Had the 1993 movie 'Damini' been made today, Meenakshi Sheshadri's character would have recorded the entire incident on her smartphone. But then, the cult classic was visualised in an era where making a woman-driven film was an absolute risk -- especially in competition with 'Darr' and 'Baazigar'.
'Darr' and 'Baazigar' saw Shah Rukh Khan catapult into stardom by playing the anti-hero. 'Damini' and 'Darr', however, had one similarity -- the underdog Sunny Deol.
While he was Juhi Chawla's fiance in Darr fighting against SRK's Rahul at every step and emerging as the winner, in Damini, he was the second fiddle to the "aam aurat". It was Damini's, the character, conviction that Urmi (her househelp and the rape survivour) was brought to justice. And the movie rightfully belonged to Meenakshi Sheshadri who literally infused life into Damini and made for one of the best female characters Indian cinema has seen.
But 1993 did not have smartphones to aid in the court case. It did, however, have the loud Sunny Deol -- whose histrionics in the climax made Damini what it is today.
Point in reference -- the monologue leading up to the climax: "Taareekh par taareekh..." (because long before Kartik Aaryan made monologues a cult, Sunny Deol had me with this)
"Taareekh par taareekh" was a vociferous attempt to let not only the judge in the frame, but also the audience know of the discrepancies of the Indian judicial system. Vociferous, because Sunny Deol literally hollered through the figuratively deaf judge to drive his point home that procrastination can never be the refuge of a seeker for justice.
The highs and lows of Sunny Deol's voice registered what could be termed as the underdog lawyer's frustration -- at the ineptness of the judicial system which once could not give him the desired result (when his wife died).
Would the impact be the same had there been any other actor mouthing the lines?
When Sunny Deol's Govind starts with "aapke taareekh deney se pehle main kuchh arz karna chaahoonga", he is calmer. His words don't echo. He speaks with much conviction, and perhaps, a know of what he was going to say.
"Pehli taareekh par yeh kaha gaya ki Damini paagal hai... Usey paagal khaane bhej diya jahaan usey paagal banaane ki poori koshish ki gayi..."
He takes a pause, and looks down at his papers -- as if calling up for all the saved energy.
"Doosri taareekh se pehle aspataal mein padi Urmi ka khoon kar diya gaya aur case banaa khudkushi ka... Jabki adaalat mein maine yeh saabit kar diya ki Urmi ne khudkushi nahin ki; uska khoon huya hai...
"Aur Shekhar bhi uss din saare sach kehne hi waala thha ki Chaddha Saahab ne phirse apni chaal chal di... Beemaari ka naatak karke taareekh le li..."
A special mention for Amrish Puri here -- WHAT AN ACTOR! His gesture with his eyes said everything about his Chaddha.
Sunny's Govind continues: "Nahin toh MyLord, usi din iss case ka faisla ho jaata. Aur aaj aap phir taareekh de rahe hain?!
He now flares up. Govind, till this moment, was calm, but now his hands begin the talking (too).
"Uss taareekh se pehle koi truck mujhe kuchalkar chalaa jaayega aur case banega road accident ka. Aap phir se taareekh de dengey. Aur uss taareekh se pehle Damini ko paagal banaakar paagal khaane mein phenk diya jaayega. Aur iss tarah na toh koi sachchaai ke liye ladne waala rahega, na hi insaaf maangne waala...rah jaayegi toh sirf taareekh..."
THE PENULTIMATE PART BEGINS -- THE SAGA OF THE TAAREEKH!
"Aur yahi hota raha hai, MyLord. Taareekh par taareekh, taareekh par taareekh, taareekh par taareekh, taareekh par taareekh [yes, four times] milti rahi hai, MyLord, par insaaf nahin mila. Mili hai toh sirf yeh taareekh..."
Why we say Sunny Deol was the perfect fit for this monologue is the following part where his gestures, and facial expression give away the underlying frustration. And hope -- that justice, at least this time, would be served.
"Kaanoon ke dalaalon ne taareekh ko insaaf ke khilaaf eik hathiyaar banaakar istemaal kiya hai, MyLord. Do taareekhon ke beech adaalat ke baahar yeh kaanoon ka dhandha kartey hain. Dhandha! Jahaan gawaah todey jaatey hain, khareedey jaatey hain... Maarey jaatey hain... Aur rah jaati hai sirf taareekh."
In his improvisation, Sunny Deol now moves a little away from the desk and gestures through his hands more.
"Log insaaf ke liye apni zameen jaaydaad bechkar case ladtey hain...aur le jaatey hain toh sirf taareekh.
"Auraton ne apne gehne, zevar...yahaan tak ki mangalsootra bhi bechey hain insaaf ke liye... Aur unhein bhi mili hai toh sirf taareekh.
"Maheenon saalon chakkar kaat-tey kaat-tey iss adaalat ke kuchh fariyaadi khud ban jaatey hain taareekh... Aur unhein bhi milti hai toh sirf taareekh...
"Yeh case poore Hindustan ke sataaye huye logon ka hai. Unn sabki nazarein aap par gadi hain... Aap par. Ki aap unhein kya detey hain -- Insaaf ya taareekh."
And now, Sunny Deol and Govind -- both -- are in full form. Sunny, because he knows it's his space -- the raw anger, the expressive eyes and the powerful dialogue delivery. And Govind, because he knows when everybody in the court has heard him rapt in attention till now, the stage is all his...
"Agar aap unhein insaaf nahin de saktey, toh band kijiye yeh tamasha. Ukhaad phenkiye inn katgharon ko. Phaad dijiye, jalaa dijiye inn kaanoon ki kitaabon ko taaki insaaf ke chakkar mein aur log tabaah na hon, barbaad na hon..."
Sunny Deol ends his monologue with a shrug of his shoulder -- that somehow conveys his helplessness at the proceedings of things. He knows Damini might be in danger, but he has to be there, fighting for her. His wife. Womanhood.
His helplessness is well received and appreciated by the people present in the courtroom. They applaud him much to the chagrin of Puri's Chaddha -- who is "order-order"ed by the judge.
And the court waits for Damini to arrive. Patiently -- "jab tak ki koi faisla nahin ho jaata..."
The court did arrive at a conclusion -- albeit at the disposal of Damini's husband Shekhar's statement. But it was Govind's monologue that goaded the court to understand the importance of justice for not only Damini but for every person who had been belittled by the higher class.
The court later announces the day of the verdict as "Damini ke faisley ka din" because of the extraordinary courage shown by Damini in fighting for justice, and rightly so. But it was Govind and Sunny Deol's "taareekh par taareekh" that somehow stole the thunder from Rishi Kapoor's Shekhar, and a little from Sheshadri's Damini too.
India TV Recommends 'Damini', or at least its climax, to get a know of how Sunny Deol's impeccable dialogue delivery and beautiful lines written by Dilip Shukla -- "taareekh par taareekh" -- uplifted the film to heights of brilliance.
Fun fact: Sunny Deol won the National Film Award (1993) for Best Supporting Actor for 'Damini'.