Savera R Someshwar
Was it the Diwali spirit? The fact that the exams had just ended? Or was it just that Aditya Chopra had managed a successful follow-through to his debut film, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge?
Whatever the reason, the young Chopra seems to have a winner on his hands. Once again.
Which should make everyone happy -- especially the Chopras, the Johars, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and, of course, the blackmarketeers who are ensuring that the new year, for them, begins very prosperously indeed!
The film does not veer from the tried-and-tested Chopra formula -- dollops of romance showcased in delightful locations, attractive costumes, colourful sets and, of course, the mandatory elder as the roadblock in the path of true love.
But then, in Chopra films, true love always triumphs.
Which is what Mohabbatein is all about. Only, instead of one love story, Aditya goes in for four -- three of them are young, innocent couples (Uday Chopra, Shamita Shetty, Jugal Hansraj, Kim Sharma, Jimmy Shergill and Preeti Jhangiani).
The three boys have just glimpsed their respective lady loves when they run into their first roadblock. In the form of Narayan Shankar (Amitabh Bachchan), the principal of Gurukul (where the boys study). A man who disavows Love just as much as he firmly believes in discipline and rules and regulations.
Just as the boys -- terrified of their stern principal -- get ready to nip their budding romances, into their rescue, on his white steed, charges Raj Aryan (Shah Rukh Khan). Oops, got a little carried away there *smile* -- actually, he strolls in playing a violin.
Though Raj joins Gurukul as music teacher, the lessons he plans to teach are somewhat different.
And he has only one student in mind -- the inflexible Narayan Shankar.
And just one chapter: The Power And Infallibility Of Love.
Shankar is unaware of the fact that Raj, at one time, used to be his student. Until he fell in love with Shankar's daughter Megha (a gorgeous-looking Aishwarya Rai) and, for his so-called temerity, is expelled from the institution.
Now, he's back. With the belief that, if he melts Shankar's resistance to change, if he helps the six lovers to succeed, his love too will be vindicated.
That, then, is the story.
But, obviously, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan!! They are the two pillars on which this film is built and each time they come face-to-face, there is this expectant hush.
Amitabh, as the strong, stern, patriarchal figure, is obviously in his element. Each time he stops to stare at the irrepressible Shah Rukh, you actually feel glad it is not you before those piercing gray eyes.
And there are those little nuances that constantly remind you what a great actor he is, as he puts to play every tool in his possession to bring alive his character.
His exasperation with Raj always comes across through his body language first. His rigid posture and gimlet-like eyes reflect -- even before he says a word -- his anger when his students flout his rules. His confusion when Raj does something unexpected. Like anointing him with a tilak on Holi.
Shah Rukh is the perfect foil to Shankar as he brings to life his gentler character. More important, in each face-off, he is able to hold his own with the magnificent Bachchan. He resists the urge to ham and successfully manages to maintain Raj Aryan's comparatively subdued character.
But if you want to know who is more popular with the audience, just listen to the seetis and thunderous applause as Shankar and Raj make their first appearances in the film. Amitabh Bachchan wins hands down!
The locales are great, the clothes fabulous, the music non-intrusive.
And there is the lovely Helen in a special dance number that will have you standing on your seats, whooping for more.
The story. Lots of loose ends.
You constanty get the feeling the most important ingredient -- passion (remember the reaction DDLJ or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai evoked? That was because the film-maker's passion was reflected in the film) -- is sadly missing. In fact, the only passion in the film comes from the clash of its two big heroes -- Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
None of the characters -- except for Narayan Shankar and Raj Aryan -- are particularly well-etched. And the credit for that could go as much to the two talented actors as the director.
I can think of at least three characters -- Shefali Chhaya, Anupam Kher and Archana Puransingh -- who are completely superfluous in the film. In fact, deleting their characters could easily reduce the length of this three-hour, thirty-five minute extravaganza without detracting from it in any way.
The six youngsters. They're fresh, enthusiastic and seem to have worked hard at their roles. And they have their moments (particularly Jugal Hansraj and Kim Sharma).
Unfortunately, they are also rather raw. Uday Chopra, in particular, who is carefully promoted in the film -- at times at the expense of the other two -- fails miserably in his most important scene: a one-to-one with Amitabh Bachchan. And Jimmy Shergill seems to suffer from a severe Shah Rukh complex.
The girls, of course, don't have much of a role -- they are required to smile, dance and, in general, be pretty.
None of the six -- except Shamita Shetty, to an extent -- give the impression that they can carry a film on their shoulders.
Amrish Puri is completely wasted in a five-minute role that could have been handled by just about anyone. One could be forgiven for thinking that he was signed on only because of an emotional link to DDLJ.
'To kya hua ki aaj woh mere saath nahin…" You'll be forgiven if you think you've heard that line before. In fact, this entire scene where Shah Rukh recalls his lost love is eerily reminiscent of the DDLJ climax.
Then, there is the scene where both Amitabh and Shah Rukh greet the morning sun. Dressed in white. The scene, the mood takes you back to a certain morning, a certain field, certain actors -- Shah Rukh Khan and Amrish Puri -- and a certain film called DDLJ.
Uday Chopra who goes, "Eesh, I love her," after yet another takkar with Shamita Shetty. Salman Khan in Hum Aapke Hai Koun!, anyone?
Or even his declaration to her, "Main tumhe deewanon ki tarah pyaar karta hoon…" Remember DDLJ?
What about Dosti ka ek usool hota hai... (Salman Khan? Bhagyashree? Maine Pyaar Kiya?)
Even the background music is a tribute to DDLJ, Dil To Pagal Ha and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
It's a mish-mash alright. But it is also a successful, feelgood film. You'll enjoy yourself as you watch it. Never mind that you'll most probably forget it soon after you leave the darkened environs.
And, hey, don't forget to take the hankies along.
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