By Subhash K Jha
Starring Paoli Dam, Gulshan Devaiya, Nikhil Diwedi
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri
Hell hath no fury like a woman spermed...Meet the newest avatar of Maa Kali. The fascist avenging woman has always been a favourite figure of fantasy fashioning for our films. Who can forget Nargis gunning down her own son in Mehboob Khan's Mother India?
The motivations for revenge in Hate Story are not quite the ones that impelled the woman protagonist to rise up in arms in Mother India or for that matter in Bhavna (a film that was directed by this film's producer Vikram Bhatt's father Pravin Bhatt) where Shabana Azmi killed her own husband.
Really, who needs a gun to get even when you have sex? Paoli doesn't give a damn if her bare back or flesh flash across the screen. She displays a healthy attitude of disdain for the camera, letting it swoop down on her vulture style, never allowing her vengeful character's erotic journey to get sleazy cheesy or lurid. The camera violates her character's privacy with her consent.
Hate Story is a tale that invites provocative measures of counter-argument. When the protagonist Kaavya (Paoli Dam) gets down to revenge she spares no one, least of all herself. In a line that has by now become a national catch-phrase she announces, ‘Main iss shaher ki sabse bade randi ban-na chahti hoon'.
Thereafter there's no looking back. And quite a comely back it is. Paoli's Kaavya uses her physique to lure her enemy into her trap. Director Vivek Agnihotri cuts into her journey of self-destructive vendetta like a knife.
The episodes sometime stretch the limits of believability. But what the heck! No one is making a statement here on the politically correct conduct of the Bharatiya Nari. In what can be regarded as one of the most defiantly unconventional debut performances, Paoli Dam lets herself go with the furious flow of her character's vendetta.
The episodes hammer into one another with scarcely room to breathe. The pace is dizzy most of the way. And when it slows down you feel the protagonist's vendetta is losing its steam.
Steamy love-making scenes are strewn across the narrative's stricken landscape. The soundtrack suggests there's an urgent tragedy nudging the erotic content. The dialogues by Rohit Malhotra don't shy away from telling it like it is.
Vikram Bhatt's screenplay is Sidney Sheldon territory. It doesn't shy away from showing the heroine in an unflattering light. This is new-age cinema with no room for conventional narrative devices or apologies for what the protagonist sets out to do.
If in The Dirty Picture Vidya Balan wore her sexuality on her sleeve, in Hate Story Paoli Dam uses her sexuality like a favoured currency in the stock market.
Mint-fresh and shock-proof Paoli Dam interprets her character with vigorous conviction. As her adversary Gulshan Devaiya (so watchable in Shaitaan and That Girl In Yellow Boots) careens between rage and anguish quite effortlessly.
Hate Story is not quite the tale of the simpering wronged woman we've been seeing in our films since the time Adam impregnated Eve.
Hate Story pushes the envelope so hard, all the content spills open in a torrential tumble of tantalizing power-play set within the world of corporate battles and gender conflicts.
This is the most riveting and aesthetic saga of a woman's revenge against the man who's wronged her since R. K. Nayyar's Inteqaam. Except for the fact that Paoli Dam does things Sadhana in Nayyar's film could have never imagined.
Mother India must be squirming in her grave.