Hollywood movie – Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) starring Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson presented the story of a runaway wife who has to run away because of her abusive husband and then she finds her soul-mate in the form of another, better man who does not take his love to absurd possessiveness culminating in abuse of his spouse. This story idea impressed Bollywood filmmakers so much that within a few years, many Bollywood adaptations of this story came on the Indian screen viz. Yaraana (1995) featuring Raj Babbar as the villain, Agni Sakshi (1996) featuring Nana Patekar as the villain, Daraar (1996) featuring Arbaaz Khan as the villain, Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe (2002) featuring Sanjay Kapoor as the villain etc. Among all these, Agni Sakshi emerged as the best adaptation of the Hollywood movie and therefore, it proved to be a box office grosser whereas the other ones flopped. I watched it twice in the theatre.Agni Saakshi (the sacred fire as the witness) tells the story of Shubhaangi (Manisha Koirala) who is actually a runaway bride with her real name being Madhu. She was married to Vishwanath (Nana Patekar) who though loved his wife, was over-possessive about her and there was a sadistic abnormality in his personality. Madhu now rechristened as Shubhaangi comes into contact with Suraj (Jackie Shroff) who instantly falls in love with her and marries her. However the marital bliss of Shubhaangi aka Madhu proves to be short-lived when Vishwanaath who was made to believe that Madhu was dead, finds her and then demands her back from Suraj on the ground of himself still being the legal husband of Madhu. After many dramatic and thrilling incidents in the narrative, Shubhaangi aka Madhu gets rid of him to spend her life happily as Suraj’s wife.
Writer Ranbir Pushp and director Partho Ghosh have handled the story very well and after devoting some footage to the romantic track of Shubhaangi and Suraj as well as that of Shubhaangi’s friend Urmila (Divya Dutta) and Suraj’s younger brother Ravi (Ravi Behl), does not allow the audience to yawn even for a moment. The breathtaking narrative keeps the audience thoroughly engrossed for the major part of the movie. This 142 minutes long movie is highly entertaining, there’s little doubt about it.The biggest USP of this movie is unarguably Nana Patekar who is a natural actor and is able to infuse life into any role assigned to him. He has brought the over-possessive abusive husband Vishwanaath alive on the screen and turned this movie into an extra-ordinary one which cannot be categorized with the run-of-the-mill stuff made in plenty in Bollywood. His scenes and dialogs have been written with care and attention and his mesmerizing performance has made every scene featuring him a highly impressive one. If not for anything else, this movie can be watched at least or his sake.The director has exasperated the sadistic love of Vishwanaath for his wife with finesse. The audience wants to hate the abusive husband but cannot because this sadism contains an indirect element of comedy also. Despite feeling sympathetic for the aggrieved wife, the audience cannot help but laugh at the mannerisms of the husband who is apparently the villain of the story.
Other than Nana also, the director has been able to extract natural performances from his cast. The second best performer is Manisha Koirala who has excelled in the role of the aggrieved wife who has no option but to run away from her abusive husband and adopt a second identity to live the remaining part of her life peacefully. She loves her second husband from the core of her heart but is very much concerned for his well-being and safety which is in danger because of her first husband’s chasing her. Manisha was very beautiful in her twenties and her performance in this movie is one of the best performances of her career. Jackie Shroff is fine as the hero though his tragedy is that the villain has got a higher profile than him in the movie.
Technically this movie is up to the mark. All the Indian and foreign locations have been shot very well and several scenes are eye-candy. The narrative is fast paced for most of its duration and the narrator has not allowed any laxity to creep in at any place once the main story has taken off. Background score is also perfect.
Nadeem Shravan have composed good music for Sameer’s lyrics. Jaana O Jaan-e-Tamanna Tu Meri Gulfaam Hai, O Piya O Piya, O Yaara Dil Lagaana, Waada Karo Dil Se Kabhi Door Nahin Jaaoge Tum, Mujhko Dildaar Yaar Aisa Chaahiye, Ab Aankhen Band Karo etc. are all reasonably good to listen and enjoy.
Summing up, Agni Saakshi is the best Indian version of Sleeping with the Enemy which is damn entertaining and likable by all categories of audiences. I recommend this thoroughly entertaining thriller movie to not only the fans of Nana Patekar but the movie buffs in general also.
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