Friday, June 18, 2004


Karan Shergill, the protagonist of Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya, is supposed to be nice, smart, determined, and clueless. It’s not clear whether he is lazy, spoiled or soft in the head, because in the first half of the film Hrithik Roshan plays the character like an extension of his retarded role in Koi Mil Gaya.

Today’s youngsters, even rich ones, are quite focussed—all but Karan, who does not know what to do with himself. Instead of helping him with a career choice, everybody frowns and tells him he needs a ‘lakshya’ (goal) in life.

Karan ends up at the Indian Military Academy, which is hardly the thing anyone does on an impulse, but writer Javed Akhtar and director Farhan decided that’s the way it will go. Fair enough. Instead of some real scenes of the guy’s ‘growing up’ you are subjected to military training routine. Not much male bonding happening either, with fellow cadets.

When, at one point Karan decides to quit, his father (Boman Irani) taunts him and girlfriend Romila (Preity Zinta) dumps him, without even listening to his side of the story. So poor Karan goes back and completes his training, not so much because he wants to, but because he is left with no choice. Somehow his problems, confusion, angst do not come across convincingly. Akhtar makes the transformation look so easy and effortless, that one never gets the feeling of a man’s whole existence being turned inside out.

Soon after Karan joins Colonel Damle’s (Amitabh Bachchan’s) regiment, the Kargil war breaks out. The “boys” have to fight under harsh conditions, and face the death of their friends and look the enemy in the eye. One expected the emotional impact of say, the classic coming of age film Red Badge of Courage. Farhan Akhtar shoots the battle scenes well, but treats the human drama with surprising flatness.

Karan is no more or less heroic than the other soldiers – none of whom one gets close to – or even goes through any soul- altering experience. Winning one skirmish is not tantamount to getting a goal in life. Karan starts out as a nice fella, who, as Romila says, can do anything he sets his mind to-- and, except for a physical change, stays at the same plane.

For once, it appeared as if the female lead would get to do something substantial. But Romila is also a one-dimensional character. As a journalist, you see her wandering round the war zone doing a Barkha Dutt, but there’s no real unfolding of what she’s all about—why, for instance, does she love the flippant Karan, or why she dithers between him and another fellow who makes some pseudo-feminist statements on a TV show.

A lot of effort must have gone into shooting the film at high altitudes, but in the end, all the hard work should translate into gripping cinema for the viewer. Lakshya does have some good moments – the phone conversation between Karan and his father, for instance, or Karan’s first rejection of Romila. But on the whole, the film leaves one bored and disappointed because, as it often happens, the product did not live up to the hype.


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