Aatank (translation: “Panic”) is a 1980s Bollywood film that remained unreleased until 1996. It is also known unofficially as “Bollywood Jaws’ as it has a sub-plot with a killer shark. It was directed by Prem Lalwani from a screenplay by Sachin Bhowmick and story by Sachin Bhowmick. The movie stars famous Indian actor Dharmendra, plus Nafisa Ali, Girish Karnad and Hema Malini.
Jesu and Peter are childhood friends who live in a coastal village in India and depend on fishing as their livelihood. The community is oppressed by a powerful gangster named Alphonso. Jesu is an orphan, while Peter is brought up by his aunt and uncle, after the death of his mother.
The community is all thrilled when Phillips finds black pearls off the coast. But then so does Alphonso, who asks his divers to get all the pearls, thus disturbing the ocean. Peter meets with Suzy D’Silva and they fall in love with each other and get married.
While enjoying a quiet swim on the sea-shore, Suzy disappears. A search is carried out, and a number of human body parts are recovered. With shock and horror, the community finds that their new livelihood is being threatened by a gigantic, virtually indestructible man-eating shark…
While the shark in Aatank is a fairly useless addition to the film’s narrative and its screen time is limited, I have to give credit where credit is due. You won’t see another shark like the shark featured in this film. It is hysterically big (its size also constantly changes), zooms through the ocean with its fins and tail entirely immobile and possesses the strength to shatter boats in two.
Aatank‘s shark is a screaming, panicking mess attacking anything in its path. Unlike Jaws, where the shark is clearly smarter than your average sea monster, Bollywood’s adaptation is a mindless buffoon, so cartoonish, unpredictable and wild that it gives the film a surreal quality.’
Dave Jackson, MOVIES and MANIA