Planet Bollywood
Producer: Vishesh Films and Fish Eye Network Pvt. Ltd.
Director: Pooja Bhatt
Starring: Muzammil Ibrahim, Tulip Joshi, Anupam Kher, Gulshan Grover, Ashutosh Rana, Vineet Kumar, Aushima Sawhney and Bhanu Uday
Music: M.M Kreem and Shiraz Uppal (Guest)
Lyrics: Shakeel Azmi, Sayeed Quadri, Khusbir Singh Shaad and Bharat Bhushan Pant
Genre: Social
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Approximate Running Time: 117 Minutes
Film Released on: 31 August 2007
Reviewed by: Aakash Gandhi  - Rating: 8.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 410 viewers)
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“We are what we hide…”

We’re so quick to point fingers are we not? Inanely desperate to put an immediate face to those who we feel have wronged us. For decades, this very human behavior has etched out a tragic fate for millions on each side of the Hindu-Muslim divide. It is our inability to see beyond a seemingly irrational act that has created such extremist “enemies.” And it is these very extremists who unjustly use their flawed influences to recruit unsuspecting individuals to carry-out their religiously-backed acts of mayhem, destruction, and murder. So you can see, both parties have created a viciously inescapable cycle, in which ego and peace are in constant struggle.

DHOKHA focuses on what the global society has conveniently termed as “Terrorism.” But more specifically, it deals with the brutal phenomenon of Suicide Bombing, and one man’s struggle to find the hidden truth.

Director Pooja Bhatt has had her fair share of criticism. Her past directorial ventures (PAAP and HOLIDAY) both failed to garner any sort of critical or public acclaim. And perhaps it is this failure that leads her to re-invent herself and create a film that is not only meaningful, but also very real. DHOKHA is a film that transcends “sides” and illustrates a thought-provoking expose that allows its viewers to think for themselves and draw upon their own conclusions. To put it bluntly, this film is an out-right winner.

The film revolves around one man – Police Commissioner Zaid Khan (Muzammil Ibrahim). Mahesh Bhatt’s story is lit by one fateful event – a devastating bomb blast at the New Century Club in Mumbai. Zaid works hard to help as many victims as he can, amongst the twenty killed. But the night would soon turn very personal as he is notified that, of the twenty killed, his wife, Sara (Tulip Joshi) is one of them. Not one hour after he has been ravaged by the devastating news of his wife’s death, head of the Anti-Terrorist Court, Raj Mehra (Gulshan Grover) accuses Zaid that there is enough evidence to identify Sara as the suicide bomber.

Flooded by the loving memories of his wife, Zaid is unable to cope with the seemingly absurd allegations…until one day… And suddenly the fight against terrorism has hit home for Zaid Ahmed Khan. It is his realization that leads him on a search for enlightenment...a search for answers…a search for the reason behind his wife’s true enigmatic identity.

“Bahut sajda kiya hai maine apne parvardigar ke samne. Meri ibaadat ka kuch to sila mile mujhe. Patha to chale…woh kaunsa shaqs tha, jiski chaukat par usne apni jaan de di…mere pyar ko chhod kar.”

Writer Shagufta Rafique is brilliant in DHOKHA. His realistic, and at times poetic, dialogue provides a deep and vast insight into not only the minds and thoughts of the characters on screen, but into the personality and rational behind both sides of the conflict.

In fact it’s Rafique’s writing that sets DHOKHA apart from many past cinematic attempts to accurately portray the Islamic extremist views and the fight against it. As mentioned earlier, it is so easy for us (writers included) to subconsciously take sides in an issue. This is where Rafique succeeds. Never once do you feel a pull towards one side of the conflict. And there is always a counter-rational given. DHOKHA serves to provide reasoning, not an answer.

Sample this dialogue. Spoken by Sara’s father (Anupam Kher) to Zaid:

“Jo ladaai tune ladi hai…asli jihad to wahi hai.”

Take for example the extended scene between ACP Zaid Ahmed Khan and Maulana Fariddi, the man responsible for Sara’s acts and the terrorist activities. Although the scene has been drawn-out, the very real debate on the issue of extremist views is an arresting one. Another example that illustrates the sublime writing and powerful execution by Bhatt is the scene where Sara’s family is viciously harassed by one police officer, played masterfully by Ashutosh Rana.

However great the dialogues may be, Rafique’s screenplay is unfortunately not as perfect. There are a few areas in the film where the screenplay becomes a bit bumpy. Although a few scenes were dedicated to Sara’s character, one is not able to completely connect with her character – who serves as the muse of this film. Secondly, there are a few missing scenes scattered throughout the film, which result in rushed attempts and confusion. For example – suddenly, police officer who had harassed Sara many years earlier, is served with an arrest warrant for the murder of Sara’s brother. There is no build-up to this event.

The last major flaw of the film belongs more to Rafique the writer – The entire police force and anti-terrorist department forgive the suicide-bomber because he comes to his senses seconds before he’s about to detonate the bomb. This is a highly unbelievable portion of the script that leaves you baffled.

However, these flaws do not stand in the way of the success of the film. Pooja Bhatt, although over-shadowed by her writer and her actor, still shoots a film that is true to its theme. She deserves credit for abandoning her old formula and taking a major risk, which has definitely paid its dividends.

M.M. Kreem’s music has been used to its optimal potential, as it has been weaved seamlessly into the film. We’re spared the lip-syncing and the music is extremely enjoyable on the silver screen. Shiraz Uppal’s ‘Roya Re’ being the most enjoyable number on the soundtrack. Anshuman Mahaley’s camerawork is very smooth. Editor Deven Murdeshwar does his job well on the whole. And how can we forget Mahesh Bhatt, whose powerful story is the rudimentary spine of this Bhatt production.

Muzammil Ibrahim is arguably one of the Bhatt Camp’s finest discoveries. For a model-turned-actor, he emits a powerful screen-presence and has a tamed dialogue-delivery (which is a relief, as you would hate to see such a finely written script go to waste). Although, he is far from perfect. There are a few overtly emotional scenes, in which he clearly appears rehearsed and unnatural. But the actor has tons of potential and gives a very worthy performance in DHOKHA.

Anupam Kher is his usual best and easily creates a character the viewer can sympathize with. Tulip Joshi, as Sara, has been criminally limited by the script, which is one of my biggest complaints. However, whatever scope was given…she made the most of it. Aushima Sawhney is the standard “pretty face with no point” character. Ashutosh Rana plays the bad guy very convincingly, as does Gulshan Grover as the anti-terrorist court head.

These extremist beliefs are simply a product of their society. They are bred and nurtured by fear. And if we are not safe in our own country, then we cannot be safe in any country. DHOKHA is an extremely powerful film that touches on a number of sensitive issues – from stereotypes to jihad; from suicide-bombing to religion; from humanitarianism to love. Many may not see DHOKHA as an entertaining film. And it may not be so in the classic sense. But it is a very real film. And it’s time you become aware of the issues that are going on around you. This is what cinema was made to be. DHOKHA deserves to be seen. It deserves to be appreciated.

“We create terrorists. And then we kill them.”

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