Planet Bollywood
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala, Karan Johar
Director: Rensil De Silva
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Om Puri, Dia Mirza, Vivek Oberoi
Music: Salim-Sulaiman
Lyrics: Niranjan Iyengar, Irfan Siddiqui
Genre: Thriller
Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance
Film Released on: 20 November 2009
Reviewed by: Ankit Ojha  - Rating: 6.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.11 / 10 (rated by 412 viewers)
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A lot has been told about it. A lot has been told against it. And then, a lot of people didn’t go to watch the movie because of the usual jingoistic and fundamentalist attitude some viewers have a mindset while watching terrorist-based movies. The viewers, though, are partly right not to watch terrorist movies sometimes, because storywriters, screenwriters and dialogue writers usually stick to absolutely tacky, preachy and clichéd stuff for the actors to mouth on terrorism. And the whole jingoistic feel has existed even in Fanaa – Destroyed in Love, which was an excellent movie sans the immature terrorist angle which almost spoiled the show had the performances and execution not been powerful.

It is only after the critically and commercially successful New York that directors have started seeing a new light on the whole Muslim-terrorist factor, though I cannot deny that even New York almost started creeping into jingoism in the second half of the movie.

One must applaud Kurbaan, the topic in question here, to avoid preachiness and clichéd fundamentalism and present a storyline that doesn’t take sides. Interestingly, debutant director Rensil D’Silva (who has also penned the story of this project, and has written for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s critically acclaimed and commercially moderate Rang De Basanti as well) has executed Kurbaan wonderfully and doesn’t stick to just the plot which could limit to only look interesting on paper; such delicate scripts have the tendency to fail with improper execution, over-the-top performances and the extreme xenophobia ending up being shown. But there are some really big plot holes and goof-ups, which spoil the movie.

Avantika Ahuja (Kareena Kapoor), a professor in New York University, rushes back to Delhi, India after her father suffers from cardiac arrest, to keep him company and take care of him. She starts to teach at Delhi University to move on, and there, she meets Ehsaan Khan (Saif Ali Khan), whom she starts to like, and eventually falls in love with. Sometime later, New York University calls her for their next semester. Ehsaan decides that they should get married (much against her father’s wishes) and move back to America, where Ehsaan gets a job along with Avantika to be a professor. Life is full of bliss as they move to an Indian neighborhood, and this is when something suspicious starts to unravel. Salma (Nauheed Cyrusi) comes to her house one day, asking for help, telling her that nothing is what it seems. This in turn triggers a number of events that are not under her control and shock her to the core.

Kurbaan is all about the structure of storytelling which may seem agonizingly slow at pace to some viewers who would get picky, comparative and biased, but then again, the plot takes its own smooth time to unravel. The love story is beautifully penned and the fire cracking chemistry between Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor works to the hilt in this angle. The second angle is the angle of suspense, where Avantika comes to know broken pieces of information on the sleeper cell, and the third angle is the angle of revelations and revenge, where all shocking pieces of information are put together to culminate in a nail-biting 30-minute climax, which will make you think long after the end credits have rolled.

The story and screenplay for the movie has been efficiently written, where the narrative holds interest right from the start till the end, where the narrative unfolds in a gritty, fast-paced manner that might not appeal for the people looking for intense, over-the-top melodrama rigged with clichés throughout.

Technically, the movies is brilliant, with cinematography being world-class and making the viewer feel one’s watching a Hollywood flick, especially in the scenes where English is used extensively. Music is a strong point of the movie, and the background score is equally gripping – kudos to Salim-Sulaiman for giving the edge to the movie. Editing and visual effects are convincing, though the plane bombing looks very artificial. One must give credit to the mastermind behind the title sequence, which only sets the mood for what is yet to come, though the immediate love-story plot dampens it a bit.

Performance-wise, it’s Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi who have taken away the cake and have shaped up the movie. The intensity and fear in Kareena Kapoor’s character and the anger in Vivek’s have been well-etched, and will remain in the viewers’ mind for a long time. It is Saif Ali Khan though, who disappoints badly. With a highly restrained performance throughout, somewhat intense at times, Saif Ali Khan heavily falters, though his chemistry with Kareena works big time. In fact, his restrained performance as a negative character in Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi was far better than this one. In fact, the supporting characters in the form of Om Puri, Kirron Kher and even Dia Mirza and Kulbhushan Kharbanda (both in short roles), exude more power and intensity than Saif’s.

The problem is rightfully the inconsistency in some plotlines. Read on to know more:

• Khalid Anwar is recognizable – and can be found fast by putting a Wanted poster everywhere – after all, Saif Ali Khan’s character never went for a cosmetic surgery to change his face!

• Another weird point to be noted is that the whole taking-the-law-in-one’s-own-hands angle is out of fashion now. In that respect, why did Vivek Oberoi not give the lead in the hands of the FBI?

• The third weird point is – the FBI are surely not fools, and I guess New York tried to get that right (but couldn’t at some places). But here, the liberties with all the political and government-based agencies are extensively played with. Watch the independent Harrison Ford movie Crossing Over to understand what I want to say.

That kept aside, this one is a gripping, well-made thriller that doesn’t go for clichés and convenient plot holes, and most importantly, doesn’t take sides. Go for it, and you won’t regret it, that is, unless you’re going in with the idea of bashing up the movie from the word go!

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