About the story: Mighty gangster boss Daga (Danny Denzongpa) leads a double life. Society knows him solely as as the Honorable Judge Dharmesh Agnihotri. Daga’s best henchman is Suraj Singh (Sanjay Dutt) who for his boss is ready to do everything – except drug deals, as he years ago has lost the love of his life (Shilpa Shirodkar) due to his own drug addiction. Suraj gets a grim opponent in upright lawyer Karan Shrivastav (Sunny Deol) who is in love with the judge’s daughter Vidya (Sangeeta Bijlani). When Karan’s father, journalist Chandrakant Shrivastav (Shafi Inamdar), discovers Daga’s secret, judge Agnihotri frames and jails him for alleged murder, and in jail gets him murdered by corrupt minister Mantri (Anjaan Srivastav) and prison warden Rana Pratap (Rana Jung Bahadur). Suraj, who, after unknowingly having been used as a drug courier by Daga (and been caught by Karan), serves a term in the same prison, becomes a witness to the journalist’s murder and in vain tries to save him. But in court, he testifies for Mantri and Pratap as Daga threatened to murder Suraj’s sister Bharti (Sanam) who is Suraj’s only raison d’être. Karan now loses his faith in justice and swears bitter revenge to his father’s murderers, including Suraj. But even Suraj now turns against Daga: After his release from prison he gives the police all evidence for judge Agnihotri's true identity. At the last minute Daga manages to escape to Goa where soon thereafter even Bharti and Karan’s younger brother Pavan (Abhinav Chaturvedi) arrive; they are in love, but as they, due to their brothers’ enmity, never can hope to get their permission for a marriage, they have eloped, supported by Karan’s mother (Anjana Mumtaz). While Suraj and Karan blame each other for this and continue their battle, the love couple in Goa gets under Daga’s control...
Yodha (= warrior) is really good. Compared with other films of that time, it has a stringent, well-thought and gapless dramaturgy (save for the idiotic dog story with Paresh Rawal as Chaggu, who the hell invents such rubbish...). After Kroadh, Sanjay and Sunny this time play merciless enemies from the very beginning (and once more Sunny cannot match Sanjay’s charisma and emotionally awesome acting), and I loved the fact that they were not shaped in a black-and-white way; both characters have equally good and bad facets and develop during the film, the same way as even chief villain Danny Denzongpa goes through ups and downs and is not just the standard bad guy. The enmity between Suraj and Karan is clearly motivated and grows continuously till the point when they cannot even meet without being at each other’s throat immediately (and Sanjay and Sunny in no way spare each other). That’s why they never find the time for some explaining words, e.g. about the reason for Suraj’s wrong testimony in the trial against the murderers of Karan’s father.
In Yodha, Sanjay once again delivers a fabulous performance. With his new mullet he looks extremely attractive, and I’ll never forget the diabolic-mean expression in his eyes when he threatens the villagers at the beginning of the film – Christ, I would immediately have thrown myself capitulatingly at his feet. But he takes you on an emotional roller coster, being not just mean but even funny (e.g. practising the marriage proposal for his sister) and lovable, e.g. in the dance clip with Shilpa where you cannot ignore that meanwhile he really had fun with dancing.
But there are also scenes which move you to the core. I just say: drugs. In a flashback, Suraj remembers his drug addiction phase and how he lost his beloved Shilpa when she could evade a rape only by killing herself while he was lying besides her, totally spaced out and unable to support her; before she passed away, he had promised her in desperation to kick his drug habit and henceforth to fight drug dealers. In these scenes, Sanju surely also accounted for his own drug past; his hatred for everything related to drugs comes right from his heart. And how mind-blowing he plays these scenes! First his face when he shoots up, then this weird, almost dead look when he’s zonked, and finally his desperation when he realizes that, because he was high, he abandoned his beloved in the hour of need! Later Sanju even ups the ante when Suraj, after his sister eloped, in desparate frustration wants to shoot up again and his friend at the very last minute wrests the syringe from him – I’ll never forget the way Sanju gazed at him. Eyes full of sheer and black despair. Terrific. Simply terrific.
(In this context it should be mentioned that Sanju unusually frankly deals with his drug past. Soon after his therapy when he had become clean he started giving lectures about this issue, and even in interviews up till today he talks about this phase in his life without sparing himself and without any whitewashing. Sanju doesn’t dread to admit his mistakes straightforwardly, and he whole-heartedly supports anti-drug organisations. So in the drug scenes in Yodha he surely also saw a chance to warn the public from this infernal stuff which by a whisker had cost him his own life.)
Produced by Karim Morani, Sunil Soorma and Aty Morani; Directed by Rahul Rawail
144 Min.; DVD: Spark, English Subtitles (not for the songs), unfortunately partially too late; one short sound disorder, bad quality of picture