A millennial watches Mohra: A feminist’s hell is an Akshay Kumar fan’s paradise
We got a millennial to watch Akshay Kumar’s 1991 wonder, Mohra, and chronicle it all on Snapchat. Here’s what went down.
How well do films age? In this series, we will be taking superhits, blockbusters and cult classics and putting them through a trial by millennial. Could a 90’s action drama or a 60’s musical still feel fresh to a Netflix-binging, avocado eating, Starbucks sipping 20-something?
Akshay Kumar’s latest film, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, champions the cause very close to a woman’s heart - the need for privacy, or at least that is what I read into it. His character fights his family, the society and their orthodox beliefs to build a toilet for his wife. What a noble idea.
However, Akshay’s beginnings in the filmdom may not have been so politically correct, as I have recently found out.
I am a millennial and like many who fall under this category, oblivious to the many treasures of old Bollywood hits from the ‘90s or the decades before them. Let me make it clear though, this gaping hole in my cultural identity is not due to any aversion to the artform. It is neither the sentiment that tells me to hold homegrown products beneath the ones we import from La La Land. It is merely a result of the good ol’ laziness that I couldn’t introduce myself to these superhits.
But it shall continue no more! I have made up my find to not be an uncultured swine anymore and push myself into this glittery world where people still wore satin on the regular and swung to the sound of jhankar beats. And what better place to start than with one of the biggest Akshay Kumar hits this country has seen, Mohra.
Mohra, which happens to also be the mildest rape porn you’d find on the internet, tells the story of a good man turned into a criminal to avenge the murder of his family, a journalist who is incidentally friends with everyone in the film, a hero she falls in love with who hits her thinking she cheated on him and a blind man who wants to rape her.
So, the expectations weren’t too high -- they were actually right there, lying on the floor, imitating me -- and still the film managed to dig a hole for itself in the first five minutes. About 300 seconds in and the film realised it was time to show a disgustingly sexualized rape scene. Raveena Tandon’s chest is in close focus as rapists tear off her clothes and smack their lips like she was tandoori chicken.
She is saved by Suniel Shetty and his bulging biceps but nothing will save you from Raveena’s croaky voice. Two more rape attempts follow in the next 30 minutes, one successful, another not so much because the woman prefers to stab herself rather than the alternative.
Suniel goes full John Wick on the rapists and kills all four of them when the law fails to put them behind bars. Raveena Tandon, apparently not too good with the law, promises an actual murderer she’ll get him out of jail. And apparently, with help from blind Littlefinger Naseeruddin Shah, she is able to get that done.
The logical gaps in the film are several, the comedy is insultingly lame and the makers’ idea of grey characters was all shades of wrong when they created Paresh Rawal’s character. He has a change of heart at the very last moment after screwing over everyone though the movie.
But there are things to love as well. Even with use of words like ‘priyavar’, each and every song in the film was like taking a walk down your old colony road at night, streets washed with the blue street lamps and an old Philips cassette player switched on in someone’s living room. I may not have watched the film but the songs are deeply engraved in my memory, so if it seems like I am not being too practical in judging the music, sue me.
Another aspect to appreciate was the twist. Not the part where Naseeruddin Shah reveals he isn’t blind – I judge anyone who couldn’t spot that – but the play on the title to hide who was the true pawn in the story. In the first half, Akshay proclaims he is a pawn of law and you believe this film is about him, an honest lawman. But as the story unfolds, you realise Suniel was pawn to Naseer’s schemes the entire time. Akshay’s idealism gets eclipsed by the tragedy and the slight anti-heroism (if that thing even existed in Bollywood) of Suniel.
To conclude, even with its disregard for feminism (or even simple decency) or rationale, the film did manage to be entertaining even for someone watching it decades later. Mohra passes the test of time, with a blindfold on the eyes of the angry feminist in me.
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The author tweets as @soumya1405