Huh! I thought I was all done with the unreviewed films now that I was in the recent era, but I guess not! Poor sad Josh is hanging out there, unreviewed.
This is not a good movie, but what surprised me (once I finally watched it) was how close it came to being good! It really wasn’t cursed from the start, there are some really interesting ideas there, and a lot of the casting is good, and the music is really good. But some key roles are just cast WRONG, and somehow the whole film doesn’t gel. Oh well, poor Josh. It’s not even entertaining enough to be good-bad, it’s just boring-bad.
It has so much going for it! The Goa setting, in a way most movies don’t really fall into. Gang warfare in a way that is not usually shown. A strong brother-sister bond at the center, also unusual. But then it really fell apart in the casting of the second male lead, and the villain.
If you have to watch this movie, watch it as a case study for what happens when you don’t have a strong villain. The performance by Sharad Kapoor was just Not Good. Maybe if his character had been phenomenally well-written with great dialogue and so on, that could have turned it around. Or if he was directed in such a way that the editing could bring forth a performance. But none of that was here. Because it has a weak villain, two terrible things happen to the film. First, it’s just plain boring, all the time spent with the villain feels wasted and useless. Second, it undercuts the hero. Shahrukh is so strong and interesting and charismatic, but I find myself thinking “well, he can’t be that great, look at this useless guy he can’t seem to get rid of!”
And then there’s the second male lead. The film has an interesting structure where the Romeo and Juliet part of it comes second to the Tybalt storyline. Or, in West Side Story language, the George Chakiris storyline. The drama and motivation and power and big cosmic stuff is all over on that side with Juliet’s brother (Shahrukh). But it has to stand out in contrast to the traditional sweet starcrossed lovers storyline. Which means we have to buy into the starcrossed lovers. And we just DON’T. Our “Romeo” in this version is Chandrachur Singh who is a fine actor, but has minimal charisma and cannot create chemistry with an actress. He just can’t! I’ve seen him in a few things, and it’s never there.
Maybe the movie could get by with a weak villain if we had a really swoony romance, and also the powerful SRK performance. Maybe the movie could get by with a blah romance if we had great villain-hero chemistry. But as it is, you have the hero all by himself holding the whole package together, and it’s impossible. Good story concept, some good performances, but only half of a whole.
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A lot of the plot I don’t remember, because BORING. But the interesting stuff is the location specific stuff. Goa remained under Portuguese control after 1947, it wasn’t until 1961 that it became part of India when the Indian army forced the Portuguese out. This movie is set in 1980. Our hero and heroine, Shahrukh and Aish, are the twin children of a mother who died. They are part of the Christian/Portuguese community. Shahrukh leads a gang who constantly fight over village common areas with the Hindu gang. Shahrukh is also stalking/wooing a spunky local girl, Priya Gill. And then the younger brother of the leader of the Hindu gang, Chandrachur Singh, returns from studying cooking in Bombay and falls in love with Aish at first sight. He begins secretly wooing her and decides to stay in town, but remain out of the gang fighting and open a bakery. Aish and Shahrukh’s gang play some tricks on his bakery but leave him out of the violence. Aish and he fall more and more in love and Chandrachur decides to track down more about Aish’s family history. He learns that she and Shahrukh are the illegitimate children of a Portuguese man who owned the whole village, and in fact through their mother, they inherited all the disputed common land. His older brother, Prakash Sharma, learns this and decides to kill Shahrukh and therefore claim the land for himself. There is a big fight, Shahrukh ends up killing Prakash in self-defence, but in the end the truth of his heritage and Prakash’s plans are revealed at trial and he is freed, Aish and boring Chandrachur get together, and so do Shahrukh and Priya.
What is unique in this movie is the use of Goa history. I legitimately did not know about Goa being under Portuguese control until 1961 until I watched it, that bit of history just does not come up much in films. Having our gang leader hero, protecting his group of outcasts, be revealed as the Lost Prince (essentially) who owns the whole town is a fascinating twist. And historically valid, the whole idea is Shahrukh leading the desperate Christian/Portuguese folks left behind in his gang, but that “left behind” opens up the possibility of a treasure that was left behind for them by the people who left, if you see what I mean. The parts of the film that deal with that, with the conflicted identity of the Portuguese Goan Indian, the whole post-colonial mess, that’s downright fascinating. The grand sweep of the plot as seen through that lens is a delight.
And Shahrukh is a delight. He perfectly plays the illegitimate son who had to pull himself up on his own, and protect his sister at the same time, and then protect his whole community as best he can. The naughty boy who only knows how to be tough. Who goes on an emotional roller coaster when he learns his father has a name, and did leave something behind for them. Not to mention the smaller emotional journey he went on to accept Aish’s romance once he understood they really loved each other.
Aish is okay, She just lights up the screen, we can believe her and Shahrukh as brother and sister because they have equal charisma. We can certainly believe someone falling in love with her at first sight. But without any chemistry in her romance, and with weak writing for the romance as well, her scenes without Shahrukh die immediately.
And then there’s the romance. Ugh. It’s not just that there is no chemistry between the actors, it’s that there is no chemistry in the writing. This should feel like a grand sweeping thing, but instead we have a hero who makes cakes? I truly can’t remember a single scene of them together, that’s how bland and unmemorable it was. It’s not supposed to be the main storyline of the film, the romance is only there to get Shahrukh to discovering his heritage, but it should at least be INTERESTING.
And finally, the villain. So much scheming from Prakash, so much conflict. He is the loving older brother who protected his younger brother and wants to keep him out of gang warfare. He should be a double for Shahrukh, two young men protecting a sibling, trying to do what is right by their own lights. And then the slow build until they both learn of the romance, but while Shahrukh’s response is to finally come around and accept it, Prakash’s is to use it for his own ends, revealing that they are not the same, in the end Prakash is far worse. But instead, BOREDOM. They never feel like doubles, because the charisma just isn’t there. Prakash’s betrayal is no surprise, because we never really believed in his love, or that his own gang and family really loved him.
This is a movie by Mansoor Khan, Aamir’s cousin who made Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Originally it was written for Shahrukh and Aamir to co-star but somehow that didn’t work out. In this case, I think if you couldn’t get your dream cast it would be better to scrap the whole thing. Make Aamir the rival gang leader, or the rival romantic lead, and then this film would pop! Give someone for Shahrukh to act against, to help bring the plot into focus, and it could be remarkable. But we didn’t get Aamir, so the best advice I can give you is to watch the songs, and skip the movie.