Thursday, February 18, 2016


Lost In Translation

Charles Dickens’s novels exist in a certain time and milieu, which a reader can understand and appreciate, because that’s what great literature is all about; they do not necessarily work in another time and place, unless their spirit is distilled and transported, which is a task beyond the capabilities of Abhishek Kapoor. Still, it’s admirable that he attempted Fitoor, based on Great Expectations, Dickens looks better on the resume than Chetan Bhagat, and indicates a certain superior sensibility, but the obvious question would be why?

When Vishal Bharadwaj adapts the works of Shakespeare to Hindi cinema, it does not look phony; Kapoor needs a lot more experience to be able to bring the great masters of world literature to the Indian screen.  What he has been able to do with Fitooris just take the bare bones of the plot and flattened the complexities, perhaps without realizing that without the finer points of the story, it is just any potboiler about star-crossed lovers and nasty elders. This kind of poor boy-rich girl plot was done to death in Bollywood at one time.

 The film begins in Kashmir, looking stunning beautiful, with just a hint of its violent and troubled history.  As a child encounters a militant (Ajay Devgan in a cameo)—this meeting was with an escaped convict in the book. Later, Noor accompanies his brother-in-law to the mansion of Hazrat Begum (Tabu), who has suffered the jilted-at-the-alter fate of Miss Havisham of the novel, but not her tragedy. Years later, Miss Havisham continues to wear her wedding gown and has left the house just like it was on the wedding day, including the cake on the table.  The Begum is hampered just by her snobbery and bitterness.

 Begum Hazrat is haughty, like aristocrats in our movies are supposed to be; obviously she does not want a commoner Noor to get close to her adopted daughter Firdaus. Noor is given a way out of his poverty by a mysterious benefactor and goes on to become an artist of note (Aditya Roy Kapur), when he meets the London-returned, red-haired Fairdaus again (Katrina Kaif); the fire of his love for her still burning, while she is cold. She is engaged to a Pakistani politician (Rahul Bhat).

Abhishek Kapoor tries to garnish the story and its class conflicts with a dash of politics, but seems too preoccupied with prettifying the frames to pay attention to the emotional inertia of his lead pair—both of whom are fabulously good-looking, but quite hopeless at conveying the depths of the love story that tries and fails at reaching epic proportions.

Tabu’s Begum Hazrat may not be as memorable as Miss Havisham, she is closer to her character in Haider, but she lends the film a gravity and some of the sense of purpose that it so badly needs.

Fabulous cinematography by Anay Goswami—the landscape often dwarfs the characters—and Amit Trivedi’s haunting music.  Even if the expectations from the film are not quite fulfilled, it is still an honorable failure.


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