Sunday, June 04, 2006

Aamir Khan and Kajol Bring Sparkle to `Fanaa': Bollywood Review

By Nabeel Mohideen
May 30 (Bloomberg) -- ``Fanaa'' would have been a very ordinary, even trite, love story but for its two lead actors. Aamir Khan and Kajol star opposite each other for the first time, creating a magic of their own and raising an ordinary bit of storytelling to the memorable.
The tale begins in Kashmir, where the blind Zooni Ali Beg, played by Kajol, is leaving the protective environs of her home for a week's trip to the national capital New Delhi. In the big, bad city, she and her friends meet the dangerously handsome guide Rehan Qadri, played by Khan.
Zooni and the guide get closer in a series of sequences in which much of the dialogue is poetry. Couplets are used to challenge and seduce as the sparks fly between the two characters and they fall in love.
Director Kunal Kohli, who also wrote the dialogue, keeps things nicely on the boil through the first, and best, third of the film. ``Fanaa (Destroyed by Love)'' turns darker after that sparkling beginning, and it's here, in the transition, that Kohli's inexperience shows.
The director, making his third feature and his first after the 2004 hit ``Hum Tum,'' opts for shoddy contrivance (including Zooni regaining her sight) to advance the plot and move his characters into place for the next half of the story, set back in Kashmir seven years later.
Poland, Kashmir
After the evocative opening montage shot in Kashmir, Kohli had to opt for a Poland covered in snow to stand in for the Himalayan region in the second half because of concerns over terrorism. This doesn't necessarily show but it takes away from the integrity of the film.
Kohli's story of doomed love is inextricably linked with the politics of Kashmir but, while some of the characters do venture into speechifying, he stays away from the polemic.
This is Kajol's comeback film, following a five-year hiatus after marriage to fellow actor Ajay Devgan and motherhood. She still has the ability to light up the screen with ease, making her one of the few leading ladies who can more than match Khan's method-driven prowess.
Coming so soon after his surprise February hit, ``Rang de Basanti,'' there are scenes in the first half of ``Fanaa'' where Khan looks jaded in the face of Kajol's artless performance. He's in better control in the second half, during which there are some great scenes between the two leads.
``Fanaa,'' gorgeously shot by Ravi K. Chandran, should have been cut by at least 30 minutes and the director ought to have simplified and strengthened his plot devices. Kohli seems to have been too mesmerized by the chemistry between Khan and Kajol, which is admittedly quite riveting. Still, and maybe this is because she's been away so long, Kajol's powerfully spontaneous screen presence ensures that the film belongs to her. With Khan at 41 and Kajol at 30, and both picky about scripts, this is a pairing that's unlikely to be ever repeated, which makes ``Fanaa'' a film to be cherished.
``Fanaa'' was released in India on May 26.
To contact the writer of this story:
Nabeel Mohideen in New Delhi at
Last Updated: May 29, 2006 22:55 EDT

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