B-MENTIA 15: The B-Masters' 15th Anniversary Roundtable

100 Days


I no longer have any objection (at least in theory) to the idea of movies being remade in another country. I used to hate the idea — I considered it disrespectful to the source film, and demeaning to the local audience. Over the years I've given the matter some thought, and I've come to the conclusion that there are many good reasons for doing an entirely new film, rather than simply subtitling the original.

First off, subtitles — even accurate ones, which are rarer than you might think — don't always provide the audience with all the information they need. For one thing, there's rarely enough space on-screen for good translations, and the subs often go by too fast to provide detail. For another thing, it's the way people speak, even more than the things they say, that tells us who they are; and idioms and inflections often don't translate well, given the limitations of subtitles. Add to this the fact that subs really do distract the viewers from the action on-screen... and the fact that many, many people across the world won't go to a movie if they have to read it as well as watch it (especially in places where the audience may not be able to read at all)... and you've got a pretty good case against subtitling.

Dubbing runs into the same problems of accuracy, as well as adding different layers of cultural conflict. Should everybody in a Japanese monster film sound like Mid-Atlantic Americans? If the English dubbers try to imitate the actual cadence of Japanese English, the way Titra Studios did with the old AIP dubs, does that make the situation more offensive, or less offensive? Or neither? Or both?

And then there's the possibility that the original, no matter how significant or well-made it may be, may contain material that's either incomprehensible to the local audience, or else is deeply offensive. Many Asian horror movies are based on folklore, religious tradition or social conventions that are completely alien to mainstream Americans. Even dubbing these films into English will leave out a lot of vital information that makes the movies hold together. On the other hand, Hollywood movies carry with them social, political or sexual content that we take for granted, but which are not always welcome when they're imported elsewhere. Movie-making is a commercial industry all over the world, so in both cases it makes sense for local movie companies to capitalize on the reputation of the original film by making their own. If they proceed with intelligence and respect, there's always the chance they'll succeed in creating a movie that's worthy of standing beside its inspiration. Even if they don't proceed with intelligence and respect — and they usually don't — if the alternative is cutting the original to shreds to remove the "offensive" content, I'd much rather see something new be created.

That's my position in theory. It's the practice that's so disappointing.

It turns out that intelligence and respect for the source are not all that common anywhere in all the world's movie industries. Take Hollywood as an obvious example. The Japanese horror film One Missed Call (Chakushin Ari), directed by Miike Takashi, was both a successfully scary movie and a sophisticated parody of J-Horror in general (after all those Ring-s, it was time to leave a message). Everything that made the original so well worth watching was eliminated in the American remake. Hollywood also failed when they made their own version of the excellent Thai film Shutter — the remake cast Americans in the tragic lead roles, but then went to great lengths to exonerate them from the terrible guilt the heroes carried with them in the original. It seems accountability is a big audience turn-off in the United States.

Something similar holds true for American films brought to other markets. Take, for example, the Indian film Hawa ("The Wind"), which is a remake of The Entity. It might seem obvious why The Entity would be a candidate for a brand new version in conservative India: it's about a woman who is repeatedly (and explicitly) raped by an invisible force. Trouble is, when you actually watch Hawa, you'll see some of the rape scenes replicated practically shot-for-shot. What has been removed from the screenplay is the overarching feminist message of The Entity — the criticism of a male-dominated society that blames women for their own violation is completely missing from the remake, leaving only... rape.

Yet in spite of my frequent disappointment with the results, I find I am much less prejudiced against international remakes now, and when I find one I try very hard to evaluate it in its own context, rather than begin by comparing it with its original. This has helped me considerably in approaching Indian cinema, which thrives on remakes. In fact, one of the biggest blockbuster hits in Indian cinema has gone on to be remade a number of times in India itself. The 1993 Malayalam movie Manichitrathazhu — a horror movie, by the way; never let it be said that the Indians don't appreciate a good horror movie — was such a success that it has been recreated for the country's other cultures and languages: in the Kannada language as Apthamitra (2004), in Tamil as Chandramukhi (2005), in Bengali as Rajmohol (2005) and last (surprisingly) in Hindi as Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2006). A convincing case could be made that the original Manichitrathazhu is a 100% Indian version of The Exorcist, both in its thematic concerns, its plot structure and its impact on the audience of the time... though in this case, it's not a remake of the American film, but rather an independent exploration of the same ur-material (just as, say, English and Hindi are related by their origins in the proto-Indo-European language. Wow — how's that for a pseudo-intellectual film critic simile?).

