Thought Provoking Slick Thriller
By MovieTalkies.com, 20 November 2009
This film is a real change on the kind of stuff that is churned out of Karan Johar's production house. Actually, it is quite a change from the usual mainstream fare that is churned out of Bollywood. This is a mainstream Hindi film which actually dares to look at an issue in the eye and try and address it. So kudos really to Karan Johar for his story which makes a brave attempt to look at the other side of the picture. It is no easy task to try and put into perspective Islamic fundamentalism and look at the larger picture. So, yes the attempt is wonderful and very, very refreshing. But, yes, one has to admit, that beyond a point, the film does become a little too simplistic and almost predictable.
The first half of 'Kurbaan' is extremely absorbing and powerful. It holds you with its boldness and the crispness of its dialogues. The scenes in Delhi, the romance between Saif Ali Khan (Ehsaan Khan) and Kareena Kapoor (Avantika), their marriage and subsequent travel to New York, till one day, Avantika discovers that her next door neighbours are actually terrorists and that her husband too is one of them. The film works excellently till here, as the screenplay writer manages to stay one step ahead of the viewer. But post this, the film somehow dips and takes a more predictable route. Director Rensil D'Silva, who has also written the screenplay, really builds up the story well up to this point. The film's cause is further enhanced by the performance of the lead players. Saif and Kareena, who are both quite brilliant in the first half of the movie. But in the second half of the film, once Saif's identity has been revealed to the audiences and Kareena, the performances dip slightly. Saif somehow fails to infuse his role of Ehsaan Khan with the strong intensity one would expect a dreaded terrorist, or man with a mission to have. In the first half, as the suave Professor Ehsaan Khan, wooing Avantika and winning over her father, he is just brilliant. Kareena, on the other hand, manages to deliver a more consistent performance, right through the movie.
Rensil does his best to incorporate all the different voices of Islam into the film. Vivek Oberoi's entry into the movie as Riyaaz, the news reporter and a rational voice of Islam, is pertinent. His father, played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda, projects a more traditional view of America. So yes, D'Silva has done his best to bring together the different views existing about Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, about the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, through his characters. It's not easy mounting such a film on a mainstream format, but Rensil braves it. Of course, one classroom discussion on Islam and the role of America, does not explain or demystify the cause of the Fidayeen. It is merely a scratch on the surface. But the great thing about it is that it's a beginning.
The director never really justifies the cause of the Fidayeen and through the characters of Avantika and Riyaaz, manages to bring out the rational viewpoint. Avantika never once budges from her stance even though she is revulsed by and yet attracted to her husband and Riyaaz, penetrates the organization only so that he can avenge the death of his girlfriend Rihana (Diya Mirza) and expose them. So the lines are well drawn. But these lines begin to blur ever so slightly because of Ehsaan's love for Avantika. The director could have added more emotional overtones to their relationship, which would have really brought out the doomed nature of their relationship. It would have also explained Ehsaan's volte face in the end. Also one feels that Vivek's entry into the Fidayeen group looks a little too easy. There is a lot that is unexplained about the Fidayeen group. Nobody else seems to be living in that neighbourhood, who notices anything amiss, except for Avantika. How did Ehsaan, a Pakistani National, ever enter India and get a job at the Delhi University? There are many unexplained, loose ends to this story.
The film has been very lovingly shot, first in New Delhi and then in New York, by cinematographer Hemant Chaturvedi. The music and the background score which has been composed by Salim Suliaman is quite haunting and has the right quality of restrain about it. The film's dialogues written by Anurag Kashyap and Niranjan Iyengar are natural and shorn of all clichés, thankfully. The screenplay, which has been handled by Rensil himself, manages to mostly keep one totally engrossed by the events on the screen.
As for the players themselves, Saif and Kareena, manage to light up the screen with their performances and so does Vivek. He is natural and very convincing. Despite the brevity of his role, he manages to make his presence felt. Om Puri, may have few dialogues in the movie, but he manages to convey a sense of authority as Bhaijan and has an ever so slightly menacing air about him. Kirron Kher as his begum also turns in a gritty performance.
There is little doubt that the film is a departure from the kind of candy floss fare that we see as Hindi films. The film and its makers do not mince words and skirt the issue. They get to the heart of the matter, but somewhere down the line, the cause just seems to get watered down and becomes too simplistic. Islam and Islamic fundamentalism cannot be explained away with a few sob stories or just by portraying one discussion in a classroom. There is no strong enough argument from Ehsaan's side in favour of terrorism. He talks about Jihad and peace but never explains what the term really stands for in Islam. So yes, the film wants to say a lot about Islam and terrorism but in the end, runs out of words. Ehsaan's volte face in the end is telling as he betrays his own cause. Ehsaan's character could have been better fleshed out by the writers as one cannot imagine a dreaded terrorist like him, betraying his cause only for the love of a woman. And if it was that strong a love, it never did come out appropriately on screen.
Though the film is a good effort but it neither is a strong story of love and passion a few kissing and lovemaking scenes do not constitute passion as the emotional core is missing in the Ehsaan Avantika love story. Nor is it a strong story about terrorism and the human face behind such acts. It merely flirts with explosive issues like terrorism and Islam but has no solutions or fresh perspective to offer. But yes, for mainstream cinema, it is in a sense a departure.