Khoon Bhari Maang (1988)

And of tortuous eye-searing aesthetics! It also defies convention in its lack of a “hero”: all this film needs is Rekha. What a presence she has indeed!

By any standards (even mine) it cannot be called a good film. But I was never tempted to stop watching. I only ever even paused, in fact, long enough to refill my wine glass. How Bollywood manages to consistently churn out things which are dreadful but riveting is a mystery to me. Gemma liked this one too, because the cast included two highly intelligent animals: Raja the horse, and Jumbo the dog. She barked at both of them gleefully, no doubt in encouragement for their perspicacity and valiant attempts to combat evil.

And there is oodles of evil. It begins with the murder of wealthy Mr. Saxena (Saeed Jaffrey—killing Saeed Jaffrey in the first ten minutes of any film is a crime in itself) by his greedy employee Hiralal (Kader Khan). This leaves Saxena’s ugly but kind daughter Aarti (Rekha with a birthmark, rabbity teeth and dark undereye circles) bereft. Her best friend Nandini (Sonu Walia), a gorgeous model who often reminds me of Parveen Babi, comforts her.

Aarti is a widow with two children, Bobby (Master Gaurav) and Kavita (Baby Swetha). Her husband Vikram (producer-director Rakesh Roshan in flashback cameos) died in a car accident some years earlier, and she lives in her father’s mansion in Bombay with faithful servant Ramu Kaka (AK Hangal), her kids, and Jumbo, a German Shepherd. Her property also includes a farm in Sitapur, managed by long-time servant Leela (Sulbha Deshpande) and the mute Baliya (Satyajit Puri), who looks after Aarti’s horse Raja. The servants and the animals are family to Aarti and her children.

Hiralal sends for his ne-er-do-well but good-looking nephew Sanjay Verma (Kabir Bedi). Nandini and Sanjay are involved in a romantic relationship, but he rather easily and quickly convinces her to turn on her dear “sister” Aarti by helping him to romance her.

She happily introduces him to Aarti. He goes to work on her through her children, whom she adores, and who have been missing a father figure in their lives. Plus, Aarti is a bit of a wet blanket and Sanjay is FUN.

The kids soon love Sanjay, and he asks Aarti to marry him. She doesn’t want to get remarried, because like a good Indian wife she is still devoted to the late Vikram (flashback song with Raja the horse, a wedding gift for Aarti from Vikram) but she agrees—at Nandini’s urging—for the sake of her children. They get married, and along with the children and Nandini set off for a honeymoon on the farm in Sitapur.

Sanjay is nice and understanding when Aarti is reluctant to consummate their nuptials.

I love the prison bar motif for their suhaag raat! She uses Bobby and Kavita as an excuse: they are used to sleeping with her.

It seems to me that Sanjay has a pretty good thing going: a wife who would rather sleep with her children, a girlfriend who is happy to sleep with him, and a lavish lifestyle at his fingertips. But, like most greedy people, he cannot leave well enough alone. The next day, he and Nandini are boating with Aarti when they all see a crocodile swimming towards them.

He seizes his opportunity, and pushes Aarti in.

I must say this: kudos, Rakesh Roshan, for one of the grimmest murder scenes I’ve ever seen! It’s quite harrowing. Nandini is distraught but keeps chup when the police arrive, and backs up Sanjay’s story that Aarti fell in. They do not find Aarti’s body.

She has washed up on another shore, covered in mud and blood, but not *quite* dead yet. She is rescued by an old man (P Jairaj), who takes her home and stitches her up, and nurses her back to whatever semblance of health anyone who has been through all that can attain.

Side note: I love P Jairaj, and can only wonder what he thought of this film, and why on earth he agreed to do it. End side note.

Back in Bombay, Sanjay is very angry to discover that unless her body is found, Aarti cannot be declared dead until a period of 7 years has passed. Aarti’s lawyer (Mangal Dhillon) clearly doesn’t care much for Sanjay, and he is pleased to also inform him that during that time, her fortune will be administered by the courts, who will pay the children’s and household expenses.

