Friday, March 14, 2008

Black and White 

The theme of terrorism has become as much of a cliché in Hindi films as, say, the gangster film. Every aspect has been covered already, and there really isn’t much left to say on the subject… so someone who wants to make a film on it, has to come up with a fresh or startlingly bold take.

Subash Ghai’s Black and White tries very hard to put forward a ‘secular’ point of view, which is well-intentioned and all that, but everything about it seems picked from other films—including his own Khalnayak, made in full blown commercial style, but talking of a bandit being transformed by love.

The plot is from Devil’s Own(which has already been cannibalized by Raj Kanwar as Badal), the old grandpa seems to have come out of Naseem, the angry young man from Dil Se (which had an angry young woman) and so on… all placed in the ambience of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, in itself a cliché of the Muslim ghetto.

Into this old Delhi area, comes Afghan militant Numair (Anurag Sinha), pretending to be a victim of the Gujarat genocide and lives in the haveli of an old poet (Habib Tanvir). His mission is to blow up the Red Fort on August 15. Numair has some vague back story involving a sister and a destroyed house, but otherwise his insane hatred for Hindus is left unexplained.

Numair always has a scowl and a clenched jaw, and has ‘terrorist’ practically stamped on his forehead! Strange that he goes about shooting his own teammates (for not being good Muslims) and stages a shoot-out to endear himself to Chandni Chowk’s only Hindu couple, the excessively secular (if there can be such a thing) couple – Rajan and Roma Mathur—and the cops seem to ignore the carnage.

Rajan (Anil Kapoor) is an Urdu professor, his wife (Shefali Shah) a shrew, who is always up in arms against something or the other, at one point stopping mid-tirade to send someone to “go wake-up the sleeping TV crews at Jama Masjid.” And what do you know, there is a group of TV reporters dozing there—waiting for a riot to take place, or what? It’s such weird stuff that prevents one from taking Ghai’s ‘love the terrorist’ spiel seriously.

Without the ‘spoiler’ of revealing what happens, suffice to say, Ghai’s formula is to bring the terrorist home, feed him buttered parathas and cute homilies—and lo and behold, the problem will go away. The Muslim youth might even through down weapons and form a Sufi band, like Roma’s other protégé Rahat (Jaimini Pathak).

A character who abets terrorism says when the cops catch up with him, “You have to understand why terrorists are born, and then there will be no terrorism.” Indeed? And what’s Ghai’s take on that? One never finds out.


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