WHY did a movie which has the potential and the story to become a powerful social commentary become such a ghastly farce? Terrorism is a burning and complex topic. Why break it down to the lowest common denominator? (I suspect that it was shadow directed. Rensil D'Silva was a colleague of mine (look at the way I subtly name drop ahem. But its true for all that, I have sat across conference tables and swigged chai and biscuits with him). He is a bloody intelligent man. He has also written Rang De Basanti which was a powerful film - this one was a serious anti climax.
I think the fundamental flaw in the movie was the fact that it tried to appeal to everyone. A movie can either be a serious, real, topical and gritty movie catering to the intelligentsia - in which case, I would watch it a serious frame of mind. OR can be out an out a Hindi-film, which I can watch after suspending my disbelief. I cannot do both at the same time.
Why expect me to believe for instance, that a so-called professor (who seems to spend much more time drinking coffee and romancing than actually professing), presumably with SOME intelligence will go traipsing into dark dungeons in a place which she suspects of being dangerous. Why would anyone with half a brain DO that? Why would an otherwise supposedly bright reporter again NOT contact the cops after a message on the answering machine, and instead chose to go all swashbuckling solo ( and incidentally fall asleep on a stake out). Why are the neighbours especially the women so uni-dimensional, almost robotic–– whose only role seems to be to serve coffee while the husbands plot their nefarious deeds? (I kept on having the wall video in my head for some reason when they would file out with the coffee trays singing “We don’t need no terrorism”)
The folks behind the movie also seemed so reluctant to actually HAVE an opinion about terrorism – so rather than a story, it seems to be a composite of disjointed shots put together just giving random tidbits of information. An infomercial rather than an editorial approach to movie making as it were. And even the infomercial is quite tentative and full of backtracks, justifications and self-exculpating disclaimers. Thus, for a Muslim fundamentalist, you have the convenient counter of Muslim Liberalist. The accommodative Hindu who is not against his daughter marrying a Muslim because he is Muslim, but just because he is “different “and so on.
The acting and emoting was pedestrian and just diffused any impact the story could have. That of an ordinary woman who wakes up in a nightmare, married to a terrorist. It’s actually a plot with so much potential for taut tension - the conflict of the loyalties whether to sacrifice herself (and her yet-to-be-born-baby) for the greater good, or the greater folks for herself.
Kareena made an unqualified hash of it – NOWHERE does she appear torn, or conflicted or vulnerable or anything except whiny (All those dialogues about “So, after all, you were just USING me?”. Woman, the fellow is cheerfully contemplating mass terrorism. It is not about you, get a grip yes?). Saif again, was disappointingly bland – I didn’t find him particularly scary, ominous, dark, intense or “pathar eyed” (As Kirron Kher would say).
That famous love scene was such a complete yawn-fest. The camera panning up and down backs – so what?
The movie had some moments of inadvertent hilarity though. That breathtakingly insightful comment of Riyaz as he steps off the plane “Iraq is a mess”. This beautifully pithy and understated profundity had us all rolling in the aisles. Kirron Kher’s extraordinary Afghan- accent which brought to mind the atrociously bad Kabul Express.
All and all, the movie leaves one feeling rather cheated - that something that could be so powerful and moving, just ended up being such a damp squib.