On one level, one wants Hindi cinema to get out of its formulaic nature and make films that deal with more real and more serious issues concerning our lives. However, when it does take up issues and you see the final film, you cannot help but feel that maybe its old tried and tested ways of mindless entertainment were the best because in the name of these so called 'different' films, you are often dished out a product that is dumbed down, lacking in intelligence and complexity and totally devoid of any astute observation whatsoever. New York is one such film.
'Good intentions' aside, the film fails totally thanks to its weak and ineffectual screenplay in a story full of logical loopholes, which shows lack of research and understanding of its material right down to its misspelling of Barack Obama's name in the film's end. The film is all the more disappointing because the idea and subject material had potential to be a really good film. But...
The film's plotline is inspired somewhere from the Sean Penn starrer State of Grace (1990), already 'Indianized' as the Akshay Kumar starrer Angaarey (1998) and Footpath (2003) starring Aftab Shivdasani and Bipasha Basu, all set against the backdrop of the underworld as against post 9/11 here.
There is much in the film that you do not buy with inconsistencies galore. Sameer has been in America since he was four and is supposed to be a typical American jock but speaks perfect Indian English with absolute no traces of an American twang and, frankly, comes across as nothing more than a Bombay boy having gone to USA recently. There is enough mention of the trio's families and yet you never see them even at key moments post 9/11 such as when Sameer is jailed and tortured. Which parent would leave his son alone in such a situation? And that too in a family that is of Indian origin??? Even when Sameer comes out of prison 9 months later, there is only Maya there to receive him. The prison scenes of his detention fail to have the impact they should have had, something the tackily made but well-intentioned Khuda Kay Liye from across the border achieved far more effectively. 9/11, the major event supposedly changing thier lives, is brushed over far too casually and even the revelation of Sameer's reality is abrupt and far from convincing. Then if Maya really loves Sameer and knows what he's up to, surely she would speak to him about the enormity of something like this but no, she keeps quiet and behaves like the good dutiful wife keeping her family together. Sameer's fight with the system seems to be a more individualistic revenge seeking one rather than one based on ideology and religion. Yet, his group seems to be hardline Islamist, but not him whereas most changeovers of this sort were on the basis of ideology and religion. And the less said about the dissatisfying climax on top of the FBI roof or Irrfan's preachy dialogues, the better.
The three central performances are terribly weak and hamper the film even more. No matter how dumbed down, the roles are simply beyond the acting capabilities of John Abraham, Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh. John proves yet again that he is no actor. Katrina is cast correctly and for once is able to use her accented English and Hindi as part of the role but expecting anything more from her in the acting department is being plain unrealistic while Neil Nitin Mukesh is plain embarrassing especially in scenes like where he turns on Irrfan and says he will not bug John's house. Irrfan easily outacts this trio effortlessly but still, one has to say it is not one of his best performances. He is capable of much more and has done much more memorable work in films like The Namesake or A Mighty Heart.
The film is well photographed having a polish and style even if the excess use of slow-motion begins to get to you after a while. Musically, Junoon is well composed and decently picturised but the background score is merely adequate and should have been far more evocative. The editing is full of excessive cutting at times including inserts (close up of shoes as the men come out of the sewage pipes) which have no bearing or importance on the story elements in an effort to keep up the interest level and pace of the film. The film itself could have done with drastic trimming and tightening but then perhaps there wouldn't have been enough of a story to tell and sustain the length of a feature film!
To say that New York is a major disappointment is an understatement. For much better and sensitive work dealing with issues post 9/11, catch the Archie Punjabi starrer Yasmin or the British mini-series Britz instead.