Few Indian crime films are as pure as Gaddaar. Within seconds of its opening credits, we are right in the middle of a thrilling depiction of its central crime and meeting our criminals. And what criminals they are – brutalizing women, children and the elderly with equal abandon, murdering innocent witnesses. These are hard, awful men.
Kanhaiya’s trail leads to the village of Rampur in the snowy Himachal Pradesh region of Northern India, where Vinod Khanna and his giant swastika necklace arrive in short order. Lost in a snow storm, he comes upon the isolated Hotel Mansaro. This turns out to have been recently purchased by Kanhaiya, who lives there with his daughter Reshma (Yogeeta Bali) and young son Tito (Master Raju). The hotel is otherwise empty for the off season, with the only other guests being Mathur (Satyenda Kapoor), an alcolholic doctor, his wife, and Shankar (V. Gopal), the hotel’s porter.
Like any great “heist gone wrong” tale, Gaddaar descends into greater and greater violence as it goes along, depicting the erosion of trust between the criminals in fairly unflinching detail as the bullets fly with increasing frequency. Leavening this somewhat are Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s musical sequences, which include a strange, Egyptian-themed nightclub number that involves white hippie girls and a lot of eating. Overall, the duo’s song score here is pleasantly heavy on the tribal rhythms and traditional melodies, while the film’s instrumental score relies heavily on needle dropped cues from Enno Morricone’s score to For a Few Dollars More. Anand Bakshi’s lyrics are also clever. Upon learning of the remaining loot, the gang archly celebrates Madan Puri’s Kanhaiya with a rousing rendition of the theme song:
“You are a traitor after all
you are a cheat after all
you are our old friend
At least you love money.”
Maha Badmaash. But it is films like Gaddaar that hold down the rare generic middle ground. As such, it is one that I’d recommend to any fan of either great caper films or crime films of an international nature, whether or not they’ve yet gotten their Indian cinema training wheels.