Millennials Review Classics: ‘Sadak’ is a Houseful Masala Hit

It’s confirmed! Mahesh Bhatt will make his directorial return with Sadak 2, the sequel to his 1991 romantic thriller Sadak that starred Sanjay Dutt and Pooja Bhatt. Along with the previous cast, the sequel, which will take the story 27 years forward, will star Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapur in the lead.

Bhatt and Kapur may be millennial favourites but will Sadak 2 capture a millennial audience’s attention? We’ll only find out in 2020!

Since there is still time for Sadak 2, I thought why not visit the original Sadak — which was released a few years before I was born — to see what made it the second-highest-grossing Bollywood movie of 1991 and the seventh-highest-grossing Hindi film of the 90s.

The Essentials: Hero, Heroine, and Villain

The film opens up, quite fittingly, with a view of a sadak (a road) in Bombay (now Mumbai). On this road is our hero, the insomniac taxi driver, Ravi, played by Sanjay ‘Sanju’ Dutt.

Ravi is our essential Bollywood hero. Not only does he sport a muscular physique, but is also endowed with honesty, an impeccable work ethic, and a strong sense of justice.

Ravi (Sanjay Dutt) is our essential Bollywood hero.

After a 40-hour stint of driving a taxi in Mumbai, he fights off some black-market gundas (goons) to reacquire his uncle’s stolen taxi. He also has seven years worth of savings, a whooping Rs 30,000 in 1991!

Ravi is plagued by his past. He cannot get rid of the nightmares about his sister’s death.

Ravi’s inner turmoil gives birth to a misplaced Oedipus complex. His love for his sister (who is like a mother) and his inability to save her from prostitution and their father’s wrath gets transferred onto his object of desire, our heroine, Pooja (Pooja Bhatt).

Sanjay Dutt is the essential hero in Sadak.

Throw in some cheap lighting — blue for his grief and red for his drunken, murderous rage — and some bhaari (heavy) foreshadowing, and you get a picture of Ravi’s saviour syndrome. Dutt plays the part well.

Pooja is the token damsel in distress, sold off into prostitution by a mean uncle, only to be swept off her feet by our hero. I don’t have a lot to say about her character, except that the camera’s romance with the beautiful Bhatt is quite apparent.

The camera romances the beautiful Bhatt in Sadak.

Sadak is fondly remembered — and with good reason — for the late Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s award-winning performance as the movie’s villain, the Maharani. Maharani is a eunuch brothel owner, to whom Pooja is sold off by her uncle.

Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s award-winning performance as the Maharani in Sadak.

Maharani has some of the best lines in the movie. Dressed up in a saree and gajra, she tells Pooja, “Agar rone dhone se taqdeer badalti, toh main na badal leti apni taqdeer. Main bhi bahut royi thi jab logon ne mujhe namard kaha, hijra kaha (If by crying you could change your destiny, I would have changed mine by now. I too cried a lot when people called me effeminate. called me a hijra).”

For a queer character to play a negative role in 1991 is perhaps not surprising. However, Amrapurkar breathes life into Maharani, who holds power in a society that ostracised her.

How the Story Plays Out

After Ravi ‘rescues’ Pooja from the clutches of the ‘evil’ Maharani, the movie is about the classic clash-and-chase between the pyaar ke dushmans (love’s enemies) and pyaar main doobe (lost in love) hero-heroine.

The movie is also about systems of justice. Ravi turns to the police after rescuing Pooja and attempts to expose Maharani’s racket, only to realise that sab mile hue hain (everyone’s part of the plan).

Pankaj Dheer as the Inspector in Sadak.

The policewala (Pankaj Dheer) entertains his guests at home in his underpants, stroking his pet dog, and smoking a cigarette in a not-so-subtle display of masculinity. He asks the hero-heroine to come and give their statements in a car parking.

I mean, would you trust a policeman in underpants who asks you to file an FIR in a car parking?

What follows is some gruesome violence, a music score comprising the popular song ‘Tumhe apna banane ki kasam’, a cringe-worthy khoonbhari maang, our hero being crucified and then returning to take revenge in an act of personal justice, balidans (martyrdom) by friends and family, and fight sequences.

All in all, the two-hour Sadak is a houseful masala blockbuster without a single boring moment.

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