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Zakhm

Producer : Pooja Bhatt
Director :
Mahesh Bhatt
*ing: Ajay Devgun, Pooja Bhatt, Sonali Bendre, Kunaal Khemu, Ashutosh Rana, Akshay
Anand, and Sonali Bendre

Music: M.M. Kreem

Released on : December 25, 1998


Reviewed by: Anish Khanna
anish@indolink.com


out of 
"Naam".   "Saraansh".  "Sadak".  "Kaash".   "Arth".  Add "Zakhm" to that list. Mahesh Bhatt's much-touted last directorial undertaking is worth all of the hullabaloo and then some.  This is the perfect swan song for the director who - for the most part - has proven himself to be far too intelligent for Bollywood's liking.  "Zakhm", Bhatt's ode to his late mother, is a film from the heart, and his conviction and brilliance shine through each frame of this cinematic masterpiece. 

The film opens in a riot-infested Mumbai with an argument between the music director Ajay (Ajay Devgan) and his wife (Sonali Bendre) over whether to give birth to their child in a foreign country or in India, where people are killing each other in the name of religion.  Ajay soon learns that his mother (Pooja Bhatt) has been burned by a group of Muslim rioters while leaving a church and is in critical condition.  Via flashback, we see the struggles his mother had to undergo in order to raise her children.  She was in love with a Hindu film producer (Nagarjuna) but was not allowed to marry him on account of her Muslim faith.  The fact that she had children with a Hindu man forced her to hide her faith and live her life as a Hindu.  After his father's death, Ajay's mother made Ajay promise to bury her in the Muslim faith when she dies, for it is only through a proper burial that she will be able to find herself reunited with her lover in heaven.  Ajay's mother succumbs to the burns, however the impedance in Ajay's task comes in the form of the fundamentalist Hindu leader Subodhbhai (Ashutosh Rana in a role akin to a real life figure of today's times) and his disciple Anand (Akshay Anand), who happens to be Ajay's own brother.

Mahesh Bhatt characteristically draws hard-hitting performances from the entire cast.  Ajay Devgan's intensity is at home in the central role of the protagonist who is fed up with religious warfare.  Ashutosh Rana, Akshay Anand, and Sonali Bendre each manage to make an impact.   However, it is the child actor - Kunaal Khemu, who gives a mature performance as Ajay's younger self, and Pooja Bhatt, cast against "type" in an unconventional role, who most brilliantly compliment the film with their honest, heartfelt acting.

The film is grippingly directed by Mahesh Bhatt with a powerful screenplay by Bhatt himself and Tanuja Chandra.  This isn't a film that preaches by any means.  There are no senselessly violent scenes added in for shock value. There are no long speeches to enforce messages upon the viewer.   Even most of M.M. Kreem's melodious score is used only as background music.  Rather - the characters and story are presented in a clear and concise manner - leaving the audience to ponder over the issues of secularism it raises. 

"Zakhm" has been fighting controversy after controversy since its conception, and it is a blessing on the viewer that such a film has valiantly braved each storm in order to come forth onto the big screen.  This is a film that not only will make you feel - it will make you think.  Be prepared.          

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