Producer: Ram Gopal Varma
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Starring: Urmila Matondkar, Saif Ali Khan, Seema Biswas

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Released on: January 19, 2003
Approximate Running Time: Approx. 120 Minutes
Reviewed by: Alok Kumar
Reviewer's Rating: 8.5 out of 10


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Ten years ago, never did I think that Urmila Matondkar, the sex symbol who gyrated, bumped, and grinded her way to fame in Rangeela and Daud would be in the strong position as an actress that she is in today. After an absolutely spellbinding performance in 2001ís Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, 2003 saw Matondkar play a possessed housewife in Bhoot, a victim of racial tension in Pinjar, and a neglected daughter in Tehzeeb. Ek Hasina Thi continues this brilliant track record and proves that Matondkar is certainly a force to reckon with in the industry. Ram Gopal Varma returns after Darna Mana Hai and Main Madhuri Dixit Bahna Chahta Hoon with yet another innovative product, proving that he is certainly the king of originality in the industry. Ek Hasina Thi is an engrossing thriller -- providing the audience with a unpredictable story along with excellent acting from all principal cast members, including Matondkar, Saif Ali Khan and Seema Biswas. Debutante director Sriram Raghavan really delivers with this shocking and sexy suspense thriller.

Ek Hasina Thi revolves around Sarika (Matondkar), an independent woman supporting herself via a job at a local Mumbai travel agency. She meets and falls in love with Karan (Saif Ali Khan), a seemingly wealthy businessman, with whom she envisions a life of happiness. Dreams of heavenly domesticity deteriorate rapidly when Sarikaís involvement with Karan, of whom she knows little about, leads to her shocking arrest in an encounter case connected with the underworld. Fooled by Karan and her seemingly helpful lawyer, Sarika is forced to plead guilty for a crime she has not committed, gaining a grueling seven-year prison sentence, during which Sarika is forced to transform from an innocent and naÔve girl in love to a hardened victim of circumstance who, with the help of a female gangster who befriends her in jail, sets out to get revenge on those who have wronged her.

First and foremost, the film clearly belongs to Matondkar, who seeps into the skin of her character, playing both the naÔve love-fooled girl and hardened criminal with utmost conviction. Matondkar is absolutely brilliant in several scenes, exuding vulnerability and menacing seductiveness with equal skill and charm, especially in the shocking climax of the film. One has never seen Saif Ali Khan in such an avatar. Khan matches Matondkar scene for scene with his villainous act, spewing venom in the latter half of the film. Khan has never been so captivating on screen before, mastering the art of looking slimily disgusting and appealing at the same time. Truly an award-worthy turn for him after a strong supporting turn in Karan Joharís Kal Ho Naa Ho. An excellent Seema Biswas rounds off the cast as a hardened police inspector on Sarikaís trail, exuding the utmost confidence and a strong screen presence. Biswasí expressive eyes and spot-on dialogue delivery work wonders, proving that one doesnít need maximum screen time to make an impression on the audience. Just watch her convincing expressions in her introductory scenes in the film, when she interrogates Sarika after her arrest.

Director Sriram Raghavan scores big with Ek Hasina Thi, refusing to incorporate the mandatory song-and-dance sequences in his film. In fact, the only song present in the film is the title song, which pops up at various times throughout the proceedings. The filmís short running length (Itís just about two hours long) works in its favor, as the film operates as a sweeping crescendo, culminating in a well-done climax and an ultimately satisfying ending. Ek Hasina Thi is truly something different, for the Bollywood fan craving meaningful and intelligent entertainment rather than the hackneyed drivel churned out by the industry on a weekly basis.