I like suspense-thrillers or murder-mysteries very much. And when the script of a suspense movie is written in such a way that you keep on laughing generously alongside enjoying the spellbinding mystery embedded in the story, then the laughs available are nothing but the cherry on the cake. They are to be considered by the audience as the bonus received with a handsome salary by some employee. Gupt (1997) is one such movie only which was produced by Gulshan Rai and directed by his son Rajiv Rai.
Gupt (secret) is the story of Saahil Sinha (Bobby Deol) who is the step-son of Jaisingh Sinha (Raj Babbar), the governor of the state. Saahil’s mother (Priya Tendulkar) had married Jaisingh Sinha after the death of her first husband (Saahil’s father) and she begot a son (Master Harsh) through her second marriage also. Saahil is a college student and he does not like his step-father at all. In the college, his friend is Sheetal Chaudhary (Manisha Koirala), the daughter of a businessman, Meghnaath Chaudhary (Dalip Tahil). However when he happens to meet his childhood mate, Isha (Kajol) in the college, it does not take much time for love to blossom between them. Isha is the daughter of the secretary to the governor (Paresh Rawal). Since Sheetal is also in love with Saahil, the love-triangle is complete here. But the theme of the movie is not a love-triangle but a murder-mystery. So here comes the twist in the tale.
Jaisingh announces Saahil’s matrimonial alliance with Sheetal in Saahil’s birthday party inadvertently fuelling Saahil’s anger towards him. The same night, Jaisingh gets murdered. Saahil is arrested for his murder and he is awarded long imprisonment by the court. However he breaks jail and escapes through sea-route alongwith two fellow jailbirds in his bid to search for the real murderer and prove his innocence. Sheetal helps him. He meets Isha also. A shrewd and no-nonsense cop, inspector Udham Singh (Om Puri) is assigned the duty to re-arrest him. Locating the murderer of his step-father is by no means easy for Saahil because the suspects are many. The fathers of both his lover-girls, a high profile minister of the state (Prem Chopra), a corrupt labour union leader (Sarat Saxena), a corrupt advocate who had prepared the governor’s will (Raza Murad) etc. had motives to kill the governor. Hence the confusion is great. Further, the personal physician of the governor (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) is also murdered when he was going to tell Saahil something significant regarding the governor’s murder. Now Saahil is facing the charge of that second murder also. However Saahil is able to unmask the real murderer and prove his innocence in the end.Gupt is a gripping murder mystery, no doubt. However those who keep on reading and / or watching murder mysteries can deduct the name of the murderer out of the suspects available through intelligent guesswork and careful viewing of whatever is shown on the screen. The identity of the murderer as revealed in the climax is no big surprise for the mystery addicts (like me). All the same, the movie is very very entertaining. As said earlier, the high laughter-quotient can be considered as its another USP. There are several characters in the movie who do not leave any stone unturned to make the audience laugh. The first and the foremost among them is Prem Chopra who has played the role of a minister. His reacting upon anything by exclaiming ‘Beautiful !’ in a peculiar manner tickles the funny bone of the viewer every time. And the last but not the least among them is Om Puri who though plays the role of a no-nonsense and highly efficient cop, has amused the audience with his mannerisms. The other ones contributing to the audience’ laughs are Raza Murad who utters funny SHERs (Urdu couplets), Harish Patel who always laughs (at the minister), Sadashiv Amrapurkar and Ashok Saraf who play the sidekicks of the investigating officer, i.e., Om Puri, Dinesh Hingu who plays the servant of the advocate, i.e., Raza Murad etc. Thus the mystery becomes spicy.
Gupt has its share of flaws too. There are many weaknesses in the script. The governor has been portrayed as if he were the President of the United States of America. Nowhere in India, does a governor enjoy that much powers and profile. Instead of showing any chief minister or council of ministers, just one minister has been shown throughout the movie interacting with the governor and others. The governor must be governing some state but he talks as if he is governing the whole nation. Besides, there is no security at his official residence which is completely indigestible. The hero keeps a locket of the murderer (found in the fist of the victim) with him till the climax of the movie without making any serious attempt to open it and know something about the murderer whom it must be belonging to. The director has kept too many songs in the movie making it unnecessarily lengthy. At least three songs could have been easily removed and the movie could have been trimmed by 15-20 minutes. Though the songs are good, they block the flow of the story and irritate the viewer who is interested to be lost in the mystery.
Technically and production value wise, the movie is A class. The art-director and the cinematographer have done a praiseworthy job. Action sequences are good. Viju Shah has kept the melody intact in his music compositions. However as mentioned above, keeping less no. of songs would have been better for the movie. The best song of the album, in my view, is Duniya Hasino Ka Mela. The title track (Gupt Gupt) also appeals to the ears and is in sync with the mood of the movie. Background score is perfect for this suspense-thriller.
The story roams around Bobby Deol and he has done well. However, the director has not given him a proper hairdo. Anyway, it’s his second movie only (the debut movie being Barsaat – 1995) and he has done everything viz. romance, emotion, action, song and dance etc. satisfactorily. Both the heroines also have done well. Manisha Koirala used to look very pretty those days. The complete supporting cast is well in place. Om Puri and Prem Chopra deserve special admiration for their performances. The dialogs written for Om Puri are also brilliant, highlighting the fearless and stylish personality of his character.
Summing up, Gupt is a well-made murder mystery which should not be missed by any mystery fan. As per my overall assessment, it is worthy of three stars. However considering the treasure of laughs embedded in it (from start to finish), I award it half star extra and recommend it to the entertainment seeking audience with my final rating of 3.5 stars.
Om Puri passed away on 06.01.2017. I pay my tribute to him.
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