Sunday, January 16, 2005

Insan & Elaan 

Terrorists are worried. Now that India and Pakistan are friends, they are out of work, so says the K.Subaash’s Insan. But a new set of militants spring up, led by a victim of the Gujarat riots.

Potboilers such as this, use a bit of reality, add their own masala, and come up with a barely palatable concoction, held together somehow by the actors. The saviour of Insan is Akshay Kumar, in the role of Amjad, an autorickshaw driver, with a lot of cheekily funny lines. He has a terrific entry too, when he single-handedly prevents a communal conflagration, by berating people of his own community.

Before meandering to the main cops-versus-terrorists plot, the film (based on a Telugu original), sets up a comic romance between Amjad and Heena (Esha Deol), whose parents don’t like her boyfriend. There is a forced subplot involving two star aspirants (Tusshar and Laila) and their experiences in the film industry—none of which connects to the story at hand.There is a dour cop Ajit Rathod (Ajay Devgan), whose wife (Koena Mitra) was killed by a terrorist Azhar (Rahul Dev), and he is now up against the same group killing masses of innocents to free another militant from jail. To complete the cast of characters is Lara Dutta, who hangs around just because the cop needs to be paired up with somebody.

Amjad is the good Muslim, speaking up on behalf of his community, and he is shocked to discover that his brother, missing for two years, is the terrorist the cops are after. The end, in which the brothers are pitted against each other is inevitable and so’s the resolution.The film makes fictional use of real events (like the Godhra train burning) just to set up elaborate action sequences; fortunately nobody takes such films seriously enough to worry about the constant political incorrectness.

Ajay Devgan sleepwalks through the part, though he has one hilarious scene in which Amjad seeks his help to impress Heena’s parents. Akshay is a delight to watch as he jumps into the role with gusto and delivers a performance with superb comic timing. The front-benchers will love him.

If there’s anything remarkable about Vikram Bhatt’s Elaan it’s the return of Mithun Chakraborty to mainstream Hindi cinema, in the role of Baba Sikander, am internationally ‘wanted’ don. The actor plays the part with such dignity and control, that he ends up being more sympathetic than the laddish heroes.

Karan Shah (Rahul Khanna, looking lost) wants to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Baba’s goons. He pledges to drag the Venice-based don back to India to be punished for his crimes. For this, in classic Seven Samurai/ Five Man Army/ Sholay style, he hires a team – an ex-cop Arjun (Arjun Rampal), Abhimanyu (John Abraham) an old associate of Baba, who is sprung from jail for the mission. The two girls bar dancer Sonia (Lara Dutta) and TV journalist Priya (Amisha Patel) join up to provide the glamour, but for a change they also participate actively in the action.

Baba lives the life of a lord, surrounded by his loyal men, Chunky Pandey and Milind Gunaji among them. Once the three man-two woman army comes together in Venice, there is nothing but one action sequence after another, punctuated by a couple of pace-halting, badly choreographed songs. The snow-covered European locations are spectacular and you can’t help thinking of the noise and pollution our film units must be responsible for in those pristine places. Also it seems strange that Indian people run about Italian and German streets shooting at one another, without the local cops ever looking up to see what’s going on!

But who expects sense and logic from a film like this—Elaan might even have been watchable if it didn’t sag (back stories of the characters are boring) in so many places and just moved faster than the speed of thought. The climax is strangely weak, after all the blood and bluster spent before the final capture of Baba.Mithun Chakraborty is so vastly superior to all the other actors put together, that there is really no comparison, but John Abraham’s ‘tapori’ act gets a few laughs.


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