Remebering Ghayal

In times where we see how a middle class family from Delhi gets embroiled unceremoniously into the murder of their own daughter, the real life story of the Aarushi Talwar murder case in the movie Talvar; where a Netflix show – ‘Making a Murderer’ – shows the story of Steven Avery, an American man who served 18 years of his time in a false sexual assault case and was sentenced again for life imprisonment for the murder of a photographer Teresa Halback, we know that no one is safe in this society. And the law can bite you on your ass like a rabid dog even if in the farthest possibility there is no apparent connection of yours with the incident.

This dystopia was portrayed even long ago and such stories are reminiscent of the 1990s, when the Sunny Deol starrer Ghayal came out. Ghayal was a fictional story of a young boxer who faces the most redoubtable adversary in a potent concoction of business treachery, dirty political tricks and law ineptness. Ghayal means ‘wounded’ in English, which indicates that Ajay Mehra, the family man, the good guy, a law abiding citizen is wounded by the terrible circumstances he’s been implicated in. He is not down and out; he is just waiting for the right moment to strike back. Not only does he gets charged with the murder of his brother played by Raj Babbar but is also blamed of having an illicit relationship with his sister-in-law played by Moushumi Chatterjee.




The film was directed by Raj Kumar Santoshi. The angst of the protagonist of Santoshi’s Ghayal can be understood from the fact that he started his career on the sets as an AD on Govind Nihalani’s Arth Satya which gave Om Puri his career defining role. Nihalani was known to be a master storyteller of stories exhibiting the torment and vicissitudes of people in the system.

Sunny Deol was not ignorant to this genre because two years before this movie, his character Arjun Malvankar in Arjun traversed the same path of fighting against injustice. In Arjun, his battle is against Chowgale who poses to be a good politician but is in bed with his rival politician, merely using Arjun to collect evidences to get an upper hand. In Ghayal, Ajay Mehra is taking cudgels with Balwant Rai played by Amrish Puri who under the hood of being a noble and influential businessman is operating illegal activities.

The movie starts with Ajay Mehra being put behind bars. In the jail, he finds accomplices who lend him a shoulder and want to hear his story and thus starts the flashback where he reveals what brought him to jail. Soon after, when the accomplices find a common motive to go out, a plan is hatched to escape from jail and thereafter applying punitive actions on the real culprits to bring them to justice. This movie typically cannot be fit in the genre of prison-break as the idea here was retribution for his family’s deaths and a huge part of the story happens after the escape. A close example to this would be Amitabh Bachchan’s Kaalia where he escapes prison multiple times in a fit of revenge and changes his personality from a guileless ‘Kallu’ to a malevolent Kaalia.

Ghayal Once Again

Ghayal Once Again

While the industry was going through an existential crisis and every movie name seemed to have words like Paap or Aaj Ka…, Ghayal came as a fresh take on the unsparing complications of a middle class family caught in the tentacles of deceitfulness and corruption and was clearly one of Sunny Deol’s best works. There’s a scene where Deol comes out of jail and his love interest, played by Meenakshi Seshadri asks, “What are you planning to gain out of this fight now? Everything’s gone, nothing is going to come back.” And Deol replies in a concerned tone, “It’s not about me. Imagine how many people he must have killed, how many families he must have destroyed. I know that nothing will come back for me but many families can be saved by doing what I am doing.” This showed us a guy who believed in the greater good of the society. Rather than perpetrating the acts of vengeance from a personal standpoint, he chose to rescue the society from ubiquitous disorder and decline.


Ghayal scared us to bits. I remember my family seeing the movie in rapt attention as if it has happened to someone of our own. It showed us the helpless and pitiable state of ours if we were ever to lock horns with the high and mighty. It showed us our eternal victim-hood and how if there ever is retaliation from a common man ensnared in the wretchedness of the system, it can only be in the form of a do or die act. Because there is a Balwant Rai in every city. And his dogs in every area.

It was also one of the few films to have a signature theme playing in the background. And a theme not from a song of the movie, but specially created to show the build-up of infuriation and payback.

On 5th February, Sunny Deol returns with Ghayal Once Again, a sequel to Ghayal that is also helmed by him. Here’s hoping to see the same intensity of Ajay Mehra even though the promos didn’t entice us.

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