A few years ago, an Indian video store near Atlantic City got rid of all its older titles — thousands of them — by sending them all to the Goodwill store in Cardiff, New Jersey. I happened to get to the thrift shop fairly soon afterwards, and I picked up about two or three dozen titles in all genres. I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into when I bought the Bollywood versions of Three Men and a Baby (itself a remake of a French film) and Identity. But here's the thing about the descriptions on the packages of Indian DVDs, both those manufactured in the US and those actually from India: they often have nothing at all to do with the actual content of the movie. In fact, I ran into one that used a negative user review off the IMDb, for a totally unrelated American movie of the same title. Thus I was very surprised when I ended up unexpectedly owning copies of Bollywood Laura, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Chinatown and The Others, to name only a few.

I need to stress that all these Indian movies were made after 1990. Yet when you look at the list of source material, you'll find it goes back as far as the 1940's. That might seem a little unusual, if you think that Indian cinema is only interested in ripping off current Hollywood trends (and when it comes to remaking foreign films, that's the pattern Hollywood itself tends to use). But there's a unifying criterion here: the source movies are all really good.

This is not to say that the remakes themselves always turn out particularly well. But when it comes to choosing their source material, Bollywood has made some surprising decisions. And none are more surprising than 1991's 100 Days, which is a thriller based on Lucio Fulci's 1977 giallo Sette Note in Nero (aka The Psychic).

(If you want some more context for understanding the comparison between Fulci's film and 100 Days, you can take a look at my review of the original... either the short, non-spoiler review or the long review that's full of spoilers. Go ahead; I'll wait.)

It's not just the mind-boggling thought of Bollywood turning to Lucio Fulci, the "Godfather of Gore", that makes 100 Days such an unexpected find. It's more the fact that nobody else was paying any attention to Sette Note in Nero in 1991. The original film was stuck in limbo: it had been a failure at the box office back in the 70's, and pretty much everybody but Fulci himself had written it off. Fulci was still alive in 1991, but nobody was paying much attention to him, either: he was making some of the worst-received movies of his career. A few years later, after Fulci's death, Quentin Tarantino would try to use his influence to gain a re-release for the film (though even Tarantino was unable to secure the rights for video release at the time...). But in '91, very few people had even heard of Sette Note in Nero. Furthermore, the original film is a slowly-paced, quiet, atmospheric mystery — not the sort of film you'd expect to make the short list of Bollywood remakes.

Nevertheless, somebody in the Bollywood industry saw Fulci's film. Somebody — possibly the producer Pranlal Mehta, who put his name proudly over the credits — recognized in it the potential for a successful Indian version. The end result was a movie tailored explicitly for its local audience, that still managed to stay respectful of its source material. 100 Days serves as a great example of how this sort of thing ought to be done.



Devi (Madhuri Dixit) is a young girl at college. One day, in the middle of a tennis match with her friend Sudha, Devi is overwhelmed by a vision: she sees her older sister Rada, fresh out of a night-time shower, sitting and drying her hair. From behind her, a shadowy figure in a black raincoat approaches. The man in black pulls out a gun; there is a shot, and Rada falls dead to the floor in slow motion.

The killer in Devi's vision

(If you're familiar with Fulci's film, you'll notice that things are drastically different already. In the original, our heroine Virginia was a very young girl when she had her first psychic experience — not a young woman of college age. Virginia had witnessed the suicide of her mother, not the murder of her sister; and Virginia's early experience was unconnected with the visions she would have later in life. Devi's precognitive flashes, we will soon find out, are all related to each other.)

Devi is understandably upset by these... visions, hallucinations; whatever they are. She tries to put them out of her mind, but...

WAIT!

Before we get too far into the plot, it's time for a COMIC MUSICAL INTERLUDE!

We're introduced to a group of people we think at first are an Andy Milligan street gang. Actually, they're Devi's friend Sunil and his buddies, apparently from a rival school, and they're pulling the G-rated Indian version of a panty raid on Devi's dorm. They run singing and dancing through the hallways, spray-painting silly slogans on the walls and dousing everyone with shaving cream... until Devi rallies her troops and defeats them all in a cake fight. This is something you're definitely not going to find in Sette Note in Nero, but it does serve a purpose: it introduces us to another of the main characters, Sunil. Sunil is (believe it or not) the Marc Porel character of this version, though here he's a childhood friend of Devi's rather than her psychiatrist. Like Porel's Luca, Sunil is in love with the heroine, but she does not return his feelings.