Meanwhile, Aarti takes her leave of the kindly man who saved her. She has stuff to do.

She pawns the diamond earrings she was wearing on that fateful day, and flies abroad for plastic surgery courtesy of kindly surgeon Tom Alter (goras represent!). It too is pretty gruesome:

but she emerges looking like Rekha sans birthmark, scars, rabbity teeth and undereye circles (although she had asked for a completely new face).

She returns home to Bombay, and goes to her home. Skulking about the grounds, she discovers the perfidy of her BFF Nandini, who is busy seducing Sanjay with a sexed-up version of the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.”

Nandini has continued her uber-successful modeling career in order to support Sanjay and Hiralal, since they can’t touch Aarti’s money. Aarti begins stalking her children from afar and generally doesn’t seem to have a clue how to go about the business of vengeance.

She gives herself a makeover, and goes to the ad agency where Nandini models. Just in time, too, because the agency owner, JD (Shatrughan Sinha), is tired of Nandini and looking for someone new. He is thrilled to see Aarti.

Um, I have some!

Actually, I hold Joan Collins and Madonna equally responsible for all this.

At least Michael Jackson can’t be blamed.


Sanjay is more than ready to dump Nandini for the new and enchanting “Jyoti”:

Boooooo! Things drag on for a while as Sanjay romances a reluctant Jyoti while a jealous (but much better put-together) Nandini becomes angry and bitter, and Rekha’s fashions continue to give me a headache.

Then faithful elderly servant Ramu Kaka and the children overhear Hiralal confessing that he murdered Saxena. Ramu Kaka saves Bobby and Kavita from discovery, but is murdered himself by Sanjay and Hiralal as the children listen from underneath their bed sheets.

Poor bachche! Sanjay now forbids the traumatized children to leave the house, and their continued absence from school finally galvanizes Aarti into action.

Does she have what it takes to avenge herself and her loved ones (here’s a hint: she has a whip made from crocodile hide!)? Will her children need years of therapy? Will I need years of therapy, and will the Roshans pay for it?

For all the answers and much, much more, see Khoon Bhari Maang. Beware: it contains just about every excess known to 80s Hindi cinema, and then some. The nausea-inducing zoom shots, the creepy musical sound effects, the “pew-pew” and glaring lights of disco…only Mithun is missing. And the music is just awful, by Rajesh Roshan. Except the flashback song, which was okay.

Oh, and I was thrilled to see Shubha Khote in the CSP, as mind-bendingly ridiculous as it was:

A miracle of science and medicine indeed! Ooh, and speaking of dogs (and horses) here are Gemma’s pals:

Okay, I’m done.

Updated to add: Okay, not quite done. As is usual for me, all your comments prompted further introspection on my part about my feelings about this movie (I am not good at introspection in a vacuum). Several of you have the impression that I disliked this, which I guess is not completely wrong although I somehow really liked it, too. The horrible fashions and (sorry, music fans) songs, as bad as they are, are entertaining; more than anything I think it’s the bloodthirsty nature of the story which prompts my ambivalence. I am not entirely comfortable with the violence begetting violent retribution. My heart wants to root for it, but my brain says: this will not solve anything! What kind of message is it? So brain and heart are at war, and eyes and ears are both enchanted and horrified by what they are seeing and hearing. All these things combined keep me glued to my chair and the film, but it’s very disturbing. Very.

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80 Comments to “Khoon Bhari Maang (1988)”

  1. Yayyyyyyy! 3 cheers for Khoon Bhari Maang! I LOVE this movie! I saw it when I was a kid and at that time we had a strict ‘no scary films’ policy at home. And I nagged and nagged and nagged my poor dad to let me see this one because all my classmates had seen it. So very reluctantly, he lets me. And I HAD NIGHTMARES FOR TWO WEEKS! lol that crocodile scene was too gory for me. But this is one of those inexplicable films that are so problematic in bits but so much FUN. Actually, before Kaho Na Pyar Hai, all of Rakesh Roshan’s films were like this. Nobody would say Karan Arjun is perfect but oh it’s so entertaining! Jai Ma………. Kaaaaaliiiiiiiiiiiiii ;)

