American novelist Brian Garfield wrote a popular novel ‘Death Wish’ in 1972 which was adapted for a Hollywood movie of the same title and also for a TV series. The theme of this story contains the activities of somebody who has lost a lot in the hands of the criminals and thus developed a death wish in his heart. He wants to die but not in the normal way, he wants to die in his bid to eliminate as many criminals as he can.
This story has inspired many novels and movies in India. I had seen a Bollywood movie Aakhiri Adaalat (1988) in the Maan Prakaash cinema of Jaipur with my cousin Gopal Mathur when it was released. This crime-thriller also seems to have been inspired by Death Wish only because it shows a group of public-spirited people who are aggrieved in their personal lives because of the criminals roaming about the society. Fostering death wish in their hearts, such people now fearlessly go after the criminals and eliminate them, terming it as the justice of their court (Adaalat).
Aakhiri Adaalat (the final court) starts with a gang of hardcore criminals who have taken the city to ransom by their law-breaking activities. This gang consists of Girija Shankar (Paresh Rawal), Shiv Saran (Gulshan Grover), Bansidhar (Sarat Saxena), Girdhar (Mahaveer Shah), Raghunathan (Roopesh Kumar) etc. alongwith their henchmen.
Honest and dutiful cop Inspector Amar (Vinod Khanna) is after them but his style of functioning is not liked by his seniors like the Deputy Superintendent of Police (Shafi Inaamdaar) and the Commissioner of Police (Sudhir Dalvi).
The DSP himself is sold out in the hands of these criminals and helps them in different ways. Amar lives with his widow mother (Sushama Seth). Nitin Sinha (Jackie Shroff) is Amar’s fast friend who lives with his widow mother Mrs. Sinha (Seema Dev). Nitin loves Nisha (Sonam) who is the daughter of Barrister Shankar Sharma (Vinod Mehra) who apparently does not like the affair of his daughter with Nitin. Amar and Barrister Sharma are also not on good terms because the criminals caught by Amar with a lot of effort are acquitted by the court due to the efforts of Barrister Sharma who pleads for them.
To keep a vigil on Amar as well as to restrain his enthusiasm, the DSP gives him an assistant in the form of Sub-Inspector Reema (Dimple). However within a span of time, Amar and Reema fall in love.
Suddenly a killing spree starts in the city against the criminals. The killer wears a specific leather jacket and a specific helmet covering his whole face and he arrives on a motorbike to take on the outlaws. Many criminals including some of the high profile gangsters mentioned above are killed by the biker. Since the identity of the killer is not known, it is also not clear whether it is the same person every time or just the get-up is the same used by different people on different occasions.
Amar alongwith Reema is after this mysterious murderer but all his efforts go in vain. And the tragedy is that Amar himself comes under the suspicion of being this mysterious helmet-wearing biker who kills the criminals. First Reema suspects him because a similar leather jacket and a similar helmet is found in a closet of his bedroom, then after knowing the fact from Reema, Amar’s mother also accuses him to be this mysterious killer. A disheartened and demoralized Amar who now feels as completely lonely in the world, leaves his own house. He gets suspended also by his department.
To wash the stain of being the killer himself from his name, Amar investigates the things in his personal capacity and gradually some new and startling facts come to the fore. Amar comes to know now that the killer is not a single individual but there is a full-fledged organization populated by public-spirited people who hate crime and criminals.
Different members of this group wear the publicized get-up of the killer, use the bikes and eliminate the criminals because they are disenchanted with the reigning judicial system which appears more to be in favour of the criminals than the law-abiding citizens. The reason behind this disenchantment and their rebellious attitude towards the society and the law is that they had not got justice from the same when they were aggrieved. They call their organization their own court in which they themselves play the roles of judge, jury and executioner together for the criminals who deserve the strictest punishment as per their philosophy of justice. They have lost their desire to live and it’s the death wish in their hearts that has made them daredevil.
On the other side, now only one gangster – Girija Shankar is left among his group because all others have been killed by the jacket and helmet wearing biker. He decides to use the myth of the helmet-wearing biker-killer now well-set in the public-psyche to his advantage. He starts killing the innocents while wearing that get-up and riding a bike, thus maligning the image of that mysterious-killer in public.
Now the members of this unusual society have to prove that they do not kill innocents and some oversmart criminal is killing the innocents while hiding his true identity behind the get-up known to be belonging to them.
They seek Amar’s help in this regard though Amar considers it his duty to arrest them and handover to the law. In the end, the villain, i.e., Girija Shankar is caught by Amar with the help of the corrupt DSP (who has had a change of heart). However what the court established by the system and the law of the land decide for this self-designated court, remains a question which the filmmaker does not answer.
Aakhiri Adaalat is a formula-studded regular Bollywood movie but it has been written very well by Ravi Kapoor in the first place and then directed also very well by Rajiv Mehra. The writer has done the job in the style of Salim-Javed which they had adopted for various Amitabh Bachchan starrers during the seventies.
The movie runs very fast without giving the spectator any time to think. He just keeps on watching the action-packed thrilling events on the screen, holding his breath. Since a major part of the movie maintains a suspense-element also, it also helps in keeping the viewer as completely engrossed.
In order to complete the rituals of a Bollywood movie, the filmmaker has inserted the romances of both the heroes with certain songs. He would have done better by removing a couple of songs and some romantic scenes because they do not fit in with the flow of the story and the overall mood of the movie.
However since the romantic track of Amar (Vinod Khanna) and Reema (Dimple) contains comedy also with Dimple generating a lot of laughs for the audience, it provides some necessary relief to the regular movie buffs in this otherwise serious movie. The narrative is capable of keeping the viewer glued to his seat for around two and a half hours without boring him.
Technically and production value wise, this movie is up to the mark. Action and thrills, cinematography, art direction, editing, background score etc. everything is in order. The story has been presented on the screen in such a way that the curiosity of the spectator is nowhere allowed to wane. Even when the identities of members of the killing society become known, the curiosity remains for the further developments in the story.
Anu Malik’s music with Anjaan’s lyrics is so-so. Solah Khatam Satrah Shuru, Tu Jaisa Karega Main Bhi Vaisa Hi Karunga, Tu Maseeha Tu Mohabbat, Aaj Nahin To Kal etc. are all routine songs. Item number Solah Khatan Satrah Shuru performed by Huma Khan can be considered as the best of the album.
Vinod Khanna is a natural actor and he has done pretty well in the lead role. He is effective in all kinds of situations may it be emotional, action-packed, comic or romantic. Jackie Shroff has complimented him very well. Among the leading ladies, Sonam did not get much scope whereas Dimple has infused life into the comical character of a lady sub-inspector and left no stone unturned in making the audience laugh. The complete supporting cast including the villains has done justice to the assigned roles.
Aakhiri Adaalat was made by Rajiv Mehra keeping the box office in sight. The product meets his objective because the movie is thoroughly entertaining and it was an average success on the box office as well. However to me, this movie carries a different value also. It might not have been the first movie to show a parallel court run by a public-spirited individual or a group of individuals but this is the first movie for sure to present it quite effectively on the screen. The corrupt and ineffective judicial system of India in which the proceedings move at a snail’s pace with no hope for justice for the victims, does not recognize such parallel courts or clandestine societies running a crusade against crime. But they may be welcome by the aggrieved and victimized underdogs if they do emerge in our country also the way they had emerged in many other countries long long back.
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