Woo hoo! I did it! I have finally watched a Hindi movie on the weekend it released. Which, if you know me, is quite an achievement, and so I shall commemorate this historic event by doing a movie review. But before we proceed, an important reminder. If you are one of those people who go to a Hindi movie expecting unpredictability and surprises, then first, you really need to have your head examined. But secondly, please to not read this post any further. Spoilers galore and all that.
Fanaa. Such a beautiful word. To destroy yourself in someone’s love is such an incredibly powerful and intense emotion. Not only the literal dying, but the willingness to annihilate oneself and unite with the one you love (or with God, thus attaining salvation, to take the Sufi interpretation of the word) is a very sublime thought. And when a movie name refers to a thought like that, one hopes for it to reflect in the film itself. But does it? Naaah.
The story — Tour guide boy meets blind girl. Boy flirts. Sings song. Girl falls in love. Boy tells girl he is not cut out for love-shove. Girl tells him — too bad, deal with it. Girl recites poetry. Boy cannot resist girl reciting poetry. They sing another song. Top it off with sex. Girl leaves content with memories of time spent. But boy realizes he’s in love too so he stops her from going. Wants to marry girl. Finds eye-doctor to restore girl’s eyesight. But at key ‘I can see!’ moment, boy missing. Bomb blasts rock the city and boy dies in it. Boo hoo. Sniffle sniffle. Blasts are investigated. Seem like handiwork of dreaded terrorist of international repute who also sings songs. Who be he? Camera zooms in on boy. Freeze frame. Intermission. Heh, yes, we’re only half-done, imagine.
Okay, so I am being a bit unfair. The movie starts out as a love story. But somewhere along the way it changes its mind and decides to jump on the terrorism bandwagon, probably in a bid to be original. And in doing so, it sticks its fingers into too many pies and leaves a mess on your hands. Why does Aamir get Kajol from the train, if he anyway intended to ditch her three days later? Why the rush to get her eyesight restored? We are told, post-interval, that Aamir’s character desires Kashmir’s freedom. He is supposedly part of an international terrorist organization, yet all his missions hinge on him alone? The rest just sit in the background doing target practice? And what really drives Aamir? Does his ruthlessness come from a belief in his mission? Or just a fear of his grandfather? Is he really a man torn between the meaning of his life (his love) and the purpose of his life (his mission)? Or is he just confused, much like the movie is?
And about the whole fanaa business. Kajol didn’t fanaa-ofy, cos she survives. And Aamir didn’t really give up his life willingly either. He chose not to kill Kajol, yes, but it seemed like he was counting on her to not kill him too. (Tough break, dude.) So who went all heavy-duty fanaa-ing in whose ishq? Unless the change of Aamir from womanizer and ruthless terrorist to a scared man who just wants to protect his wife and child is the fanaa ho jaana they are trying to refer to. Which seems a stretch, if you ask me.
It is not that the movie doesn’t deliver at all. It keeps you entertained and has plenty of good moments. Kajol looks refreshing, is many pounds lighter than we last saw her, and has great screen presence. She deftly shifts from Zooni’s love for the man, to confusion about his intentions, to fear of him, all without saying too much. But then again, this is Kajol, so we wouldn’t have expected anything less. Aamir is reliable, but age is starting to show (and a bit of a paunch too). Also, Aamir just seems Aamir and not so much Rehan. Now SRK usually suffers from this problem, where the star overwhelmes the character he plays, but I hoped better of Aamir.
Of course, Aamir and Kajol have chemistry and one wishes they had been paired together sooner. (Horrors like Mister lova lova, notwithstanding.) The entire first half — the romance, the sher-o-shayari on the bus, the chaand sifaarish song sequence, their falling in love, the rain song dekho na .. they all breeze by, and one never notices the time.
Another thing I liked was how Kajol’s blindness was pretty incidental to her character. There wasn’t any of the ‘awww, she can never experience what we can, so let’s pity her instead’ mellow-drama. Instead she is shown to have a sense of humor about it. When meeting Aamir the first time, she mistakenly offers her hand in the wrong direction and he asks her brusquely — Are you blind? Pat comes the reply — Of course. Can’t you see that I am blind? Why, are you blind or what? Nicely done. Amongst other things to like is the kid. Very cute, both sulky and smiley versions, and the haldi-doodh scene is aww-inspiring. Fatty and Bobo are cute, but Vrajesh Hirjee and Satish Shah are wasted. And blink-and-you-miss-her Lara Dutta. Did she lose her way onto the set or something? And for the love of God, whoever kills Jaspal Bhatti in a movie?! Tchah! It is just not done, I say!
Ooh! Special mention needs to be made of Tabu for what is perhaps the most ludicrous bit of miscasting ever — playing the head of the Anti Terrorism Unit. And don’t miss the unintentionally hilarious scene where Kajol fears for her life and radios for help and Tabu picks up the call —
Kajol: My husband is a terrorist. He is going to kill me and my son. Help!
Tabu: Okay, be careful. We will come to your house some time tomorrow.
Hello? Some time tomorrow?! We’ll take a detour and do some sightseeing before we come over? Or maybe this is like my cable TV guys — We will be over at your place sometime tomorrow, between 8am and 5pm, ma’am. No, I am sorry, we cannot be more specific. Seriously, can I have some of whatever it is they were smoking when they wrote those lines?
The music of the movie is quite lovely (a pity that it is Jatin-Lalit’s last together) and the picturizations enhance the songs. Of notable mention are the two Sonu Nigam-Sunidhi Chauhan duets — mere haath mein and dekho naa. The former has lovely use of color against the pristine snow (of Poland) and the raindrops are nicely lit up in the latter. And of course how can we forget chaand sifaarish. We have always had a soft corner for Shaan, and he sure delivers in this. But is it just me or does anyone else see some similarity in melody to Asha’s do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani from The Great Gambler (1979)?
(Sidenote — When heroes are drenched in rain and thus presented in clingy shirts, one is always compelled to realize that even the bestest-looking Bollywood men look plain dorky when wet. The only man who has ever flouted this rule, making us sit up and notice, is Hrithik while singing ik pal ka jeene .. aye mere dil to gaaye jaa from Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000). Hubb-ba! Oh and speaking of Hrithik — going by the previews, if Popeye starred in The Matrix (1999), it would probably result in Krrish? Talk about muskull-wuskull!)
Kunal Kohli hit the jackpot with Hum Tum (2004). Heck, he even got himself the Filmfare Best Director award from right under his mentor’s nose. (Yash Chopra was in the running for Veer Zaara (2004).) And deservedly so. Hum Tum was a good movie. Admittedly not an original story, but nicely Indian-ized. One of my favorite moments in it was towards the end, when Saif and Rani end up having sex and the next morning he asks her to marry him because it is the ‘right thing to do’. Rani refuses. Marry me for love, not because you had sex with me, she says. Otherwise we’ll have made two mistakes instead of one. I remember I was ready to stand up and do a jig. Not too often that a Hindi film heroine is shown with such convictions.
Sadly, there was no such memorable moment in the three hours of Fanaa. But there was one line that Kajol’s mum says while giving her relationship fundas, that I quite liked. Loosely translates to something like this — Give your heart to someone who loves you .. but give your self-respect only to someone who’ll willingly be destroyed in your love. Worthy of a thought.
And now you know why we don’t write movie reviews. Yep. They last longer than the movies themselves.