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Murder
Director :
Music :
Starring :
 Anurag Basu
 Anu Malik
 Mallika Sherawat, Emran Hashmi, Ashmit Patel.

Subhash K. Jha Send to Friend

On a wet and windy morning in Bangkok, a forlorn Indian housewife Simran (Mallika Sherawat) in a clinging blue chiffon sari waves frantically for a taxi, drops her shopping bags in the wet chaos, and comes face to face with a sensuous silhouette.

"Come to my apartment for a cuppa?" the smirking stranger tells the housewife. Face mirroring a repressed sexuality and challenged values, she refuses, and then changes her mind...to plunge into a lustful liaison that brings her well-ordered life to a crashing crescendo.

Welcome to the second remake of Adrian Lyne's "Unfaithful" in a week. With a far better cast, production values and music score than last week's "Hawas", "Murder" nips murmurs about exploitative adaptations in the bud.

Where you expect a sleaze-fest, you get a tastefully mounted, deftly cut tale of betrayal and redemption.

In combining body with some soul, director Basu spins a sensuous coiling-recoiling yarn. Though the post-interval half after the housewife's lover is murdered gets a wee too languorous and eager to please, the vice-like grip never falls away from the narrative.

There're some amusing attempts to Indianise the wanton adulteress, make her more acceptable to the Indian middleclass' scrambled sensibility. Hence, borrowing a bit from B.R. Chopra's "Gumrah", the neglected housewife Simran is actually married to her brother-in-law after her sister dies leaving behind a child, and a void in the widower's heart that Simran finds impossible to fill.

In one of the strongest roles written for a woman protagonist in recent times, Mallika Sherawat gets to the heart of her character and creates a woman who's as appealing in her persona as in her acceptance and comfort-level with her sensuality.

In the scenes depicting the housewife's loneliness and in her arguments with her workaholic husband, Mallika is surprisingly equal to the occasion.
Wish the same could be said about her two male co-stars who are just about adequate.

Though a decent actor in "Footpath", Emran Hashmi's hunk act is way out of line here. He seems to have been chosen only because he's an adept kisser. Sure enough his skill in that area is employed generously in the love scenes.

Ashmit Patel in the husband's role is thoroughly miscast. The role required someone world-weary and middle-aged, like Jackie Shroff perhaps.
True to the Bhatt style, there aren't too many supporting characters swamping the central scenario, except Raj Zutsi as the belligerent cop whose interrogation yields a two-toned narration, with both the protagonists owning up to the murder.

It's only when the film begins to get too clever for its own good that the plot loses its cool. The end game, an invention that takes "Murder" away from its source material, is typical of the Bhatts's cinema.

The heightened horror, with a dollop of Hindu mythology whereby the now-repentant wife fights to save her marriage and dignity from the lover's clammy clutches, is the "Raaz" formula rehashed and heated at a titillating temperature.

To the film's credit, the plot is peopled by arresting moments of erotica and emotions. From the windswept opening to the over-the-top climax, Fuwad Khan's camera plays a captivating game of light and shade with the inner and outer locations.

The absence of humbug is largely appreciable, though attempts to make the adulteress sympathetic - for example, Simran very conveniently knows the lover from before marriage - dilute the woman's dilemma.

And yet what remains behind is on the whole, not only worth watching, but at times, a little beyond that.

Anu Malik's music is a big help. "Bheege honth tere" is filmed with the fecund fluidity of a free-flowing erotic painting. Though the background music gets suitably oppressive towards the end, the narrative has a remarkable soundtrack, cleansed of extraneous sounds and yet containing enough incidental noises to indicate a life beyond the immediate words.

Though some of the love scenes go boldly beyond the prescriptions of mainstream eroticism, they are tastefully done.
Most of all, there's Mallika giving to her role the kind of erotic energy and restrained emotionalism that one last saw in Urmila Matondkar in "Rangeela" and missed sorely in Bipasha Basu in "Jism".


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