In October 2008, due to reasons I rather not get into, I found myself in a theatre watching Karzzzz starring Himesh Reshammiya. There was a grand total of 6 people in the theatre. By interval we were 4. But I soldiered on. I remembered liking many things about the 1980 original starring Rishi Kapoor and Simi Garewal. So how bad could this be? Turns out it was so bad, that it was actually good.
The new version directed by Satish Kaushik stays faithful to the original. Industrialist Ravi Verma is killed by his scheming wife Kamini, only to be reincarnated 20 years later as popular musician Monty. What makes this film memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons, is Himesh's performance. With his floppy wig, gold jackets, buttoned down shirts, and perpetual frown he just doesn't look cool enough to pull off a name like Monty. But it's fun to see him try. There's also Urmila Matondkar as Kamini who is unintentionally hilarious as the evil wife.
There's a lot in the 1980 version that of course will seem dated and out of place today. You'd think the entire point of a remake is to update it for an audience in 2008. But maybe that's too much hard work. For example, Ravi Verma's sister Pinky still says strange things like, 'sharaab peene se bade bade ghar barbaad ho jaate hain' when she suspects her saintly brother has had a drink. A few scenes later, Ravi Verma is killed and their 'bada ghar' is usurped by his murderess wife.
They've also retained the worst joke. When a Dr Shastri tells Monty he thinks the images that are haunting him are from his past life, an amused Monty says, 'Doctor Shastri aap toh shastri nikle'.
But sadly, whenever the film does try to improvise, it's a mess. Like the Kali Ma ka mandir that is witness to Ravi Verma's murder is shifted from Conoor to the fields of Kenya, where it just looks odd. Also, great songs like 'Dard-e-dil' and 'Om Shanti Om' are replaced with a nasal Himesh crooning 'Masha Allah, Subhan Allah, Tera Chehra' and 'Tandoori Nights'.
And yet, I think you must give this a chance. (You're in luck. The film is available on both Netflix and Hotstar.) If nothing, there's a great drinking game in here – take a shot every time someone says Ravi Verma or Verma Parivaar. Please note, no one ever calls him just Ravi – it has to be Ravi Verma.
Here are 5 reasons why Karzzzz deserves your attention.
This is a tough one to digest. It may have been more believable if Himesh hadn't opted for a bob cut. That said, it's hilarious to see women constantly throw themselves at Himesh's Monty throughout the film. In his opening song, which is at a concert in Cape Town, there are shots of fainting girls being carried out because that's how lethal Himesh's charm can be.
When we see Urmila after a gap of over two decades, she's graduated from Kamini to Princess Kamini. She's now a widow with a very active social life. One character rattles off her schedule – 'Saturday nights ko Casino. Mondays ko golf. Tuesdays ko races.' We are also told that she's twice as old Monty – but Princess Kamini looks exactly the same, and so does her wardrobe. Young Kamini had a penchant for shiny metallic caps and I guess she's preserved them for over 25 years. In one scene, Princess Kamini is sporting one of her gold caps when she's reminded of her dead husband. We immediately cut to a flashback, where she's wearing the same cap!
To be fair, no one in this film ages. Even Ravi Verma's sister Pinky looks the same after 25 years, except now she's poor so she's been given two large dark circles under her eyes.
In the original Karz, Sir Juda plays the bad guy whose voice we never hear. When he needs to execute his evil plans, he just taps his whiskey glass and his henchmen decode what that means. It's quite preposterous but I can imagine it looking quite cool in the 80s. Sir Juda 2.0, played by Gulshan Grover, also can't speak. But it's hard to take the poor man seriously when he's been saddled with what looks like a mini laptop or keyboard stitched to his arm. He keeps punching in random musical notes and his two bodyguards translate it. Also, don't miss the bodyguard's hairstyle.
'Tanha tanha hai dil, tanha Tandoori Nights. If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right.' Yes, these are profound lyrics to the song Tandoori Nights. This song is the most apt definition of the phrase 'so bad it's good' and begs for a viewing.
If I haven't convinced you to give the film a shot, maybe this scene will do the trick. At a crucial point in the film, Monty has to convince Princess Kamini that he is her murdered husband Ravi Verma. Naturally, she ain't buying it. So Monty goes on to prove his identity with facts so embarrassing that I'm surprised she didn't kill him again on the spot. Instead, she's rather impressed when he throws these lines at her – 'Agar dus baje tak tumhe nashta nahi mila, tumhe acidity ho jaati hai' and 'Tum subah bina brush kiye bed tea peeti ho'. And then, the real clincher – 'Jab tum kiss karti ho, tumhari aankhen band ho jaati hain'.