When was the last time you saw a mature love story in mainstream Hindi movies? Seems ages ago. The maker of the teenage love classic ┬┤Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak┬┤ and that wonderful bicycle movie ┬┤Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander┬┤ now decides to grow up and presents a sensitive potrayal of a marriage break-up in his latest movie- Akele Hum Akele Tum (Where does he get these wonderful four-word titles? Seems his father Nasir Hussain suggested this one).
While his contemporaries like Indra Kumar have been content to recycle their earlier hits, Mansoor Khan wisely decides to chart new territory. In fact the only thing common to his earlier movies is Aamir Khan and his lowkey approach to a subject. He never lets style overtake substance (seems to be the fashion nowadays) and maintains a taut control at every stage in the entire movie.
AHAT starts where every Hindi movie usually ends. The initial sequences of boy (a struggling singer cum composer) meeting girl (a so-so singer who does not want shastriya sangeet imposed on her by her parents), falling in love, defying her parents (who look down on ┬┤bhikari┬┤ sangeet) and getting married are rushed through with elan and the director settles down to relate what happens thereafter.
The heroine Kiran (Manisha Koirala) wants a career in singing, but finds it tough to even do her riyaaz regularly with all her housework and having to manage a hyperactive kid (Master Adil, I believe). Her husband Aamir is too consumed in his own quest for musical stardom to bother about her wish for a career. Kiran┬┤s burning desire to be something other than a housewife and her husband┬┤s apathy drive her to leave the house leaving the kid behind (the possibility of a nervous breakdown is strongly suggested).
The story now shifts towards Aamir and the kid and how Aamir gets to know his son (whom he has sort of neglected thus far). He loses a break with the leading music pair (modeled rather well on Nadeem Shravan- down to the Van Dyke beard) because he tells them that their music is pedestrian.
Kiran becomes a leading heroine by chance (she only wanted to be a leading playback singer) and extends an olive branch towards her husband. Aamir gets a break as a music director and he tentatively moves towards her on the eve of their son┬┤s birthday, but his ego is hurt when he learns that his break as a music director came about because of his wife┬┤s recommendation (male chauvinism at play or just self-respect? the screenplay is deliberately and wonderfully ambiguous on this point). Aamir loses self-control and tells her never to come into his life again. But Kiran wants her son back and the stage is set for a brilliantly acted (and directed) court scene. There are shades of Kramer vs. Kramer but the film does manage to hold its own.
The above basic storyline does not even scratch the surface of the brilliantly fleshed out screenplay. Numerous characters are presented and not a single one has the touch of a caricature. Even the cameos of Rakesh Roshan (appearing as a director) and Paresh Rawal (Kiran┬┤s lawyer) are superbly fleshed out and of course, well acted. The screenplay is leagues ahead of QSQT or JJWS (which again were miles ahead of any A grade Hindi movie).
The acting, as you have come to expect from a Mansoor Khan movie is first rate. Among the character artistes, Tanvi Azmi stands out. There are some beautiful performance by Shafi Inamdar, Deven Varma and Rohini Hattangadi in small but significant roles. Manisha Koirala as Kiran gives a wonderful performance- cementing a possible Filmfare award after that towering performance in ┬┤Bombay┬┤. Though aamir has the tougher role. Manisha will be remembered. Aamir is Aamir- 24 carat gold as always. His scenes with his son are a treat. And the kid- he justs steals all the scenes from the heavy duty star cast. Not too precocious, he strikes the right note.
If there is anything which is not first-rate it is the music. Except for ┬┤Raja ko rani se┬┤ and ┬┤Dil mera churaya kyon┬┤, the other songs are pedestrian- especially compared to his earlier movies. Anu Malik is showing strains of overwork- he does not do justice to the movie or Majrooh┬┤s lyrics (which are as good as ever). Going by the songs, Aamir in the movie would always remain a struggler!
I am not sure if this movie will be a hit for Indians seem to prefer light hearted stuff more. But there is no doubt that Mansoor Khan is the most sensitive director in India (Mani Ratnam including). He never once in the movie allows any of the technical stuff overtake what he is trying to say (something which Mani Ratnam is guilty of). No jazzy camera angles, no obtrusive music and no overacting. Everything is superbly controlled.
Here is to a memorable hat-trick of movies.