Planet Bollywood
Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne
Producer: Pantaloon Films Ltd.
Director: Sangeeth Sivan
Starring: Zayed Khan, Esha Deol, Rakhi Sawant, Gulshan Grover, Vijay Raaz, Salil Ankola
Music: Himesh Reshammiya
Lyrics: Sanjay Chhel
Genre: Thriller
Recommended Audience: General
Approximate Running Time: 150 mins
Film Released on: 21 March 2003
Reviewed by: Alok Kumar  - Rating: 7.5 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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If you’ve seen the Carey Grant-Audrey Hepburn starrer Charade or its recent 2002 clone The Truth About Charlie starring the gorgeous Thandie Newton and Mark Wahlberg, don’t bother watching Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne, unless you’re looking for a near-replica of the story. However, if you can stomach most Bollywood remakes, Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne is a safe and entertaining venture worth the money and time. CLHT is director Sangeeth Sivan’s second directorial venture after flop Sunny Deol vehicle Zor in 1998. The five years have definitely shown an improvement on Sivan’s directorial skills and, much to my amazement, the film manages to be an entertaining and well-made thriller. Sivan introduces Sanjay Khan’s son Zayed Khan in the lead opposite Esha Deol and newcomer Rakhi Sawant. Slick and fast-paced, Chura Liyaa… is a directed with flair and, despite a meandering second half, emerges a winner.

The film revolves around Tina (Esha Deol), a young woman visiting Bangkok on the search for her missing uncle Tony. When Tony turns up dead, Tina learns from Indian Embassy official Deepak Chopra (Salil Ankola) that her uncle was really a con-artist and a thief who left India three years ago after scamming his partners-in-crime out of the ten crores they stole from a bank. Said partners, namely Sheena (Sexy Rakhi Sawant in her debut), Om (Gulshan Grover), and Chingaar (Vijay Raaz), are on the hunt for their missing money. The infamous trio suspects the innocent and naïve Tina of possessing the fortune as she is Tony’s only surviving relative. Alone and with nowhere to go, Tina stumbles through the twisting alleys and streets of Bangkok searching for clues and evading her uncle’s nasty ex-partners when an old acquaintance from India, Vijay (Zayed Khan), turns up suspiciously and offers her help. A cat-and-mouse game ensues where Tina struggles to find the cash and probes further into Vijay’s past, discovering that her savior is not all that he seems.

Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne is an enjoyable and entertaining thriller that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. The director plays with his audience by continually toying with Vijay’s true motives and identity. Thanks to a tight and well-written screenplay, the audience doesn’t know just whose side he’s on until the end of the film. What is amazing about the film is how Sivan uses his shoe-string budget of 7.5 crores and makes a film that looks much better than some of the recent bigger-budgeted productions from Bollywood. The film is technically very advanced and the action sequences, though reminiscent of The Matrix, are stunning. Sivan uses varying camera angles and fast edits to give his film a contemporary and sophisticated look reminiscent of any Hollywood thriller.

 The cinematography is astounding as well and whether it’s the sweeping Bangkok skyline or a murky alley outside of a nightclub, Sivan makes it look intriguing. Thankfully, Himesh Reshammiya’s music is used sparingly. Too many songs would have hampered the narrative and slowed the film down. “Mohobbat Hai Mirchi”, the highlight of the songs, is shot very well and features Rakhi Sawant and Zayed Khan shaking a leg in a flashy club. Newcomer Zayed Khan offers the audience a confident debut. His arrogant swagger along with his playful smirk adds to a charming performance. Khan does, however, have a tendency to race through his dialogues and needs to slow down a bit. His debut is not quite on par with that of Hrithik Roshan or Vivek Oberoi but is definitely quite a few notches above Uday Chopra and Tusshar Kapoor. Most memorable are his flirtatious scenes with Rakhi Sawant. Sawant not only looks sexy but plays a very convincing femme fatale. Her excellent debut performance not only has the necessary sharp edges, but she also manages to steal most of the scenes she’s in. Vijay Raaz also does an excellent job with his small role. His random outbursts of songs bring a menacing quality to his already chilling supporting turn. Gulshan Grover overacts as usual and sports a ridiculous look in the movie (Just look at that whacky facial hair). His is a campy performance that needs to be toned down for more of an effect.

The movie main flaws come in the form of a shaky second half and Esha Deol. The role of Tina demanded a much stronger female performer and, unfortunately, Deol just can’t pull it off. Thandie Newton has a similar role in The Truth About Charlie and gives a stunning turn as an innocent woman caught up in a heist gone wrong. What makes Newton’s role so memorable is that she brings a certain amount of conviction and sensuality to the role in addition to her naiveté. Newton knows that she can’t trust Wahlberg’s character but finds herself so sexually attracted to him that she can’t resist herself. She struggles to reconcile her attraction to Wahlberg with the warning signs she repeatedly sees throughout the film.

Esha Deol’s Tina, however, blindly trusts her man in spite of his sketchy character. Furthermore, Deol completely overplays the naiveté of her character, making an otherwise memorable role unconvincing and inconsistent. Perhaps an actress the caliber of Preity Zinta or even the younger Isha Koppikar, who has shown some spark in this year’s Dil Ka Rishta, could have brought sensuality, intelligence, and vulnerability to the role. In addition to a weak female lead, the second half is hampered by the arrival of Tina’s younger cousins in a completely unnecessary subplot. Sivan overcomplicates his plot by throwing in Tina’s ditzy cousin and her bratty younger brother. Fortunately, the film gains momentum in the climax and ends with a bang.

Overall, Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne is definitely worth the trouble. The film is shot with panache and does not bore the viewer with unnecessary comedy sequences or an overdose of romance. Sivan’s film is merely smart moviemaking, much like Pantloon’s last release, the overlooked and very much underappreciated Na Tum Jaano Na Hum. Hopefully, CLHT, like the wonderful Na Tum Jaano Na Hum, won’t go unnoticed.

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