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|March 3, 2000||
But then that's conventionally speaking. Courtship, in Sanjay Gupta's Khauff, is altogether another ballgame. The wooing rituals include murdering your lover's best friend and killing a friend of your own in cold blood by running the car he is in over a cliff. All this, while the object of your affection is watching.
Threatening your loved one with the death of her teenaged sister, it seems, is another foolproof plan to win her heart over, along with stalking her! Last but not least, the display of love is complete once you threateningly try driving away the woman in your life from the city she inhabits. This is a love story with a twist for you!
Coming to the actual storyline, it's about Neha (Manisha Koirala), an airhostess, who witnesses the murder of a senior police inspector (Mukesh Khanna) committed by Samrat Singhania (Parmeet Sethi). Samrat wants to protect and nurture the political aspirations of his criminally inclined father (Suresh Oberoi).
Enter Babu (Sanjay Dutt), a contract killer, who has been hired to 'persuade' Neha -- the only witness to the murder and the woman who can send Samrat to jail -- to change her testimony.
Any plot of this kind would be incomplete without an honest cop (Sharad Kapoor), an enraged widow of the slain inspector (Farida Jalal), a comical sidekick (painfully played by Jaspal Bhatti who is once again, a stereotypical Sardarji -- it's traumatic enough having him in a single role, but what's worse is having him in a double role!) and of course, the ingratiating bad chamcha of the bad guy (Tinu Anand). Throw in some more eminently forgettable two-bit roles, and you've covered the entire cast of Khauff.
In spite of the cliches, there are a few interesting twists and turns that save the film from being utterly predictable, though eventually, the storyline does succumb to the usual love triumphing over evil. There are times you find your way to the edge of the seat, only to comfortably settle back again.
Sanjay Dutt, riding high on the recent success of Vaastav, is in good form as the ruthless and cold-blooded killer, who realises his misdeeds after he falls victim to cupid's arrow (or, shall we say, cupid's bullet?)! He is equally at ease playing the sinister-looking killer as well as shaking a leg to the racy Gori gori tu chali kahan number.
Manisha Koirala looks jaded and haggard, and attractive and alluring, by turns. She should quit her no make-up, plain Jane look while opting for roles that require a basic degree of glamour. But she does put in a decent performance as the wronged woman out for revenge, especially in the latter part of the film. Suresh Oberoi and Parmeet Sethi look convincingly menacing and threatening. The rest of the performances are strictly mediocre.
Though one can't accuse the movie of being plot-less, it tends to meander, making one wonder if there's light at the end of the tunnel. Also, some parts of the film appear to have been superimposed and some crude cut-and-paste work seem to have gone in as well.
Among the songs, Saiya ne jo teri pakdi na bahiyan and Gori gori tu chali kahan are upbeat. The rest of the musical score (by Anu Malik) is nothing to hum about. Going by the trend in some recent movies, there are not-so-special appearances by Daler Mehndi and Raveena Tandon in a nondescript song.
The movie is certainly not a must-see, but if one wanders in to the hall for lack of better things to do, it is watchable and does keep you occupied. Whether it will be successful or not, depends on the acceptance of Sanjay Dutt in yet another man-gone-the-wrong-way role. A less weighty and tired-looking Manisha would have helped the cause too.
But then, only time will decide the fate of the much-delayed and not-so-fearsome Khauff!
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