Friday, July 13, 2007

"In fine form" -- Mayank Shankar

Since over two decades now, the Burmawalla siblings, a curious twosome in the Tinsel Town north of Bandra, have amusingly shared their parents, the director's seat, and their suit-length to make films together.

A still from Naqaab

Of over a dozen in their filmography, quite a few were noticeably impressive for their times; and almost all reveal two hard-boiled commercial Bollywood directors that the twins are.

I use the word Bollywood as much as a pejorative, a masala rehash of Hollywood fare, as the song-and-dance movie projects that it's come to signify now.

Almost all known Abbas-Mustan movies somehow find their way to an American pot-boiler of the past, the plot sufficiently curried to suit mainstream Hindi audience tastes: Baazigar (A Kiss Before Dying), Humraaz (The Perfect Murder), Aitraaz (Disclosure), Badshah (Nick Of Time), Ajnabee (Consenting Adults)…

Viewed purely from the perspective of a film trade punter, each preliminarily works at the level of a "proposal", usually a two-hero-one-heroine or two-heroine-one-hero service contract to light up posters.

The pivotal moment in almost each film is the "twist", or the "kahaani mein twist, hee haa haa" (in the end, or at the interval) that turns an entire plot of unfaithful love on its head into a clever ploy, and nearly every character reveals itself as an unforgiving picture of deceit. Naqaab is at best a valuable addition to that formula's library.

One heroine (Urvashi), almost instantly falls for the first hero (Khanna, in fine form), a failed actor. She is engaged to the second hero (Deol), a rich millionaire. Of course this isn't the plot. And a problem with a picture hinged entirely on a twist in the tail is neither can you reveal the premise, nor discuss a film without pointing out its obvious holes.

Especially as the twists — some of them inspired from films that shall remain unnamed, so as not to serve as spoilers — just do not add up. This one has not one but at least five twists packed in a matter of a never-ending final 30 minutes. The effort to shock and please appears evident. But in this unrestrained disorder, you aren't sure if the tail wags the dog, or dog the tail. So you just twist and turn until it's all over, and you can stop questioning, or thinking backwards.

If it's any consolation, it's pleasant to watch Abbas-Mustan back at their game after a brief, bizarre deviation of the recent past (36 China Town, Tarzan: The Wonder Car). I'd recommend they curb their enthusiasm still. Two decades into a business, you may expect two creative people ahead on the learning curve. Their film treatment pretty much belongs to the early '90s: very passable stuff now.

Mumbai Mirror

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