After watching Kuheli, I thought of making a go at this movie too. Though by then I was aware that the criminal in Kuheli has either not watched/read Rebecca or more recent Kohra, and hence did all the planning and execution of “Wife Murder” in an entirely different manner and also motive.
This is a movie I had watched in much younger age and hence not with a mind to analyse of fault find. Much later I read the Novel, Rebecca. Now I decided to go side by side. After watching the movie, finding a lot of gaps and unexplained parts, I thought to look back at the novel and see whether the gaps existed there too or not. Though in broad detail Kohra is based on the Novel (which Kuheli, let me once again say isn’t) but thankfully, the novel looked to be much more comprehensive and the murder was properly executed.
The sinister governess – Chhaya Devi/ Lalita Pawar/ Mrs Denvers were equally sinister in all the three versions. In all the three her main aim was to wreck the life/bond between the accused (husband) and the new bride/ lady of the house. But in each version they had different motives, and in the end, they contribute in different manner to the murder, she could be the main-element, accessory or avenger.
The movie moves similar to Rebecca. A rich and handsome, recent widower, finds an orphan girl living with a known family (Mrs Van Hoppers) as a companion. In Kohra it was with a ulterior/ sinister motive, grooming her to be the bride of the insane son, the heir of the fortune, since the doctor told that he might get cured if he is married. May be, he was right, after all different cases need different types of shock treatments.
But neither she thought so, nor Amit (Biswajit) did, and as a result, it was decided (by the two) that it would be better to marry a murderer than a mad person. So they do and after a honeymoon come back to the haunted house ruled by the haunted house-keeper (Lalita Pawar/ Mrs Danvers).
The house keeper’s favourite was the previous, murdered, wife. She had come from her home, along with her. Sometimes they do send ayahs, though it is quite infrequent, to take care of the girl even if she is of a age that she would need an ayah for her child, and not her. Interestingly though this first wife Poonam was essayed by an actress Thelma, but in the movie her face is never shown. Why I wonder. First I thought that she could have a similarity with a living person, most probably Waheeda, which though not as per script (Rebecca), but could always happen in Bolly adaptations. However that wasn’t the case, and though till end we weren’t shown her face, except through gauge, and that too profile, no one similar looking was brought in either. Even the photograph/ painting was broken by Waheeda without removing the cover.
Anyway in the movie, the horror/suspense continues trying to move Raj (Rajeswari- Waheeda) off the rock and almost succeeds too in making her paranoid, just a step below insanity, when the final curtain call was given.
The first wife accidental death (suicide in Rebecca) wasn’t accident but probably a murder. Obviously the main suspect was the ex-husband of the late-woman (ex since late). The case is now reopened and investigated. More so due to the insistence of Poonam’s lover Kamal (Madan Puri).
In Kohra too the slain wife was having extra-marital affair. But where as in Rebecca, one could somewhat forgive her. her affair, with Favell, her cousin, had an intention to separate and then re-marry. It was to happen quite soon, when she was killed and hence that pointed straight finger at Max. However in Kohra, Poonam was shown more of a nymphomaniac and alcoholic woman.Her affair with Kamal was purely for physical aspect, and probably she had some thing with at least another man, Ramesh (Tarun) too.
All the available information point to Amit’s complicity, at least the Judge and Jury seem to agree and were about to ask the jail-workshop to prepare the rope for him, when something happened. Of course the order for the rope remained, but the neck changed.
Things were much more coherent and also believable in Rebecca, where the hero Max did murder Rebecca. But he escaped, not due to lack of evidence, but due to presence of evidence (fact). And the policeman knew that he murdered, but then being friend and also because of the new fact, they decided to extra-judicially pardon him.
The movie isn’t too well made, it has too many gaps and inconsistencies (I probably differ with most). A few major one amongst them are, (and as we say in documents, these are only a few of the examples, the list is neither complete nor exhaustive)
- Ramesh (Tarun) wasn’t even known to exist or even the extra marital relation wasn’t known. In that case how the hallucinating Waheeda lands up in the hut and meets him? Of course that was case of hallucination or real life isn’t too clear, but the sea change in Amit’s behaviour points to the first one being in imagination. Other hallucinations one could imagine to be one of creative mind but this one?
- In the final last interrogation, one of the witnesses tells that he was the witness of the murder or nearest to it. When the murderer was with, her she was alive, and when the murderer left, she was dead. But at the police station the statement was conveying different thing.
- The wife was missing, how was she assumed to be dead without the dead-body which only then was found by Asit Sen (or rather his dog)? With the wife (and the car) missing it should have been a case of elopement than death?
(It may be worth noting that none of these weaknesses existed in the novel)
Plus Point? Of course the producer (or his music and songs). Lalita pawar was in her menacing self and hence she along with Waheeda tried to meet some justice to the poor audience. All the rest didn’t exist, and hence the movie too fades at just around average level.