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Upperstall Review



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Hindi, Action, Drama, 2009, Color

Avantika (Kareena Kapoor) is a teacher in a university in Delhi. She has come back from New York where she teaches, because her father has suffered a heart attack. During this period, she meets a temporary Professor called Ehsaan Khan (Saif Ali Khan). Soon they begin seeing each other and love blossoms. A few months later, Avantika receives a call from her university in New York, asking her to come back for the Fall Semester. Avantika breaks the news to Ehsaan. He in turn, tells her he doesn't mind coming to the States with her, to find a job. But first they need to get married. Soon after the marriage, they leave to start a new life in New York. They buy a house in an Indian neighbourhood and move in. Just as they are setting up home, their conservative Muslim neighbours, Hamid and Anjum, invite them over for dinner. The next morning, Salma, one of the women Avantika met the night before at the dinner, visits her under the pretext of gifting her sweets. When Avantika invites her in, Salma tells her that she is in grave danger. Nothing is what it seems. Salma pleads with Avantika to help her. What follows next, is a series of incidents that sucks Avantika into a vortex of danger and intrigue. As her life spirals out of control, Avantika realizes that she is a pawn in a huge game...

Kurbaan leaves you shell shocked and not by its intensity or its tackling of hard hitting issues but by its sheer mediocrity. The film is yet another let down in a year where Hindi cinema has perhaps  reached its nadir and finds itself having lost the plot totally not knowing where to go.

You can’t believe so much of money, time and effort has been spent on such a weak screenplay that is full of loopholes. As it is, the film ends up a poor excuse of a thriller depending on desperate overblown background music to tell you that something thrilling is about to happen rather than be able to create it in the story. The characters are badly etched; the film lacks tension and pace, and after the disappointing New York, Kurbaan proves yet again that dealing with serious issues like the Muslim identity in today’s world post 9/11, global terrorism etc are just beyond credible handling by our mainstream filmmakers and do more harm than good.

The film fails to involve you or grip you on any level right from the opening scenes of cheesy but supposedly cute romance between the lead pair and you find yourself repeatedly questioning the logistics of the events unfolding on screen, a death knell for any thriller. Kareena goes back to New York to teach. Not once does she step out of the house to go for work. Her pregnancy seems to be in a stage where she doesn’t show but the sonography shows a pretty well formed baby. So over how much of a time period has this film taken place, especially in the United States. Is it days or months? Kareena calls Diya Mirza not to board the flight and gets her mobile switched off but doesn’t call the cops after that. Why? If the militant group is so committed and they’ve killed one of the other men’s wives for the cause who knew too mcuh, why is Kareena spared in a similar situation? Oh silly me, there would be no film then of course. It’s mighty unconvincing and unbelievable that even after she’s spared, Kareena makes no effort to call the cops or the FBI especially with Saif out of the house for hours on his mission. OK they have a man to watch her father, but surely she could have tried calling home, seeing if she could warn her father. There’s more. The FBI has Saif’s photo, he’s teaching in a University in the States and they can’t trace him out. Vivek Oberoi hears Kareena’s message on Dia’s answering machine and thinks nothing of calling the FBI or the cops but instead goes undercover to join Saif and co to find out what they’re up to. C’mon! And...Oooh...Sufficient to say there are many, many, many more loopholes. And we're not even going into the issues or the politics here.

The performances too fail to lift the film. But one has to grant the actors that they have nothing to work with. Worse, Saif and Kareena lack an on screen chemistry and that only makes the film duller. At times you wonder if Kareena’s character is confused in the film or is whether she’s confused as to what is she actually doing in the film. You just don't buy her behaviour once she knows Saif is a terrorist. Vivek Oberoi tries sincerely with American twang and all but has his limitations. Om Puri is wasted, Kirron Kher’s Afghani twang is unintentionally funny in places and surprise, surprise, Dia Mirza and Nauheed Cyrusi actually do their guest appearances competently as does Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Is it because they were fortunate they had such little screen time, one wonders.

Technically, Hemant Chaturvedi does try to give the film a polish with his fine camerawork, Shukran Allah is well composed but the OTT background score is a a big no-no. Para dubbing the discussion in Saif’s class, so obviously shot in English, with Hindi to make it understandable ends up looking tacky. The action sequences lack zing and the climax falls flat for all the emotion and suspense it tries to create.

All in all, a criminal waste of time, effort and money at the cost of having an insightful, credible and engrossing script to begin with. One wonders if one would be forced to write an obituary for Hindi cinema soon looking at the direction in which it is headed. RIP Bollywood? One sincerely hopes not.

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan





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