February 22 (Calcutta Tube): Mithun Chakraborty is one of the most versatile talents in Indian cinema. He cannot pride himself on drop-dead looks. Nor is his voice like melting golden honey. Yet, his long shelf-life in Bengali and Hindi cinema speaks of a range that has few parallels in the industry today. For the first time in his long innings, he is playing a Muslim gangster whose life changes tracks completely after a point of time. Produced by Raj Behl and directed by Mumbai-based Partho Ghosh, Rehmat Ali stars Mithun in the title role. Ghosh is known for having delivered Bollywood hits in the past like Agnisakshi and 100 Days.
Abbaji, a mafia lord, brings up Rehmat, an orphan, as his own. Rehmat grows up to become Abbaji’s right hand man. He represents his mentor and adoptive father in extorting, threatening, intimidating and using every kind of violence at Abbaji’s command without blinking an eyelid. Rehmat succeeds in his evil ventures till a man who calls himself Mr. Mukherjee, stands up to his violent means and insists on sticking to his highly valued qualities of honesty, fairness and justice. Abbaji is a strong supporter of a minister Loknath Rai. When Loknath Rai faces threats from the opposition headed by Shashilal, Mr. Mukherjee is converted into a convenient pawn in this ugly game and is charged with a false case of corruption. He loses his job and his small family fall into direly desperate circumstances. Rehmat unconsciously imbibes some lessons from Mr. Mukherjee’s uncompromising stance in living up to his values.
Sapna is a bar dancer. She is firmly in the clutches of Shashilal and his brothers. Rehmat rescues her from their clutches and they fall in love. But their love is doomed to tragedy. One of Shashilal’s brothers plants a bomb in the car in which Sapna is travelling. She dies in the blast. The tragedy shatters Rehmat Ali because in Sapna, he had learnt the true meaning of living a good and respectable life, a life he never knew existed. Sapna had once told him that one good deed, if done with a selfless spirit, can wipe out a lifetime of sins committed for one’s own benefit.
His world changes forever. Rehmat decides to protect the victimized Mr. Mukherjee and his family as atonement for the sins he has committed all his life. Mr. Mukherjee’s family stands threatened by the corrupt and lecherous vigilance officer Surya. He decides to reside with the Mukherjees in their flat. But Mrs. Mukherjee, a rigid Brahmin, does not like to live with a Muslim under the same roof. Rehmat refuses to move out and slowly but surely, is able to weave himself into the hearts of everyone in the Mukherjee family. It marks an emotional journey for Rehmat, a journey from a life of immorality and crime to a life of benevolence, charity and goodness, a life that moves from disbelief to faith. This journey is touched with rich emotional moments of fun, laughter, sadness and kindness. Rehmat Ali, a dreaded gangster, metamorphoses into a benevolent do-gooder. He lives out his penance by protecting an innocent family from oppression and victimization by evil powers that are now also intent on doing away with Rehmat himself. Is his penance over? Does he succeed in his search for goodness triumphing over evil? Or does he surrender to the demands of these evil elements of society?
Much though the storyline smells of ideals and positive philosophies, Rehmat Ali is not a niche-audience film. It is targeted at the masses and has generous doses of songs put to music by Bappi Lahiri. Rajatava Dutta, Roopa Ganguly and Rituparna Sengupta share screen space with Mithun. The biggest USP of Rehmat Ali is Mithun Chakraborty in the title role of a Muslim gangster-turned-angel-in-disguise. The other USP is that the film will release simultaneously in 100 theatres across West Bengal on February 26.
By Shoma A. Chatterji: