About the story: Air hostess Neha Verma (Manisha Koirala) from Goa attends in Mumbai the engagement party of her friend Ritu Pereira (Simran) with inspector Arjun (Sharad Kapoor). On her way home she witnesses the murder of ACP Jaidev Singh (Mukesh Khanna). At the police station she identifies the murderer: Samrat (Parmeet Sethi), son of politician Singhania (Suresh Oberoi). To prevent Neha from giving her testimony in court, Singhania hires killer Babu (Sanjay Dutt). Calling himself Vicky, Babu first tries the charming way, and actually Neha soon is ready to marry Vicky instead of attending the trial in court. But the murdered ACP’s widow (Farida Jalal) talks insistently to Neha until the latter gives in and bears evidence in court. As Babu now is under his employers’ pressure, he starts bringing the bigger guns in to make Neha retract her testimony: He reveals his true identity as a killer to her, and as a prove he ruthlessly kills his friend Raja (Rajesh Joshi) before her eyes. But now Neha’s love turns to hatred, and instead of getting frightened, she is determined never to retract her statement. Babu, however, still has another ace up his sleeve...
Khauff (= terror) was after Aatish Sanjay Dutt’s second cooperation with director Sanjay Gupta which was to be succeeded by another film of the two friends, Jung, in the very same year. In Khauff, Sanju presented himself in a role type which was going to become one of his trade marks: the (most often cool) gangster or killer who on one side cold-bloodedly pursues his profession, but on the other side also shows his feelings and therefore, even while committing worst crimes, enjoys a certain sympathy bonus at the audience. Probably it was this emotional facet which made it possible for Sanju to live with this gangster image; after all, everybody at that time knew that their "Khalnayak" was charged with terror conspiracy and had already spent 16 months in jail as an under trial for this, and not every viewer bothers to keep apart fiction and reality. That Sanju under those circumstances had no qualms about saying script lines like "in Mumbai, criminals like me are living, killers, working by order of underworld dons" proves a lot of courage – or at lease chutzpah.
Khauff, by the way, is a latecomer which easily can be deduced from Sanju’s hair. When Khauff was released, films like Vaastav or Khoobsurat with a continuously short-haired Sanjay Dutt were already to be seen in the cinemas, while here in many scenes he still sported his long mane which shows us that the greater part of Khauff was shot in 1998 or earlier. So once again we may enjoy Sanju with changing hair-style within a film – a soft swan song on his puma years which you, however, don’t have to long to return as Sanju presents himself in Khauff as hot as ever – even close to 40, this man is a bloody attractive hunk.
Concerning the hair-style, however, Sanju keeps good company as even Manisha in nearly every frame sports another hair-cut and hair-length. Not to mention her wondrous wound healings towards the end of the film. Obviously Gupta did not spend too much thoughts on perfect continuity as long as he could tell a touching and thrilling story which he succeeded in – thanks to his two fabulous leading actors. After Kartoos (and contemporaneously to Baaghi) they made a terrific jodi again, this time even more intensely than in Kartoos as Manisha in Khauff gets much more chances to stand up to Sanju. Not to mention the powerful climax which per se is already a reason to watch the film. But of course there are many more arguments speaking for Khauff, like Sanju’s hot dance clip "O Gori Gori" or the special appearance of Sanju’s former dream-partner Raveena Tandon in "Nach Baby Nach Kudi". And not to forget killer Babu’s ice-cold eyes which really make you freeze.
Produced by Vijay Tolani; Directed by Sanjay Gupta
126 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (not for the songs); plus an interview with Sanjay Gupta and song trailers