Vantage point

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Watched Haasil the other day. Usually the first place I go to read about a movie is George's blog. However this time, I had missed what he had to say about the movie, due to my days with limited internet access during the summer. So I thought I would write my independent 'review' before I read his.

The movie starts very well. Its first half is brilliant, with a good pace, lucid introduction of characters, great dialogues and a very realistic portrayal. The story is set in a town in U.P. and you can see that the writers have put a lot of thought into portraying it realistically. Right from the accent of speaking, to the atmosphere in the college, to the awkward chemistry between the couple - Jimmy Shergill and Hrishitaa Bhat....everything is indicative of a lot of thought being put into it.

The first half shows the gripping story of the rivalry between two student politicians - Gourishanker(Ashutosh Rana) and Ranvijay(Irfan Khan). The politics even in the campus has a tinge of casteism, just like in UP and Bihar. However not too many direct references are made to it, probably to avoid trouble with censors. Aniruddha (Shergill) and Niharika (Bhat) are two students in love, and quite separate from all this dirty business. However Ani gets involved when he asks for Ranvijay's help to punish some goons who molest his friend's mother. It is from here that the involvement grows. The gang war gets bloody, with Gourishanker being bumped off. Killing off such a powerful actor midway might have been a ploy to make the audience sit up and notice. Just like Ramgopal Verma bumped off Paresh Rawal midway in Satya. However, for a movie like Haasil where the only two actors of calibre are Rana and Khan, it proves a fatal tactic.

After Rana is bumped off, one expects some kind of escalation in the campus war. But the plot takes and unexpected and rather insipid turn. It focuses on the love story of Ani and Niharika. Her father comes to know of their clandestine affair(how he comes to know, one realises later) and catches Ani and Niharika cootchie-cooing in a theatre accompanied by his nephews. These nephews manhandle Ani. Ranvijay convinces Ani that if he doesn't beat up those cousins of Niharika's as a revenge, she will think he is a sissy. Ani gets convinced, and in the ensuing fight, kills the cousin in a fit of rage.......shades of Romeo and Juliet here.

He runs away to Mumbai to escape from the police and stays with a friend of Ranvijay. This friend attacks him, at the behest of Ranvijay. Suddenly Ranvijay is revealed as this schemer who was behind the whole issue, right from informing her parents. Since he is from the same caste as Niharika, her father agrees to give him her hand in marriage.

After this point the movie really takes a major nosedive. What started out as an engrossing tale on campus politics degrades into the story of a crazy hoodlum obsessed with a girl. Other than the fact that the story took this insipid detour, there is also the fact that no proper explanation is ever given for Ranvijay's volte face.

The end would make an excellent case study for the chaos theory, with the most unexpected characters behaving in the most unexpected way. There is the "mandatory moderate muslim" thrown in as well, to show the filmmakers are "secular" folks. The movie which started off with a refreshing approach to an unexplored issue ends with an avalanche of cliches. It suffers from an acute case of the SSH (Sagging Second Half) syndrome, a term coined by George.

It reminded me of Shool, which had made a similar powerful beginning, again set in small town North India but ended in the most yaaaaaaawn way.

The movie has its pluses though that would make it worth one viewing. The dialogues are well thought out. My favourite one is when the goons are watching a hindi gangster movie and say "Yeh mumbai underworld to bahut chhota business hai. hum log to desh chalatey hain". It has a lot of humorous scenes too.

The performance of Irfan Khan is amazing. He has been lurking around in the TV world for the past 10 years or so, giving ample display of his potential, but this role should get him good work in the future. Ashutosh Rana is his usual efficient intimidating self. Hrishitaa Bhatt plays the role of the vulnerable small town girl well, her innocent looks coming to aid. Jimmy Shergill......I dunno.....he has been around for so many years, but he does not seem to be growing. His best performance was still one of his first - Maachis.

The direction and the screenplay are good until the sag sets in. I saw the movie on one of those Pakistani Sadaf pirated VCDs....(very amusing trailers of some Paki films b t w) so the songs had been edited out to fit the movie in 2 CDs....except for a qawwali set in a dargah. One of my parameters for judging the direction is to see if the songs are well placed and don't act as a hindrance.

Anyway, overall, the movie was worth it, but it left me with a feeling not unsimilar to that I get when Virender Sehwag gets out in the 30s after an excellent start.