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CAST: Sunny Deol, Raveena Tandon, Ashish Vidyarthi.

DIRECTION: Guddu Dhanoa.

Why do we call films pot-boilers? Because the process of cooking a meal and cooking up a film are similar. Take Ziddi. It is an above average pot boiler where every ingredient has been measured out by the spoonful.

It is interesting to analyse this particular recipe. First take the Sunny Deol image of the angry, disowned-by-father young (not so young anymore) rebel of Arjun. Place this called Deva (Sunny Deol) in a handi of law abiding middle class conformism where the father (Anupam Kher playing a watered down version of his Saransh role) wants the son to stop dreaming of the perfect job and take any work that comes along.

Quicker than a microwave, this youngman’s rage transforms him. naturally, it is a juicily sentimental Indian heart which also recognises an honest politician in the new chief minister and hates the corrupt police force in cahoots with the more villainous gangsters. And they are served up in their strictly limited variety- a suave, silver-haired tycoon called Jindal (Raj Babbar) whose real business is drugs, murder, etc… an avaricious builder and a killer for hire: plus ambitious politician who covets the CM’s gaddi.

Now, simmer a gravy thick with sibling love- a gentle older brother Akash (Sachin Khedekar) and a teenaged sister Guddi (Richa Behl) whom the brothers dote on. Stir in the pungent bitterness of a scheming foe who pretends to be a friend more loyal than the hero’s own family in the form of Inder Saxena (Ashish Vidyarthi). Inder not only becomes an ACP who has the CM’s confidence but also marries Guddi to infiltrate Deva’s family. This rare tit bit is reserved to be served as a surprise half-way through.

Garnish with the spice of a club dancer Jaya who sings a couple of duets -pre and post marital- is equally mandatory, Swiss locations, add dollops of sentimentality and serve flamed with deafening gun fire. In between, add artful traces from Nayakan to tease the palate and fistfuls of underworld gang warfare plus political chicanery to make it as topical as the latest pop video. Then how does Ziddi look, smell and taste stale like last week’s leftovers?

Guddu Dhanoa is faithful to the recipe all right. He has workable script (Robin Henry), some punchy dialogue (Dilip Shukla) and tried and tested actors. The problem is that everything looks too tried and tested and nothing beyond the superficial really registers. What is missing is that elusive quality of making an emotional impact even when the film boils over with emotion. This is a paradox we see in the film after film because the deadly familiarity of the formula really leaves no surprise.

Perhaps our inability to respond comes from the cosmetic nature of the screen images. Ziddi lacks the gritty reality of Nayakan. Sunny Deol’s underplayed emotions and eruptions of uncontrolled physical violence ought to tease us with the paradox. But there’s a difference between "ought to" and what really happens. As for the villain-in-chief, Ashish Vidyarthi lets down his guard and smirks at the camera when he has once again hoodwinked the hero. This is really unintelligent for an intelligent actor. I suppose it also applies to the film as a whole.

-By Maithili Rao in Screen April 18, 1997.

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