Chaudrani (1999)


Chaudrani (1999)
Cast: Anjuman, Shaan, Saima, Saud, Sana, Shafqat Cheema
Director: Hassan Askari
Synopsis: the usual vengeance filled, violence laden formula given feminist twist.


Chaudrani was keenly anticipated upon release as it brought back Punjabi cinema’s favourite daughter back to the silver screen, where she belonged. Anjuman chose Chaudrani as the film that would relaunch her career after an exile of a handful of years. The film also garnered a couple of National Award nominations suggesting massive critical acclaim and also did well at the box office – it seemed that fans had welcomed their back their favourite “Dhee Punjab Di “with open arms. Sadly, the comeback was to go horribly awry after this movie which remains the only success of her handful of return ventures.

The director Hassan Askari received a best director nomination and Anjuman received a nod for Best actress in a supporting role. The film is the usual heady concoction of vengeance filled warring tribes and “khaandaans”…. all at each other’s throats to exact vengeance for their “izzat” being tarnished or their “Ghairat” being questioned. In this particular instance, we are shown a village in what is supposedly typical rural Punjab, however the twist this time is the town’s feudal lord, presiding over everyone’s destiny is a woman, the Chaudrani. The townspeople, all men, cower at her mere presence and fall at her feet in adulation and respect. The whole town lives in her shadow and in awe of her might, her staggering beauty and her dedication to dispensing the most perfect impartial judgment. Indeed, she is the envy of most neighbouring localities who are stuck with the usual paunchy, buffoon with a big hairy moustache and a gruff voice and a pea brain as their local lord.

Anyway, we are shown that the Chaudhrani has a huge soft spot for her mentally challenged younger brother Chan, played by an oddly grunting and scowling Shaan. The brother and sister rule the locality and we learn that their father, the great Chaudhary had been bludgeoned down by a neighbouring pretender in a mad fit of rage over six inches of turf or some such earth shatteringly important matter. Anjuman is told by her trusty sage that she ought to employ a young firebrand by the name of Achoo (Saud) to protect him from all the goons he comes across in his everyday frolics. Chan, unfortunately likes hanging around with heavies and visiting the local “kotha “where the dancing belle within has a gigantic crush on him. Saud is a decent bloke in general, a simpleton, but a good bloke. His main claim to fame is that the village rustic “kisaan’s” daughter who happens to be the local bombshell who has eyes only for him and the two are due to marry.

Unfortunately, one fine day, the spoilt brat Chan sets his eyes on the bombshell, and his world is never again the same. As is his right as a Chaudhary, he throws a massive tantrum and swears all sorts of havoc and mayhem unless he is married in an instant to the Bombshell, Saima. The Chaudrani is put on the spot as she has to decide between her devotion to her bratty brother or her devotion to doing the right thing. It’s a monumental struggle especially as kid brother Chan starts behaving like a total retard having one hell of a sulking fit…. Unfortunately, this all turns ugly as every member of the village happens to be armed with an automatic rifle. It can make for some pretty explosive petty arguments! Matters move ahead relentlessly and the clash between brother and sister sizzles to a blood curdling climax.

Be warned though that there are some stunning twists along the way with a killer one at the very end to top that of The Sixth Sense. Anjuman turns in a dynamic performance as can be expected of a superstar of her stature. She lights up the screen with her presence and completely dominates the show. Shaan is remarkable as the younger brother, scowling and grunting and shouting throughout the show. The machismo simply leaping out of his every pore, especially his moustache!

Saima doesn’t have much to do other than leap about vigorously for a couple of energetic dance numbers in the cornfields. She does however cut quite an imposing figure in those devilishly cut salwar suits tailored to accentuate her each and every curve and doesn’t she know it. Saud doesn’t have much to do and Sana has even less scope other than the obligatory mujra and some feeble last minute dramatics. Shafqat Cheema is awful as a bumpkin, shouting at the very top of his voice whenever he is on screen.

The film is pretty run of the mill vengeance filled rubbish, but is elevated from the sea of similar garbage by the performance and sheer star quality of Anjuman who shows just why she has ruled for three decades. The music is not a strength and nor are the tedious fight scenes, though Shaan’s gazelle shoot is interesting to say the least. Anjuman however saves the day!