Kisna: the Warrior Poet (2005)
Director: Subhash Ghai.
Starring: Vivek Oberoi (Kisna Singh), Antonia Bernath (Catherine), Isha Sharvani (Lakshmi), Polly Adams (Lady Katherine), Michael Maloney (Peter Beckett), Caroline Langrishe (Jennifer Beckett), Amrish Puri (Bhairo Singh), Om Puri (Juman Masum Kishti), Yashpal Sharma (Shankar Singh), Rajat Kapoor (Prince Raghuraj), Vivek Mushran (Nandu), Shivaji Satham (Sriram), Vikram Gokhale (Dada Guru), Zarina Wahab (Shanta), Sushmita Sen (Naima Begum, special appearance).
love story between British girl and Indian boy set in 1940s Indian Independence Movement
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
The now older Lady Katherine comes to India. She avoids the press. She is especially interested in rural development and education in India She has a philanthropic foundation of 500 million pounds. While dealing with the hub-bub surrounding her she has flashbacks to the time of violence between the Hindus and Muslims. The Indian Office of Tourism wants to take her around to see the sights of India but she just does not seem interested. A headline in the paper says: "India Not Good Enough for Lady Katherine". This upsets her. She has a spokesman tell the Office of Tourism that she only wants to go to one place: Devprayag. The tourist officials are shocked. It is one of the worst places to go in India. It is where two rivers meet to form the sacred Ganges River.
The Office of Tourism uses a helicopter to take Lady Katherine to Devprayag. Lady Katherine is officially greeted. In the audience she sees a woman reporter and a cameraman who had asked her earlier for an interview, which was refused. She looks straight at the pair and says that she sees that they have managed to get here too. The couple smile, but think she is a little strange. The cameraman asks her why she would choose the most neglected place in India to tour. She says precisely because it is the most neglected place. "For me, this is India." Later she walks to the edge of the mountain to look out across the valley below. Some dancers perform for her and she "tips" them with some money. The reporters are shocked by this and agree with each other that it is "rude". The cameraman adds: "It's all a charade." Lady Katherine hears all this and denies that this is a charade. She says: "I can't hold back." She sits down and starts to tell her story. She points to a bungalow across the valley that is now a hotel. She tells them that that bungalow was her birthplace in 1930.
When Katherine was a small girl she really liked a young Indian named Kisna. When she arrives at the bungalow from a visit to London she runs off to the horse stable to see and talk to Kisna. His job is to take care of the horses. The friendship between Katherine and Kisna bothers a young girl named Luxmi, who also likes Kisna and wants to marry him. Luxmi is jealous and she talks to her grandfather about it.
Katherine's mother has been helping Kisna to improve his English. She gives him some books in English to read. She tells Kisna to come with them into the house to play the piano. But Katherine's father, Peter Beckett, will not allow any Indians in to his house. He is a bit prejudiced against the Indians and this is one reason why he is so unpopular with the people in the area.
Kisna's uncle Bhairo is filled with hate for the British. He wants to fight to get them out of India. He tells Kisna's mother that India does not need scholars, but warriors. She answers back that it is enough that Kisna's older brother Shankar is following in Uncle's footsteps. Uncle is especially upset with the deal involving a canal struck between Beckett and Prince Rajaragh. Beckett assures the Prince that the British will guard the canal from Bhairo and his miscreants.
One day Peter Beckett enters his house to see his wife playing the piano and Kisna playing the flute, while Katherine listens. He becomes so angry that he grabs a vase full of flowers and throws it against a wall. Dad confiscates Kisna's flute and sends him out of the house. He then decides to send Katherine to school in London. There she is to stay with her Aunt Margaret.
It is 1947 and the talk in India is of independence from British colonialism. Katherine's father calls her back under her mother's insistence that her 17 year old daughter be allowed to return to India. Outwardly at least, it seems to Katherine that not much has changed. When she arrives at the house she immediately runs down to the stables to see Kisna. Kisna is not there. One of the older Indians who Katherine knows very well from her childhood greets her. He tells her that there have been a lot of changes in India since she left. There is a great deal of the rage of hatred in the area. This is especially aimed at her father.
