Ek Hasina Thi

A "hell-hath-no-fury" thriller centered on a woman betrayed by a criminal, "Ek hasina thi" is a success from the Ram Gopal Varma factory. Local auds -- in a backlash against Varma's no-musical-numbers crusade -- didn't sustain this one beyond its first week in January. Offshore, it's for Bollywatchers, who'll groove on Saif Ali Khan playing against type as a villain and Urmila Matondkar broadening her range as the distaff stalker.

With:
With: Saif Ali Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Seema Biswas, Aditya Srivastava, Pratima Kazmi. (Hindi dialogue)

A “hell-hath-no-fury” thriller centered on a woman betrayed by a smooth-talking criminal, “Ek hasina thi” is a qualified success from the Ram Gopal Varma factory. Local auds — in an apparent backlash against Varma’s no-musical-numbers crusade — didn’t sustain this one much beyond its first week in January. Offshore, it’s largely for Bollywatchers, who’ll groove on Saif Ali Khan playing against type as a villain and Urmila Matondkar also broadening her range as the distaff stalker.

Travel agent Sarika (Matondkar) falls for cocky charmer Karan (Khan), even though he’s clearly a man with something to hide. (Script’s main weakness is believing an independent woman like Sarika would fall for his spiel.) Sent down for seven years when one of Karan’s schemes rebounds on her, Sarika initially endures jail out of love but later toughens up and breaks out when she realizes Karan used her. Some clever developments in the final act, as Sarika in turn hoodwinks Karan, keep the plotting fresh, and pic as a whole has a well-tooled forward drive. Khan is consistently charismatic but Matondkar (“Bhoot,” “Pinjar”) more variable. Title means “Once There Was a Beauty.”

Ek Hasina Thi

India

Production: A K. Sera Sera production. (International sales: Neptune Enterprises, Mumbai.) Produced by Ram Gopal Varma. Executive producer, R.R. Venkat Rao. Directed by Sriram Raghavan. Screenplay, Pooja Ladha Surti.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), C.K. Muraleedharan; editor, Sanjib Datta; music, Amar Mohile; art director, Shyam Dey. Reviewed on videodisc, London, April 9, 2004. Running time: 141 MIN. (I: 61 MIN.; II: 80 MIN.).

With: With: Saif Ali Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Seema Biswas, Aditya Srivastava, Pratima Kazmi. (Hindi dialogue)

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