Nikhil Kapoor decides to re-locate from Parksville, USA to Bombay; meets with Anamika Joshi and instantly falls in love with her but she does not reciprocate. When he sees her again, she is...
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Nikhil Kapoor decides to re-locate from Parksville, USA to Bombay; meets with Anamika Joshi and instantly falls in love with her but she does not reciprocate. When he sees her again, she is in the company of a possessive male, Farhad, who does not permit Nikhil to even talk with her. When Nikhil persists, an altercation ensues, weapons are drawn and Rahul, Nikhil's friend, is shot and ends losing the use of his legs, and Nikhil is arrested. After 3 years, Ira Malhotra enters Nikhil's life, hears his story and decides to assist him - not knowing that this move will jeopardize not only her life but also three other lives.Written by
It's like "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" Except It Has A Brain!!
In mid-August, many an unknowing filmi buff was psychologically impaled in the cinema halls during screenings of Karan Johar's hopelessly awful "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" which purported to be a mature examination of extra-marital affairs. It was, of course, nothing of the sort, and despite raking in the moolah, it has found little favor with fans or critics.
About a month later, a comparatively small budget film, Onir's "Bas Ek Pal" (reminiscent of experimental European cinema), released, dealing with a similar theme but without any of the reigning puerility and adolescent conventionality which made Johar's film so utterly absurd. Instead, Onir infuses his film with a complex morality and a matrix of thoroughly realistic characters where there are no heroes and no villains, no glamorized damsels and no bitchy mistresses. It is also impossible to say who is opposite whom- there are no "pairs" as one is universally accustomed to seeing in Indian films. A brief recap of the premise will explain why: The story begins with the reunion of two friends, Nikhil (Sanjay Suri) and Rahul (Jimmy Shergill). Nikhil becomes acquainted with Steve (Rehaan Engineer), a friend of Rahul's who is also an abusive alcoholic. Steve is married to Ira Malhotra, a former beauty queen turned humanitarian (Juhi Chawla) who has suffered a miscarriage, physical battery, and a failed marriage. Nikhil becomes infatuated with a young engineer named Anamika (Urmila Matondkar) whounfortunately for himis attached to a trust fund named Rehan. At their second meeting, Nikhil and Rehan scuffle over Anamika, and in the midst of their battle Rahul is shot, resulting in paralysis. Nikhil faces prison for three years, which actually turns out to be the least of his troubles. During those three years Anamika becomes romantically linked with Rahul, who it turns out had a long-standing affair with Ira who was tired of her pathetic husband's emotional and physical torture. Ira helps free Nikhil, whom Steve suspects of having an affair with his wife. Rahul also accuses Anamika of rekindling her "affair" with Nikhil. Ira compels Anamika toward Nikhil in her final attempt at escape. Confused? You should be, because (like real life) it's complex and disturbing, and there are no designer outfits or grandiose dance numbers to numb the pain of the tragedy which unfolds around these five lives. Betrayal turns to Obsession, Helplessness to Hopelessness, and Attraction to Rape in this brilliantly constructed and acted film.
Though the film's title purports it to be about how one incident transforms the lives of all those involved, its final implications are of much more ubiquitous themes: it is basically a filmed series of unending horrors and disappointments which shows life in its most bitter and grotesque form. There is also a shocking twist at the end which makes the film really work. It is a true "Greek" tragedy, which should give you little doubt as to how it ends, but there is more than general catastrophe: there is murder, suicide, betrayal, abuse, deceit, infidelity, jealousy, self-hatred, enmity, violence and whole host of depravities which are too many to be named here. On top of it all, there's a rape which victimizes neither Ira nor Anamika, but one of the male leads. Oh, and the film also takes time to explore the realities of forced oral sex. Suffice is to say, treacly "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun," this film ain't.
Onir's tactfully written screenplay aside, the real mainstay of the film is its performances turned in by a fine cadre of actors led by the peerless Juhi Chawla. She is simply outstanding in a role which makes one sit up and notice the currents of strength and despair in Ira which Juhi expertly etches in Ira's eyes and movements. This is not a character one expects to find in Juhi Chawla's repertoire: Ira is bold, self-loathing, and desperate for affection, which drives her into an affair with Rahul which is both emotionally and sexually satisfying. And yes, she does something truly shocking at the end. But Ira is also something of a mystery whose acquaintance with happiness proves too short. Anamika, conversely, is easy to read, though her lucidity does not translate to simplicity. Matondkar portrays her as the eternal romantic, albeit a somewhat helpless one who frequently cannot tolerate her own circumstances. Less fiery and more vulnerable than her usual characters, Matondkar plays her flawlessly as a little girl with adult ambitions. Love, Success, and Self-Actualization are her goals, but she becomes ensnared in a bizarre and almost inexplicable love for Nikhil. One expects Nikhil to be the centerpiece of the film, but he turns out to be much more of a cipher than the others. Suri is always at the center of Onir's films, but in this collaboration he gets a more supportive role which he carries effortlessly, by turns suave, angry, and desperate. Jimmy Shergill is the surprise packet of the film: one expects great performances from Juhi Chawla and Urmila Matondkar, but the Shergill proves he can match their talents with a brooding and intense portrayal of Rahul. In many ways, he is the character at the center of the film. Rehaan Engineer is somewhat of a mixed bag- his delivery teeters between odd and satisfactory, the main problem being his menace is somewhat flat and benign. In some scenes, particularly those with Juhi, his performance clashes with the finesse of the others.
Unfortunately, films which forgo formula and embrace innovation are too often ignored by the indiscriminate masses who would rather see Shah Rukh Khan in DDLJ Part VII (or whichever configuration we're on now) so don't be surprised by the many reviewers who have no idea how to react to it. It will join the league of thoughtful cinema rendered obscure by the very fact that it makes demands on its audience instead of bowing to commercial pressures. "Bas Ek Pal" holds the mirror up to Life and dares to show us that the reflection is sometimes purely shattered.
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