Prologue: Kshatriya is an epic about two royal families at enmity, and initially it’s quite difficult to keep track of who is who and belongs to which clan. Therefore I want to present the most important characters before I turn to the story.
The Mirtagarh Clan: Maharaj Bhavani Singh (Sunil Dutt); Maheshwari Devi, his wife (Rakhee Gulzar); Divya, their daughter; Vikram Singh, their son, aka Vicky (Sanjay Dutt); Raja Jaswant Singh, Bhavani’s younger brother (Vinod Khanna); Jenny, his wife (Nafisa Ali); Neelima, their daughter (Raveena Tandon); Madhu, Jaswant’s mistress (Meenakshi Sheshadri); Ajay Singh, counsellor (Prem Chopra); Shakti, his son (Puneet Issar)
The Surjangarh Clan: Maharaj Prithvi Singh (Dharmendra); Suman, his wife; Vinay Pratap Singh, their son, aka Vinny (Sunny Deol); Raja Divendra Pratap Singh, Prithvi’s younger brother (Vijayendra Ghatge); Vijay Pratap Singh, his son; Police Officer Thakur Ganga Singh (Kabir Bedi); Tanvi, his daughter, aka Tannu (Divya Bharati)
About the story: The royal families of Mirtagarh and Surjangarh are at enmity from time immemorial. Over years, innumerable warriors fell in battles for the right to sacrifice a calf at the annual Vijay Dashami Mela in Kali’s temple in Rajputana and thus pray for rain, until the rule was established that henceforth every year a single combat was to decide which clan had the right to make the sacrifice. Jaswant has studied and married in England and returns to India with progressive thoughts in mind, but soon he assumes his family’s reactionary and martial attitude wherefore his wife returns to England where she dies while giving birth to her daughter Neelima. Prince Vijay of Surjangarh and Princess Divya of Mirtagarh fall in love, but they are betrayed by Ajay Singh, and when Shakti Singh kills Vijay, Divya commits suicide. Prithvi blames Bhavani for the couple’s death and shoots him, while Jaswant in return kills Divendra. Shortly thereafter, in both clans another prince is born, and both Queens, independently from each other, send these sons to England for their education. There, without knowing about their families’ enmity, the princes Vicky and Vinny become close friends. More than that, Vinny falls in love with Vicky’s cousin Neelima, while Vicky and Tannu, the Surjangarh chief of police’s daughter, come close to each other. But as soon as the four return to India, their families’ ancient hatred catches up with them: Both Jaswant and Prithvi forcefully intervene against Vinny’s and Neelima’s love, and when Vicky comes to know that Vinny is the son of the man who killed his father, even their profound friendship breaks. It’s obviously just a matter of time until, at the next Vijay Dashami Mela, one of them kills the other in duel...
Kshatriya (= warrior) is a drama about generation conflicts, an epic about clan enmities and antiquated rituals – and about (I admit) one of my favourite issues: brotherly love or friendship put to the test where it either stands or fails (and then, ideally, is restored again). Here it’s Sanjay Dutt and Sunny Deol playing the conflict from close friendship till mortal combat (where they in seven tempestuous minutes definitely don’t spare each other). In view of the film’s generation conflict subject it was a casting coup that both of them got their real fathers Sunil Dutt and Dharmendra as their film fathers. Illustrious names like Kabir Bedi, Vinod Khanna, Rakhee Gulzar and Prem Chopra complete the cast which sounds like a who-is-who of the then notables in Hindi Cinema with just Amitabh Bachchan missing.
Having already shot several films together, Sunny and Sanjay were a well-attuned team. Both roles demand vulnerable emotions as well as cold unfeelingness and merciless pugnacity, and once again the two actors show their profound difference: Sunny is in his element when it comes to the tough, angry and combative scenes, and he toils with the sensitive sequences, while Sanjay effortlessly handles all facets of his role. It’s all the more annoying that his role, in comparison with Sunny’s, was treated rather as an orphan; Sunny has more screentime and even the characterly more interesting part. Sanju definitely makes the best of his role, but partially he was simply left in the lurch by the script writers and disadvantaged against Sunny. Not only due to character and screentime – even scenes with his own father were denied to Sanju (while Sunny had lots of them with Dharmendra). Concerning his female co-star, it was his bad luck that Manisha Koirala (for cases not known to me) had to be replaced by Divya Bharati. De mortuis nihil nisi bene, but I never was a fan of Divya’s, and especially not in combination with Sanju: Divya was fifteen years younger than him, her Tanvi doesn’t look older than 16, so no wonder that Vicky fights her advances tooth and nail as he definitely might risk getting sued for seduction of minors. With this kid at his side, Sanju even in this point just could enviously ogle to Sunny who happily could enjoy playing with classy Raveena Tandon who delivered a very good performance.
If you can live with all these disadvantages to Sanju and with loads of topless men who not always are an aesthetic sight (well, not everybody at that time could say "if you have it flaunt it" as rightly as Sanju *g*), and if you have a faible for sword combats, emotion-packed family dramas and colourful classical dance scenes, then Kshatriya surely is worth a try for you. But for Sanjay’s fans I repeat once more that Kshatriya is not a Sanjay movie but a multi-starrer where Sanju with his convincing performance partially was downright wasted.
Produced by Sunder Das Sonkiya; Directed by J.P. Dutta
179 Min.; DVD: GVI, English Subtitles (including), partially with hair-raising flaws...