Saturday, May 20, 2006

A & A 


Cut out all the publicity crap— if Vikram Bhatt’s Ankahee is inspired by anything, it’s Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth. If it is also based on the director’s own life and affair with Sushmita Sen, then his life bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1982 film.

Minor changes: instead of a filmmaker the man who strays is a doctor (this from Tere Mere Sapne), he has a child and the other woman dies. The Smita Patil character in Arth was an actress, Esha Deol as Kavya in Ankahee is a beauty queen and model.

Like Kavita in Arth, Kavya is a lonely manic depressive, who gets her claws into a man from whom she gets some kindness and refuses to let go till she breaks up his marriage. Dr Shekhar (Aftab Shivdasani) is happily married to Nandini (Ameesha Patel), and has a daughter, but he turns his back on them when Kavya demands to be loved.

Nandini is a former career girl, now in her words “on lifelong vacation”, whiling her time in kitty parties. When Shekhar walks out, she tries everything from sane conversation with him to pleading with Kavya (lines very similar to Shabana Azmi’s phone conversation in Arth) to save her marriage. Shekhar obeys every whim of Kavya’s, but she is still insecure and high-strung. It is simply never clear whether he actually falls in love with Kavya or is just too weak to shake her off.

Despite Ankahee’s earnestness, it is constantly tripped up by the fact that no character commands any sympathy. And then, the three main actors do the best according to their abilities, but that best isn’t good enough. They end up with the artificially intense look of a kid trying very hard to act grown up.

A few good scenes, like the one in which Nandini confronts Shekhar with the news of his affair in a newspaper, are invariably cancelled out by the ridiculous ones, like Nandini landing up at a prospective employer’s house in the middle of the night.

Some stories just don’t need to be retold, Ankahee is one of them.


Tamil director Shankar seems to hot on vigilante justice. His Hindustani and Mudhalvan/Nayak had heroes wanting to correct social wrongs in their own way. His Aparichit (dubbed version of Tamil hit Anniyan) has the same theme.

Shankar is sure of his audience, and caters to their tastes, so if audiences outside of his area of influence find his films garish and over the top, he has no reason to worry—Anniyan was a money-spinner in the South.

Borrowing liberally from several Hollywood films, Shankar place his characters and story in a particular Tamil milieu—his audiences won’t find it strange that his hero Ambi (Vikram) wears his hair in an oily bun, because men of a particular Brahmin sect in the South sport that hairdo. Hindi audiences might find it odd.

Ambi is a lawyer nicknamed ‘Rules’ by everyone because he is constantly making a fuss about people not following civic and traffic rules. Because he is a whiny and pathetic, nobody pays any attention to what he says, even when he is right. Even when he wants to propose to Nandini (Sada), the girl he loves, he sends her a love letter worded like a job application through her parents. Obviously he gets rejected.

But when a violent vigilante called Aparichit appears on the scene, the people who insulted Ambi get killed by horrible methods listed in the Garuda Purana. While Remo, a dashing romantic wins over Nandini’s heart. Why do both look like Ambi? That would be giving away too much of the plot. But there’s enough elementary pop psychology to explain what happens, even though it remains implausible.

A cop (Prakashraj) and his sidekick don inexplicable disguises to reach the mysterious killer, who actually holds a public meeting to harangue citizens about their apathy towards the country. Shankar could not resist that bit of obvious preaching, though he also does it through Ambi.

The action sequences are spectacular—particular the Kill Bill rip-off shot in a karate school, and the songs are as hilariously kitschy as the old Padmalaya-Jeetendra numbers. The performances are a bit over the top by today’s Bollywood standards, but Vikram has an admirably mobile face and body (there are a couple of Jim Carrey-like transformation sequences), though one suspects he will have as much trouble being accepted by Hindi audiences as his illustrious peers Kamal Haasan, Rajanikant and other Southern superstars.


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