Gowarikerâ€™s Lagaan till today, is regarded to be a cult classic for many a reason â€“ its inclusion of cricket (Indiaâ€™s most loved sport) mixed with patriotism; and although the story is simplistic and the idea standard, it had an execution that deserved applause, with each form of detailing, right from the character graph to perfectionism in the Avadhi dialect and finally the cinematography and production design. Though many consider it to be his best till date, I personally feel that his Swades and Jodhaa Akbar are far better, connecting with a more universal audience due to commendable treatment of its writing. While people stopped believing in Ashutosh Gowariker post Whatâ€™s Your Raashee?, I considered it a beautiful film and my faith never wavered, which is why the news of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey heightened my anticipated for the film. Plus, this being a period film makes it more enticing due to Gowarikerâ€™s success with his previous films which gave many viewers immense satisfaction.
The story chosen (a true story of the 1930 revolution of Chittagong, the then part of India) is unique, untried and more or less an interesting story to remake on celluloid. Besides, this is an adaptation of a book, which should have been even challenging for the makers. And for those who have read the book, they might find the on-goings interesting. I personally havenâ€™t read the book but I have ample knowledge of the uprising and Iâ€™m pretty sure characters wouldnâ€™t have been as overdramatic as theyâ€™ve been portrayed in places. Apart from the portrayal of the characters of Surjya Sen and Kalpana Datta (well-written and restrained for the most part) the other characters are either too moody or nahin-kehdo-ki-yeh-jhoot-hai types. The patriotic fever is correctly captured without the convenience of xenophobia in the screenplay, and Gowariker should be commended for that. But despite that, the movie lags in the pre-intermission reels, so much that the normal viewer will pull their hair out and wonder if a movie could be any slower.
And for some scenes, itâ€™s like the makers really want to force-feed us â€“ and this unfortunately happens in those scenes where this isnâ€™t needed. Take, for example, the first scene, where they spend a minute and a half showing the kids playing football, and the conflict taking half a minute more, with prolonged discussions about getting their lands back adding up to another minute and a half, making the whole scene very wordy and lengthy. After this thereâ€™s Surjya Senâ€™s extended introduction and the fact that he â€śloves his friend to deathâ€ť. In that scene, his friend suddenly turns up and they have a discussion about how he was beaten to death and all he said was â€śVande Mataram.â€ť Surely thereâ€™s at least five better ways to write and emote that dialogue!
The other odd thing about the film is the timing of the songs. Post Nirmalâ€™s meeting with Sen, he says heâ€™s going to meet his girlfriend Pritilata, and then out of nowhere a song breaks out before they play badminton â€“ oh and wait, thatâ€™s lip-synced! And the songs keep coming during the pre-intermission phase, acting like speed-breakers to an already slow-moving car. The worst part during this phase are the glitches in setting the base of the world which the viewer should be transported into. Chittagong was part of Bengal, and despite that Surjya Sen writes the plan on the blackboard in Hindi to explain to his â€ścomradesâ€ť five days before the planâ€™s commencement. And I wonder why; is it because they suddenly forgot Bengali? People will argue with me regarding this, telling me that they would have wanted everyone to understand what he had written, but this certainly takes out the authenticity in the film, thus making it a flaw.
Thankfully, the film isnâ€™t as slow in the second half â€“ in fact, it suddenly picks up pace out of nowhere and proceeding move to the nail-biting pre-climax portion, finally reaching the climax, where â€“ again â€“ Abhishek decides to talk to the English judge in Hindi. Iâ€™m sure the director must have imagined a scene of two different ideologies where language differences act as testimony, but this just felt awkward. But this is easily ignored as pronto comes a profound climax that disturbs you but at the same time, makes you proud of what the â€śrealâ€ť revolutionaries might have done to fight for the freedom of India. However due to the above reasons you still leave the theater with mixed emotions as far as the film is concerned.
What redeems the movie somewhat are the performances. Abhishek Bachchan is powerful as Surjya Sen, but you wonder if his one dimensional expressions throughout are indicative of his wider limitations as an actor. In fact, surprisingly, post the unconvincing act in Break Ke Baad, Deepika Padukone here outsmarts Bachchan as far as the acting is concerned. Sikandar Kher is mind-blowing. His emotions are powerful, especially in scenes of shootout. This guy is a terrific actor and need good roles to showcase his immense potential to rise up the ladder. Others are convincing.
To conclude, what was expected to be a fervent exhilarating patriotic movie turns out to be more of a documentary, which makes the movie feel like a history lesson so after the first few minutes donâ€™t be surprised if you find yourself distracted (either fidgeting with your hair or picking your nose or looking around the class for something more interesting than the teacher yakking) and wondering where the entertainment quotient was to be found. Mr. Gowariker, we hope you get back to the form that brought us the likes of Swades and Lagaan, not in comparison perhaps but in treatment at least.