Speechless SRK in an action-packed revenge saga

Young Shah Rukh Khan emerged as a romantic hero in Bollywood in the early nineties starring in movies like Deewana (1992), Dil Aashna Hai (1992) and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992). However he took risk and did action-packed and gore-soaked movies like Darr (1993), Baazigar (1993) and Anjaam (1994) with his roles having negative shades in them. The historic success of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) catapulted him to the top of stardom and he became the first choice of the Bollywood filmmakers for romantic movies. Nevertheless he did not allow himself to get typecast and kept on doing action movies also. Koyla (1997) is one such movie only which is an action-packed and technically superior drama with good musical score but which did not click on the box office. The probable reason for its failure will come later in this review.

I had watched Koyla (coal) on the very first day of its release in the Batra cinema situated at Dr. Mukherjee Nagar in Delhi and was a little disappointed because I was expecting to see a movie with a good story. But despite getting a big-screen and value for money entertainment for around two hours and forty-five minutes, I felt that a technically good movie without a quality story is nothing more than the food which is delicious to eat but leaves something to be desired on the nourishment front.

The story is titled as ‘Koyla’, i.e., coal because its villain is a businessman known as Raja Saheb (Amrish Puri) who owns a coal mine. He is lusty despite his old age and sets his eyes on a local village girl Gauri (Madhuri Dixit). He sends wedding proposal for her but with the photo of not himself but his mute  servant Shankar (Shah Rukh Khan) as the prospective groom. Gauri happily agrees only to be shocked on the conjugal night when she finds that the person claiming to be her husband is an old man and not the youth whose photo had been shown to her. However now she is helpless. Raja Saheb imprisons her when she refuses to accept him as her husband. When Shankar tries to help her, Raja Saheb goes after the lives of both of them. Now several twists keep on coming in the story which reaches its action-packed finale when the villain gets burnt in the flames emanating from the enormous stock of coal around him when the hero seeks his revenge from him for the atrocities levied on not only the heroine but also his own tragic life and making him an orphan in the past. Quite naturally, the path of the union of the lead pair of the story is paved thereby.

It’s a Rakesh Roshan movie. Actor Rakesh Roshan had started directing movies in the late eighties and movie after movie, he kept on refining his directorial skills. He kept himself in the line of producing and directing formula-based masala flicks for mass entertainment. Before Koyla, he had made many such movies none of which had failed on the box office. Koyla became the first flop directed by him. Why ?

The first and foremost reason for the same is that the hero has been shown as a mute person in the story and he remains so for the major part of the narrative. With the grand success of DDLJ, Shah Rukh Khan’s voice as well as his style and mannerism of speaking had become immensely popular especially among the young viewers. Hence finding their favorite hero as speechless or mute in the movie was a very big disappointment for them. Though his speaking ability has shown to have come back in the later reels of the movie, it was too little too late from the viewpoint of the audience which was enthusiastic to hear him.

Besides, a good movie always finds its feet on a foundation of a strong, convicting and appealing story. Hence to make a good movie, there should be a good story in the first place. The story of Koyla is dated, illogical and irritating at times. Undue footage has been given to the character of the villan, i.e., Amrish Puri (and his sidekicks as well) whereas the hero and the heroine have got comparatively less footage and less importance. Hence the talented due of SRK and Madhuri could not leave their mark in the movie in the way they were capable of.

Notwithstanding the flaws, Koyla is not a boring movie. The scenic beauty, the well-choreographed song and dance numbers, the eye-widening action scenes and the melodious music composed by Rajesh Roshan have definitely made this movie at least a one time watch. Two songs stand out – Tanhaai Tanhaai Tanhaai and Ghoonghate Mein Chanda Hai. Background score is good, Dialogues are okay.

Despite weak story and weak characterization, both SRK and Madhuri have given their best to the movie. Their pair is lovely and likeable by all means. On the acting front also, the are damn impressive. Comedian Johnny Lever has got a meaty role in this movie as the hero’s friend and he has done full justice to it. Other supporting characters viz. Deepshikha, Ashok Saraf, Himani Shivpuri etc. are also well in place. The minor villains are just okay whereas Amrish Puri has infused life into the character of the main villain though he appears to be akin to a joker at places.

Koyla is now remembered as the only flop movie presented by the producer-director Rakesh Roshan. However, it’s not trash. If watched with a modest expectation, it does not disappoint a regular  entertainment-seeker. The fans of SRK and Madhuri also can give it a dekko.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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