Sunday, April 17, 2011

There's a Macbeth in everyone - Review: "Ek Hasina Thi"

EK HASINA THI (2004) एक हसीना थी

Title-Translation: "Once, there was a beautiful girl/ woman"
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Authors: Sriram Raghavan, Pooja Ladha Surti
Starring: Urmila Matondkar, Saif Ali Khan, Seema Biswas

Plot: Sarika works at a travel-agency, and when one of her customers, Karan, asks her for lunch, she doesn't agree to begin with. However, the man seems to be crazy about her and finally she gives in. They're dating for a couple of weeks, and everything seems to be wonderful, though Karan is traveling a lot for his job. One day, a friend of Karan visits Sarika and leaves a suitcase in her apartment. After he's been out for a while, Sarika sees his face in the news: He's a wanted gangster and has just been murdered. The police finds Sarika's address with him, and thinks she's his mistress, so they arrest her...

Written the 17th of April 2011

The revenge of women that have been treated badly – this plot is enough to make a film be all right, if it is horrible (think of 1998's Rani-starrer Mehndi). What happens, when the film itself is good as well? In that case, the films turns out to be a very good film. 
Most surprising is the performance of Urmila Matondkar, an actress whose films have never crossed my way before, and to whom my expectations weren't high. Off course, when expectations aren't high, it's easy to cross them, but it's not just that easy to convince someone of your incredible acting skills - which Urmila definitely is in possession of. She is the center of attention in this film, also because I believe that the transformation of her character is the actual main subject of it.

The well-known pink glasses of love...
In the beginning, she's scared of many things, she doesn't know what she wants – she's a very dry and empty character one could say. Then, after having been to jail and facing those  problems and fighting for herself, she discovers an unknown side of herself; as one of the characters says, there's a lion hidden in the very inside of everyone. There is a scene, where Sarika embraces Karan in jail, after he told her that he'll do everything to free her, and there is that look in Sarika's eyes – pure, revenge-seeking hate. Not that Sarika is dull in the first half of the film, she does seem to be a nice girl and friend, but the perfectness is only achieved, when in the second half she imitates this nice side, and also the audience at some point doesn't know what's fake and what's real.
There was no chance that Saif Ali Khan would be able to be an equal to Urmila in this film, whether his character nor his performance. Luckily, he doesn't even give it a try by over-acting or so, he simply fills his part entirely and there was one scene at the end, where I was dangerously near to feel pity for him. But only for a split second. 
Is Ek Hasina Thi a film noir? It has been called one by some people, but I'm not sure if I agree. In some ways, it does resemble a film noir, containing cynical attitudes and the feeling that there's nothing good in our world. However, if I'd have to call it a film noir, then a very modern one, because there's a thing in particular missing: stylishness. Ek Hasina Thi really isn't stylish; it's brute, raw, dirty, and most importantly very Ram-Gopal-Verma (adj.), but not stylish.
Life in jail is not what I'd call "pink"...
The peak of brutality and dirtiness was in my opinion reached, when I was witness to the most realistic (and maybe even first?) fistfight between two females in Hindi cinema. Ram Gopal Verma proved, that you're able to dare something and still be successful at the box-office (EHT was a big hit). Daring might also be called, by some people, the lack of an actual soundtrack; there was only one single song, which is mostly a musical version of the film title. The film title, Ek Hasina Thi, means “There once was a beautiful girl/ woman” - and isn't it a brilliant title? Not only does it confirm my thought that Sarika's transformation is really what the film is about, but it also indicates that she was a beauty before – and now she's even more [rhyme]. She's still beautiful, but not only that. It is the story of a woman that found her strength, her power. At the end I couldn't help but wonder, how she could go on living with the guilt of blood-shed, if she would go back to her old life or whatever she'd do and feel. The film left me feel guilty, because I was on the seek for revenge, and I wanted that blood to flow, that heartbeat to stop – but when “I” (Sarika in that case) committed the “sin”, I didn't know if I (or Sarika) could live with it. Which reminds me of The Tragedy of Macbeth, that deals with the same problem and the drastic transformation of a character.
With this, I put an end to my review and officially declare Ek Hasina Thi recommended. 

Rating: 7.8

Thank you for reading,
Mette M. K.


  1. Now I really want to watch it!!! I'll definitely try to find it. I need to see more of Urmila.

  2. @ Siham: Glad that I convinced you.

  3. So weird, I was JUST raving to someone about Ek Hasina Thi yesterday, even though I'd seen it years ago! Anyway, good review, and I realllly recommend you check out some more of Urmila's films--she's one of my favorites. Pinjar is also a really good one where her acting is amazing.

  4. @ The Bolly Hood: I already heard about Pinjar, and I absolutely want to see more of Urmila.

  5. I loved this film, but I've only ever watched it once sadly.

    I've never really been amazed by Urmila in much (I haven't watched all her films) and so I thought she was really good in this!

    Love your review :)

  6. @ nayika: Thank you, and I'm curious for more of Urmila.


Let the discussion begin!