Note: this post is part of a series of posts. Previous post: Damini
This review contains plot and other spoilers.
Ghatak deals with redemption and salvation, two themes closely associated with the Bible’s New Testament and Jesus in particular. The messiah is played by Kashi Nath (Sunny Deol) and he doesn’t reside in Santoshi’s abhorrent Bombay universe but in the spiritual city of Banaras. We see him for the first time rising out of the water similar to the ritual of baptism. We understand he is the chosen man to lead the people.
Kashi travels to Mumbai with his father Shambhu Nath (Amrish Puri) due to his father’s illness. His father is a proud boastful man but with a good heart. We learn that he walked with Gandhi during the freedom struggle (Puri did exactly that in Gandhi (1982)). His other son Shiv Nath (K. K. Raina) resides in Mumbai and they stay with him during their visit. The conflict in the movie is a McGuffin and arises because a baddie name Katya (Danny Denzongpa) terrorizes locals and holds them ransom to his demands. Shiv Nath who runs a shop, obeys, as do others dwelling in the area.
Santoshi dedicates Ghatak to his father, who he said in a recent interview died poor and in a government hospital. The movies most touching scenes come at the hospital when Kashi learns that his father has terminal cancer. It causes him to break down three times. Once in front of the doctor. A second time as he walks up to this father and watches him sitting on the hospital floor (filmed in a medium to long shot). I believe Santoshi may have undergone a similar experience to film a shot like that because it is at once both moving and touching. The third time he cries is in front of his father as he unsuccessfully tries to hide the details about his father’s illness.
Another interesting thing that takes place at the hospital when an attendant on being pestered and told that Shambu walked with Gandhi, rebukes Kashi and questions the freedom, pointing to the corrupt and rotten system. Santoshi makes sure the shot includes a picture of Gandhi in the background. Its an unpatriotic question but painfully true and even more painful to admit that its true. In Gandhi (1982), Gandhi (played by Ben Kingsley) tells the British “people would prefer their own bad government to the good government of an alien power”. I don’t think anyone knew how bad the governance would actually be.
When the conflict between Katya and Kashi heats up, the elder Shambu guides Kashi asking him to control his anger and advises that the real issue is the fear of the people who bow to Katya. Just as Jesus preaches to the Jews using parables and showing them their follies, Kashi smartly questions his brother on what he would have done if Katya had laid eyes on his wife. He even manages to win the police. Santoshi’s universe is being purified by the man from the holy place. Kashi seems to be closer to the Govind from Damini in this sense. But this is a mainstream Indian film and it has to appeal to the masses. You can’t put Sunny Deol in a picture and then cheat the audience by having him win over the baddies with simple parables. There has got to be some ‘dishoom dishoom’ and so it goes. We see Kashi have a second baptism as this time he rises out of a swamp and it is a fight to the end; eye for an eye. Over here Kashi resembles Ajay from Ghayal.
How can we be sure of Kashi’s messianic role? There is a low angle shot in one of the last scenes where Kashi is made to pull a cart while being tied to it. The shot instantly reminds one of Jesus carrying his cross. It is my favorite shot from all three movies. Kashi carries his cross for the cowardice of the shop owners and by then end redeems them.
We come to the end of our journey, reviewing three of Rajkumar Santoshi’s films and exploring the universe which he created. Each film, I believe, offers a little more hope than the one before it. As I have mentioned in the introductory post I am unsure if Santoshi intended such an interpretation, but art is always open to different interpretations. I would have loved to know Santoshi’s views of my interpretation.
A summary of the series:
- The Justice Trilogy – Introduction
- The Justice Trilogy – Ghayal
- The Justice Trilogy – Damini
- The Justice Trilogy – Ghatak