Things you won't see in Fulci, Part 1.
Things you won't see in Fulci: Part 1.

Now back to the serious business: Devi is understandably upset by her visions, or hallucinations, or whatever they are. She tries to put them out of her mind... but later that night they return, as vivid as they were before. Now convinced something horrible has happened to Rada, Devi calls her sister on the phone. Much to Devi's surprise and relief, it turns out Rada is fine. She tells Devi to stop worrying about a simple nightmare, and for heaven's sake stay away from that awful Sunil — and hangs up. Then Rada goes to step into the shower...

(Uh-oh.)

Sure enough, a man in a dark raincoat soon enters the building. As Rada sits drying her hair, the man enters and pulls his gun. A shot is fired, and Rada falls in a pool of blood. The Dark Stranger picks up her body and carries it in the rain out to his car. He then drives to an abandoned house and carries Rada's body inside. He tears down a portion of the house's inner wall, props Rada's body up within, and then rebuilds the wall around her.

(Naturally, none of this was shown in Fulci's original. The identity of the woman walled up in the house was a key part of the mystery, and exactly when she'd been put there was as every bit as important [and as ambiguous] as why she was put there.)

Five years pass, and Rada's whereabouts remain undiscovered. Devi and her Uncle have tried to get on with their lives in her absence. At Sudha's wedding, Devi accidentally makes the acquaintance of a man named Ram Kumar (Jackie Shroff) and his (odious) comic-relief servant Balam (Laxmikant Berde). Balam has trouble with dates and times, and has sent his employer to the wrong wedding. Sudha and Devi think he's come to crash the party, and maybe even to steal some of the gifts. Kumar (who's actually a very wealthy man) protests, explaining that he's brought along a gift worth a lot of money. Unfortunately, he hasn't counted on the fact that Balam has replaced the gift with a pair of worn-out shoes — payback for an insult the father of the bride had given him. Kumar is barely able to escape from the wedding without being beaten up.

Balam is not so lucky, as he gets his beating directly from his employer. But one good thing has come of the misunderstanding: Ram Kumar has caught sight of Devi, and has fallen instantly in love with her. He not only admires her beauty; he's also captivated by her fighting spirit, and her independence. Kumar buys the house next door to Devi and her Uncle (paying a third again over the value of the house for the privilege), and begins a campaign to annoy her into noticing him. At their first meeting, Devi throws a conch shell at him, which Kumar sees as a good omen.

But Devi is still tortured by the memory of her horrible dream. One night, as she awakens from the same nightmare, a man in a black raincoat slo-o-o-owly approaches her house and makes his way up the stairs... but it turns out to be only Sunil, returned after five years studying abroad. Sunil is still besotted with Devi, and he hopes that even if they don't become a couple, at least they can work together. In fact, he's got an engagement as a dancer at a forthcoming event, and is counting on Devi's help with the show.

What neither Sunil nor Devi know is that the performance is in honor of that renowned philanthropist, Mr. Ram Kumar. Kumar takes advantage of his introductory speech to proclaim his love for Devi to the whole assembled crowd, and after the performance he gives her a special award for her dancing... in the shape of an enormous conch shell.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE!


Things you won't see in Fulci, Part 2.
Things you won't see in Fulci: Part 2.

So now Devi knows that Ram Kumar really is a rich and well-respected man. That changes Devi's attitude ever-so-slightly. Now, too, Sunil knows he has a rival who is a billionaire — there go his hopes and dreams.

The entire next half hour — have I mentioned this movie is two hours and forty minutes long? — is taken up with Devi and Kumar's courtship, as Devi plays hard to get and Kumar does everything he can to humor her. Finally Devi decides she can't live without him, and Uncle happily discusses the wedding with his billionaire future in-law.

Because everybody's heard the story of Devi and Kumar's meet-cute, every single one of their wedding presents comes in the form of a conch shell. The happy day concludes with a huge production number intended to symbolize the couple's wedding night. India is a notoriously conservative country when it comes to the public depiction of sex (or even holding hands, come to think of it), so instead of the seduction we might expect in a Hollywood movie, we're given an elaborate musical production featuring Jackie Shroff dancing his way out of an enormous conch shell...

Things you won't see in Fulci, Part 3.
Things you won't see in Fulci: Part 3.

... while streams of white pearls falls upon Madhuri Dixit's upturned face.

Still more things you won't see in Fulci.
Still more things you won't see in Fulci.

Nothing sexual going on here, folks; nope, nope.

