Achanak Movie Review: A Songless Wonder
It needs a consummate director like Gulzar to be able to take an actor to the next level. Gulzar did that very successfully with Jeetendra in films Parichay, Khushboo and Kinara. He saw the sensitive actress in the glamorous Dream Girl Hema Malini and brought that out beautifully in film after film. Actor Vinod Khanna too got the Gulzar treatment in Mere Apne (1971), and then in the 1973 songless classic Achanak. The film is said to be based on the famous KM Nanavati vs State Of Maharashtra, where Vinod Khanna played the role of Kawas Nanavati. Born on October 6, 1946, Vinod Khanna made his debut in a negative role in Sunil Dutt's Man Ka Meet. In fact, the beginning of his career, saw him essaying a number of negative roles in hit films like Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Purab Aur Paschim, Sachaa Jhutha, Aan Milo Sajna, among others. It took him quite a while to scale the towering heights that he did during the Seventies, when he was seen as perhaps the only threat to the 'angry young man', Amitabh Bachchan. At his peak, Khanna made a name for himself with understated performances in films like Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, the Burning Train and Qurbani, till he decided one fine day to chuck it all and follow Osho. He came back some eight years later and made a mark for himself again with performances in films like Chandni, Dayavaan and Kshatriya. There have been many highlights in his long career but Achanak undoubtedly occupies prime of place in his list of films. When Achanak happened, Khanna had already revealed that he was an actor to watch out for in Mere Apne. Achanak just went ahead and cemented that fact. There can be no denying that Vinod Khanna turned in a performance of a lifetime as Major Ranjeet Khanna, who is on death row for the cold blooded murder of his wife Pushpa (Lily Chakravaty) and her paramour Prakash. The film's story is about Major Ranjeet Khanna, a highly decorated Army officer, an officer who has been awarded the Vir Chakra for his bravery against the enemy. Stumbling upon the love affair of his wife Pushpa with Prakash, the major cold bloodedly disposes off them. Then starts the chase, which is the highlight of the film, as the cops come after him. This songless wonder, comes alive as the major is hunted down ruthlessly by the police and the police dogs. The irony is not hard to miss the hunter becomes the hunted, as the Major digs into his mind and brings out all the survival tactics that he has learnt over the years as a soldier. It seems almost sacrilegious to hunt down a hero of the nation in the manner of a common criminal. The film's story is written by Gulzar and Khwaja Ahmed Abbas. Achanak is a very un Gulzar like film, is what strikes one in the first instance. Never before or after this has the poet, director ever turned to the crime or thriller genre, his preoccupations generally hovering around and about human relations. In that sense, Achanak seems to be a departure. But in its own way, the film also deals with the fragilities of the human mind and its existence. With Achanak, Gulzar comes the closest that he can come to making an action thriller. The chase is thrilling to watch even today, some 35 years down the line. What lifts the film, besides the screenplay, are the all round performances by the cast. Vinod Khanna heads the list as he brings to life the character of the seemingly ruthless, cold blooded Major, a man known for his bravery and courage under fire. It is a sensitive, understated performance by the actor. He is brilliantly supported by veterans like Lily Chakraborty, who plays his wife; Om Shivpuri, who plays the doctor, who is fighting to save the major's life, and Farida Jalal who plays the nurse. Achanak is a courageous film, and it hardly comes as a surprise that this film was produced and presented by NC Sippy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Vasant Desai provides the background score for this songless film. The wonderful thing about the movie, is the manner in which it has been crafted. The director is so absolutely the captain of the ship in this venture as he knows exactly the direction in which he wants to steer his ship. Gulzar exhibits superb control over the film and the narrative is taunt, with no extraneous element whatsoever, thereby bringing out the stark quality in the film. Everything is minimal, including the acting style, focusing only on the hunt. Achanak was critically acclaimed after its release but one does not remember Vinod Khanna receiving any award for it. But it is a performance which is well worth awarding and lauding. It really took a Gulzar too extract that X factor from Vinod Khanna in this classic of a film.