Kali Ghata (Ved Rahi, 1980) is one of those films that make you question ‘What is the purpose?’ … ‘Of this film?’ … ‘Of life?’ The only answer I could come up with is Rekha. She is cute, wears pert wigs, lots of denim interspersed with red, flawless make-up and gets to be twins with no discernible difference except that one is called Rekha and one is called Rashmi.

Rashmi is younger, an artiste, goes to Paris to study painting, where she is admitted after an application made by her older sister, no statement of intent or personal essays required. She is also in love with an unsuitable boy Kishor (Danny Denzongpa) who looks like a villain for no reason except that he wears leather jackets, and is the son of their manager, Diwan Saheb (A K Hangal). The only reason Rashmi goes to Paris is so that she can wear short skirts, fishnet stockings and have a blonde roommate, and also so that the ground is clear for Rekha to fall in love with a mysterious stranger, because otherwise Rekha is so busy being the older sister, she does not intend to marry unless Rashmi is settled, but it takes 5 minutes of Rashmi being away for Rekha to quickly get hitched.

Well, her fatal attraction is understandable since the mystery man is Prem (Shashi Kapoor) in deep necked safari suits, and shirts and jackets open up to his waist band, showing ample chest hair, and singing while clouds and clouds of fog rolling in, to re-emphasize that this is a mystery film, a fact that had already been established at the beginning of the film with a watch, feet walking in a corridor, a woman in red dancing a cabaret, pacy music, a hand holding a gun, a gun shot and the end of Nazir Husain in the first 5 minutes.

Prem also talks in cryptic, poetic, philosophical language, thereby making Rekha quickly begin to kiss him, and even make love on his houseboat, in suggestive shadows. And then announce marriage. After a very public declaration of her will leaving all her property to Rashmi. There is a lavish engagement ceremony without the younger sister coming back, in which Kishor and a common friend Pinky (Aruna Irani) within minutes, set up an extravagant dance number involving a snake dance, and even magic tricks like Pinky gliding through the air, to warn Rekha against her mystery man who is supposedly out to get the money that Rekha has already given away publicly, in front of him.

But their danger signals prove to be valid because after another round of lovemaking of shadows in the houseboat, Rekha gets pushed into the water by a shadow, presumably Prem’s. It also helps the plot that every time Rekha and Prem make love, there is a storm, the water rages and the boat rocks. But despite the storm, some kind people save Rekha. When she comes to and realizes what has happened, she immediately begins to run to Delhi from what must have been Kashmir, given the houseboat and the fruit orchards.

She arrives at Pinky’s house, damp, bedraggled and continues to live in the same clothes until Rashmi comes back from Paris, distraught but all color coordinated in green, right up to her toes. The sisters embrace but Rashmi does not flinch from Rekha’s presumably stinking presence. Instead, they make an elaborate plan for Rekha to go back as Rashmi, and test Prem’s love. If he proposes to Rashmi now, it means he was the one who pushed Rekha. And thus it goes.

Prem meanwhile moves out of the houseboat and sets up home in some ruins with a hammock and a desk, etc. Kishor and he keep suspecting each other. Kishor even tries to get Prem killed after he drives to Delhi to meet Pinky, watches her dance in a club, where Rashmi is also an onlooker. But when Kishor spots Rashmi, Pinky steps in with her magic tricks, does some appearing and disappearing on the club tables, and quickly replaces Rashmi with someone dressed in identical clothes and wig, all in the matter of seconds. Kishor’s hired goons fail to kill Prem, who sends them off with a fight.

Meanwhile, there are other creatures lurking around the forest and Rekha’s home, with little else to do. Lalita Pawar in a skirt. A Kashmiri maid. The Diwan. Jagdeep as a cook. Kishor of course. And another man with the same curly hair and the suits that Prem sports.

Rekha now decides she must marry Prem as Rashmi, to bring it all to a head. Prem meanwhile has convinced the Inspector General that he is innocent. His father sent him to inspect some diamonds Rekha’s father had to sell and Prem arrived there and found Rekha’s father dead. The Inspector General saw him running away with a gun, and presumed he was the killer. Prem ran away to Kashmir, found Rekha, fell in love with her and then was suspected of killing her too. With the help of the IG Prem sets up an elaborate plan to catch the real killer by marrying Rashmi. He assures his mother that the marriage is only a ruse to catch a killer; he is not going to saddle her with an unwanted daughter-in-law. The mother (Urmila Bhatt) who has come in for one scene, to cry over her runaway son over upma, cries some more. Her husband (Pinchoo Kapoor) reassures her.

So there is a grand wedding, where Rashmi arrives in a burkha to take the place of Rekha, to marry Prem. And Rekha dances in a veil with Aruna Irani to a song of betrayal. Meanwhile, people wander around in the forest with guns and shoot each other. Rashmi continues to sit in bridal costume at the reception.

The IG swings around in a jeep, as does Rekha who for some reason flings on Rashmi’s bridal dupatta over her head to get into the fight. Prem rides a horse, which flings him down at one point, but is quickly controlled. The real killer hurtles across in a jeep painted red and the front glass painted gray so that the mystery can be prolonged further. But obviously, since the killer cannot see through his painted front, he crashes the jeep. Finally, the mystery killer comes out. It is A K Hangal who gives a long, impassioned speech about the Rai Bahadur’s feudalism and how he was such a horrible landlord, and killed Hangal’s father on a whim, and he, Hangal wanted to take revenge, for which he killed Rai Bahadur, etc. etc. Kishor is ashamed of his father, but Rekha says he must be rewarded with Rashmi. Meanwhile, she slides off into the dark, because she is no longer fit for Prem, having cast suspicion on him. Prem says he saw the love in her eyes even when she wanted to hate him, and the fog rolls in again so that they can begin to sing again.

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