Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dukhda Khame Ee Dikri (India, 1981)

Watching Dukhda Khame Ee Dikri proved that a second dip into the filmography of Gujarati superstar Naresh Kanodia on my part perhaps wasn’t entirely necessary. Then again, the disc was there, and –- given that this is one of those rare instances where I actually found a film I wanted to review on Netflix –- the longer it remained so meant a continuing logjam in my queue, meaning that it would also be that much longer before I received Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore or whatever.

My experience with the first Naresh Kanodia film that I reviewed, Sorat No Saavaz, lead me to expect that Dukhda Khame Ee Dikri would be a similar mix of cartoony swashbuckling and chest-thumping revenge melodrama. Instead it was something else altogether: a maudlin chronicle of naggingly detailed yet ultimately unexamined female suffering of the type that, though common in Indian cinema, I have so far been pretty successful at avoiding.

This time around, Kanodia, unlike in Sorat No Saavaz, plays the child of privilege, Halaji, whose love interest is the lowly but lovely Chandan (Anjana). Hilaji and Chandan wish to be married, but Hilaji’s ma refuses to allow it, because Chandan’s father is suspected (wrongly, it turns out) of murdering ma’s brother many years previous. This leaves Chandan vulnerable to the machinations of her evil landlord, who, in return for forgiveness of a debt, strong-arms her father into promising her hand to the landlord’s wicked son Ruda. Hilaji and Chandan are determined to be wed, however, and end up pulling a wedding day switch-a-roo. As a result, Ruda unwittingly ends up married to Jivli, a village belle whom he ditched after robbing her of her honor, yet who still wants to marry him because she is now damaged goods and has no other options.

Chandan, for her part, ends up moving into Hilaji’s family home, where she is treated like a slave by Hilaji’s mother and sister-in-law while Hilaji is out gallivanting around with his comic relief sidekick who repeatedly breaks the fourth wall to needlessly explain plot points to the audience. Throughout, we are treated to a mournful, endlessly repeated song about how it is a woman’s place in this world to make sacrifices. Somewhere in all of this, Chandan rescues a cobra from a hunter, and in return the cobra bites her, giving her the gift of ESP. I know that sounds like something I made up to make this movie sound more interesting, but it’s not. And while you’d think it would bode well for the remainder of D.K.E.D., the sad fact is that this device only ends up being used to hurtle over a couple of minor narrative gaps later in the story.

Finally, the vengeful Ruda and Chandan’s nasty sister-in-law decide to steal a golden naag statue from a shrine in Hilaji’s home and frame Chandan for the crime. Ruda’s father casts further suspicion on the girl by insisting upon lending her father an exorbitant sum of money to pay Chandan’s dowry, and then later denying it. Faced with this denial, Hilaji chooses to believe the word of the father of his sworn enemy over that of his own wife, presumably because Ruda’s father doesn’t have a vagina. Hilaji then goes home and hits Chandan.

As opposed to Sorat No Saavaz, in which he was quite the high-kicking stunt machine, him slapping poor Anjana around is about the only evidence on view of Kanodia’s status as a man of action. Okay, he does have a couple of major fight scenes, one near the beginning and one at the end of the movie, and in both he ends up getting his ass resoundingly kicked. At the end, it is only due to Chandan’s ESP that he ends up being rescued from being buried alive by the bad guys. Once this is accomplished, and with all misunderstandings cleared up, Chandan is happy to fall back into his once again welcoming arms -- because, hey, he’s the “hero” and she is but a mere woman, even if she does have ESP and Hilaji can't fight his way out of a threadbare sock.

As I said, I’m aware that films of Dukhda Khame Ee Dikri’s breed are not uncommon in Indian cinema, the only difference between it and other examples being that I had done a much better job of seeing those others coming. Thus, I guess D.K.E.D. should at least be given credit for sneaking under my radar and giving me a face full. Hey, they can’t all be gems. But they also don’t have to be this.


memsaab said...

Oh poor you. I feel your pain, believe me! And am thankful that at least you mined some giggles (for me) out of it ;-)

Todd said...

Thanks, Memsaab. And it's true that I didn't have to subject myself to it once I'd figured out what it was all about, but I felt compelled to, nonetheless. The imperative to mine giggles is a stern master.