Khoya Khoya Chand is a shockingly inept film with little to recommend it. The film is ‘done in’, so to say, due to a terribly weak screenplay that is made worse by woeful execution.
Sudhir Mishra has spoken repeatedly about how this period fascinated him as it does all Indian filmmakers. It was after all the golden era of Hindi filmdom, a peak period for so many all time greats of Hindi cinema – Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, Vijay Anand, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Madhubala, Nargis, Meena Kumari, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman, Naushad, SD Burman, Sahir Ludhanvi, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle, Mohd. Rafi, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, and many, many more…the list is endless. Sadly, not one of the filmmaking sequences in the film seems to indicate the period was the brightest one in Hindi Cinema and not one of the scenes being filmed also suggest that the final film would be a classic. We don’t have any insight to the thought process that went into filmmaking then; what was it that produced masterpieces like Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Shree 420 (1955), Mother India (1957), Pyaasa (1957), Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) and Bandini (1963) just to name some. And after all if Zafar has shades of Guru Dutt and Nikhat an uneasy amalgamation of Nargis, Waheeda Rehman, Meena Kumari and Madhubala, surely there was something to their creativity and talent but there is nothing to suggest why the film had to be set in this period for honestly the story could have taken place anytime.
One understands the 50s and 60s Hindi film industry is just the backdrop for Nikhat and Zafar’s story and not the focus of the film so one shouldn’t expect a lesson in Hindi filmmaking of the 50s and 60s but a good screenplay would have made even the background scenes of the film industry and its people, its ways of working relevant to the story and give the film the much needed depth it clearly lacks.
The script yet, again, is the biggest culprit. The film’s major characters are all selfish, self-centred and narcissistic, unlikeable and totally uninvolving as they use each other for their own personal gains. Again, one is not saying one has to have one dimensional sugary characters for them to be likeable. In fact, characters such as these are more real and three dimensional but the challenge for the filmmaker is also that much tougher to get audiences to care for them. Johhny Gaddaar did this beautifully for Neil Nitin Mukesh but Khoya Khoya Chand fails miserably. As the film goes on and on endlessly in the second half, you really don’t give a damn about the events unfolding around Nikhat, Prem Kumar and Zafar on the screen or what the characters are going through. In fact, you are just waiting impatiently for the film to end.
The flow of the narrative is choppy, randomly flowing between its various characters and episodic to say the least. Shots and scenes look like they have been thought of without a proper beginning, development and end. Transitions, so essential to smooth storytelling in film, are totally missing. Several sequences are clumsily and amateurishly handled like the out of focus love making with Sonya and Shiney as they are caught by Soha (an aesthetic decision gone terribly wrong?!) or the photographs of Shiney in London to show he has gone there. Very few scenes actually work like the stone throwing one. In terms of shot taking, the film suffers from a bad overdose of circular tracking shots without any meaning whatsoever as if it (circular track) is suddenly a new toy the filmmaker has discovered. While the film does faithfully try to create its period, the budget problems show but still make for a limited and passable re-creation.
Coming to the actors, the lead performances fail to lift the film and are nothing to write home about. But maybe the actors are just defeated by the script as they have certainly performed better before in other films. And, there are times especially in Soha Ali Khan’s case when you do feel that it’s not merely the writing but that the complexities of Nikhat and what she goes through are just beyond her comprehension. Consequently her performance is inconsistent and lacks depth and maturity. Shiney Ahuja is strictly OK, Rajat Kapoor is efficient enough while Vinay Pathak does his supporting act competently. If anyone, Sonya Jehan is actually a pleasant surprise as she manages to flesh out and make the most of her small role as a tantrum throwing diva.
Technically, barring the music there is really nothing to comment positively on as the film is quite tacky. Yeh Nigahein and the title song in particular are well composed and capture a feel of the times quite well. The cinematography is uninspired with some truly bizarre and awful shot taking and compositions, the editing extremely choppy and loose as the second half in particular needed to be drastically trimmed and as mentioned, the production design and costumes are passable as the effort is definitely there to re-create the period of the 1950s and 60s.
All in all, the film is terribly, terribly disappointing and makes for tedious viewing.