Saturday, August 28, 2010

A & A 


Death Wish

Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand remains the definitive Hindi film on
death and the meaning of life. Predictably, it gets a nod in Nagesh
Kukunoor's Aashayein.

Kukunoor, once an indie trend-setter, has steadily been sinking into
Bollywood formula-ism, and with Aashayein just drags himself a few
notches up, but not enough to satisfy fans who expect non-conformism
from him.

Aashayein has chain smoker Rahul (John Abraham) being diagnosed with
lung cancer and given three months to live, just after he has won a
huge sum of money in a all-or-nothing gambling dare.

He leaves devoted girlfriend Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal), goes to a distant
hospice and bribes his way in. The hospice, a cheerful, spacious,
resort-like place has the usual 'specimens' with their own back
stories. Rahul continues to smoke (nobody seems to mind) and doesn't
look like he is suffering too much. An angry young girl Padma
(Anaitha Nair) befriends him and a toothy kid (Ashwin Chitale) sends
him off on a surreal Indiana Jones dream world.

The problem is that Kukunoor tries to go down too many tracks and
doesn't do justice to any. Just the unlikely love story between Rahul
and Padma would have make a moving film, the rest—particularly the
Indian Jones bits-- just seem like irritating confetti.

John Abraham makes up with charm, what he lacks in depth, and is
upstaged every minute by young Nair. The supporting cast has Girish
Karnad and Farida Jalal with nothing to do. Unlike the masterpiece it
tries to ape and pay homage to, Aashayein does not make you laugh or
cry. Which is a pity, since death has enough drama to evoke many more


After practically ignoring the ‘other’ India for years, Hindi cinema has
started looking for stories outside of the urban milieu. Which is, of
course, a welcome sign. Watching designer costumed, gym-toned stars on
foreign locations all the time is like getting nothing to eat but
pizza. Daal-chawal is good for the soul, provided it provides taste
as well as nutrition.

However, two things have happened over the last few years, audiences want
their money’s worth of entertainment if they are spending big bucks at the
multiplex; the other is that television has gone into rural India and
created a weirdly unreal picture of affluence and conservatism. If
urban audience now see the heat and dust of rural India, it is only
because a star is pushing it.

Still, Sushil Rajpal’s debut effort Antardwand is to be lauded for taking
up a relatively lesser known social issue in Bihar. The media has
exposed the ‘pakadwa’ wedding already, so has a popular TV serial
(Bhagyavidhata), but there is hardly any follow up about what happens
to the hapless brides and grooms of these forced marriages.

In north India, an unmarried girl is a problem of both ‘izzat’ and wealth
depletion. Some rich and powerful men in rural Bihar found a way out, that is typical of a lawless society. If there is a shortage of eligible males,
just kidnap one and force him to marry the daughter of the family. More
often than not, the groom eventually reconciles to the situation and dowry
money is saved. It had come to the point when young men would not travel to
their hometowns without bodyguards! Rajpal's story is a realistic, if
very stolid, take on this bizarre phenomenon.

Raghuveer (Raj Singh Chaudhary) an IAS aspirant, carries a premium in
the marriage market. His father (Vinay Pathak), turns down a proposal
by a rich man (Akhilendra Mishra), holding out for a better offer,
that is bigger dowry. Rajveer wants to marry his pregnant girlrfriend
in Delhi, and is not willing to be sold to the highest bidder.

The enraged father-of-the-bride has Raghuveer kidnapped and tortured,
then drugged and married to his daughter Janki (Swati Sen). The girl,
her mother and her sympathetic sister-in-law have no say in the
matter-- it is a male-dominated society, when the women are just
ordered about at home, or seen as nautch girls to entertain drunken,
debauched men.

Raghuveer is locked up with the bride after the wedding, but sullenly
refuses to accept the girl, who is helpless and humiliated. There is
just one chilling scene in the film, that says more about the
condition of women in that feudal society. Taunted, goaded and drunk,
Raghuveer rapes Janki. The next morning she gives her sister-in-law a
small 'mission accomplished' smile.

The film drags it's one-point story to a boring length, and ends on a
too-idealistic note. The performances are competent, but the casting
is a bit strange-- Pathak does not look old enough to be the father of
Chaudhary, who does not look young enough to be a student. The girl's
mother looks younger than her daughter-in-law. Not an easy watch,
Antardwand is still worth a look—maybe better as home viewing.


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