Kisna finds out from his brother that Katherine is back in town. He leaves his brother and heads out to find Katherine. He finds her playing his old flute and looking out across the valley. Katherine and Kisna look at each other and after a brief bit of time they are acting like they had never parted. Katherine acknowledges to Kisna that her father has been unfair. Luxmi, of course, is not happy at this. She encourages her family to arrange her marriage to Kisna. Soon Kisna learns that he is getting engaged and in a month will be getting married. He says he is not ready now to get married, but this falls on deaf ears. To make matters worse for Kisna, he hears Prince Rajaragh tell Katherine that he loves her. He even wants to marry her. Katherine is not at all happy with the idea. She tells the Prince that she has always viewed him as an uncle of hers.
And now it's time for Katherine to hear some bad news. She learns that Kisna is getting engaged to Luxmi and will be marrying within a month. But, on the surface she looks o.k. about the news. She and her family even attend the engagement celebration. Luxmi is ecstatic and Katherine has a little too much to drink and gets a little too wild, especially from an Indian point of view. Katherine's mother scolds her. She even tells her that her friendship with Kisna will not be welcome, especially by Luxmi.
Kisna's uncle tells the others around him that they need a revolutionary leader like Bhagat Singh in their village. He accuses the British of despoiling their water supply and causing the death of a lot of villagers. Kisma's brother Shankar looks like he wants to kill Peter Beckett. One day a group of villagers drop five dead bodies in front of the Beckett bungalow. Peter Beckett tries to stop them when they start to cremate the bodies. This leads to a scuffle which draws in more of the villagers. The Indian police start to intervene. When this does not stop the trouble, shots are fired and the crowd starts running away. Later the police speak with Kisna's uncle. They say that Uncle poisoned the water supply that lead to the death of the villagers in order to blame it on Beckett and the British.
June 4, 19147. British Lord Mountbatten is going to be going home soon. The day set for the independence of India is August 15. At that time there is going to be a partition of India. A west and east Pakistan will be created. Muslims in Hindu India will be moving to the east and west, while many Hindus in east and west Pakistan will be heading to India. At night the Beckett home is attacked by some of the villagers with Uncle as the main leader. The place is set afire. Uncle kills Peter Beckett. Katerine runs out of the house, as well as her mother but not together. Kisna finds Katherine crying and hiding in fear. He manages to safe her from an assassin. Kisna then hides both himself and Katherine. They see and hear men looking for them. The idea is that Kisna will be put in prison and Katherine killed. Katherine has no news of her mother. Kisna's mother finds their hiding place. Instead of being displeased with Kisna, she is supportive. He is doing what is right. He is defending the weak and defenseless Katherine against an unfair and brutal death. She gives her son her blessing and tells him to take her to the British where she will be safe.
A friend comes to Luxmi to report that he saw Kisna with Katherine going away together: "He eloped with her" is the report. Shankar is so angry that he is willing to kill his younger brother. The fugitive couple head to another village where they are given shelter by a friend. The friend was scared at first, but Kisna and Katherine play the part of a married couple for the friend's family. The friend tells his family: "It's a love marriage." (You know, one of those strange European type marriages.) The friend's sister is especially wonderful to the couple. She is extremely kind giving Katherine advice about Hindu ceremonies and providing them with everything they need for a short stay. The couple shares a bedroom, but Kisna sleeps on the floor.
The police are looking for both Katherine and her mother Jennifer. They manage to find Jennifer, but they still do not know the whereabouts of Katherine and Kisna. The wealthy, but nasty Prince is also desperately seeking Katherine. He has his men out looking for her. This makes his girlfriend jealous, so he deals with this by shooting her in the head, killing her.
Luxmi talks to her grandfather about her Kisna and Katherine. He advises her that her love has one thing missing: faith. She has to trust Kisna to do the right thing.
Kisna sees his brother in the village. He is talking with his friend, who says he has not seen Kisna in the village. Shankar leaves. In the sacred Ganges River, Kisna and Katherine take a dip in a ceremony complete with a large audience. They give the appearance of two people in love.
Katherine and Kisna are to catch the train to Delhi. She is saddened at having to leave India at least for awhile. At the train station, Katherine waits while Kisna gets the tickets. She is approached by two British officers. They tell her that her mother Jennifer is waiting in the car to greet her. When Katherine sees her mother in the car she rushes to her. She gets in the car to hug her mother. Unfortunately, the wicked Prince is there also. The car starts to leave and Katherine starts to panic. She calls for Kisna and tries to get out of the car. But they stop her from leaving. Kisna runs after the car, but is stopped when a car in the convoy deliberately runs into him sending him rolling off the road. (Later Kisna talks with a local fellow who knows where the Prince might be taking Katherine and Jennifer.)