    • LOL :) I could not look away. I wanted company so badly (Gemma is lovely, but she will not discuss hairstyles and fashions with me). It was VERY scary in places too—very gory! I couldn’t bring myself to sit through the songs again though for screen caps. Just could not do it…

  2. i LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie , its one of the most read posts on my blog, the fashions simply blew me away. I was surprised to see so called fashion icons of our times wearing what she wore (i’ve done a comparison) I’ll forever love this film, its full of campness which is just how i like my films

    • Ha! you even have more screen caps than I do and that is saying something!!!! You also liked it better in general I think; although I enjoyed it I cannot say I found it GOOD. And I really disliked the music, except whatever the flashback song was.

  3. OMG!!!!!! This film looks amazingly awful!

    The Joan Collins/Shotgun Sinha scene must be mine… *looks on youtube*

    • I would imagine all the songs are there, anyway, if you can bear to watch them :) They are rather fascinating. You might start with the Jyoti-Nandini dance-off competition (Nandini’s idea, to see if Jyoti really IS more popular than she is. With predictable results.)

  4. CRIKEY. Next time I visit we are watching this, even just selected scenes. And then we can do a side-by-side of her fashions with Aishwarya’s in Taal.

  5. This is the all-time favourite movie of my 20-year old niece.
    This – and Karz (the Rishi Kapoor one).
    She loves “revenge” movies. :-)

    As for me, I found this movie Ok, considering it is a 1980s movie.
    For that generation’s movies, you start by resigning yourself to a lot of violence and flashy lights and noise.
    If you look beyond that and can find a storyline, you should be thankful. :-)
    I thought this movie had an OK storyline.
    And Kabir Bedi could easily have been Shakti Kapoor. :-)

    This movie must have been a pretty big hit – at least they keep showing it on Indian TV channels all the time.

    And that flashback song “Hanste hanste kat jaaye raste…” was very popular too.

  6. Thanks for reviewing this! I still need to see this again. I have fond memories of this film, since I watched it on TV while on my trip to India last year. I watched it in a hotel room in Agra, and even without subtitles it was simple to follow. I loved how the guy found her and did some home style surgery on her. I now know it someone who suffered such an attack ended up at my door, I could help them out. :)

    • Yes, with the sewing needle and thread :) A far cry from Mr. Plastic Surgeon and his gross operation! And it doesn’t really need much in the way of subs, although the ones on my dvd were hilarious.

  7. I think this was the movie that made me decide that Rakesh and Rajesh must have been adopted by Roshan. Never before has taste so completely abandoned a generation.8-D

  8. Yes, this film is riveting. Enough for me to get hooked to the screen at least for a few minutes every time it is playing.

    Wasn’t it lucky though, that the crocodile bit Aarti on the same cheek as her birthmark? Saved her from getting both cheeks done. :)

  9. As other people before me have mentioned, I LOVE this movie! So cheesy! So much fashion victim fabulosity! So great!

    Even as a child of the 80s in the 80s I knew none of what Rekha was wearing could possibly be good but it will warm your heart to hear that for an extended period of time this was Rekha’s personal ishtyle! At least, that’s how she dressed for all photo shoots in the 80s. She probably had to check into rehab before she could bring herself to lay that make up kit aside.

    it contains just about every excess known to 80s Hindi cinema
    Au contraire! Where is the rape scene? However, it did give us death by crocodile frenzy so that makes up for it.

    • Ah true, Kabir was too refined a villain to resort to rape. But there was a LOT of gruesome murder (and surgery). More than makes up for it.

      I wonder what Rekha thinks when she sees this film now? Does she still think she looked good? I wish I could ask her that. Probably not a polite question, though.

