Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lamhaa - Movie Review

Cast :: Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Kunal Kapoor, Anupam Kher

Lamhaa opens in the year 2009 and talks about the separatist protest movements that initiated in Kashmir which (it repeatedly claims throughout the film) had started ‘18 years’ back in the year 1989. Not only does the film goes appallingly wrong with elementary mathematics, but also adds to the audience ambiguity through its constantly changing geographical boundaries and jumbled history.

Lamhaa mercilessly doesn’t deal with the Kashmir issue in an outright jingoistic approach like those countless formula films that have been made on the theme that show India as a clear-cut hero and Pakistan as a definite villain to exploit patriotic sentiments. This film highlights several discrepancies in our own country from corrupt army officers, conniving politicians to scheming businessmen. But beyond that when it attempts to fit in a clichéd conspiracy theory within the preset political premise, it falls flat on its face.

Officer Vikram (Sanjay Dutt) is sent on an undercover operation to Kashmir when the Indian intelligence gets information of a probable big terror attack in the valley. There a separatist leader Haji (Anupam Kher) has been fighting against the Indian government since 1989 for Azad Kashmir. Haji’s protégé Aziza (Bipasha Basu) supports her mentor in his mission. Haji’s other ex-protégé Aatif (Kunal Kapoor), who is now a reformed militant, wants to contest elections from the valley to win his people and province.

For Vikram, spying seems to be a child’s play. He sneaks into the police commissioner’s office in broad daylight as if playing hide-and-seek with him. He walks into a seamster’s shop who gives him ‘tailor-made’ tips and tracks terrorist identity by just having a look at their jackets. (Was the writing conveniently inspired by the investigative tele-series CID?) For no good reason Vikram keeps stalking and supporting Aziza in her attempts. Thankfully (though the background score gives a slight hint) a romance track is averted.

Through all his lackadaisical spying, Vikram finally learns that the neighbouring country is going to repeat the assault of 1989 on a larger scale. So as you look forward to a striking climax, you are sorely disappointed to discover that the supposedly colossal conspiracy merely ends up being a bombing plan on a political rally, seen for a zillion times in Hindi films. The intended twist in the plot is predictable and the convenient culmination is void of any dramatic moments.

It takes time to absorb the wide-ranging characters and their varied conflicts in the film and yet you do not understand all of them. Vikram is specifically chosen for the Kashmir operation though he doesn’t belong to the region. Yet there is no background account to justify his character, making him look shallow. In the initial reels, one tends to get confused if Anupam Kher’s Haji is a protagonist or antagonist as he keeps juggling between the two identities through the film. His fallout with Aatif is merely mentioned in a flashback scene. And then there is Mahesh Manjrekar playing Peer Baba in a cameo who remains quite undefined through the film.

The screenplay by Raghav Dhar and Rahul Dholakia appears disjoint with constant unconnected scenes and subplots. Though the writing attempts to touch several related concerns from the half widows of Dardpura village, victimized prostitutes to the psychosis of the border security soldiers; these works only peripherally without being plugged into the core narrative. Bipasha Basu’s public humiliation scene seems to be distinctly derived from Monica Belluci’s Maléna . Nevertheless the actress is poignantly effective in her outburst.

The pacing seems too hurried and the restless editing by Ashmith Kunder and Akshay Mohan barely allows you to breathe, gasp, feel, absorb, react or relate. The incessant disturbing camera movements by cinematographer Jamie Fowlds annoy you more than having an effect. Mithoon’s soothing musical score has its charming moments.

The performances are not bad but don’t rise above the script. Sanjay Dutt plays his age but his character seems half-baked. Bipasha Basu is decent in a different role. Kunal Kapoor adds grace to his character but sounds meek in delivering political speeches. Anupam Kher is effective.

For the common man, the politics of Kashmir has often been a complicated topic. This film doesn’t make it any simpler. Lamhaa doesn’t enthrall beyond a few interesting moments.

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