Mahesh Bhatt, one of the elite of all time great directors in Hindi cinema, always had a great sense of thoughtful scripts. He always had the tremendous art in him to convert that to absolutely thought provoking cinema and so effectively, that he could even sublime the most average of scripts into great cinema. Be it the heart wrenching "Saaransh" or the bold "Thikana" or the sensitive "Tamanna", his subjects were as poignant as cinema can get. Awaargi falls into the same category as his other greats and here you can see him so effectively weaving three different tracks into one. As with other movies, Awaargi shows the three critical factors which differentiate Mahesh Bhatt from many other directors of his time, terrific sense of script work, edge of the seat direction and narration and last but not the least, mind blowing performances.
In "Awaargi", he teams up with one of Bollywood elite actors of all time and the result is as riveting as it can get. Awaargi is the story of Azaad, a street vagabond and confused personality, and trying to decide a destination in his life. The movie starts off showing the dark side of his life and very soon you find out the frustration in his life. He works for "Laala" (Anupham Kher), who is a local "dada" and very typical in portraying the essence of gang-war in Mumbai. On expressing his frustration over life, Laala asks Azaad to go and enjoy life, or in terms of the context visit a "mujrewali". Azaad meets Seema (Meenakshi), a nautch girl at the brothel and touched by her innocence he rescues her from the brothel and takes her to his home. Seema expresses her ideologies and her aim to become a singer to Azaad and bowled over by her simplicity, he sees in her the destination he is looking for which is expressed various times through the movie.
Enter Dhiren (Govinda) who has a local music band and impressed with Seema, he gets her to sing for his band. Slowly and unknowingly, Dhiren and Seema fall in love during their shows and auditions. On another track, enter Bhau (Paresh Rawal) a local "bhai" who also has interests in the business of nautch girls, is keen on getting his hands on Azaad for rescuing Seema. Seema on the other hand continues to respect Azaad but not the love he is expecting from her. What happens next? Does Azaad get Seema back? Does Bhau confront Azaad? The continued frustrations in life and the jealousy of an otherwise confused character, lies the crux of "Awaargi" aka Aimless Wandering.
Mahesh Bhatt´s direction is just top-notch and some of the sequences make you realize his command over the narration of the subject. Bhatt so easily blends the three different tracks and yet, towards the end of the movie you just want more and more. His treatment of the subject as his other movies is on the money. The second half takes the viewer to some un-chartered waters, usually something not seen very often in commercial cinema. It would be inappropriate if I reveal anything about it. Two years later, Bhatt had reused one of the tracks of this movie, "the rescuing of a girl from a brothel and trying to portray her identity and falling for her", in Sadak and like Sadak not for once he goes overboard here. What he also gets the best in Awaargi, are the confrontation scenes, be it Anil Kapoor and Anupham Kher, or Anupham Kher and Paresh Rawal. The confrontation scene between Anupham Kher and Paresh Rawal at the pre-interval scene, makes you want to sit there and applaud, not just for the Anupham and Paresh, but also for the punching dialogues and Mahesh Bhatt´s style of portraying confrontation.
First the drawbacks, and though pointing drawbacks in a movie may differ one reviewer to another, this critic finds few flaws for way the subject is handled. Technically, the movie might not be that strong and it would have even helped more if Bhatt had used better action sequences at the climax. Also, he could have easily done without one or two songs. The climax though very well executed, doesn’t have as many confrontation scenes or powerful dialogues as were evident throughout the movie.
On the plus side, almost everything works in the favor of the movie. From the mind-blowing performances to the powerful dialogues to the taut script, all are superb. The story and the dialogues from "Suraj-Sanim" are indeed applause worthy. The editing by Dimpy B is just terrific. The flow of the movie and the way the tracks are blended with each other is what makes this movie so riveting. Though it might seem to be a love triangle, when one sees Anil Kapoor´s jealousy and his obsession with Meenakshi takes the cake. There is a scene where Meenakshi tells Anil, "Na to tum mujhe Marne doge and aur na to tum mujhe jeene doge. Main tumhara Kya karu", makes you realize if this abuse or jealousy or frustration, all mixed emotions so immaculately done.
The music by Anu Malik is ear pleasing and those who have heard the soundtrack know that Ghulam Ali is at his very best in "Chamakte Chaand". Bhatt also very well does the picturization of the song and the lyrics of the song are to the point to personify Anil´s character. "Bali Umar ne Mera" and "Aye Mere Saathi aa" are also great and I can still recall them making the rounds of the hit parade back in 1990.
Now the performances and every associated character have done some of their best jobs. Meenakshi Sheshadhri´s portrayal of Seema, the character trying to find her identity is very well done. Her emotions of a lady trying to balance between love for a person and respect for another is very well done. One can really differentiate through her why she would respect one individual but not love that person. Definitely one of her best performances, after "Damini". Govinda looks different and one of the movies he is quite different from his forte of comedy. He lends a good supporting role and within the character defined, he does well. Anupham Kher and Paresh Rawal, as in all Mahesh Bhatt movies, are ace. Both have been given some of the best lines in the movie and boy do they deliver. Their confrontation scenes make you realize their importance in a Mahesh Bhatt movie.
Avtar Gill is dependable and Satish Kaushik lends some light moments. Anil Kapoor in this movie is sensational to say the least. I can still remember the reviews that came out back when the movie released and all were gaga over his performance in this movie. There were many who called this his best performance ever. So that should speak enough for how he has performed in this movie. There wouldn’t be many who could do the "tapori" and "street vagabond" act better than him. His expressions when watching Meenakshi dance or when confronting Anupham Kher or when assaulting Meenakshi are just sensational and scintillating. A performance that would easily differentiate Anil Kapoor from the usual breed of actors a la Naseeruddin Shah or Om Puri.
Overall, this is one underrated gem from Mahesh Bhatt and sadly, not many talk about this movie when talking about some good cinema. One of those movies, which would never wear out with time and in fact would be more appealing with time, essentially because it relies on the greatness of the script, direction, performances, dialogues and all the essential components of great cinema, No Swiss Alps and no designer wear, just pure classic Mahesh Bhatt entertainment getting you to the edge of the seat. If you want to see the "real" Anil Kapoor, watch this movie, one that goes on the top of his long list of unforgettable performances.