When Gone Girl released, there were reports that the writer had ended the book and exclaimed, “I have killed feminism.” If the ‘f’ word was bandied enough in the 80s, the storywriter of Rajesh Khanna’s Red Rose would have exclaimed, “Oh, I have summarily executed feminism on a peak summer afternoon!”. Felt the heat in that sentence? Because that’s what Red Rose was. Even today, after two decades, it is one of the boldest, most experimental film ever made.
Lest there be doubt, Rajesh Khanna was the first and only superstar of Bollywood. People love him for many of his performances. Some love him for Aradhana, others love him for Haathi Mere Saathi. Yet others love him for his commercial ventures like Aan Milo Sajna, etc. etc. After two decades of playing to the galleries, Superstar Rajesh Khanna finally decided to expermient with his films – and acted in two very different projects, both releasing in 1980. We have featured the other film, Phir Wohi Raat on this site, but it is Red Rose that Bollywood should remember as the Rajesh Khanna film.
Khanna plays a rich but lonely man who’s known for his flirtatious ways. He has an affair with one of his female employees. One day, on the pretext of taking her out to dinner, he kills her. As his life spirals into a world of crime, he meets another beautiful woman, who marries him. But fate has other plans for him.
It is finally revealed that Khanna’s character, a poor orphan, has had bad experiences with each and every woman that he has met – after his mother’s death. It is unclear whether he is born out of wedlock. His character is literally introduced to the audience while being beaten and driven away by his aunt.
After that, he has little luck. A house that he takes refuge in turns out to be a mistake after the young girl in the house tries to be intimate with him. When her family finds out, it is the boy who is beaten up and driven away. His last refuge is the home of a rich man and his wife. However, the wife too has an affair and that’s the propelling point for the rest of the film.
Wittingly or wittingly, the film’s script poses a question to the post modern audience. In a country where the woman is either a Goddess or a slut, would society lose it’s mind if a woman was presented to them in her human form – with her beauty and all her flaws, warts and all?
In a nutshell, Red Rose was a film ahead of its time for Bollywood. A psychopatic serial killer as the antagonist was unheard of in the eighties. A young man turned into a psychopatic serial killer because of the women in his life was cause for concern. This wasn’t a script you took to the reigning superstar. This was not a script the reigning superstar would say yes to. But, surprisingly, both these things happened and we have one of the finest psychological thrillers in India, available on YouTube today.
To be frank, Bollywood doesn’t have many psychological thrillers, so Red Rose is in august company. The other psychological thrillers that come to mind are Ajay Devgn’s Deewanagee and Akshaye Khanna’s Naqaab. Both these films are post 2000 releases.
If there’s anything that the film lacks – it is good direction. We are forced to wonder how the film would have turned out if it were to be re-made today with auteur directors like Prawal Raman and Anurag Kashyap.
Please make it a point to watch this film here:
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