Planet Bollywood
Producer: Gaurang Doshi
Director: Vipul Shah
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Arjun Ramphal, Sushmita Sen, Aditya Panscholi with Bipasha Basu and Kashmira Shah in Special Appearance
Music: Aadesh Shrivastava, Jatin - Lalit & Nitin Raikwar
Lyrics: P. Joshi, P. Bhardwaj, A. Kapadia & N. Raikwari
Genre: Thriller
Recommended Audience: General
Film Released on: 05 April 2002
Reviewed by: Akshay Shah  - Rating: 8.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.13 / 10 (rated by 412 viewers)
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Along side Company, Devdas, Shaheed and Kaante, Aankhen was undoubtedly one of this year’s most awaited flicks. The burden and anticipation increased after a barrage on disappointments thus far this year. The feeling is undoubtedly the same amongst audiences I’m sure, and let me say that Aankhen doesn’t disappoint! The film is an almost flawless thriller which will have the audience grasped to their seat right until the very end.

The premise of the film revolves around Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), a man who has devoted his entire life to the bank he has worked at. Vijay is known to have a case of schizophrenia and at times can be very unpredictable and violent. One day he sees a cashier robbing an old time client of 100 rupees and beats that cashier black and blue. As a result, Vijay loses his job!

Overpowered by anger Vijay decides to rob the bank he has worked in for so many years. He blackmails Neha (Sushmita Sen), a teacher for the blind, to train three individuals whom he has handpicked to help him with the robbery. The three blind men who he picks are Vishwas Prajapati (Akshay Kumar), Arjun Verma (Arjun Ramphal) and Ilias (Paresh Rawal). All three are unique in their own way and possess some sort of skill or charm, which will help him succeed in his mission. After undergoing vigorous training, the day finally arrives when the three do rob the bank. Presumably, one feels this is the end of the film. However, it is far from it as things go haywire after the robbery and the dangerous game actually begins then.

The film is based on the Gujrati play “Andhalo Paato” and the movie has a very tight knit story written superbly by Aatish Kapadia! To enhance the script, the screenplay is strong enough to support it. It does have its shares of flaws, but those are easily overlooked from a viewer’s perspective since the movie is well executed and exudes in entertainment value. The film manages to grip the viewer’s attention throughout the film. The climax, a little unique in its own way, like Aks, may be a bit hard to digest, but still carries off the film well.

For a first time director Vipul Shah makes an excellent debut. He can be ranked alongside the likes of John Matthew Matthan, Farhan Akhtar and Rakesh Mehra as a technical whiz with a penchant for superb story telling. He directs the film with Ă©lan and kudos to him for attempting such a different film that crosses the borders and norms of our typical Indian movie. The fact that he has sidelined the typical love story that Bollywood includes so much in their films and manages to merge the comedy track in with the film's story shows his command over the medium. Most films these days start off promisingly but lose fizz later on in the film, but Aankhen starts out like a dream, retains its impact until the interval and manages to get better after the interval!

Vipul Shah also knows how to extract superlative performances from his entire cast. If one can remember, most of the cast members were delivering thundering accounts of themselves before the film opened. The performances aren’t all perfect, but Shah has done a good job in making them good, and this proves to be a major strong point of the movie.

It comes to no surprise that the best performance in the entire movie comes from Amitabh Bachchan. Just when you thought he couldn’t get better in terms of versatility he strikes back with an out and out negative performance and is simply amazing! He gets right under the skin of the character and brings life to his character, so much so that he sends shivers down the viewer’s spine. Whether it’s his body language, voice, eyes or his sheer electrifying presence Bachchan has come up with a performance, which can definitely be ranked, in his top five best performances. This performance is easily on par with his character, Manu Verma, from Aks. The minute the film starts you can easily see why. Amitabh is the backbone of the movie and no one could have pulled off such a complicated and complex character with utmost perfection like he has. The film easily leaves anticipation high for his June multi-starrer release with the same theme, Kaante.

Paresh Rawal, another one of Bollywood’s greatest talents, as Ilias pulls the rug from the rest of the multi-star cast and steals the show with Bachchan! Rawal, who is known for his versatility in a range of roles, whether it is something serious like Sardar or rib tickling like Hera Pheri, emerges triumphant in a spectacular side role. He is again at his comedic best after Hera Pheri here. He shares superb chemistry with the entire cast and his character is one, which will linger in the audiences mind after the movie is over.

Akshay Kumar has drastically improved over the years as actor. The progression started with Sangarsh and since then there was no stopping him. He shares excellent chemistry with Amitabh Bachchan as proven with Ek Rishtaa and here again he has given a startling performance, which marks his growth as an actor. He has been given an interesting character and he gives it his very best shot. The scenes he shares with Amitabh are indeed the best in the movie!

Arjun Ramphal displays talent, looks smashing on screen, but one can’t help feel that he isn’t given a character to match his acting potential. His performance is pleasing but doesn’t do much. He shows improvement as an actor and is great in the second half of the movie, but he still needs to improve on his facial expressions and voice modulation. He has an extremely powerful voice and with the correct modulation is could be used very well.

After a superlative performance in Filhaal, Sushmita Sen’s performance comes off as a slight disappointment. She looks gorgeous yet her emotional scenes come across as fake and contrived. When pinned against Bachchan, she lacks the pizzazz to stand out, but still does well. The scene towards the climax of the movie is her best in the whole movie.

It is great to see Aditya Panscholi on the big screen after such a long time but it is a pity that the actor gets no scope to perform. Bipasha Basu in a guest role looks simply delicious. Kashmira Shah also sizzles in her song and dance appearance, which will have the frontbenchers going crazy. On the other hand, the comedy sequences with Delnaz and her admirer get repetitive and seem annoying in the tense moments of the movie.

The film is technically excellent. Certainly on International standards, the film is another step up technically for Bollywood. Ashok Mehta’s cinematography is flawless and that is putting it mildly. The film has a very crisp and concise look throughout and the special effects in the movie are wonderful. The amount of money Gaurang Doshi has spent on making the movie look perfect shows.

The music, however, could have been much better. Though in context with the movie it gels well, especially with picturizations, outside of the cinema hall they have little value. Gustakhiyan, which is the best the film has to offer, has been shot like a slick music video. The tapori number, Phatella Jeb manages to keep the viewer in splits. The song has a very carefree feeling. Kashmira Shah’s appearance in Chalka Chalka is probably one of the hottest songs this year. All the best is a situational song that flows well with the story. Perhaps the number that stands out the most is Bachchan’s soloqui, which is simply fantastic. It is shown twice in the movie, at the beginning and towards the interval and both times it has a mesmerizing effect on the viewer.

Aankhen is a roller coaster ride, which is not to be missed. The film is a trendsetter for Indian films much like Dil Chahta Hai, Aks and Lagaan, and is certainly a relief after highly disappointing films this year so far. The film abounds in great performances, a breakneck pace and technical finesse. Despite its drawbacks, those are enough to indulge in a few hours of this highly entertaining “dangerous game”.

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