Watch if: you like a hefty dose of justice (i.e. if you liked Anjaam)
Don’t watch if: you hate ’80s clothes or want some romance
Best song: tough choice, actually, but I’m going with Main Teri Hoon Janam (embeeded with English subs at the end of this post)
Soundtrack overall: fairly middling
In her 2005 Rendevous with Simi Garewal, Rekha said something that blew me away: the first film that she truly enoyed acting in was Khoon Bhari Maang. This was in 1988, more than twenty years after her illustrious career began and after most of her most celebrated roles. Naturally, I went immediately to watch it.
Rekha is Aarti, an ‘ugly’ woman who has been tragically widowed and left to bring up her two children alone. Despite the loss of her husband, she has a strong and loving family; her wealthy father is kind and supportive, she has a servant who lovingly calls her beti and a wonderful, supermodel best friend, Nandini (Sonu Walia). Nothing could go wrong in this life, until a man enters it. (Ugh!)
The man in question, it goes without saying, could not possibly be attracted to the bad-looking Aarti – he is after her money. After he leads Nandini astray and the two of them try to kill Aarti in a horrific animal attack, she comes back to get her revenge. And boy, does she! Rekha’s performance is incredible, and the rest of the cast leave little to be desired either. Kabir Bedi is a disturbingly handsome bad guy.
Everyone in this film is face-blind; think Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi face-blind. Firstly, everyone is adamant that Aarti is horrifically ugly, when she is literally Khoobsurat Rekha with a birthmark. They have to keep talking about the fact that she is ugly, in case they let each other forget, which would be easy to do since it is top-tier nonsense. Secondly, all it takes is the removal of this birthmark and the addition of some false eyelashes for everyone to think Aarti is a completely different woman – including her own children! Nobody recognises her except her pets.
So different and beautiful is Jyoti, Aarti’s alter ego, that she immediately becomes a top model and bitter rivals with Nandini. The two even engage in a crazy dance-off, on the song Main Haseena Gazab Ki for the affections of Aarti/Jyoti’s murdering ex, which Jyoti wins despite looking insanely bad – much worse than Aarti ever did – in what must have been the height of 80s fashion. Despite Nandini’s stellar entry to the Worst Best Friend Ever Awards, one can’t help but feel sorry for her at this point; imagine being unseated from your position as the country’s top model by someone who became famous three minutes ago, and is trying to steal your boyfriend.
The more vengeful she becomes, the better Jyoti’s outfits become: she goes from the hideous dance off get-ups to an an incredibly sexy pair of leather trousers by the the climax, so don’t give up on getting your fill of amazing Rekha looks.
All in all, I fully understand why Rekha enjoyed acting in Khoon Bhari Maang; wielding a gun and stamping on bad guys has got to be a refreshing change after 20 years of eyelash-fluttering. If, after this, you want to see her go fully to the dark side, watch Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi. If you’re not head-over-heels in love with Dark Rekha by then, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.