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July 18, 1998

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Send this story to a friend Happily ever after

Suparn Verma

Kareeb is a love story that looks back at the romantic era of the late 50's and early 60's with longing eyes.

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The story is set in the lakeside town of Rewalsar, where Birju (Bobby Deol) meets Neha (Neha). It's love at first sight. He chases her with much ardour; a couple of really nice songs lend just the right touch. Which girl can resist this perfect mix? Neha relents and the marriage all set to happen, when Birju salts the pudding with a lie that results in his future ma-in-law getting a stroke.

That's when the film begins its slide into oblivion.

The second half is the run-of-the-mill Bollywood melodrama, with Birju trying to make up for all the trouble he has caused. He runs away from home, promising not to meet Neha until he earns money for her mother's operation.

Bobby Deol and Johnny Lever. Click for bigger pic!
He starts working in a laundry with Bhigelal (Johnny Lever), washing other people's dirty linen and sweeping the floor. At night, he washes lorries, the aim being to earn enough money to buy a lottery ticket he is guaranteed -- by Uncle (Shammi Kapoor) and Aunty (Sushma Seth) -- to win.

Meanwhile, Neha meets the good doctor. Who, besides playing the good samaritan, regales Neha with his sob stories in the four scenes he has with her. He also marks each encounter by giving her a rose. For some reason, his name -- Dr Abhay (Abhay Chorpa) is revealed only in the last scene of the film.

On the other front, the seemingly angelic Uncle and Aunty turn out to be a bunch of frauds. So Briju steals Bhigelal's money, and everything comes to a head. When the end comes -- it's a predictable 'they-lived-happily-ever-after'.

The film maintains the trend of good technical values and good music set by 1942, A Love Story. Bobby Deol, for once, does not grate on the nerves and Neha makes a likeable debut.

Neha and Bobby Deol. Click for bigger pic!
But was it worth all the hype? Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra's love story fails when it comes to originality. The film follows the much-worn routine of boy meets girl, love at first sight, walks in the rain, languishing family, mother in hospital in need of life-saving operation, hero indulging manual labour to win the heart of his lost love. It was 48 months in the making, and I honestly believe the film would have gained if some of those months had been devoted to sprucing up the script.

Yet, the bright moments are there, beginning with Bobby's manic imitation of Kishore Kumar. Moushmi Chatterjee, as Neha's mother, is a pleasant change from Rakhee. While Saurabh Shukla, as Bobby's father, slips into his role with ease. Johnny Lever, as the laundry owner with the British fixation, evokes an occasional smile.

Though cinematographer Binod Pradhan maintains his usual excellent standards, his style seems repetitive -- what with every film today using the soft focus ad nauseum. Only the diyas floating in the lake, the yellow dupatta flying in the air and Anu Malik's outstanding music remain the highlights of the film.

The famed diya scene. Click for bigger pic!
Kareeb is a showcase for Neha and Bobby Deol, though one wishes the latter would chop off his locks. And Neha would have still walked away with her sugary-sweet image, even if she had not been made to giggle so much. In fact, Chopra has modelled Neha on Madhubala and, though the girl isn't a patch on her, Neha does come out with her own personality. She looks good, does emotional scenes well, looks coy when wooed and only needs to polish her laugh.

On the whole, the film works. It's much better held together than 1942, since there are no multi-dimensions in this story. But the scenes with Johnny Lever and the extended climax could have done with a bit of chopping at the editing table.

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