"Paap" is Pooja Bhatt´s first directorial effort. I had hoped that she would offer something original and memorable but unfortunately she carries on the Bhatt tradition of lifting plots and scenes from Hollywood films. In this case, "Paap" is inspired by the Hollywood classic, Peter Weir´s "Witness".
As well as a new director, a new actress also introduces herself to Bollywood with this film. Udita Goswami is Kaya, a Buddhist girl devoted to a life of celibacy. The start of the plot is slightly confusing. Kaya has to locate a child to bring him to the monastery because according to an elder in the community, he is the reincarnation of someone important. She finds the child, Llahmo (Madan Bhiku) in Mumbai and then they prepare to go back to Kaya’s home (Spiti). Here, I don´t understand where the child comes from but I suppose it is meant to form as part of the enigmatic element of the story.
Llahmo witnesses a murder in the toilet and, thereafter, him and Kaya get ensued in the murder investigation by the police. John Abraham is Shiven the police officer (making an entrance in the same way that Harrison Ford does in the original). Shiven does not let Llahmo and Kaya go to Spiti until the little boy identifies the criminal. Kaya resents this but reluctantly obliges with the demands of the investigation. She and Llahmo stay a night at Shiven´s sister´s house. The murderer is eventually identified but once that happens, Llahmo, Kaya and Shiven land in even further trouble. The trio escape to Spiti, out of sight of their enemies. There, Shiven is treated for his injuries and he makes friends with the Buddhist community.
Through bonding with Shiven, Kaya´s lustful emotions are awakened. Shiven is also attracted to her. Kaya tries to control her feelings for the benefit of her strict father (Mohan Agashe) who believes that romantic or sexual feelings are sinful and a burden upon a spiritual existence. Torn between two ideas of life, Kaya must decide for herself what route she will take. But that is not before the criminals locate the trio in Spiti and mayhem ensues once again.
Coming from someone as promising as Pooja Bhatt, this is something of a disappointment. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by another film. For instance, the plot of "Munnabhai M.B.B.S" is similar to "Patch Adams" but the treatment in the former makes it a superior film. But Pooja Bhatt does not have the confidence to develop her own ideas of how certain scenes will be executed. Some scenes are identical to "Witness" and that does not work in the film´s favour. Changing the setting of the Amish community to a Buddhist environment does not make the story more original. Instead, the screenplay gets more confused. The key to "Witness" is that it never loses focus on the child character even though the romance between the two lead players begins to develop. In "Paap" the child comes out of nowhere and serves only as a plot purpose. Llahmo does not have any special relation to the characters; there is only a superficial sense of connection.
Therefore, the film meanders in the second half where it focuses more on lust and sexual desire. The child is completely forgotten (though he does pop up when he is needed again). Pooja Bhatt asserted that the film views lust from a woman´s point of view. Kaya does dream about making love to Shiven but this sequence does not work. First of all, she appears to be passive in the fantasy scenes so there is no real assertion of the female sexuality. Secondly, for a spiritual girl grown up in a different life, the fantasy seems like the product of someone who has been watching too many erotic late night television programmes. The fantasy doesn´t seem to belong to her character. And another thing, the focus here is on lust. It is hard to believe that Kaya would want to spend the rest of her life with Shiven. What happens when the crush wears off? For a story that has deep and profound themes like spirituality and abstinence, the script needed to be stronger and more realistic.
Sadly, the performances are not exactly great either. John Abraham spends half the film walking around with a wet chest. Curiously, his body is always wet. Where does all that water come from? The character of Kaya abhors nudity so I cannot understand why she never tells Shiven to cover up a little more! John grimaces, yells and moans. He overacts in the scene where he beats up his brother-in-law. All I could notice about Udita Goswami is that she breathes heavily. She starts having breathing difficulties every time she gets upset or even aroused. The make-up person should have paid more attention to the character of Kaya. Udita is too made-up for a pure village girl. She does have the look of an oriental girl but with her lipstick and lined eyelashes, it is obvious that she is a model.
Mohan Agashe as Kaya´s father irritates. His voice keeps to the same loud but monotonous level. He needs to learn to add a bit more expression in his dialogue delivery. Madan Bhiku is quite impressive for a child artiste. As the villains, Gulshan Grover and Sandeep Mehta, add the necessary tension whenever required. The positive aspects of the movie are the music and the cinematography. The beautiful score that is showcased on the album rings divinely throughout the whole film. Anshuman Mahaley brings out the grace of Spiti with his photography. Though the script is flawed, Naranjan Iyengar´s dialogues do leave a lasting impression in places.
On the whole, "Paap" is quite an unsatisfactory fare. One expected better.