are two versions), with mostly a washout of a movie.

    And do steel yourself and take a look at Disco Dancer. Now there was a movie after me own heart.

    Of course, I might consider having an ‘merican girlfriend, but loving one ? Uhuh.
    (Breaking News : After Obama’s election, a guy lands a plane on water, and now AKM reconsiders ? Hallelujah! Who says there is a depression ?)

    –>Peels off for medication.

  22. Oh, I’ve seen Disco Dancer. Numerous times. In fact, it’s the first film I ever saw Rajesh Khanna in! And though I completely love the song picturizations (especially this one, where Sam’s dancing makes me weep with laughter) I cannot just sit and listen to them. They are BAD.

  23. Memsaab – u r spot on about marriage and the general indian men/western women and indian women/western thingy – don’t want to turn your blog into a forum on “cultural debate”! There is enough to talk about Indian movies


  24. Anonymous: Hey, as long as it is polite and respectful I don’t mind debate. And of course I agree with you that I am spot on, ha ha!

  25. Memsaab very good review on Super Star Rajesh Khanna

    Its reincarnation story but with a difference love story that ever produced so far.
    In 1981 it ran and became a mediocre hit – see how people love it 28 years later. Please let people not under estimate Kaka’s performances and he is always his great in his performances.

  26. i love hema, and thans for this post..

    i just watch this film it was 3 weeks ago

  27. superatar rajesh khanna will always a superstar, this film totallybelongs to him. great film, great experience

  28. Hi memsaab…I saw this film on a movie marathon on TV four years ago…although I found the plot a little strange (especially the abrupt ending), I really loved the musical score, especially Parveen Sultana’s Humein Tumse Pyar Kitna and Lataji’s Tu Ne O Rangeele…

  29. kudrat was a good movie. i remember it for jaani raajkumar’s performance. Though his role had negative sheds but he made it up for it in last scenes in courtroom confession and also when he looks up in the sky, ( outside court, after the verdict, when faced with hema malini). i absuolutely loved it.,. You seem to like raajkumar,. I would request u to watch, KARMYOGI , a 1977 raajkumar movie. I consider it to be raajkumar’s one of the most explosive performances. The movie still inspires me with its strange philosophy, which was justified superbly by the jaani, throughout the movie.

  30. This was my second Rajesh khanna directed by Chetan Anand film after Aakhari Khat.
    I enjoyed it more than I expected, in spite of shrinks running amok.
    I don’t think Rajesh and Hema click together (other than Andaz). She always seems to be aloof and detached for some reason ( how dare she? With Rajesh you are supposed to melt at his smile and touch!) But in this movie, it is not Hema who seems distant. It is Rajesh, he just seems so uninterested! The only passion we get is when she asks him point blank if he loves her. Otherwise he just doesn’t seem to hang around unless she asks him to. When she is sitting in the haveli after finding the gardner, sad and all, dude asks Vinod Khanna to take her home while he goes off detecting! The simpleton version does better but that hat just killed it for me. Such a beautiful melodious song ‘Hume tumse pyar’ but the picturization not great.
    Liked the courtroom drama. I can understand why you liked Priya as lawyer, she is better than Rajesh because Rajesh screams a lot of his courtroom dialogs. Seems to be a trend, since in the film ‘Bandhan’, Sanjeev Kumar as a lawyer screams louder in the court too! But Priya otherwise can’t act.
    And on the subject of Hema’s dress drenched after the dance, I had same problem with Farida Jalal in Aradhana, during the song ‘tumko muzse pyar hai’. The blouse is drenched visibly and the hero, no signs of sweat on him!

  31. Priya rajvansh was terrible. She was chetan anand’s mistress & hence this improtance. Vinod khanna’s role was limited. Rajesh & Raaj kumar did well as also hema. Lovely songs. A fairly engaging movie on a theme much loved by film makers – reincarnation.

  32. kUDRAT was released on1st april 1981,though held up for some reason,it could have been 1980 release,anyway this last master piece cult classic from chetan saab as fondly called ,after this one more or less he to called quits like brother(vijay/goldie anand)almost twenty years his junior,but citing similar reasons as goldie anand mentioned ,thecircumstances are conjucive to our style of filmmaking(RAJPUT april 1982) though both the movies were success.Such tremendous greatness in his making that be it war movie Haqueat 1964,Hindustan ki Kasam1973,Heer Ranjha1970,entire movie in verses,Hanste Zakham1973,Janeman1976,Sahib Bhadur 1980,apoltical sattire,and this one KUDRAT 1981,such was a command of this person that nobody use to question him.and each subject he choose wasunique in its own way,Back to KUDRAT,though produced by someone else(B.S.KHANNA)everthing else was headed by respected CHETAN SAAB,and he as being master craftmen justified such magnum extravagnza,even the music which for first time,Chetan saab assigned R.D.BURMANDA,gave one of his finest muscial score,can be heard even today,cinematic view of SIMLA was best captured by Chetan saab,giving justice to each role,and letting no one to rise above the script,could only done by master director,though this twenty reel three. hrs. Plus could have been shortened by few minutes(but this is my personal view).FOR first four weeks it had housefull board as best of my rememberence,and it had fifteen week run,despite terrisiom had begun to spread its wings here in PANJAB.Thankyou chetan saab for giving us such wonderfull cinema,which is relevant even today.RAVINDER MINHAS,JALANDHAR CITY,PANJAB,minhas35@yahoo.com.

  33. Awesome.
    Thanx for this nice review :)
    Can u please review the movie Guide too?

  34. There was a controversy over the release of Kudrat. It was reported that rajesh khanna took the producer one night to the editing room & completed the editing himself. Chetan anand felt insulted & even went to court to stall the film’s release. He also did not attend the premiere of the film.

    However, when you watch the film, it does not seem as if rajesh has hogged the limelight. Raaj kumar, Hema & Priya had good roles. Maybe, vinod khanna’s role was a but small.

  35. Some of the images still haunt after forty years of it’s release. Kesto and Aruna Irani were perfect too.

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