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19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

A magnificent debut by director Sriram Raghavan with stunning performances by the lead artists

Author: S_Menon from Chennai, India
24 February 2004

From the production house of Ram Gopal Varma comes another powerful film about love, hatred, passion and revenge. "Ek Hasina Thi" is director Sriram Raghavan's debut film but you wouldn't be able to tell that after viewing this film. He puts other experienced Indian directors to shame with his debut film. He even surprasses Ram Gopal Varma at his own game.

"Ek Hasina Thi" tells a story of Sarika - a simple, working-class woman who seems to be content with her life until her chance encounter with a suave, ultra-cool individual - Karan. She falls in love with him and dreams of a future bliss, marital life. From there on, however, Sarika's world is completely turned upside down. Saying any more would ruin the premise of the film, not to mention, the experience of watching it, but I highly doubt any Bollywood film this year will make an impact on me the way "Ek Hasina Thi" did.

One of the major aspects that makes "Ek Hasina Thi" so powerful are the performances by the lead actors. Both of them, Saif and Urmila, give the performances of their careers. Saif Ali Khan, who is suddenly on a white-hot streak with films like "Dil Chahta Hai", "Darna Mana Hai", and the recent "Kal Ho Naa Ho" easily gives the finest performance of his career. Usually, in hindi films, villainous characters are shown to be mere caricatures - a snarl here, a facial contortion there, etc., but Saif Ali Khan plays Karan Rathod in such a subtle, cool, and horrifying real manner that the viewer almost sympathizes with him. If you thought he was great in "Dil Chahta Hai" and "Kal Ho Naa Ho", you will be completely unprepared for his volatile, brilliant performance here. Truly an award-worthy act. Urmila, who is getting much praise for her films in 2003, actually gives her career-best performance as well in "Ek Hasina Thi". In most of her films, Urmila tends to overact even when the character doesn't call for it. But, in "Ek Hasina Thi", Urmila goes through a wide array of emotions and does it very convincingly. Some of the prison sequences are heart-wrenching simply because of Urmila's act. Also, the initial scenes where Saif and Urmila meet are some of the best scenes in the film. They share such an intense and real chemistry. Bravo to both actors for portraying their characters so effectively.

As mentioned, director Sriram Raghavan gives the best debut film I've seen in years. Some of the camera angle, quick cuts, stylish close-ups he employs are just wonderful. There are no songs in the film, thankfully, which makes "Ek Hasina Thi" a much better viewing experience. The screenplay by Pooja Ladha Surti is solid. C.K. Muralidharan's cinematography is fantastic - probably better than any film Ram Gopal Varma has been associated with. Editing by Sanjib Datta is superb. Some of the cuts he makes are really innovative. Finally, Amar Mohile's background score is just excellent. It really suits the mood of the film. "Ek Hasina Thi" is easily Varma's finest production. In fact, "Ek Hasina Thi" is even better than Varma's own film - "Company". I look forward to seeing what Sriram Raghavan has to offer us next. "Ek Hasina Thi" is a film that should not be missed by anyone who appreciates intelligent, different, and profound cinema.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

"Once There Was a Beauty" - Fantastic film, fantastic Urmila!

Author: Peter Young from Earth
15 July 2009

Ek Hasina Thi is a wonderfully absorbing film. It is gritty, realistic, gripping, and it successfully adopts the style of Ram Gopal Varma's film-making. This thriller develops at a taut pace, starting as a simple romance and later gradually growing in suspense with its shocking proceedings. It is about a young independent woman, Sarika (Urmila Matondkar), who falls for a young suave man, Karan (Saif Ali Khan) who is actually not the one he appears to be. Unexpectedly, her world is turned upside down when she finds herself jailed because of him. That's how the story of her hardening begins, when, toughened by prison life, she gets determined to take revenge. The film does not have any unnecessary subplots, it avoids melodrama, it is relatively short, it has no songs, and all these elements contribute to its authenticity and suspenseful mood, also aided by its fantastic background score, brilliant dialogues, and superb cast.

