Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lamhe& Quest 

Woh Lamhe

Woh Lamhe is said to be based on the relationship between Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen Babi-- but it is a rather sanitized version of what one remembers from pulp magazines of the time. It has been updated to the present, when the lives of film stars are played out under full media glare.

If the reality aspect of it is put aside, then it is a fairly sensitively told story of a young woman’s mental decline, and the unselfish love of a man which isn’t enough to save the beautiful doomed creature.

Sana Azim (Kangana Ranaut) is a star who can make or break a director’s career (a bit exaggerated, no female star has that kind of power!), but herself lives under the thumb of her cruel, selfish boyfriend Nikhil (Shaad Randhawa).

Aditya (Shiney Ahuja) is an aspiring filmmaker, who intends to use and discard Sana for his own career, but when he finds her to be a fragile, mentally disturbed woman, whose mother is also a participant in her exploitation, he puts his budding career on hold to care for her, even though she is too far gone by then.

Like the recent 15 Park Avenue, Woh Lamhe looks into the tragic life of a schizophrenic, but with more much more heightened drama. The film reduces the other characters—like the producer, Aditya’s sidekick, his Goan friend, Sana’s make-up man—to cardboard cut-outs, and focuses all its energies on the ill-fated love story, making Aditya come out of it looking like a saint. There are gaps too, like where does Sana vanish to and how does she survive in her condition?

The performances of the two lead characters keep the viewer riveted. Shiney Ahuja’s sincerity shines through, while Kangana Ranaut’s youth and slight figure make her look the part of the brittle star on the verge of self-destruction. Pritam’s music and Bobby Singh’s cinematography are also praiseworthy. Woh Lamhe is not an entertaining film, but quite emotionally involving.


Amol Palekar films – Daayra, Bangarwadi, Kairi, even the slightly awry Paheli – have made for satisfying movie viewing at some level. What on earth went wrong with Quest?

Stilted, verbose and unfocussed, it tells the story of Sai (Mrinal Kulkarni), a successful lawyer, who is horrified to discover that her husband Adi (Rishi Deshpande) is having a affair with his best friend Uday (Shishir Sharma). After this entirely plausible situation is established, the film simply falls apart.

After the mist of words –uttered by family, friends, colleagues—is cleared, one gets the feeling that Palekar (and his scriptwriter Sandhya Gokhale) are somehow laying the blame of the ensuing tragedy on Sai’s doorstep. First because she was not a traditional wife, so the husband had to ‘quest’ elsewhere; second, by divorcing her unfaithful husband, she not just proved to be a mean, insensitive woman, but homophobic as well.

The film isn’t quite clear in its position on the issue either, the husband sobs self-pityingly all over the place asking what he did wrong; the lover gives a sermon on his own problems; at various points characters express disgust at gays. Sai’s mother (Vijaya Mehta) talks of how she tolerated her own husband’s infidelities (implying Sai should have done the same), her father-in-law (G.P. Deshpande) quotes Freud to explain that homosexuality is normal; while Sai is left to clear the mess not of her own making.

Unintended giggles are induced by random scenes that make no sense. Characters like the office colleague (Sachin Khedekar), family servant and old grandmother and scenes of the AIDS case, have no place real place in the scheme of things.

The English dialogue is terribly formal and often hilarious for its stiff delivery—the Marathi version Thang must undoubtedly be better. Except for the selection of an offbeat theme and for the amazing feat of getting theatre stalwarts G.P. Deshpande and Vijaya Mehta together, this is one film that would be better erased from Palekar’s admirable oeuvre.


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