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Subhash K Jha
Dark, Aks certainly is. But so was Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth and Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. How come the same critics in India who ripped Aks were thrilled with the "brooding intensity" and "dark desperation" of those two celebrated Hollywood films?
Cut to Yaadein two weeks later. The film was slammed by every critic in Bombay . And it wasn’t just Bombay this time. Unlike Aks which got some very favourable reviews outside Bombay, specially in Calcutta, Yaadein was censured and ridiculed for excessive selfindulgence by almost every critic in the country.
A few days after its release I spoke to a director-friend who’s one of the most perceptive and fair-minded people I’ve encountered in showbiz. Like everyone else he had only the failure of Yaadein on his mind.
"It’s almost as though the press in Bombay is celebrating the downfall of Subhash Ghai. And it isn’t just the media. Even the audience is booing the film and walking out. This has never happened before. I think Subhash Ghai got self-indulgent. He lost his sense of judgement while making Yaadein."
Agreed Yaadein could have been a much better film. A certain lopsideness crept into the narrative. This due primarily to what I’d call the 'Hrithik’ factor. Ghai had signed today’s hottest and most saleable star long before he became what he’s today.
According to what I’ve heard, Hrithik had a far less substantial role in Yaadein than what it finally shaped into. After the successs of Kaho Naa….Pyaar Hai, audiences and Hrithik wanted to see more of him. Fiza and Mission Kashmir proved to be anything but footage wise.
Today, Hrithik laughs and tells me, "Nobody would dream of coming to me now with a female-oriented subject. If Fiza was offered to me now it would probably be called Amaan (the character Hrithik played in Fiza)"
To begin with, Yaadein was a father-daughter story. When Hrithik realized how little he had to do in the film he offered to withdraw from the film. Ghai panicked. He immediately began to re-work the script to accommodate Hrithik’s stardom. Scenes such as the one where Hrithik does a takeoff on Jim Carrey were written in. Hrithik’s character became more pivotal to the drama.
But did the film really lose out on its dramatic core? I don’t think so. The basic story of a father trying to remain a friend to his children cuts touchingly through the narration. But yes, Yaadein does disappoint. We could write a whole thesis on who killed Yaadein.
After the weekend whiplash Subhash Ghai had called from London on Monday to tell me he wasn’t really bothered about what critics back home had to say about Yaadein since it was in the Top 10 in the UK alongside Dr Doolittle 2 , Swordfish and Jurassic Park 3 .
I couldn’t help smiling. There was a time when directors in Bombay would claim their floundering film was doing well in Kolhapur or Bhagalpur. Today we have NRI (non rabri ingredient) concoctions that actually crack the international charts while the Indian boxoffice remains comparatively cold.
Please don’t eat the desis, eh? Suneel Darshan’s Ek Rishta: The Bond Of Love was another film which was coldshouldered in Bombay and bold-shouldered overseas. A lot of Subhash Ghai’s critics feel his last three films Pardes, Taal and Yaadein were targeted at NRI audiences. Now they’re saying the same about Rajiv Rai’s Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat.
Does the audience in New Jersey and Bhiwandi really react differently to celluloid stimuli? And how far do critical evaluations influence the audiences’ judgement? Can we imagine a typical family in Bombay changing their mind about seeing Yaadein after reading the Sunday whiplash ?
Are Yaadein or Aks really deserving of the fierce backlash that they got?
I think the films have ‘gloat’ what it takes. With the audiences’ and critics’ expectations the films have paid a price for their pre-release hype. The reasons why Aks was so soundly knocked on its knuckles are too complex to be gone into. The yucks against Yaadein are easier to account for.
Subhash Ghai is not one of the favourite creatures of Bombay’s press corps. He isn’t liked by too many journalists. When a man of his stature stumbles, no one is there to buffer his fall. Think about it.
Is Yaadein an inferior film to Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein or Satish Kaushik’s Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai?
Both, especially the latter, were treated by the press in Bombay with fragile cynicism rather than unabashed derision.
If you’ve seen the Telugu original of Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai featuring Pavan Kalyan and Hindi cinema’s brand new female fiasco Kirti Reddy, you’d know how short of dramatic breadth the Hindi version falls. Every frame in Satish Kaushik’s film was mechanically motivated to generate superficial heat.
No one spoke about the perceptible deficiencies in the narration, the frightful moral anarchy at the heart of the film where a youngster is so obsessively infatuated with a girl he stops caring for the rhythms of life.
Thank God Gadar , Lagaan, Aks and Yaadein have brought morality back into fashion.
Perhaps success finds its own definition. We choose not to get the point when we don’t want to.
That doesn’t necessarily diminish the intrinsic merits of a work which doesn’t work.
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