Kaun, 1999 – Bollywood Movie
“A suspense thriller with too many contrived horror tricks,” said a review in India Today magazine for the movie Kaun. Director Ram Gopal Varma’s films are like Pandora’s Box. You never know what’s inside until you open it. The Quentin Tarantino-style self-taught-by-watching-video director switches genres seamlessly and swiftly.
Ram Gopal Varma was riding high on the success of Satya that had just released a year before 1999. Varma could’ve easily made another gangster movie to cash in on the steam Satya had generated. But thankfully, Ram Gopal Varma of the 90s was a different person altogether. In the movie Kaun, Varma takes a shot at an Ittefaq-style songless suspense thriller and almost pulls it off. Kaun has the following strong elements: great cast, perfect acting, apt settings (the house and the rain), and Sandeep Chowtha’s background score. The story starts and ends in one stormy night.
Urmila Matondkar infuses into her character the perfect amount of paranoia in the movie Kaun. Manoj Bajpai plays a totally fluctuating role, where he is irritating, likeable and scary, changing from scene to scene. He plays a person who never loses his cool and he clearly enjoys the part, particularly the bits where he is trying to pacify Urmila and when he is sparring with Sushant Kumar.
Synopsis of Kaun
On a stormy night, a girl (Urmila Matondkar) is alone in a large house. The television announces that a psychopathic killer is on the loose. The doorbell rings. It is a man (Manoj Bajpai), well-dressed but obviously edgy and perhaps even crazy. He makes his way into the house and somewhere through the long evening, a second man (Sushant Kumar) joins in.
He says he is a police inspector but he looks and behaves like a criminal. A nervous cat-and-mouse game of who is the psycho follows. In the end, two people lie slashed to death in the rain while the psycho grins, waiting for more victims.
Varma, trying to create off-the-hook suspense, pulls out the arsenal of shock tricks , appropriately timed thunder, more appropriately timed power cuts, creaking doors, dead cats.
Kaun – A thriller worth waiting and watching
The spooky but superbly eerie background score managed by Sandeep Chowtha, who also did a brilliant job in Satya, rejuvenates the mood, almost becoming a fourth character.
While Matondkar, with trembling lips and eyes filled with horror is over the top, Bajpai is the showstopper. Veering between a nerdy salesman-type and a deranged killer, he keeps up the tension. The characters were all nameless and that just adds the right amount of boost to the suspense elements of the movie.
The first half of the movie is full of red herrings and false alarms, that lays the foundation stone for the adrenaline rush. Matondkar and Bajpai’s verbal sparring becomes tedious.
But writer Anurag Kashyap picks up the pace in the second half, adding much required doses of humour and working up to a startling climax.
Alfred Hitchcock, the emperor of suspense, once remarked that his classic Psycho was a game with the audience: “I was directing the viewers. I was playing them like an organ.”
Varma doesn’t quite attain that level but for viewers tired of watching cheesy college romances, Kaun is a magnum opus.
Unconventional story of Kaun
The movie Kaun was unconventional in a lot of ways. To begin with, the entire movie was shot in just one location. There were no songs. And the film took a lot of time to build up. The film starts with a big scare that leaves you feeling silly and, slowly, as the momentum picks up, it draws you in.
You prepare for the worst and end up jumping at shadows. Though the climax is a little long-drawn and leaves you with some unanswered questions, it delivers the required punch.
The movie was way ahead of its time. While today, the viewers demand such content, the movie couldn’t hit the desirable chords during its time of release.
Having done strictly commercial films such as Judaai and Rangeela, Urmila played a bundle of nerves with unbelievable ease.
The perfect cast in Kaun
Due to lack of a sufficient luxurious budget, Varma invested in the cast by hiring just the perfect actors for his characters. Manoj Bajpai, Urmila Matondkar and Sushant Kumar didn’t disappoint whatsoever.
What they lacked in budget, they made up for with their performances.
And thanks to Kashyap, the writing was uptight as well. The storyline was refreshing and was a pleasant deviation to the regular fare Bollywood was dishing out during that time.
Ram Gopal Varma and Anurag Kashyap did amazing teamwork once again in creating a thriller with just 3 characters and a house!
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A psychological horror-thriller is never complete without proper and well-planned cinematography, editing, background score, and use of props, which were successfully created with the required work of appreciation.
Kaun sets a benchmark as one of the best psychological thrillers ever created in Indian cinema.