(By this time, those who know Sette Note in Nero will be clutching their heads is dismay. 100 Days has been running for an hour and fifteen minutes so far, and we're just now getting to the point in the plot where Fulci's film begins. What's more, it's weird for us to spend so much time on the backstory of Jennifer O'Neill's and Gianni Garko's characters, since we have a pretty good idea what's going to happen between them later in the film...)

Shortly after the wedding, Ram Kumar is called away on business. Devi is depressed to be left alone so early in their marriage; but she's decided on a wonderful project to keep her occupied in her husband's absence. Kumar had an old bungalow that belonged to his family, but his father had died in debt with the property foreclosed-upon. Now, very recently, Kumar has come into the title again, after years of legal wrangling. Devi intends to go restore the bungalow ("... especially the bedroom," she teases) to give them a place to enjoy their honeymoon in peace.

Unfortunately, just after Ram Kumar leaves, Devi has her second psychic flash. She's taking a quick dip in the swimming pool when her present reality fades away before her eyes. All she can see is...

  • a magazine with a picture of a horse on the cover;
  • a cigarillo smoldering on an ornamental ashtray;
  • an ornate lamp;
  • a wall plaque;
  • a video tape labeled "100 Days";
  • a broken mirror in a golden frame;
  • a bald man stabbing a woman to death.

Like Devi's earlier vision, this one keeps repeating in her mind (for everyone who thought the dream-visions in Sette Note... were too repetitive, let me point out that 100 Days repeats the entire dream sequence three times in the space of three minutes). By the middle of the night, Devi has suffered a collapse and is brought to the hospital. But in the meantime, a woman who looks remarkably like the woman in Devi's premonition is making a phone call to an unidentified man. She tells him she's made copies of the videotape, and unless he agrees to her demands she'll make the contents of that tape public.

([cough] I've purposely neglected to mention that the Man in the Black Raincoat from Devi's first vision had another witness besides Devi. There was a woman following him with a video camera, who just happened to be filming through the window when the shot was fired. I figured veering that far off-template that soon in the film would be a little much for establishing the comparison to Fulci's film.)

Devi's stay in the hospital sets her very far behind in renovating the bungalow. Balam takes her to the house, and she gets to work taking the layers of protective paper off the furniture. She's horrified to discover a lamp exactly like the one in her premonition. Stepping back in alarm, she discovers a mirror — unbroken, but in every other respect the duplicate of the one in her vision. Reflected in that mirror is the very same wall plaque. Devi takes the plaque off the wall and discovers a crack in the wall underneath. It seems the wall behind the plaque is hollow! Soon Devi is hard at work tearing down the wall, and behind it she finds... a fully-articulated skeleton, conveniently wearing her long-lost sister's necklace.

(More crucial differences: the crux of Sette Note...'s plot was the way in which Virginia's psychic flashes gradually revealed themselves to be glimpses of the future, not the past. That sense of unfolding doom is entirely missing from 100 Days. Devi is never in any doubt that the things she's seen are things that are going to happen, and there's nothing in her visions so far that's open to misinterpretation. Also, both the victim and the house had a strong connection to Virginia's husband in the Fulci film, leading to his eventual arrest; Virginia's frantic attempts to free him drew her deeper into the trap Fate had in store for her. In 100 Days, there's no such obvious connection between the murder and Ram Kumar. Since her husband is never in serious jeopardy, Devi's investigation is prompted only by her desire for the truth: she's as feisty and courageous as Virginia is fragile, so her character arc is much less complex than Virginia's.)

(It's also a little amusing to see Fulci's film referenced so clearly, with the photograph of a horse. A horse and a magazine cover had a crucial part to play in Sette Note..., but it was the absence of the horse from the magazine photograph that proved to be so important.)

Devi begins a long investigation into her sister's death, using the other images in her vision as a place to start. The strange dark cigarette doesn't seem to mean anything, but she's a little surprised to find her old friend Sudha's husband smoking them. The magazine editor swears there has never been a horse on the cover of his magazine... but shortly afterwards, when an Indian horse wins an international derby, the cover from Devi's vision appears in print. Bit by bit the pieces come together. But things really begin to come to a head for Devi when she and Ram Kumar approach their 100 Days Anniversary.

