The nostalgia of watching 'Khalnayak' on Netflix 25 years after its theatrical release

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt in Khalnayak

The 1993 Subhash Ghai blockbuster Khalnayak is now available on Netflix. While watching it recently, I was reminded of the kind of cool movies that Bollywood made in the late '80s and early '90s. Essentially a pot-boiler, it's amazing how Khalnayak manages to elevate above its text thanks to some breathtakingly choreographed dance sequences and of course some brilliant acting performances. A majority of scenes in the movie can be described as average at best but Subhash Ghai's signature showmanship is evident in lavish sets and elaborate mise en scene he orchestrates for his dance sequences.

The campy quality of the song "Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai" that's replete with sexual innuendos resonates so well with the '90s which was a decade of change and liberation in more ways than one can think of. The peppy title number "Nayak Nahi Khalnayak Hoon Main" sort of became anthem of change as people were becoming bored and tired of the good old chocolate boy hero or the angst-driven angry young man. Sanjay Dutt's eponymous character paved the way for the anti-hero which Shah Rukh Khan would immortalize in films like Darr and Baazigar. 

Interestingly, Dutt's arrest under TADA owing to his alleged involvement in the Mumbai blasts around the time the movie released added a powerful subtext to the bad boy character "Ballu Balram" that he essays in the film. According to certain tabloids, it was also the time that Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit were in a relationship. But the gravity of the accusations against Dutt cast a fatal blow to their budding romance. But anyone who sees the movie can vouch for the scintillating chemistry that the two of them shared. Khalnayak, of course, was their second movie together, following the blockbuster Saajan. One wonders what the upcoming Sanjay Dutt biopic has to say about their relationship.

Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai, Madhuri Dixit in Khalnayak

Speaking of Dixit, her performance is really the heart of the film. But her character, named Ganga, is perhaps as challenging as the performance itself. Here is a character named after the Holy Ganges and but she is not beyond unleashing expletives and making sexual suggestions. And yet she is the archetypal Indian woman who wouldn’t compromise her dignity come what may. When she sees an iota of goodness in the bad man she is supposed to help capture she puts herself on the line to ensure that the police doesn’t shoot him. There is no denying that Dixit essays the character with remarkable elegance and grace and a lesser actor would have had a tough time portraying it.

Watching the film 25 years after its release on Netflix may not be same as watching it on the big screen at the time of its release but the nostalgia makes it an experience to remember.

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