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Touch of Evil

Friday, August 28, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

While the media is agog with the real life crime drama taking place, in which a TV honcho’s wife is accused of murdering her sister, who turns out to be her daughter, Hindi movies have not even come close to cooking up a plot as evil as this. The woman who can so easily cheat two husbands and a whole lot of friends, by passing off her kids from her first marriage as her siblings, would be a subject of admiration if the tragedy had not taken place.
In Hindi films, vamps are either wicked mothers-in-law or gangsters’ molls. No script-writer has come up a woman as conniving and heartless as the real one. If women have killed in cinema, it is to protect themselves or their families.

In 1982, B.R. Ishara had made a film incredibly bold for it time, in which a woman murders a child.  In Log Kya Kahenge, Shabana Azmi played Roma, who is in love with Gopal (Navin Nischol). Her         father forces her to marry a widower Dr Jeevan (Sanjeev Kumar), who has an eight-year-old son.

When her husband is away, Roma meets with Gopal again and commences an affair with him. She believes that since her marriage was against her wishes, she is justified in breaking the rules of a forced relationship (there is a dramatic scene of the marital bed literally being destroyed).  When she is with Gopal, her stepson (also called Gopal) sees them and threatens to tell his father.

 For fear of social censure (log kya kahenge), Roma kills the child; the murder occurring off screen — it would be too much for the audience of that time to take. She forces her lover to help ‘kill’ the already dead child and dispose of the body. When he is caught, the devoted Gopal takes the rap for the murder. But his lawyer, Ram (Shatrughan Sinha), believes he is innocent and drags Roma to the witness stand, where she makes the shocking (for the time) statement that a marriage arranged against the wishes of a woman is akin to rape.

She would have let Gopal hang for her crime, but for Ram’s intervention and her own conscience. She gets mentally disturbed and egged on by Ram, returns to court to confess her crime.  But there is a hint of defiance in her words and her stance, because she committed the crime to avoid social stigma. A shame-faced Jeevan actually forgives her.

Ishara was known to make films that went against accepted social norms — but after having hit a high with the sensational Chetna (1970) the director went slowly downhill.

The issues that Log Kya Kahenge raised about woman’s rights, were also forgotten with the film.

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