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Producer & Director :Rajkumar Santoshi
*ing: Om Puri, Danny, Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anjan Srivastava, Tinnu Anand, Jagdeep, Viju Khote, K D Chandran, Samir Soni, Mamta Kulkarni, Mukesh Tiwari
Music: Anu Malik

Released on : November 27, 1998


Reviewed by: Sunder
sunder@indolink.com


out of 
China Gate stands out as a full-fledged action movie, in these times of humor and romance. And the movie sustains itself for three heavy hours only due to the chemistry between the ten lead players. The competence of the lead cast can never be doubted, and each of them brings life to the character he plays. Perhaps Jagdeep and Tinnu Anand have overdone their bit, while Kulbhushan Kharbanda, K D Chandran (remember Juhi's father in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke) and Viju Khote are less noticeable in the crowd. However, the movie is worth watching for the sheer screen presence of Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri, and Danny who dominate among the ten. Mamta Kulkarni and Samir Soni chip in for youth, and their time on screen is less than what the horses have. Perhaps time on screen was in proportion to the age of the characters.

China Gate is about ten former army men, who were court-martialed for fleeing the battlefield. Branded as cowards, they live a non-existential life with story woven into each character. Danny is the optimist, looking ahead as he fights cancer. Amrish Puri plays an opinionated disciplinarian unable to lead a civil life. Kulbhushan plays a businessman, while Naseer plays a normal family man working hard to keep up his family. How the disgrace of defeat implicitly drives their ways is well shown.

The ten men are brought together again when they stumble upon a mission to rescue a village (Devdurg) from the evil dacoit Jageera (debutante Mukesh Tiwari in a loud role). It is here that the movie falters. Bollywood directors have looted the dacoit theme more often than dacoits loot a town. And with Sholay still alive in the viewers mind, it is difficult to come one better. Credit to Rajkumar Santoshi that this movie can atleast compare with Sholay even if only lose on every other measure of comparison. This can be said of very few other dacoit movies. This is perhaps because revenge is not the main motive here like in most movies, but it is the pride of these ten people that they are trying to regain. This human aspect stands as a lone pillar that holds your attention.

The dialogues are extremely well written, and bring out the chemistry that exists between the lead players who as mentioned earlier quite simply excel. If we discount that the dacoit theme by itself is not a great one, the screenplay is strong but it would have had to be a lot better to make the movie really compelling. The novelty of the script and screenplay lies only in the way it deals with the ten lead players and with their lost pride. The screenplay has little novelty in portraying the dacoit drama. Thus, the movie stands out when you look within about the ten men and their self-esteem, but not as a dacoit drama. Wonder if it would have been a better movie with the same ten men dealing some other issue and also salvaging their self-esteem. The background music of Vanraj Bhatia is consistently brilliant, but the same cannot be said of the song-and-dance music by Anu Malik. He scores with the theme song which is used very effectively, but Chamma Chamma with Urmila is completely out of place and sticks out as a sore attempt to draw in the crowds. The song only succeeds in drawing your attention away from the movie, and making it that much harder for the rest of the movie to grab it again. Technically, the movie is good but isn't every other movie today as good. While it may not be worthwhile going to China to watch China Gate, if it is playing at the friendly neighborhood cinema hall or available at your local movie rental - this is a movie I will surely recommend.

 

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