Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: Aashayein

There’s hope for Kukunoor
Sandhya Iyer

Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Starring: John Abraham, Anaitha Nair, Sohan Sehgal, Girish Karnad
Stars: **1/2

Nagesh Kuknoor may have stumbled badly with his last two films, 8 X 10 Tasveer and Bombay To Bangkok, but with Aashayein you see many of the qualities that this chemical engineer-turned-filmmaker exhibited in some of his better films. Which is why, it is a pity that the film got so shabbily treated due to disagreements between producers Percept and distributors Reliance Big Pictures. It has been cursorily released without any publicity, and it seems quite unfair to a decent enough film.

Now, almost all of Kukunoor’s past work, whether Hyderabad Blues, Dor, Rockford, Teen Deewarein have been interesting, well-meaning concepts that caught your attention primarily for certain compelling scenes, wonderful performances and excellent dialogues, despite the lack of cinematic novelty. Self-confessedly, the director makes wordy films, and it’s no different with Aashayein.

The film, even though it falls short in the end, and does not live up to the potential of the subject, boasts of fine performances, especially from its leads John Abraham and Anaitha Nair (Aalia Bose of Chak De! India). It is their bitter-sweet relationship that forms the centerpiece of the film, and ultimately makes Aashayein worth a watch.

Rahul (John Abraham) is a compulsive gambler, who throws a party to announce his engagement to his girl-friend, Nafisa (Sonal Sehgal). He faints that night, and soon discovers he is afflicted with a life-threatening cancer. Sonal is heart-broken, but has every plan to stick by her boyfriend. She even insists they get married. At a time when there is so much medical advancement, some more explanation should have gone into the illness, and why Rahul’s case is not treatable and so on, rather than painting the whole disease with broad, outdated strokes.

So our hero has only three months to live. And just so that we don’t think Kukunoor is copying Anand, he even includes some clippings from the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film later on. But he cleverly uses it for a moment where two characters make light of their illnesses, boasting of how their disease has the longer technical name than Rajesh Khanna’s.

Not wanting to feel miserable anymore, Rahul escapes to a resort-like wellness clinic in a different city, where people aflicted with terminal illnesses spend their last days. You are introduced to the different inmates, and this is where the film really picks up and becomes interesting. There is Girish Karnad as a patient who has lost his larynx, and talks using his food pipe. Shwaas kid Ashwin Chitale, plays a boy called Govinda — a comic book addict — who enthralls people with fantastical tales which closely seem to mirror their own lives and offer them solutions. Farida Jalal, dressed in immaculate Kanjivaram sarees, plays an Aids victim. While it’s clear that Kukunoor deliberately makes her so unlikely a patient — to stress on how we have preconceived notions about the disease — Jalal is the only character who does not seem convincing enough. There’s no pain or emotions that flit through her face. The absolute dynamite performance though is from Anaitha Nair as the 17-year-old Padma. She has an acidic tongue, but her twinkling eyes and broad smile suggest how she’s trying hard to ward off the bitterness that is growing inside her. There are wonderfully touching moments involving her and Rahul, and each one is a gem. The other sub-plot where Rahul imagines himself to be Indiana Jones and lives his own fantasy is interesting, intending to show how life is an ongoing adventure. But the script peters out towards the end, and you are left with the feeling of being served an undercooked meal that had all the right ingredients.

The performances are all uniformly praise-worthy. John Abraham is the pick of the lot, and delivers a sincere, heart-felt performance. For the first time probably, the actor in him takes over completely, and Kukunoor ought to be given credit for it. Whether Aashayein does well or not, John is sure to benefit from the film.


Anonymous rooney said...

cool sandy.. interesting.. views.. and i was also disappointed for kukunoor.. i m huge fan of his earlier work.. and i couldnt believe he can give this bad.. (thought tasveer was exception !! )

will check and get back..

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