  10. You have to remember that at that time Amitabh was giving us vomit inducing fair like Inquilab, Andha Kanoon, Indrajit, Aaj Ka Arjun etc, …

    I kinda think of this movie as Rakesh Roshan posing the question: “Does Rekha have enough charisma to pull off a garbage Amitabh revenge flick?”
    And the answer is yes, better than Amitabh. :)

    • Showing up Amitabh probably was good incentive for her in this :-D She really went all out. I particularly love her whip-wielding avatar at the end. She totally kicked some butt!

  11. For a GOOD female revenge drama – Dimple’s Loretta Bobbit act before Loretta – Zakmi Aurat.

  12. I’m so glad you resurrected this one! I loved the movie and fell in love with Rekha’s dress sense (hey, cut me some slack, I was barely 9!)….

    • Her outfits are a little girl’s dress-up dream, aren’t they? And all the shiny makeup! My Barbie dolls would have been in BIG trouble if I’d seen this when I was 9 :D (and lord knows what it would have done to my own personal sense of style! I wore electric blue eyeshadow through the 70s, as it was)…

  13. I’m another who loved this movie. Couldn’t stop watching first time I saw it. Its Rekha’s tour-de force. And Kebir Bedi is one of the best villans in bollywood history with his great Shakesperean voice and delivery.

    Although most probably like Rekha when she comes back and gets her revenge, I think I prefer her in the first part as she beautifully underplays the naive last-one-to-know wife.

    Memsaab, I’m a little surprise you didn’t care for the film and disliked the music. Too much disco? For me the melody of the title track is really infectious and how can you dislike Roshan’s wonderfully shameless bit of plagiarism of “Chariots Of Fire?”

    I tend to agree with most of your reviews, memsaab, but this time I think I have to side with bollywooddeewana that this is campy bollywood masala at its best!

    • Who said I didn’t care for the film? I didn’t care for the music, not at all. The Chariots of Fire ripoff was wonderfully inappropriate, but arghh. I totally enjoyed the film though. I couldn’t tear myself away! I just cannot bring myself to say it was GOOD. It is not GOOD. It is gloriously AWFUL. Campy bollywood masala at its most retina-blasting best, I guess, although I’d rather watch 70s camp with Dharmendra and Feroz Khan.

      I need to see more suave Kabir villainy, for sure. He is very Shakespearean, in looks as well as voice and delivery.

  14. That “fashion contest” between Rekha and Sonu Walia alone is worth the price of admission. When I try to think of an appropriate description, Alien vs Predator comes to mind.


  15. I am impressed with the very quick and very miraculous changes wrought by plastic surgery in the films… have you seen The Promise and its Hindi remake (which I rather like) Yeh Vaada Raha? Similar to this – plastic surgery works wonders. Almost in a jiffy (though The Promise, to give it its due, showed that multiple operations were performed).

    • I love Yeh Vaada Raha. And Shammi is the surgeon in that one! Shammi Shammi Shammi! What’s not to like? And actually, in that one they had the good sense to cast a different actress in the post-surgery role. THAT is plastic surgery that transforms! Although in this one, once Rekha put her makeup on it was not surprising that nobody recognized her. Not surprising at all.

  16. I am happy to see that you disliked this movie. I disliked it too. I have t o admit that I watched this movie in a movie hall, and I disliked this movie heartily.

    The reason why I watched this movie is that this was the only movie being shown in the town, and that town where I was at that time had only one movie hall that I was aware of. Yes, there are towns like that in India.

    • I guess my post reflects my fascination with the awful more than it conveys how much I actually liked the film. I am sad to say, Atul, that I thoroughly enjoyed it. But certainly I could not make a regular practice of watching things like this. I never tire of goofy 70s spy flicks, for instance, even though they are not “good” films either; this, though…the aesthetics are just so AWFUL. It’s like watching a disaster unfold. You have to admit deep down that you’re enjoying all the drama, but you know you shouldn’t.

  17. I loved it.

    All that revenge on such deserving people was great. :-D
    The name of the film itself is so masaalaish – and cheesy.