If you don't know what the 100 Days Anniversary is, you're not alone: Devi claims she's never heard of it either (though she may be bluffing, because she has a Certain Little Secret she's waiting to reveal to her husband). The 100 Days Anniversary is the point at which, if an Indian bride is not already morning-sick, then it's time to take a second honeymoon and get busy. Since Devi is claiming not to have any of the classic symptoms, Ram Kumar has arranged for a romantic dinner that night to kick off their Anniversary. Unfortunately for Devi, this Anniversary, which should be a joyous occasion marking Devi and Kumar's transition from "a couple" to "a family", is the event chosen by Fate to mark the beginning of her doom.

There's something wildly entertaining about a movie named 100 Days featuring a girl looking for a videotape of a movie called "100 Days" on her 100 Days Anniversary. The video store employee swears there's no such movie as "100 Days"... but if there was one, he says, he'd be sure to carry it, because it sounds really interesting. Since the videotape is the Bollywood version's equivalent of a crucial hidden letter in Fulci's film, Devi does end up finding the tape marked "100 Days" in a video shop; that's where the woman from Devi's vision hides it, before being stabbed to death by the Bald Guy (the Bollywood version of the red-herring Professor Rospini from Sette Note...). If you get a chance to see 100 Days on DVD, pause the picture as Devi struggles to escape the video store: the titles on the shelves are mostly those of classic Indian horror movies: Bandh Darwaza, Shaitani Ilaaka and others.



As I watched this far for the first time, being thoroughly familiar with the original film, I have to admit my overall feeling was intense relief. There are several ways to remake a film internationally: at one end of the spectrum, you can change only what really needs to be changed, and leave most of the rest intact (as I believe Gore Verbinski managed to do successfully in The Ring, and which resulted in failure for the American version of Shutter); at the other end, you could decide to use the original material only as a point of departure for a totally different movie. The latter approach worked well for the Japanese director Miike Takashi when he turned a quirky dark comedy from South Korea, The Quiet Family, into the utterly distinctive, utterly insane Happiness of the Katakuris... but when Hollywood decided to start from scratch with Miike's own metahorror flick One Missed Call, the result was a total disaster. But I tend to find I'm left much less angry by a movie that tries and fails to be something new. I don't usually end up hurling things at the screen and shouting, "THAT'S NOT HOW IT GOES!" Instead of noticing discrepancies with annoyance, I start noticing similarities... and when I find them, it's a lot of fun.

(I don't want to suggest that everything works particularly well in the remake. For example: while Fulci's film relied on the existence of an ambiguous letter [the contents of which are never revealed], in 100 Days we're shown an actual video recording of the murder taking place. That's a little on-the-nose for a whodunit, don't you think?

(The music, too, is a real disappointment. I'm not so much thinking about the big musical numbers... the songs aren't bad, even if I didn't find them particularly memorable. It's the incidental music. The music of Sette Note in Nero is every bit as important to the film as the screenplay or the characters or the cinematography. The trio of Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi and Vincent Tempera worked very hard to come up with a complex, tightly-constructed score that was ideally suited to the film. By contrast, the incidental music that accompanies most of the action in 100 Days is dominated by a single, very loud piano ostinato. That one musical figure plays over and over and over again, through all the suspenseful scenes of a two-and-a-half hour movie. It's headache-inducing.

(And thinking of headaches: the other really disappointing change the Indian version has made to the screenplay is to replace the heroine's watch. In the Fulci film, that watch was one of the most important elements of the story. Its chime gave the movie its title. Instead, Devi gets a present of... a digital watch. In place of Fabio Frizzi's haunting melody, we're given that typical ear-splitting BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!... it's not an improvement.)

The need for a new version of Fulci's film in India is signaled immediately in 100 Days by the movie's voice-over prologue. Everybody knows India has a rich, ancient mystical tradition, but what I'd never realized is that Indian mysticism apparently doesn't include precognition in its bag of tricks. The voice over actually has to explain to the local audience what a psychic flash is. This has big repercussions for the whole structure of the movie: if the Indian audience has to be told about premonitions, they're probably going to get lost in a story with an Ouroboros timeline, like Fulci's. Instead, when Devi sees things in 100 Days she's clearly getting glimpses of the future. Thus we're given a much more straightforward, linear narrative, as Devi and her friends attempt to stop (or at least mitigate) the horrible things that are about to happen.

From these very beginning, the differences announce themselves loud and clear. It's not just the addition of big musical numbers: Bollywood thrillers, in spite of their length (at least two hours, often as long as three), are never as slowly paced, grim and inward-looking as Fulci's film. A neurotic heroine like Virginia would be lost in the typical action-packed, song-filled, extroverted Indian production. So she's been rebuilt from the ground up as a strong, feisty young woman. Indian audiences like a good (if comparatively modest) love story, so it makes no sense for the movie to start with Devi already married. Furthermore, once Devi is wed to Ram Kumar, it's no longer appropriate even to hint that Sunil still hopes he has a shot with Devi, the way Marc Porel's Luca clearly feels about Virginia.

