He is one of the baadshah┬┤s of Hindi commercial cinema. Nine times out of ten Raj Kanwar
has had his finger planted firmly on the pulse of the audiences┬┤ demands. Forget box office success for a second, and let us see how Daag: The Fire, Kanwar┬┤s latest concoction, will be categorized in his film-making oeuvre. Time-pass entertainment it is, but this time Mr. Kanwar too often over-supplies on the demands of commercial cinema with grotesque results. Thanks to its story, the film could have been jam-packed with engaging sequences. To our disappointment, the opportunity is often side-lined for brain-draining action sequences. The melodrama gears are also stuck in over-drive. Lucky for Daag, it stars Mahima Chaudhary, a worthy contender for Bollywood┬┤s future numero uno heroine status. More about that later though; now on to the story.
Ravi (Chandrachur Singh) and Kajal (Mahima) are a young (and frisky) couple living the good-life with their young daughter and live-in Nanny (the always refreshing Sushma Seth). Ravi is an ethically challenged criminal defense lawyer manipulating the justice system┬┤s deficiencies for the benefit of his father-in-law (Raj Babbar) and his evil henchmen. Till now all the victims crossing Ravi┬┤s untarnished litigation path never fought back. But one day, Ravi implicates an honest government official (Shivaji Satam) alleging the latter accepts bribes. The bureaucrat is sentenced and killed in prison but his son, Karan (Sanjay Dutt), an anti-terrorism commando goes on the lam to seek revenge on Ravi and his family. The movie┬┤s story is about eliminating the Daags which plague the lives of the film┬┤s lead characters. Karan must wipe the stains from his father┬┤s tarnished reputation; Ravi must rectify his past blotches of cruelty against the innocent; and Kajari (Mahima, in a double role) must break free of the prostitute tag she has been plagued with through out her life.
In reading the plot, you are likely to surmise the film┬┤s high potential for engaging sequences and character development. Rest assured that a few scenes are magnificent and/or entertaining. (Just watch the interaction sequences between Kajari and Sushma Seth┬┤s character.) All too often though, Raj Kanwar subjects us to annoying action sequences of preposterous proportions. Having seen the ┬┤realistic┬┤ action sequences in last year┬┤s Satya, Dil Se and Ghulam, and watching the ironically unbelievable, yet believable Jackie Chan action in Rush Hour, one wonders what planet action director Tinu Verma lives on. The fights are about as exciting as watching the mold grow on a piece of bread, and what is up with the dozens of dummies hanging out of cars as they explode in the movie? How about the chances of jumping out of a high-rise building, only to land safe and sound on ... the roof of a car? I did not know that metal was such a soft cushion for landings?Due to the action overdose, Sanjay Dutt┬┤s character is relegated to a Rambo wannabe status which I thought was only the monopoly of Sunny Deol. Save one scene with his mother, there is no opportunity for Sanjay to emote or display any talent. Chandrachur seems somewhat out-of-place in the set-up. I concede that he is a very good actor and does a competent job as Ravi, but his physical appearance lends itself to dramatic movies more than commercial pot-boilers. (Maybe it is just me...) Mahima, as earlier mentioned, is the film┬┤s saving grace. If Daag succeeds at the turnstiles, it will in most part be due to her electric screen presence coupled with superb acting talent. Compare the demureness of the Ganga character in Pardes
with the glamour and oomph of Kajal and Kajari, and you will discover why Ms. Chaudhary is leagues ahead of Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Preity Zinta and even some the most established starlets. As Kajari, Mahima sets the screen afire to deliver a knock-out performance. As with all true talents, this lady has the looks and talent to raise the quality of the most mediocre movie.
Rajesh Roshan┬┤s romantic tunes are livened up by the picturesque visuals of Harmeet Singh┬┤s camera and some novel choreography. (To be fair, one must add that Mahima is not a great dancer. She can mimic all the required steps, but like Manisha Koirala, she is a tour de force actress with lead feet.) Only the last-minute Sanjay Dutt song addition, "Lucky Kabootar", comes across as boring. Sukhwinder Singh┬┤s singing is first class, but those lyrics could not be more asinine.
Now you know what to expect from Daag: The Fire. This flick is a recommended see, but not because it is great movie-making. A few scenes will linger in your mind as well as the opportunity to see a talented actress on the ascent to mega-stardom. To Mahima┬┤s future stardom and Raj Kanwar┬┤s return to peak directorial form next time! Cheers! (Non-alcoholic toasts only please.)