Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 05/27/06 01:07:09

"Destroyed…what could’ve been!"
3 stars (Average)

The erstwhile Guide returns to Bollywood with Kunal Kohli’s 'Fanaa'(Destroyed In Love). 'Fanaa', made under the Yash Raj Films banner, is a major departure, if nothing else, from the usual candy floss cinema that we’ve grown accustomed(suffered, actually) to from them. Mind you, the parameters are still conformed to- the heroine’s 'sahelis'(girlfriends), the dashing entrance of the hero, the sugary-sweet parents, subliminal codes that glorify Indian culture and tradition, lofty debates on love, life, whatnot and so on. It does, however, manage to test the parameters by stretching them ever so slightly. So, instead of a typical love-story, this one has terrorism, thrill and drama incorporated into it. But only just, lest it might lose its target audience(read 'Gujju' families with the men and children downing down the throat anything edible in sight, while the ladies concentrate on the latest designs of chaniya cholis!)

We meet Zooni(Kajol), blind and beautiful, living with her parents in Kashmir. Her father(Rishi Kapoor) dotes on her, and her mother(Kirron Kher) encourages her to seek out her soulmate- the one man who’d be worth dying for. Fanaa- destroyed in love! Ho hum! Zooni leaves for Delhi with her friends(sahelis, remember) where she meets Rehan(Aamir Khan), her tourist guide. Rehan is in full flirt mode from their very first encounter, waxing couplets over Zooni’s beauty. Inspite of her friends’ admonitions, Zooni finds herself falling for the roadside Romeo, her shehzaada(knight in shining armour!). A few days in each other’s company that include visits to various architectural structures(Aamir has his second consecutive visit to India Gate following ‘Rang De Basanti’), coy banter, one too many shers(couplets) and an equally one too many one-liners at the expense of Zooni’s blindness(!); and the two are head over heels in love. But Rehan is hesitant to pursue the relationship owing to a certain dark aspect of his existence. Nevertheless, they consummate their relationship and Rehan seriously considers a life with Zooni when an unfortunate incident forces them apart.

The movie is commendable for the simple reason that it attempts to test its own limits. It is disappointing then to see it not go the whole distance. For example, Aamir’s character has definite shades of grey to it which we can sense from his very gaze(this is actually a testament to Aamir’s brilliant acting skills). His take on love and emotions is even more interesting- “Main zarooraton ko manta hoon; pyaar aur ehsaas mein nahin”(I believe in needs, not love and feelings). But only reels later, the character falls helplessly in love. Zooni’s character is not insecure about her handicap, and not for once does she come across as a damsel in need of sympathy. It is a rude shock then to see her falling instantly for a couplet-mouthing obvious cad. The biggest disappointment is in the film’s refusal to elaborate on the argument of ‘one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist’, an argument that it addresses but is scared of exploring. It is this fear of breaking away from the genre, while wanting to, that sours the experience of Fanaa which could’ve been much greater if it had the guts to go where its heart is set on.

The other problems, negligible ones that become glaring in light of the aforementioned minuses, range from sloppy editing(Ritesh Soni), forgettable songs(Jatin-Lalit) and poor visual effects to laugh-out-loud moments of elementary stupidity. Why would Zooni, a blind, be asked to identify a dead body, when an eye-doctor(and yes, he can see) cannot? Why can’t she recognize a voice that she’s heard before? Aren’t sensory impaired individuals overcompensated in the other departments? And how does an Indian Anti-Terrorist Officer mention CIA, KGB and Mossad in the same breath, but forget ISI? Even if you are willing to forgive these gaffes, there’s an irritatingly cute kid(Ali Haji) who constantly refers to himself in the third person. Remember the Seinfeld episode in which George kept saying things like, “George is getting angry”, “George is not happy”, etc. You get my drift. The worst however, comes in the form of ‘Des Rangila’(Colourful country), a song that is so gaudy in its use of lighting and colour…it actually belongs to a C-grader!

The biggest positive of the film, and only true lovers of Bollywood cinema will get this, is its use of old Hindi songs. Woh Kaun Thi’s ‘Lag Jaa Gale Ki Phir Yeh Haseen Rat Ho Na Ho’(Hug me for this night may never come again) is used to such brilliant effect in two segments in this movie that it reminds you of the days when songs actually were a part of the narrative. ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa Nahin’(No complaints in life except you) from Aandhi is also used for a similar dramatic high, but it is Kaagaz Ke Phool’s ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam’(Time has given such a harsh deal) that gives the goose-bumps for its sheer effortlessness in elucidating a crucial and complex dramatic scene in the film. Even the use of the aalap(intro) of Aradhana’s ‘Kora Kaagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera’(My mind was an unwritten paper), although for comic effect, brings back good memories of yesteryears.

On the performance front, though this film has had all the hype for Kajol’s return to acting, it is Aamir Khan who is miles ahead of everyone. Aamir establishes himself as a smooth-talker with his very entrance, yet manages to make us aware of a sinister undercurrent merely with the glint in his eyes. He makes us believe in his love for Zooni, and also makes us believe in his resoluteness. He convinces in the song-and-dance sequences, and does the same with the innumerable shers that his character mouths, while successfully emoting in his silent moments. In a string of successive wonderful performances(Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Mangal Pandey- The Rising, Rang De Basanti), Fanaa provides him with the widest spectrum and he excels at it in the utmost degree. Kajol’s biggest triumph is in her ability to underplay a character that most would’ve looked at as a license to display histrionics. Kajol’s Zooni is not a duck-walking blind who crashes into things and looks at the sky with a tilted neck! This is Kajol’s first film since 2001, and it is not at all evident. She looks just the same, if not better!

Typical to a Yash Raj enterprise, the film has various guest appearances, friendly appearances and cameos by big names that do nothing but add to the star value of the film. Kirron Kher and Tabu are wasted in one-dimensional parts while Shiney Ahuja is there for all but one minute in an inconsequential part. Strangely, even for that one minute, he is surprisingly bad! Lara Dutta also appears in a ‘go-to-the-loo-and-you’ll-miss-bit’. Only Rishi Kapoor manages to register any impact; and though his role has some meat, it is the manner in which he plays it that makes him endearing. On an aside, what is it about the Kapoors that makes them look good even when they become obscenely obese?

The film takes a disturbingly apolitical stand on the issue of terrorism and Kashmir and ends without resolving it. Considering the impact that cinema has, just recently proven by the spate of rallies and stirs post 'Rang De Basanti', this is a worrying fact and one of concern. One hopes that lesser minds will overlook that and take home what has got to be one of the most beautiful dialogue in recent history when Aamir’s Rehan comments on Zooni’s blindness with this line- “Tumhari khoobsurati se khuda ne khata kardi. Khud hi se khudko nazar na lag jaaye, isi liye tumhe nazar na di”(The Almighty committed a blunder by making you so beautiful. Lest you may envy yourself, he took away your sight).

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