Fulci's film would have been ruined if the sinister Professor Rospini had sent out his kung-fu goons to beat up Luca. But that's just what happens to Sunil... until he's rescued by none other than kung-fu Ram Kumar! And thinking of fight scenes, while Sette Note... had ended with Virginia's fate uncertain, in 100 Days not only is she rescued, but the final confrontation leads to a long, action-filled brawl through the bungalow.

Kung Fu Jackie Shroff

Now — this is the point at which, in order to complete the comparison between the Indian version and the Italian original, I need to thoroughly spoil both of them. Read on at your peril.

As Pete Tombs noted in "Mondo Macabro", rural Indian audiences of this period (the late 80's - 90's) did not tolerate ambiguity very well. This applied particularly to moral ambiguity. So not only was it important that our heroine Devi should be saved from certain death at the end of the picture — and that we should see her being saved, not just have it implied — it was also important that her whole reason for being put in danger should be altered.

In Sette Note in Nero, it turned out that Virginia's beloved husband Francesco — the man she'd inadvertently incriminated, then worked frantically to free — was the real killer all along. We're led to believe the killer is actually Rospini, who had robbed his own museum; but it was Francesco who'd masterminded the robbery and he who had killed their young accomplice and buried her in the wall. He'd taken pains to remain behind the scenes, so that even the old woman holding the last piece of evidence did not understand what that evidence really meant. But once he realizes that Virginia has found all the clues, he's forced to try to kill her himself, and bury her in the same place she'd found his previous victim. It's only the chiming of Virginia's watch — the Seven Notes in Black — that reveals the truth to the pursuing Luca.

This conclusion was impossible in the Indian version. A Bad Guy in an Indian horror film was expected to look like a Bad Guy and act like a Bad Guy. It's true this sort of self-censorship applied more strictly to, say, Ramsey-style monster movies than to thrillers, which depend to a certain extent on people not being what they appear to be. Nevertheless, we'd just spent a couple of hours watching Ram Kumar earn Devi's love and trust — it just wouldn't do for him to turn out as vile and heartless as Gianni Garko's character in the original. So the screenplay comes up with a compromise. Yes, Ram Kumar was the man in the black raincoat who broke into Rada's house five years ago. Yes, he'd pulled a gun on her — he had been involved in a plan to replicate precious artworks and sell the originals on the Black Market, and Rada, an art scholar, had detected the substitutions. Kumar had only intended to frighten her. But just at the moment when he'd confronted Rada, his associate at the gallery (the not-bald-yet Bald Guy; i.e., the Indian Rospini) had crept up behind him in an identical black raincoat and hat. It was he who'd been the one to pull the trigger.

Seriously: WTF?
"Sorry, boss. I thought this was your day off..."            
            "Grr... I'll bet this never happens to Dario Argento!"

So yes, Ram Kumar is still technically culpable for Rada's death; and in tune with the morality of Indian commercial cinema, he's going to have to pay for that. But his love for Devi has awakened in him the desire for redemption, and — in what you might find either a stirring finale or a ridiculous example of the Hero's Death Battle Exemption — he even manages to overcome a knife in the back to team up with Sunil to defeat the Real Killer.

All right, all right; I agree that all sounds pretty silly and contrived. But in the wider context of Bollywood thrillers, it's actually pretty strong stuff, having the romantic lead turn out to be a villain.

But here's where 100 Days manages to hark back to its inspiration one last time. Remember: ambiguity is not a common trait in Bollywood suspense flicks. Yet... remember, too, how I mentioned Kumar has just pulled a knife out of his back. Though he's clearly in distress, he doesn't tell anybody that he's been seriously wounded — not Devi; not Sunil; not even the police, when they come to bring him to his Just Punishment.

Whereas Sette Note in Nero had ended with Virginia's fate undecided, 100 Days leaves us wondering if Ram Kumar is going to survive past the end credits. In both cases, there's a strong hint the answer is going to be No. Don't forget: this is all unfolding on Kumar and Devi's 100 Days Anniversary. Poor Devi is going to be left alone — possibly for years, possibly forever — with this bitter memory and the child of her sister's killer. And that Fulci-esque cruel twist to the ending, for an Indian thriller of this vintage, is something of a shocker.



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