An insomniac taxi driver wants to rescue a sex-worker who has been coerced into the livelihood. No, this is not the one-line narrative of Taxi Driver. I write of the 1991 Mahesh Bhatt directorial Sadak, which starred Sanjay Dutt and Pooja Bhatt in the lead roles. While Sadak is not as layered as Taxi Driver, it is a decently produced movie with a stupendous performance by the late Sadashiv Amrapurkar, who essayed the role of a eunuch called Maharani in the film.
Dutt’s Ravi is a man who is haunted by his past. He revisits a memory of his sister (Soni Razdan in a special appearance) falling from a hospital building. Ravi’s sister was a prostitute who was being held against her will at Maharani’s brothel. She ultimately gets killed by Maharani. It is sufficiently hinted that Ravi is suffering from some form of mental illness due to the latent grief. However, the way that has been handled in the film is questionable. There are multiple scenes where Avtar Gill’s Salim Bhai advises Dutt to snap out of his grief by calling him ‘pagal.’ Later, Dutt’s Ravi is taken to a psychiatric ward, where the doctor states that he needs electric shock to set him right.
Even the way Sadak has been edited and filmed is a little removed from Mahesh Bhatt’s earlier acclaimed works like Naya Daur, Arth and Saaransh, where less was more. In Sadak, we see the director tapping into his more commercial side with uni-layered storytelling and dated dialogues. However, it is hard to ignore Sanjay Dutt’s and Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s performances in the film. Despite seeming a little off in a couple of places, Dutt does a credible job of playing the emotional, grief-stricken hero. Meanwhile, Amrapurkar doesn’t pull back any punches as the baddie of the masala movie. As brothel queen ‘Maharani,’ Amrapurkar is irritable, a little obnoxious and quietly terrifying. The actor looked strangely graceful in his attire, clinking at his colourful bangles as he delivered half-baked dialogues.
Lead female actor Pooja Bhatt had little to do in the film expect look pretty and tensed. She played the stereotypical role of a damsel in distress. The music was hummable for the most part, but that is usually expected from a Bhatt feature. The script could have been tighter as the two hours felt longer than it should.
You can stream Sadak on YouTube.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines