Family: Ties of Blood

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 01/12/06 15:50:23

"Don’t Go The ‘Family’ Way!"
1 stars (Total Crap)

Family is 'parivaar' in Hindi but that is obviously too dull a title for a Rajkumar Santoshi flick which stars Amitabh & Akshay- that increasingly endearing twosome -who were also a part of Santoshi’s last venture, 'Khakee'. Don’t let the ads and trailers cheat you though! This is nothing but a launch-vehicle for producer Keshu Ramsay’s son, Aryeman. Akshay is bumped off in the first quarter and Amitabh, apart from the apparent dubbing(and the complete lack of it at times) by a voice-over artist in many portions, is in auto-pilot mode! Oh yes, the film is edited by Kiran Ramsay…so the title is apt in a way. Those expecting a saga of values and ethical choices in the criminal world or the moral code of an underworld family a la the classic 'The Godfather' will be seriously disappointed. Apart from the Ramsay factoid, there’s nothing quite in this movie that justifies the title, let alone make sense of it. The characters keep uttering the word every five minutes just so you don’t forget it. Ah, 'Parivaar' wouldn’t have sounded as cool as family. We’d have to be in 'Ekta Kapoor land' for that. Even that seems palatable compared to this dud. 'Family' is an offer you can most definitely refuse.

What happened here? Did Santoshi, the maker of riveting commercial dramas like Ghayal, Damini, Khakee, etc., sell-out? Did he compromise his talent in favour of mindless blood and gore? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t! Santoshi has helmed launch-vehicles before(Barsaat), and with success. Maybe Aryeman is simply inept…except, he’s not. Excluding his dancing skills(he’s a Sunny Deol in the department- ants beware!), he’s pretty okay in the acting department and especially good at action. Maybe it’s the execution. No, not that either. For a plot this mundane, characters this premature, a screenplay this dreary and dialogues so cliché-ridden; the movie doesn’t stink outright. There…it’s the writing department! Despite five talented pens(Rajat Arora, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shridhar Raghavan, Rajkumar Santoshi and Shaktiman), Family is ultimately an aimless mess. Viren Sahai(Amitabh Bachchan) is a Powerful man. Powerful because the script doesn’t bother telling us whether he’s a drug-lord, a Mafiosi or simply a rich and influential businessman. The script does thankfully mention that he’s wanted by the police…and that he’s Powerful! Running his er…business(presumably) from Hong Kong, Sahai’s family consists of a separated wife Sharda(Shernaz Patel), an errant son Abhir(Sushant Singh), and the token daughter, daughter-in-law and grandson. Bhatia’s are the other clan- Shekhar(Akshay Kumar), Aryan(Aryeman) and the parents(good ol’ Mr. & Mrs. Wagle). Wagle Ki Duniya is shattered when cook Shekhar, recently sautéed in holy matrimony to Dr. Kavita(Bhumika Chawla), is killed in a misunderstanding by Viren Sahai seeking payback from Karim(Kader Khan) and his men for an attack on his son. It’s changing gears time for the useless-until-now Aryan who ventures out in quest of vengeance. His plan is quite simple you see…kidnap the members of this Powerful man’s family and make him realize his folly! And the execution to this plan is also very simple- the members of this Powerful man’s family are very accessible…almost a kidnapping-waiting-to-happen existence. The effortless ease with which the members are kidnapped by a group of amateur rebels(affectionately referred to as the ‘Dandiya Gang’ in the movie!) makes you wonder why Sahai is feared at all in the first place. What is so Powerful about him? Does Powerful Papa go fee-fi-fo-fum on Junior Wagle or does Aryan huff-puff his way to blowing down Sahai’s empire is what forms the crux of the story. Yawn! This revenge dish is served very cold…so cold, it’s all moldy and has old fungi repopulating on it. Somebody pulled out a rejected script from the 70’s and thought, “Hey, the 70’s are back in Bollywood…so let’s do this”! There’s something called revamping and adapting people! A character actually mouths the corniest lines at the deathbed in what is literally one of the most done to death scenes in Bollywood. How ironical is that! If ever there was an example of by-the-numbers dialogue writing, Family is it.

Ambivalence is another major problem with Family. The character of Viren Sahai is probably the most evil one that Amitabh has portrayed in his career. Yet because it is Amitabh and not just any other villain, the writers unconvincingly try to justify his acts and manipulate us into sympathizing with him. This only minimizes any impact that Amitabh has established within the range of his role. Just because Mr. Bachchan sponsors the Amby-valley, doesn’t mean you paint him Amby-valent! The other ambivalence is in respect to the overall tone of the movie. The first half has as many as four-five songs while the second has none, comedy suddenly vanishes from the screenplay and somewhere down the line Santoshi decides to go from Michael Mann to Quentin Tarantino mode with a sudden switch from well-shot and gripping action sequences to exaggerated displays of blood. In terms of gore, this is one of the goriest Bollywood films one can think of.

Editing(Shyam Salgaocar) is lazy to say the least. This glaring incompetence is only overshadowed by the pathetic syncing for Akshay Kumar and the few scenes of Amitabh which haven’t been dubbed at all. It’s surprising that the producers chose to release the film in this state, almost a rough-cut. Despite the obvious dubbing(very competent work by whoever dubbed for Mr. Bachchan),the complete absence of it in some parts and the insipidity in Bachchan’s work, he still shines through in the final fifteen minutes. Akshay has never been this bad since his early Mr. Bond days! Sushant Singh and Bhumika Chawla are merely competent. Clearly, the movie is a showcase for Aryeman’s acting abilities. He is barely sufficient in the first half, but he suddenly chooses to go competent in the second half. What’s more, he actually holds his own in a confrontation with Amitabh Bachchan late into the movie. Infact coupled with Abbas Ali’s thrilling action, Aryeman and Bachchan make the latter part watch able at least! Kader Khan is menacing and also very, very old. Godspeed Kaderbhai!

The movie is not bad, but it could’ve been so much better. Santoshi will surely bounce back with his next film. He is too good a director to not to. Even here, his handling raises the movie a notch above the usual fare. But just so he realizes he’s out of sync, like Amitabh and Akshay, Mr. Santoshi cannot be forgiven.

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