Urmila Matondkar is one of the finest and most versatile actresses in India. But, in spite of having attained nationwide fame, she is still extremely underrated. It may be because she stepped into a new kind of cinema in order to satisfy her artistic hunger and show her exceptional acting abilities. In Ek Hasina Thi, Urmila stars as Sarika Vartak, but although she plays one character, she actually plays two different women. She is first a gentle and simple class-working woman who, after being deceived by a man, turns into a merciless, calculating and almost sadistic avenger. The complexity of this challenging character arc is astounding, and there is not a single false note in the way Matondkar portrays this deeply troubling transformation. She is thoroughly relatable, real and compelling, handling the toughest and most brutal moments with depth, authenticity and unsettling intensity. This is a performance to remember.

Quite obviously, the rest of the cast are here only to support Urmila, but they include a host of talented actors, all of whom do well. Saif Ali Khan is very impressive in this villainous turn. This is one of his most restrained acts, and his serious character comes as a pleasant surprise after all the comic, lighthearted and womanising characters he had played before. Seema Biswas can always be counted on to deliver a credible performance, and that's what she does as Malti. She creates a tough screen persona which is appropriately intimidating. Pratima Kazmi is superb as the powerful yet compassionate prisoner Pramila. In conclusion, Ek Hasina Thi is a great dramatic thriller, which is enjoyable, unconventional and thoroughly fascinating. The film has some disturbing moments and many moments of relief and joy. The ending is also one of the most unusual you will see in a Hindi film. One of the best Indian films of 2004.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:


Author: beany82 from United States
3 December 2005

What makes this movie so good and convincing is that it strays from every Bollywood stereotype out there. The plot moves quickly and does not lag. There are no forced song and dance scenes as this is not the type of movie for that and I am glad that the director did not force these into this movie. The acting is superb and there are many western elements such as storyline and direction that make this piece fabulous and a piece for people that are not familiar with Bollywood films to watch.

It does get a bit cheesy when Saif Ali Khan breaks out the martial arts moves but Urmilla's acting is wonderful. You can see her character transform convincingly and Saif Ali Khan as the menacing bad guy is quite the fit! It's a revenge story finally told right in the fluff that clutters the few gems of Bollywood cinema.

It's a movie that did not have it's vision compromised for the sake of trying to fit in to Bollywood. I would definitely recommend this movie to everybody, especially those that have not seen an Indian film before and who are curious.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Decent, taut revenge thriller

Author: hprill from Austria
25 January 2005

From producer Ram Gopal Varma and director Sriram Raghavan comes a pretty good revenge thriller, which is definitely one of the better Indian movies this year.

Cast against his usual roles, Saif Ali Khan plays a slick criminal whose dealings with terrorists and the Delhi underworld get his girlfriend Sarika (Urmila Matondkar) into prison. However, toughened by prison life, Sarika manages to escape and takes revenge.

Progressing somewhat slowly during the first 15 minutes, but then gaining momentum at an increasing pace, this movie never slows down and manages to keep your interest for the full duration, which at only 120 minutes is significantly less than most Bollywood movies. There are also no disruptive song or dance sequences that would distract you from the plot.

In fact, one of the problems that I have with this movie is that it is a bit too short -- in particular the prison sequence seems rushed: Sarika's character development from the innocent, naive girl to the tough, cold-blooded killer is not fully developed and feels a bit sudden as a result.

My second problem is with the ending, which, while not inappropriate, feels a bit out of line with her previous revenge strategy. It still works fine, but one feels that it could have been built up better.

Other than that, however, there are no obvious problems with the plot, and acting is good from most main and supporting actors. Seema Biswas in particularly stands out in her role as the determined female police officer in pursuit of Sarika.

Definitely worth watching, and much better than anything Hollywood, USA has produced in this genre in a long time.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Subtlety is a rare commodity in Bollywood...

Author: bigfeet from Florida
2 February 2004

...but EHT manages it very well. Its a refreshing change from the fare the we are regularly subjected to by Bollywood. There are no ridiculous song and dance sequences, no melodramatic dialogue delivery and even the gory action sequences are underplayed.

