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30 years of Mohra: A 'pawn' which became a box office king!!

Starcast:  Naseeruddin Shah, Akshay Kumar, Suneil Shetty, Raveena Tandon, Paresh Rawal, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Raza Murad, Gulshan Grover and ...

 Naseeruddin Shah, Akshay Kumar, Suneil Shetty, Raveena Tandon, Paresh Rawal, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Raza Murad, Gulshan Grover and Harish Patel

Director: Rajiv Rai

Music Director: Viju Shah

Released on the 1st of July, 1994, Mohra is a gripping action thriller with a brisk pace, an almost unforeseen twist in the tale, chart-busting songs, and most importantly a taut script. Directed by the prodigious Rajiv Rai, the film was released with a lot of initial buzz and turned out to be the second-biggest grosser of that year.

Storyline: Fiery and pretty journalist Roma (Raveena Tandon) visits the prison for an article and is attacked by the inmates only to be saved in time by Vishal Agnihotri (Suneil Shetty). Roma is shocked to know about Vishal’s past and is determined to give him justice. She contacts inspector Amar (Akshay Kumar) for Vishal’s case files, and after initial disagreements, they fall in love. Roma then approaches her boss, Jindal (Naseeruddin Shah) with the details of Vishal. Jindal, who owns the newspaper “Samadhan” is visually impaired and is revered in the media. He gets Vishal’s case reopened, this time the judge sees the case in a new light, and as a result, Vishal is freed. Jindal then motivates Vishal to eliminate dreaded smugglers and gang lords Tyson (Gulshan Grover), Gibran (Raza Murad), and their gang one by one because he feels the police, especially Commissioner Kamdev (Sadashiv Amrapurkar) are completely corrupt and won’t do anything against them.

Vishal agrees to the mission and begins killing the gang members alternately. The rest of the film is about the cat-and-mouse game between Amar and Vishal, and what transpires after Jindal instructs Vishal to eliminate commissioner Kamdev.

Direction and other Technical Departments:  Rajiv Rai, who was well known for his slick actioners right from his very first film Yudh (1985), doesn’t disappoint here as well. His framing of the shots, and his handling of the confrontation scenes all are spot on. He very well knew how to use the comic subplots effectively, and does exactly that with the scenes of Kashi (Paresh Rawal) and Kranti Kumar (Harish Patel). The big “revelation” could easily have become predictable or haywire, but Rai executes the entire scene brilliantly.

Brownie points to the technical department as well. The cinematography by Damodar Naidu is impressive. His mastery can especially be seen in the song picturizations and the action scenes. Editing by the director himself ensures that the film remains engaging right from start to finish. Well-choreographed action scenes are another highlight of this film. Both the protagonists Akshay and Suneil Shetty were heavily into martial arts and that’s reflected in these fight sequences.

Performances:  Mohra has a huge star cast, with mostly competent actors in key roles. Suneil Shetty gets an author-backed role in the initial days of his career, he tries to do full justice to it and succeeds most of the times. Akshay Kumar’s role here does not provide him enough scope for histrionics , but the actor deserves plaudits for his action sequences and dance moves. Raveena Tandon looks literally “ravishing” here, she is not a mere “eye candy” in this male-dominated cast, her character is an integral part of the storyline and she does full justice to it. Raza Murad and Gulshan Grover look quite unique with their make up and both of them perform equally well.  Paresh Rawal, Harish Patel, and Sadashiv Amrapurkar succeed in providing the film with a few lighter moments. But it’s Naseeruddin Shah who towers over the rest and gives an exemplary performance as Jindal. It is a very complex character and he does full justice to it. In fact, it would certainly not be an exaggeration to say that it’s one of his best performances in mainstream cinema.

Music: Musically also, this film’s soundtrack was a rage. Released on the label Venus, it witnessed a record sales of  8 million units surpassed only by Hum Aapke Hain Kaun! Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast sung by Udit Narayan and Kavita Krishnamurthy was an immediate chartbuster followed by arguably the most iconic “rain song” of the 90s, Tip Tip Barsa Paani (Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik). Ae Kaash Kahin Aisa Hota (Kumar Sanu) and Subah Se Lekar (Udit Narayan and Sadhna Sargam ) were also extremely popular. Na Kajre Ki Dhaar, sung with pathos by Pankaj Udhas, had excellent lyrics by Indeevar and was actually a recreation of an old, unreleased Mukesh song composed by Kalyanji Anandji.

Overall, Mohra is still every bit of an entertainer as it was 30 years ago. Mohra means “Pawn” in Hindi and it can be safely said that this “Pawn” became a box office “King” in 1994.

By Ayushmaan Mitra

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