The talk now is of a huge war breaking out between the Hindus and Muslims. Uncle Bhairo wants to make sure that Katherine and Kisna are both killed. And now even Luxmi is out looking for Kisna and Katherine.
The Prince tells Jennifer that he wants to marry her daughter. Jennifer regards this as a personal betrayal by the Prince. The women try to get away from the Prince without much luck. But suddenly Kisna shows up at the house. He tells the Prince that he is taking Katherine and Jennifer with him. The Prince laughs. He wants to know how that is going to be done. Kisna begins by throwing his hot tea into the Prince's face. He then grabs the women and they starts running. Kisna has to fight the guards to ensure their get-away. The women jump into the back of a truck of a colorful man named Jumman. When Kisna gets rid of the guards he jumps into the back of Jumman's truck. The truck heads out. In the middle of a huge plain, Jumman stops the truck to talk with his unwelcome passengers. He asks Kisna to come up front with him so he can hear their story so he can best decide what he is going to do. He listens to the story. He understands their situation. He then cautions his guests that they must do exactly what he tells them to do. The three readily agree.
Jumman takes them to see a very famous singer/dancer named Naima Begum. He tells his guests that she is the only one who can save them. She will give them shelter. Jumman talks with Naima. She wants to meet the three. So Jumman goes to get them. At this time the evil Prince arrives. And, of course, he spots Jennifer and Katherine. He actually holds a pistol on them to make sure things will go his way regardless of what the women might want. Kisna arrives with a pistol. Then Naima shows up. She holds the pistol on the Prince while the three make their get-away.
Jumman puts the three in one of Naima's carriages. He says that no one would start stop the carriage of the famous Naima Begum. Along the road, the carriage gets stuck in a rut. Everyone gets out to help push. At this time four riflemen on horseback show up. They grab Katherine and ride away with her. Kisna gets on the carriage now free of the rut and chases after the riflemen. He kills one of them almost immediately but has to chase the others. He pulls another man off his horse. He throws knives into the backs of the two remaining riflemen. He then catches up with Katherine still on horseback. But then Shankar and his huge group of men show up and start chasing the carriage. Kisna has to sword fight his brother who jumps onto the coach. Kisna is wounded but manages to knock his brother off the moving carriage. Then Kisna is knocked off the carriage, but he grabs the bar at the rear end of the carriage and is able to climb back onto the vehicle. He and Katherine then jump on one of the two galloping horses pulling the carriage. They free the horse from the carriage and pull away from it. They manage to get away from their pursuers by hiding in the jungle.
Katherine does what she can to tend to Kisna's nasty sword wound on his side. Later while Katherine leans against Kisna, Luxmi and her helper show up. She is furious at what she sees. She says: "I feel like I'm experiencing my own death. . . . You've betrayed me." Kisna gets mad at Luxmi and tells her that she is his wife to be and that she should stand by him. But the still furious Luxmi says "We've nothing between us now." She tells them that she has a curse for them in her heart and then leaves.
Katherine starts feeling guilty and comments: "She's right." But Kisna rejects this idea. He says that it's his decision to make, not Katherine's or Luxmi's. Katherine runs away and hides. Kisna looks for her. While Katherine is hiding, one of Shankar's men grabs her from behind. Kisna finds them and kills the man. Then Shankar and Uncle Bhairo show up with their men. They want Kisna to hand Katherine over to them. Uncle grabs Katherine, saying: "I'm going skin this white girl alive." Kisna will not let this happen and he kills Uncle. The brother then tells Kisna to kill him too. He tells Kisna to choose between his brother or the white girl. He adds "I'm going to kill her." Kisna tells Shankar that their mother told him to protect Katherine against an unjust death. Shankar again tells his brother to kill him. Katherine pipes up and tells Kisna to kill her rather than his brother. This remarks gives Shaknar pause. He then asks his brother if he loves Katherine. After a pause, Kisna says yes, he loves Katherine: "Katherine belongs to me. I'm taking her away." The couple hold hands.