The movie is about a single girl living alone in Mumbai away from her family ("on her own terms" is what the reviews say) and how she deals with extraordinary circumstances that surround her meeting the man of her dreams (on the lines of Pacific Heights, or Sleeping with the Enemy). The movie suspiciously feels like its a remake of some Hollywood thriller, but without concrete evidence, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

The movie manages to remain realistic on the whole without giving in to the usual ludicrous melodrama and action scenes at the end. Having said that though, there are a few elements that are difficult to believe. For one, the occupation of the lead character, Sarika. Can a single girl really survive alone in Mumbai with her lifestyle as a booking agent in a travel firm? And for a single girl, she is amazingly gullible when a man woos and beds her. Is it really that easy? Finally, Ram Gopal Verma's penchant for introducing threatening and mysterious characters that turn out to be harmless and irrelevant (the neighbour, Kamdar and the talent scout) is getting old.

Even with its flaws, EHT deserves a high rating. Not because its a great movie or will be a classic someday, but because it simply offers a better movie going experience than most other Bollywood movies today. Its very nice to know that a movie without songs can hold its own, especially when it is mainline cinema.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

One Wonder Product!

Author: santoshx1 from Mumbai, India
2 May 2004

I never even knew about this work by RGV & KSS with direction by Sriram R and sounds by Dwarak. I happened to catch it on one of those 24hr movie channels and what a fresh piece of work it was! The cinematography by Muralidharan, direction by Sriram Raghavan and the sounds by Dwarak are top class. From the cast, Saif Ali Khan, Urmila and Seema Biswas are outstanding. This has to be one of the finest performances by both Saif and Urmila in main roles. It was really surprising to see how on hell Sarika (urmila) could ever get into her jail terms. Her times in the jail are almost like the role of Stallone in Lock-Up. One never expects hardcore stuff from hindi films, yet this one has some of the most intense time-scale scenes in it. I wonder how this Urmila who gyrated her way with Rangeela could ever get into the skin of the role that she plays in this film which requires her to bring in physical encounters with jailmates and so on! The suspense is brilliantly held by the screenplay and background sounds. It was the ending that could have got a better editing. It can be clearly seen how the story loses its way towards the end. This one is for those who can appreciate intelligent and deep films by grasping the psyche of the characters in it. The direction is first class and if RGV can rope in such directors into his team, the indian film industry has got an invaluable producer with it. It really amazes to know that while other Directors struggle hard to set up a team of actors in the cast, Ram Gopal Varma manages to set up a team of directors along with a full team of cast and crew.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Khatarnak hasina!

Author: HeadleyLamarr from United States
30 September 2007

Loved the film. It was gripping, well acted, beautifully shot and I changed my opinion about Urmila after this one. Boy, can she act and look good! She was great as the vulnerable girl and then amazing in the prison scenes. She was better than Saif, although he did a really good job playing the cold selfish man. There were times in the beginning when I thought he was leading her on, and then he would parry it off with some remark! I can see how this moved him on to his landmark role in Omkara.

The script was taut, the film was exceptionally well edited, had no songs and dances, and was real, brutal and honest for the most part. Yes there were some issues with the film. If you were stealthily stalking someone then it might not be a good idea to be dressed in hot pink, bright orange and bright red, and hardened criminals should be able to spot a closely following car. But I was not bothered much by this and other issues as I sat on the edge of my seat almost the whole time. And the director followed this up with Johnny Gaddaar! What talent! My two cents worth is that RGV should go back to production and giving chances to talented directors.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Surprisingly good

Author: Maciste_Brother from the rock
9 August 2006

Though EK HASINA THI will never be considered a great classic I was pleasantly surprised that this Bollywood thriller was better than expected. The story is sorta hokey and the acting is campy but what's fun is how entertaining it was. Very few films today are entertaining, per se, so you can imagine how unexpected it was to see an entertaining thriller from Bollywood.

EK HASINA THI is not your typical Bollywood movie: there's no musical numbers, the violence is realistic and it looks modern enough. What's amazing is EK HASINA THI succeeds were many Hollywood produced films fail. Films like KILLING ME SOFTLY, which made me laugh nonstop, looks like a complete joke compared to EK HASINA THI.

