Friday, July 16, 2004

the DEVil is in the details
Despite the avalanche of his mainstream plunge Thakshak, Govind Nihalani continues to grapple with an unrewarding medium. Thakshak had interesting possibilities, all rendered awry thanks to GN's insistence of spicing it up. Somehow, it seems impossible to be able to put in a song-n-dance number in a film and expect it to resonate on the narrative and allegorical plane. With Dev, GN ropes in old favourite Om Puri to play another kind of cop (although OP's character seems destined to go along the same path as his character in Droh Kaal). He ropes in the Big B, Rati Agnihotri (thus giving mainstream historians something to write about). He then chooses the ineffectual, wimpy Fardeen Khan and the ghastly outrageous rouge-foundation-hurricane Kareena Kapoor. And that's not it either. Bebo gets to exercise[sic] her vocal chords for a song, and even has it picturised on her. Emotions associated with constipation come to mind. GN once again takes interesting albeit familiar elements (communal riots, political machinations, the helplessness of sane logical decision makers, principled and pragmatic officers of the law), mixes in some masala (songs on screen in a film like this: GIVE ME A BREAK!), and produces a film that is both uneven and heart-rending. Heart rending on the twin counts of actual intended impact (the riots are decently done, and the helplessness of Dev -- nice nominal touch there -- comes across well) and of how much potential just got flushed down the toilet (the last thing we need is a love story). There's way too much kissing, romantic nonsense and empty rhetoric along the way. The nice moments usually occur when people are talking (AB and OP exchanging ideologies; AB lamenting his helplessness at the riots -- repeated references the motif of smelling corpses echo Kurtz's final words in Apocalypse Now). Rati Agnihotri passes muster, coming into form only in the short scene with OP just after Dev's funeral. Amrish Puri lends his good diction to a part written for any random human being. Ehsaan Khan grates as the "bad Muslim politician" Latif, even giving me many an impression that he was rejected ghaaT actor. Pramod Moutho as Fardeen's father triumphs with his makeup job. On the overall plus side, GN still manages to refuse to compromise on the mortality and morality of his characters. And despite what die-hard fans of the Big B (who would probably worship any ker-kacharaa that he dished out) say, OP gets to play the most interesting character, and even manages to make AB's impassioned performance seem lacking at times. The technical department deserves to be exiled to a remote island and forced to watch Jaani Dushman over and over again. And to think GN is a cinematographer. Overall, though, this isn't as bad a disaster as Thakshak, but the ending nearly took it there. Where o where is the Nihalani who gave us Ardh Satya, Aakrosh, Tamas, and Droh Kaal?

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