About the story: Looking for locations near a village, a movie director (Tinnu Anand) discovers two nameless graves, guarded by an old man who tells him all about their background: The story of village belle Sahibaan (Madhuri Dixit) and shepherd Gopi (Rishi Kapoor). One day, Sahibaan attracts the attention of egomaniac prince Vijay Pal Singh (Sanjay Dutt), who (in spite of being a drinker and having lots of affairs with women) still dreams of the one love of his life. He sees Sahibaan as the answer to his prayers, sends a marriage broker to Sahibaan’s parents, and thus beats Gopi in asking for her hand. The parents are delighted by the prince’s proposal and happily accept. When Vijay comes to know about his rival Gopi, he visits him one night, swallows his pride and humbly asks Gopi to surrender Sahibaan to him. But when Gopi explains that – even if he accepted this deal – Sahibaan’s love would never allow her to belong to Vijay in this lifetime, Vijay beats Gopi up in a fit of temper, and throws him into the river to drown. Later he visits Sahibaan’s house, to present her with the engagement ring, but she rejects him, and openly abuses him as a drunkard and womaniser. To prove worthy of Sahibaan’s love, Vijay then changes his lifestyle radically. But on their wedding day, Gopi suddenly reappears...
Sanjay and Madhuri made eight films with each other, in three of which they did not become a couple. Sahibaan is one of these three (this is no spoiler, since one gets to know it in the very first scenes of the movie), and it is the one where this is hardest to understand. Rishi Kapoor was 41 years old at the time he played Gopi, overweight and certainly no image of a romantic hero; even less so at the side of beautiful Madhuri Dixit, who is fifteen years younger than him. Granted, there are more important and decisive criteria than looks in the choice of a life partner, and luckily Gopi is a nice guy and definitely the better husband material; still I could never believe (even before becoming a diehard Sanju fan) why the stunningly attractive prince Vijay lost in the contest for Sahibaan. Sanjay looks fabulous, like a dream in his precios, princely garments (Bhanu Athaiya silk sari creations), and when he fondles his pet (a python), I can’t help feeling unutterably jealous of the reptile... *g* (And I can almost forgive the director how he disfigures Sanju in the background story as some kind of Charlton-Heston-Moses.)
But Sanjay is not really playing second fiddle to Madhuri’s conqueror Rishi: He definitely has the better role and plays the more interesting character, developing and growing from scene to scene (the fact that he does not dance a single step, does not spoil the role – it goes with the character). All through the movie, Vijay fluctuates between good and evil ("I'm a volcano - I cause a tremor when I erupt!"). He drinks, seduces women, and ditches them the next morning like a broken toy. On the other hand he listens to his workers’ complaints and helps them. He has no qualms to kill some brutal henchmen of his arch-enemy (Kiran Kumar as Tika), but is able to give up all his bad habits for the love of his life. In scenes like when he broken-heartedly yearns for Sahibaan, numbs his despair with alcohol, and suddenly destroys all his liquor bottles, Sanjay is in top form; here he can play out all his emotionality - just like in a later scene which I don’t want to give away here.
Conclusion: Fans of Rishi can forget this movie (he is nice, but his role rather dull); Madhuri’s fans can watch it if they like (at least she plays the title role and has some good scenes, but no more) – but for Sanju’s fans I would call this movie a "must see" for aforementioned reasons. Even if Sahibaan would be a forgettable film without him, despite Madhuri Dixit (which I say as a designated Madhuri fan) – it still offers a Sanjay in great form, who looks smashing and effortlessly outacts the whole cast (including Sonu Walia as Rajkumari Razee and Bharat Kapoor as Durga Singh). A good reason to watch this movie.
Produced by D.K. Chawla; Directed by Ramesh Talwar
143 minutes.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (not for the songs)
© Diwali; Translated by Anamika