Saif Ali Khan gives a good performance but the movie belongs to Urmila Matondkar, who is over-the-top and yet believable, which is amazing. There's a good balance of craziness, campiness and seriousness in her performance. Kudos to Urmila for giving such a memorable performance and basically making the film for what it is. Credit should also go to the director in creating such a fun film.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Simply Amazing !

Author: salman siddiqui from United Kingdom
1 February 2006

i think this flick is one of the best so far from RGV factory ... urmila has proved herself again and again .. But this movie has proved that she doesn't need big banners to impress her critics or viewers ! her acting is one of the best seen in bollywood history to date. even bhoot looks pale in front of it i think Saif should be ranked as the most outstanding khan of bollywood ! the new director shows talents .... this movie is only 2 hrs long which is a complete surprise for bollywood i think makers like yash chopra karan johar should incorporate such techniques in their movies and try to bring such talents in front of viewers instead of being stereotypes best this movie which guarantees you wont be disappointed ... saif and urmila will be a treat 2 watch !

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Hell hath no fury...

Author: nikhil7179 from India
19 April 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although the plot of EHT would be regarded as the usual 70's exploitation/revenge fare, there's nothing typical about the fact that it is a Bollywood movie.

Female protagonists are rare enough, but avenging angel avatars are rarer still. Sriram Raghavan weaves an intriguing game of cat and mouse – where hunter and prey constantly switch roles.

Add to this another layer of players - that of cops and robbers, and you have a veritable maze of secrets and lies.

Although the film follows genre conventions, it does so with a sense of playful cynicism, always toying with the audience's expectations. It topples various Bollywood boy-meets-girl clichés and asks us to reexamine our preconceived notions.

EHT's main underlying theme reflects the evolving tastes and preferences of the Indian middle class - Prissy girl, though reluctant at first, is eventually seduced by mysterious stranger who delivers her deep dark fantasy – escape from a safe and mundane existence, but at the ultimate price – her very freedom. Death drive overdrive.

Possibly the most fascinating aspect of the film though is the undercurrent of masochism that runs through it. Sarika is submissive, conformist and physically weak and defenseless. Even her beauty is a liability and is more than once cause for undue attention.

She is always confined (repressed) – first by convention and culture, and later literally when she is wrongfully jailed.

She must come to terms with her own femininity (sexuality) and only then can she be liberated. Although her metmorphosis in the film is not entirely believable, that's the general idea.

Though Sarika is the submissive party in the first half and is constantly victimized physically and emotionally, the tables are turned in the end when the dominant Karan is tied up in the cave – a return to the womb as it were, and left to be devoured by ravenous rodents – messengers of the wrathful goddess herself.

But the film is far from being some kind of feminist diatribe. This is still Bollywood.

The cat and mouse scenario perpetuates itself in all sorts of interesting ways. In probably the most memorable scene in the film, Karan and Sarika engage in a game – of questions and answers, of truth and lies, a sort of icebreaker. This is in fact a piece of a bigger puzzle - a larger game they seem to enacting – one of role-playing – Karan as the mysterious predator, Sarika as the poor defenseless damsel.

Another interesting scene occurs when, after flying the coop Sarika sees Karan in the arms of another girl and her reaction is one of agony and loathing – totally understandable – however, the context renders it ambiguous. Is the emotion the result of being betrayed and falsely imprisoned or being two-timed by another woman? Moments like these elevate the film from being mere revenge play.

EHT is not perfect – it has pacing issues and even comes close to imploding in the third act with a hastily assembled climax, but it's assured sense of direction and strong performances by the lead and supporting cast save it from self-destructing.

But my main complaint has little to do with plot machinations. The film provides a great canvas for tackling taboo topics like sexual dynamics, gender roles, etc. and even takes a stab at them every now and then, but it fails to draw blood. It feels like the film is holding back for some reason.

Although EHT's subversive potential is largely untapped, Sriram Raghavan is clearly a talent to watch out for. I for one am curious to see what he comes up with next.

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