    • I felt about this one almost exactly as I did about Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki—very satisfying in a completely grotesque kind of way. Such a horrible movie, and yet so very watchable. And Mithun wasn’t in this (I gave him credit for KPKWK’s strange compelling-ness). But it has other elements in common: truly horrible deeds which deserve truly OTT retribution, set against a backdrop of awful but hilarious fashions and music. Very viscerally bloodthirsty, which at least for me is disturbing and uncomfortable at some level.

      BTW, I decided that this comment needed to be part of the post since it further elaborates why I feel so ambivalent about this film.

  18. That first screencap should be a birthday card. Seriously. Call Hallmark.

  19. Yeah, I’ll definitely have to — pew! pew! — check this one out. I’m interested in these late 80s/early 90s Rekha vehicles. Madame X is another one that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on (even though I’ve heard that it, too, is pretty horrible).

  20. Khoon Bhari Maang was The ‘peelastic surgery’ film. I used to be terrified of boat rides thanks to that croc scene. I remember kid song ‘Hanste Hanste kat jaye raste’ was quite a hit on Chitrahaar.

    Also, Madame X is Don gone wrong. But worth the watch just for Rekha’s headgear.

  21. I didn’t see the movie, although nearly allmy friends at that time had seen it. Therefore, I can’t talk much about it (as if that has stopped me).
    But I just remember kabir bedi.

  22. Like someone else said in the comments, all I recall is Kabir ‘SIGH’
    I was v young but I still remember lots of scenes of him swimming ‘YUM’
    and whoever used shakti kapoor & Him in the same sentence – go wash your keyboard out with soap, you naughty, naughty people

  23. Sorry I’m late catching up to things: my computer was on the fritz. O the trauma!

    But anyway — “Return to Eden” was originally an Australian TV movie, with the crocodile/plastic surgery/revenge plotline. Then it spun off (or piloted) into an ongoing series, about the heroine’s continued adventures. I never saw the movie, but was ADDICTED to the series, which used to run late at night on one of our local stations. The heroine married her plastic surgeon, and supposedly ran a fashion design empire, while occasionally suffering crocodile flashbacks. I reviewed it in my 20-years-back proto-blog, and described it as “featuring the ugliest hats in television history, and throwing the word ‘bitch’ around at every opportunity.” In other words, right up my alley!

    The whole thing was clearly intended as a “Dynasty” knock-off, especially fashion-wise, but while I loathed “Dynasty” and all it stood for, I LOVED “Return to Eden.” It was so wonderfully campy and over-the-top. I had no idea there was a Bollywood version, and finding out is too awesome for words. Thank you for performing this valuable public service!

    • See?? This is why you should never EVER be without a computer :) I actually thought of emailing you after I watched this, to discuss it—would never have imagined that you hadn’t already seen it!!!!

      Run, don’t walk—this one is right up your dubious alley! :D

  24. I just literally LOL’ed right here at my desk.

  25. searching for long time now for the eng subs for that great movie
    do you have a link for the movie incl eng subs
    only have the movie without subs at the moment
    Thanks for any help and kind cooperation

    Best bollywoodwishes

  26. “Her best friend Nandini (Sonu Walia), a gorgeous model who often reminds me of Parveen Babi, comforts her.”

    Actually, Sonu Walia once played a Parveen Babi-like character in the 1988 film Akarshan. Some reviewers over at imdb have nice thing to say about this film, though I couldn’t stand the 80’s hair and make-up.

    I’ve often wondered about Khoon Bhari Maang… given that the law is completely on her side and a helpful lawyer at hand to protect Aarti’s and the kids’ interests, wouldn’t a much simpler solution for Aarti have been to just walk into a police station, get the bastard arrested and THEN fly off to London with kids to get her face repaired and get a nice vacation from it all? I mean, she’s not even legally declared as dead, so what was the point lurking in the shadows as her kids get mistreated? My sympathies for her plight, but not the best mom nor a very bright bulb in my opinion.

  27. this one of the best i watched in the 80’s.t

  28. this movie is a food for thought! The crew did their best in bringing out the character.i love to watch this movie again!

  29. the make up is so real! I love that.

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