Another docu-drama, another post 9/11 saga, another take on how racial profiling hurts the interests of a number of innocents all over; Kurbaan had everything going in its favour for me to give it a miss. However, just one look at the whole ‘Saifeena’ chemistry and the compelling music pushed me into the hall. And I shall not be exaggerating if I say that every penny spent on the ticket has been well spent.
The movie opens with the charming and suave Prof.Ehsaan Khan (Saif, looking as dapper as ever) who seems totally smitten by his colleague Avantika Ahuja (Kareena Kapoor, exuding poise and grace all throughout) and does not leave any stone unturned to pursue her. She rejects his advances as far as is insanely possible and then finally gives in. The usual humdrum romance follows, with a song thrown in for good effect, though it is the most hummable song I’ve heard in recent times and they finally realise that this relationship is for keeps. But the first of many obstacles of Avantika’s life is when she gets a call from New York University. She frowns, but he makes it easy by saying that he’ll shift base and find something for himself there. The relationship is back on track again and all seems well. They move to the US of A and Avantika sees the world only through rose-tinted glasses. Until one day when she comes across the dead body of a neighbour, who had pleaded with her for help in saving her life; and also stumbles upon a terror conspiracy which aims at ripping the heart of the American homeland. Her world comes crashing down and reality dawns upon her when she realises that no one can be trusted and that she is merely a pawn in the deadly games played out by these cool and seemingly unassuming hardened criminals. How she manages to come out of this tricky puzzle where even the love of her life deserts her and how the notion of peace and righteousness triumphs over everything is what makes up the rest of the film.
The cast delivers and how. Saif is perfect as the calculating and composed jihadist, wronged by the ways of the American world and wielding the potent weapon of revenge in his arsenal. He is suave and mesmerising in one frame and ruthless with the correct degree of helplessness in the other. However one can’t help but wonder if this principal character could have been provided with some more undertones so that the angst experienced by him shines through even more. Nevertheless with the brief provided to him, he does very well. His lady love on the other hand takes her brand value to a totally different plane with this flick. Kareena is a delight to watch, be it her beautiful costumes or her expressive eyes. Every emotion is effectively portrayed to the extent that the viewer feels bad for Avantika’s character when it goes through the mental trauma and agony. She induces a certain degree of empathy within you as one realises that such events in a person’s life, though unpredictable, aren’t unusual in their occurrence.
Vivek Oberoi makes an appearance on the silver screen after a long time; long time here refers to a credible performance and not the banal stuff he’s been a part of for so long. The actor gets the best of dialogues but the sloppiest of scenes which could have been detrimental if only he didn’t have it in him to perform. But this man proves his critics wrong with the portrayal of a moderate Muslim which stays with you long after you’ve walked out of the theatre. On a personal note, Oberoi steals the show for me! He can surely expect a new lease to his career after this one! The supporting cast is top notch too. Om Puri, Kirron Kher, Nauheed Cyrusi, Dia Mirza (in a special appearance) are comfortable in the skins of their characters and this shows; a chill runs down your spine when you see Puri brandishing a gun, your eyes turn moist when Kher narrates her tale of living in a war ravaged zone, knots form in your stomach when you see Nauheed’s deformed body and when the plane in which Dia is travelling explodes mid-way. It’s a stellar act all through the narrative of two hours and forty minutes.
Despite its bright spots, Kurbaan is not above its flaws. Like when Kareena’s put under house arrest and when she unravels the terror plot, why doesn’t she place a call to 911 (emergency number in the US) and one is never convinced of the turn taken by Saif’s character, even though the reasons given by way of a flashback seem plausible. With the scope envisaged for Ehsaan in the movie, one cannot help but wonder if the character could have some more meat to it. However the one major factor which clinches it for the movie is its running time. In spite of being relatively long, it never bears upon heavily on the cine-goer. Apart from the last twenty minutes of the climax, which seem a bit of a drag, the execution is fast paced, racy and pulsating. The excellent background score by Salim-Suleiman (the unsung heroes of Hindi Filmdom) and the perfect placement of the songs, so as to not interfere in the storytelling, more than make up for the film’s shortcomings. Even better is the fact that there is no lip-syncing of the songs, which is like the biggest relief from the KJo style of movie-making. Amitabh Chaturvedi’s camera-work captures New Delhi and New York in all its glory while keeping you on the edge of your seat as the camera pans through Humayun’s Tomb, Jama Masjid to Mid-town Manhattan, Lexington Avenue and Grand Central Station for the explosive climax shots. The screenplay and direction by debutante Rensil D’ Silva is taut and Asif Sheikh’s scissors to a good job to tone down the unnecessary details. The dialogues by Niranjan Iyengar, a staple Kjo favourite, and Anurag Kashyap are the glittering gems of the story and pound deeply in your psyche. A sampler : While Vivek’s character Riyaaz is defending the backlash of Muslims as a consequence of America’s never-ending invasions of the Arab land, an enraged American student remarks that if he (Riyaaz) finds the American attitude so very disturbing, then why doesn’t he leave their country? To which a hurt Riyaaz replies calmly,’we shall do so as soon as you leave ours’. Vintage stuff this.
Kurbaan takes up the standard milieu of terrorism, America, Muslims, the Holy War and the sweeping wave of anti-Americanism making its presence felt all over in the Muslim dominated populations; and concocts all of the aforesaid ingredients to whip a heady mix of betrayal, jealousy, unfettered love and an unwavering commitment to the cause one espouses. It makes you cringe, surprised, empathetic, angry and bitter all at the same time, albeit during different montages. The striking similarities with ‘New York’ and ‘Fanaah’, films which also previously themed themselves on terrorism, are all too visible yet the film has a fresh appeal and look to it. And D’Silva is largely responsible for it. He makes an astounding entry in Bollywood and his eye for perfection is writ large in every scene; right from the props to the costumes to the authentic police cars to the FBI cops. All of this is ably supported by Johar’s gritty take on the tides of change sweeping the Muslim world and how these people are no longer ready to take atrocities, in the garb of ‘regime change’ or ‘political reconstruction’, in their stride. The producer takes the credit for the story behind the film, both literally and figuratively. Kurbaan is neither preachy nor biased and it does not take a stand, albeit providing us with all the elements which constitute the right or wrong in any individual; and allowing us to form our own opinions and judgements without either of these being thrust upon us. There is a very subtle message which runs through the entire account but letting you in would mean betraying the entire plotline. For a movie which I thoroughly enjoyed, this would be the maximum damage I could inflict upon it!
Go for Kurbaan. Watch it, debate it and discuss it for it gives you ample points to take sides and come up with your own interpretation to one of the world’s most pressing problems today- Jihad. This self proclaimed concept of ‘Holy War’ affects each one of us and yet we are oblivious to its repercussions and effects. Kurbaan makes you do just that, it makes you pause and pushes you to think and ponder over where we have gone wrong, as a world. It maybe a microcosmic view of Ehsaan and Avantika’s world but it manages to encompass the general nature of troubles faced by all of us. Keeping all its flaws and loopholes aside the movie packs in a punch, one too many, with the clear pronouncement of the caveat and a warning. I was not disappointed, am sure you won’t be too. Renzil D’Silva and Karan Johar, take a bow!