Back at the Prince's palace, he tells his men that he wants Kisna dead. An assassin finds the couple, but Kisna kills him. They take the Prince's jeep toward a town to take Kisna to the hospital for treatment of his wound. Along the way, people warn them that there is violence in the town between roving bands of Hindus and Muslims. At a check point the couple is stopped. But when they see that the jeep belongs to the Prince, they let the couple go ahead. A group of Muslims grab Kisna. They throw him into a building and start the door on fire to burn him alive. Katherine from the outside and Kisna on the inside work on the door to get it open and Kisna escapes death. The Prince arrives in the area. The guards at the checkpoint tell him that they did see the couple he is looking for. At this time, Katherine and Kisna are grabbed by a group of Hindus (or Muslims? who knows?). They ask Kisna his religion. He says nothing. They are going to kill him until Katherine starts begging for his life. She then remembers that she had place her Christian cross around the neck of Kisna. She pulls off the scarf around his neck to expose the cross. The killers let the couple go.
But now Katherine is grabbed by two guards looking for her. They take her away while other guards restrain Kisna. After some struggle, Kisna is able to escape from the guards. He chases after the truck. But his way is blocked by a large crowd of Hindus or Muslims filled with hatred and wanting to kill. The truck gets away. When Katherine is presented before the Prince she really slaps him hard and calls him a bastard in front of all the guards. She says: "I only belong to Kisna." The Prince is furious. With a sneer he tells Katherine: "You slap me?" He takes her into an abandoned building to rape her. He pulls her top off (no nudity shown except if you count her back). Kisna shows up to save the day. He gives the Prince a good beating. He then throws the Prince into a burning building. But then he has to save Katherine because part of a building fell on her. He frees her.
Shankar and his men arrive on the scene. And it is just in time for the still living Prince tries to shoot Kisna. Shankar kills the Prince saving his brother. The brothers embrace. An ambulance arrives. The ambulance driver sees a very dirty and messed-up Katherine and tells her: "Miss, I think you need some help."
Later Kisna is approached by some British officials. They tell him that Katherine and Jennifer Beckett think that his life is in danger. They have obtained the necessary papers for him to accompany them to England. They will leave tonight. Kisna asks to see Katherine and is taken to her. He thanks Katherine, but says that "Luxmi is waiting for me. I have to return" He adds that it was his duty to save Katherine, but now it is his duty to go back to Luxmi. He tries to comfort Katherine with the statement that their love will actually reach a higher level. He asks her not to cry: "Our love hasn't ended; it's begun with this parting."
Back to the present. A man in the audience, having listened to Katherine's story, tells her that he is Kisna's younger son by Luxmi. Kisna died about five years ago. The man is one of two brothers and a sister born to Kisna and Luxmi. He then takes Katherine to see Luxmi. Luxmi greets her happily, but with many tears. Luxmi tells her: "He fulfilled all my dreams. But I got a husband, but not his love." She knew this for sure when her husband's last wish was to have his ashes spread onto the Ganges River at the place where he and Katherine had taken their ritual dip in the river. Katherine cries too.
The woman reporter and the cameraman make their report on Katherine and her story. Katherine will be opening a school in the local village in the name of Kisna.
Good movie. Lots of action too. And of course the seeming obligatory singing and dancing. The two lead actresses playing the parts of Katherine and Luxmi were both very attractive. I was, however, upset at the ending. I did not care for the philosophical excuse Kisna gave Katherine for going back to Luxmi. (But maybe that's one of the differences between life in an isolated, rural village in India and a modern Western society.) Anyway, I thought Kisna's remark that their love has not ended, the parting is just the begging of their love, was pretty bogus. I think if I were in Katherine's place I would tell Kisna: "Are you kidding me? That's just so much b.s." I stick with the Western philosophy that the utmost important thing in a relationship is the love between the couples, not duty or appearances, or convenience, or whatever. So the ending left three unfulfilled people, pining for the real person they love, instead of the one person who would have been left unhappy, Luxmi. (But Luxmi had told Kisna that she wanted nothing more to do with him anymore.) I am sure that the modernized part of India is on the same wave length with the West. Partly it's a matter of economic and social development. In the kind of modernized society developing around the world, love is the only true cement that can keep couples together.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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