In 1993, the self-proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock(s) of Bollywood, i.e., director-duo Abbas Mustan presented young romantic hero – Shah Rukh Khan who was till then considered a newcomer only, in a very bold role which was not just some anti-hero kinda but something thitherto unseen and unheard in Bollywood. Why ? Because the hero was no different from any conventional villain, killing innocents to save his own skin and to achieve his goal (important personally for himself only). Bollywood had earlier seen anti-heroes but they were moral and conscientious. Despite being outlaws (or doing illegal things), they were definitely not so amoral as was the ‘Baazigar’ presented by Abbas-Mustan.
Baazigar (1993) which was an adaption of Ira Levin’s novel A Kiss Before Dying was a huge box office hit and Shah Rukh Khan’s courage to do such a role in the beginning years of his career as a hero was well appreciated. He also won the Filmfare Best Actor award for this role.
Years passed. One day, renowned film director N. Chandra who had directed quality movies like Ankush (1986), Pratighaat (1987) and Tezaab (1988) in the past; decided to make a movie on the lines of Baazigar and teamed up with popular hero Govinda for this purpose. Govinda who had started his career as a romantic hero, had become immensely popular for his comic timing during the nineties and delivered many hit comedies by then. Well, he decided to take a dive into the proposed risky project and accepted the risky role of the same kind of amoral hero (who is no better than a villain) as played by SRK in Baazigar. The result was Shikari (2000).
Shikari (hunter) begins with our (anti)hero’s daredevil escape from jail after which he disguises himself as a middle-aged ugly man and travels from India to South Africa by ship (on a fake passport, of course). In South Africa, he presents himself as a business tycoon Mahendra Prataap Singh (whereas actually he is Om Shrivastav) and becomes the rival of Virendra Singh Rawal (Nirmal Pandey) in the business of spices. On one stormy rainy night, he kills Virendra after revealing his true identity to him. He visits Virendra’s home later on when his post-death rites are being performed in his real self and introduces himself to Virendra’s mother (Sushma Seth), his widow Suman (Tabu) and his unmarried sister Rajeshwari (Karishma Kapoor) as his friend from India. Like Baazigar SRK, our Shikari Govinda also commits two more murders (of innocents) to hide his original crime. Since he is an absconding prisoner, the concerned cop (Kiran Kumar) is on his trail. Besides, Rajeshwari starts her quest for her brother’s murderer on one hand and falls in love with that very person on the other. She doesn’t know that her widow sister-in-law Suman knows everything about the background of this murder (and also the murderer). Everything gets clarified and the narrative (which now appears to be moving without any direction) is closed in a Baazigar like tragic climax.
First let’s talk about the pluses of the movie. It’s technically very good and the beginning 15-20 minutes including the introductory scene of Karishma Kapoor are simply awesome. I had seen this movie with my wife in the Chitralaya cinema of Boisar (Maharashtra) when it was released as I was serving at Tarapur Atomic Power Station those days which is situated at that place. It was a pleasure to see the thrills on the big screen (involving human-beings as well as a wild beast). Govinda’s changing his face with the help of the pieces of a mask may not be reliable but the fact is, his face got entirely changed by the same and even the audience might be finding it difficult to identify Govinda in that disguise. The scene involving the first (and the main) murder is also sensational.
Since, this movie is resting mainly on Govinda’s shoulders only, he had to perform very very well in the immensely challenging role which was in stark contradiction to his popular image those days. And he has not disappointed. Though he did not win any award for his terrific performance in this role, it’s really worth an award. His cruel looks when committing murders are simply hateful. But on the other hand, in the scene of his visiting the murder victim’s household for condolence purpose, he has displayed his versatile acting skills which are simply adorable. That particular scene (with Govinda’s dialogues in that) is very well written and that’s why very impressive. Other actors are so-so. However (Late) Nirmal Pandey has delivered a praiseworthy performance.
The cinematographer has captured the beauty of Cape Town (South Africa) very well. Other technical aspects including the action and chase sequences are also okay. Editing is flawed but for that the script is to be held as culprit.
Musical score prepared by Aadesh Shrivastava is no match for the chartbusters prepared by Anu Malik for Baazigar. Only one song Bahut Khoobsurat Ghazal Likh Raha Hoon stands out in terms of both lyrics and composition (and also Kumar Sanu’s rendition).
The main trouble of Shikari lies with its script which is confused and is not able to explain many things properly in the end. Being a copycat is also no easy job as copying also requires some skill (Naqal mein bhi aqal ki zaroorat hoti hai). N. Chandra tried to copy Baazigar but despite the best efforts of his principal artiste in the pivotal character, this Shikari of his fell flat on its face.
Shikari is interesting only in its first half. The post-interval session is a complete letdown. However, for diehard Govinda fans, it may prove to be a big treat as their favourite hero took risk to play a negative role in his heyday and excelled in that.
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