Review: My Wife’s Murder / Barsaat

Posted on August 21, 2005


Picture courtesy:


Anil Kapoor accidentally murders his spouse in an impressive new movie from Ram Gopal Varma’s factory. Plus, Bobby Deol stars in a washout of a love triangle.

AUG 21, 2005 – MY WIFE’S MURDERBEGINS WITH the now-familiar trademarks of a Ram Gopal Varma production – moody lighting, looming close-ups, dialogues that aren’t dialogues as much as snatches of casual conversation, background music that is silent until it’s time for a LOUD JARRING JOLT… Even the characters remind you of Varma’s previous work. The henpecked film editor Ravi (Anil Kapoor) and wife Sheela (Suchitra Krishnamoorthy, perfectly cast; her tinny voice makes her nagging all the more unbearable) are younger versions of Tusshar Kapoor’s henpecked father and nagging mother in Gayab. Ravi’s assistant Reena (Nandana Sen) is one of those scarily-independent women like Antara Mali in Naach. (After working really late, she leaves for home all alone. Ravi doesn’t offer to drop her; she doesn’t ask to be dropped.)

But what’s not familiar is how funny it is – not in a ha-ha way, but the opening reels of Jijy Philip’s terrific directorial debut could well be India’s first black comedy about domestic violence. Look at the title, for one. In Hindi – Meri Biwi Ka Khoon! – it would have been shockingly, sensationally grim, but in English, it has the carefree lightness of, oh, My Best Friend’s Wedding. Then, Sheela brushes her teeth while insinuating that there’s something between Ravi and Reena – this, perhaps, is some kind of RGV-land irony; she’s talking dirty while cleaning her mouth. Later, Ravi – in a long-due fit of anger – hits out at Sheela, who drops dead from a head injury. That’s the cue for an outrageous bit of cross-cutting – a maidservant scours the vessels while Ravi scours the floor, mopping up Sheela’s blood, both apparently involved in a mundane household chore, removing all traces of grime… and crime. Most hilariously, Ravi, deciding to get rid of Sheela’s body, bundles it into an Onida carton – she made life hell for him; now she’s in the dabba of a brand whose ambassador is the devil.

What Ravi does is extremely stupid – he should have simply called the cops, but Anil Kapoor’s great, seemingly one-note performance (he’s harried before the murder; he’s harried after the murder) tells you why he didn’t; he’s too exhausted to even think – and the whole thing, inevitably, balloons into one big nightmare. It’s like how you try to cover up one small lie with another, and another, and another, until you no longer know what the truth is anymore.

Soon, Inspector Tejpal (a superb Boman Irani, showy and subdued all at once) begins sniffing around, and as the net closes in on Ravi, the tone of My Wife’s Murder changes – it’s not black comedy anymore; it’s psychological drama, about how Ravi’s guilt affects the innocents around him (Sheela’s parents, Reena and her live-in boyfriend, Ravi’s children). You sympathise with Ravi, but you sympathise with these others too – especially when Ravi becomes a fugitive, with kids in tow, and his little girl cries, “Papa, ghar vapas chalo.â€? She’s too small to know – and he’s too shaken to explain – that they’ll never again have the home they once had. For all his skills as editor, Ravi can’t splice his life back to what it was.

The individual layers – jet-black humour, psychological overtones, Hitchcockian man-on-the-run scenarios – are so fascinating that, for a while, I never saw these elements as part of one overarching, subversive theme: the inherent instability in relationships, especially marriage. When Tejpal comments on Reena’s live-in arrangement, “Shaadi to ek formality hai,â€? I thought it was just something he says to relax her during interrogation. But later, it’s clear he meant this literally, for his shaadi appears just that – a formality. (A quiet gem of a scene shows his wife fussing over – or is that supervising over? – his eating. She puts food on his plate; he puts it back into the casserole, behind her back.) Things are no better with Reena and her boyfriend; an instance of domestic violence erupts out of nowhere. Every relationship, apparently, has a point where you feel like killing the other person. Is this black comedy or bitter truth? My Wife’s Murder offers no answers – just a sensational ride of a film.

Picture courtesy:

BARSAAT IS LABELLED ‘A SUBLIME LOVE STORY’ with all the rain around, though, it’s really A Submarine Love Story. It begins with kids cycling in the rain; it ends with grown-ups clinching in the rain. In between, the rain incites lust (the classic Roop tera mastana situation), enhances the visual drama at key moments, and even facilitates the improbable, hand-of-God conclusion. Yes, the rain is a deus ex machina – and going by the perpetually wet heroines, a deus sex machina too.

Arav (Bobby Deol) is a design engineer for BMW in America. (They probably hired him for his dedication – he’s alongside Anna, played by the super-sultry Bipasha Basu, yet when he talks about “bodyâ€? and “shape,â€? he’s referring strictly to the car they’re driving. Another reason could be that the Chairman of BMW is… Shakti Kapoor, and in a world where that is possible, anything is.) Arav loves Anna, Anna loves Arav, Kajal (Priyanka Chopra) loves Arav, but Arav does not love Kajal, so the question is… uh, who cares?

I didn’t care because, (a) this isn’t an edgy Ram Gopal Varma production, so it’s not as if Kajal and Anna will end up together, (b) this is by Suneel Darshan, so even if the setting is designer, the sentiments are desi (or, as they’d say in Arav’s line of work, the body may be BMW, but the engine is Maruti, as is evident from lines like, “Jab dil bujha ho to diye jalaane se kya faayda?â€?), (c) with this in mind, you don’t have to be a meteorologist – I was going to say rocket scientist, but decided to stick with the overall theme – to guess who Arav will pick: the homely Kajal, always in saris and salwars, or the decidedly un-homely Anna, who apparently won’t consider an item of clothing unless it exposes cleavage, back, thighs, hips, or all of the above.

Barsaat is like Bewafaa, a weepie that makes you laugh instead at how ridiculous it is. There are interesting points – people shouldn’t marry due to family pressure; women should be financially independent – but there’s little time to look into any of this due to an endless procession of Nadeem-Shravan songs. (The composers prove yet again that they are the Laxmikant-Pyarelal of this age; they haven’t met a melody they couldn’t smother with disco-dandiya beats, though they seem to channel RD Burman’s Kuchh to log kahenge for the not-bad Pyaar aaya.)

Bipasha flaunts the requisite skin, Bobby wanders around with a dazed look befitting an actor whose career is finding newer levels of rock-bottom with every release, and Priyanka comes off best, even if she’s stuck with that most dreaded plot development – the karwa chauth sequence. As the women gather outdoors and gaze at the moon, I couldn’t help praying for showers, so they’d scurry inside and get on with the next scene. Where’s the darned barsaat when you really need it?

Copyright © 2005 The New Sunday Express

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi