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Upperstall Review



Official Site



Hindi, Action, 2011, Color

India is a mixed bag of contradictions and paradoxes. A nuclear power with staggering levels of poverty! An emerging player in world politics, much to the surprise of the developed world and the envy of its neighbors. India has a population of 1.6 billion: its biggest curses some think and some its possible strength. What if this very population was used as a weapon against India itself? As science and technology breaks new grounds, the face of global terrorism gets ugly. One person who personifies this in his ambitions, intelligence and absolute amorality is Doctor (Sajid Hassan). Doctor is an Ex-CIA agent and the father of modern biological warfare. Doctor's grand plan for India begins with the sensational bombings at the peace festival in Germany. The second step in India's destruction is his heinous plan to spread the dreaded Ebola virus amongst the general public. He is backed by a powerful nation, which is deeply interested in the absolute of India. Aazaan Khan (Sachiin Joshi) is a young upright army officer working for RAW (India's Research and Analysis Wing). With a mixed lineage of Afghan and India parents, as part of his duties, he gets drawn in to the murky world of espionage only to find his younger brother a suspected terrorist. As Aazaan infiltrates deeper, he hasn't a clue of the price he might have to pay for it. What unfolds is a fast of one man's determination of saving his country against all odds of human defiance...

133 minutes. Apart from this being the overall length of this film, it is also the exact amount of time I (and many others, I suspect) took to decipher the story, plot, narration, characters and overall point of this top-heavy film. And I’m still not sure, to be honest - even when I read the synopsis above. Azaan, directed by Prashant Chadha of Aap Kaa Surroor fame, is a classic case of a B-grade espionage story shot (surprisingly) in A-list style, only to confirm our worst fears when it decides to go abstract on us after the interval. From the first frame, the director seemed to have made up his mind: the audience, constantly abusing us for insulting their absorption of ‘lightweight cinema, want complicated political biological warfare thrillers that defy Bollywood as an industry?! Well, let’s give em more than that! So much more, that they won’t know what hit them… ever.

And without giving away too much of the non-story, our writer(s), tired of underestimating our intelligence, decided to go the other way altogether. They overestimated our understanding of metaphorical, psychological and linear storytelling, testing us to our very limits because, face it, if you don’t get what you’re watching for the first 40 minutes, you’re not in a position to criticize what you’ve seen. So, I won’t really say that the filmmakers tried to be too smart for their own good, or even tried to present to us a mishmash of some gorgeous shots (and impressive shot-taking, at times), fabulous locations and silent scenes (not entirely their fault, considering the acting talent at hand). I won’t even consider the fact that a bunch of good-looking technically-strong shots put together randomly without dialogue, with the actors doubling up as mannequins, seldom make a sequence. Oh, I won’t even touch upon the widely-believed ideology of direction being a ridiculous job of actually being able to direct actors and their facial expressions. REALLY, now? The frame looks good enough, no? That should be it, for all of you. No more complaints now, you choosy critics!

Having said that, I believe that Azaan is a rare case of the director and his team of writers coming up with a passable, never-done-before desi biological warfare script (Contagion without the espionage) and then losing all sense of perception while actually executing the film. As a filmmaker, it is important to know where that fine line between YOU understanding your own script and the audience understanding the story you’re trying to tell, actually lies. If that line is blurred for whatever reason (overambitious and ambiguous structuring, in this case), then the director is in deep trouble. He may not see the problem in understanding the complicated sequence of events at hand, but a regular Joe outside of his film-set and thought-process will struggle to make anything of the puzzle of visuals presented to them. The resources available are abundant - enough to make most indie filmmakers consider slitting their wrists. No expense is spared - why, even the action sequences are impressive. But being a well-known Indian music video-maker and arriving with a definite sense of cinematography in mind won’t help much, if you have your lead actor speaking a grand total of 10 lines in the entire film - not because his character demands it, but because he just refuses to emote more. Inserting a few Freudian theories spouted by veteran actors like Dalip Tahil won’t help matters either, in the midst of some serious structural narrative chaos.

Other than Sajid Hassan as the baddie ‘Doctor’, there is nothing and nobody that could have made an effort to lift this film above Aap Kaa Surroor proportions, inspite of infamous lead actor Sachiin Joshi bearing an uncanny resemblance to a 25-year old Himesh Reshammiya. Oops, spoiler alert. He isn’t 25? Ravi Kishen continues his vigorous march towards cultdom with yet another script-choice of apocalyptic levels, and Aly Khan gives away the big twist of the film by just looking the way he looks. Candice Boucher relives her playmate days with grace, and the editors get away with an Inception like presentation as part of their ‘plan’ to win over the loaded producers.

Clearly though, the scene of the film has a posh RAW agent Aly Khan calmly advising Aazan Khan (his undercover agent) on the phone, ‘This better be good Azaan…warna sabki lagne waali hai.’ Oh, but forget what I say. This film made it to France, Germany, Hong Kong, Poland, South Africa, Egypt and Thailand. And we’re not even talking about the film festivals yet.

- Reel Reptile





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