LUV IN KASHMIR
A wan young-love story that segues into maternal melodrama. Plus, a wan multi-character drama that settles into boredom.
APRIL 4, 2010 – AFTER WHAT APPEARS TO BE AN ETERNITY, Hindi cinema whips up a Hero Introduction Shot. Ishaan (Luv Sinha) speeds towards us on his steed, and we glimpse, first, the eyes, then a beguiling flash of smile, after which we pull back for a mid-shot, and finally, in all slo-mo glory, the full frame is unveiled for our delectation. If this is an old-fashioned contrivance, it fits snugly into Raj Kanwar’s Sadiyaan, the Eastmancolour lovechild of Kashmir Ki Kali and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki – part Dal Lake-romance, part tug-of-war between passive-aggressive mothers over a much-beloved son. In a defiant up-yours gesture to the modern-day multiplex moviegoer, Kanwar embroiders his yarn with a raft of motifs from a bygone cinematic era – from the hero who pretends to be a tourist guide to the heroine who pretends to be blind (and is eternally surrounded by a gaggle of giggly girlfriends), from the hero’s first sighting of the heroine while the latter is in a flower-laden shikara (prompting him to sigh, “Jo phoolon ke beech mein khili hui hai,” accompanied by the inevitable strains of the santoor) to the “warming up” of the hypothermic heroine by the gallant hero in a suspiciously convenient wooden shack in the midst of nowhere.
A young Shashi or Shammi Kapoor (or even the not-so-young Aamir Khan; the first half of Fanaa, after all, was a charming throwback to this sort of no-brainer entertainer) would have fashioned this material into an enchantment, aided by tunes as capable of twisting the heart as the plight of the young lovers. Here, however, we’re asked to make do with the gauche Luv Sinha, who, with his slight frame and barely-there adolescent presence, doesn’t look a day older than thirteen. You worry about him clearing his Boards, not whether he’ll marry Chandni (Ferena Wazeir) and make lots of babies. And then there’s his delivery of lines such as this florid ode to Kashmir: “Yeh jannat ka woh tukda hai jo farishton ke haath se gir gaya.” This isn’t something that sits easily on the tongue of today’s hip Indian youth, which sets up the question if an actor’s offspring is necessarily cut out to be an actor. (Luv, who was apparently named in optimistic anticipation of a career in romantic roles, is Shatrughan Sinha’s son.) If a doctor’s son can pore through Gray’s Anatomy and if an architect’s daughter can pick up a T-square, in order to perpetuate the family business, it’s reasonable to expect that an actor’s child too will follow suit, spending hours in front of the mirror in anticipation of a career in front of the arc lights.
But you can school yourself in mathematics or medicine, whereas with art, you either have it in you or you don’t. Schooling can only hone an existing talent, it cannot seed you with skill. Shatrughan Sinha – along with Raaj Kumar, MR Radha, the pre-Superstar-era Rajinikanth – is among a handful of our actors who possessed a grandly eccentric screen presence. These performers may not have adhered to the dictionary definition of “good acting,” but they put themselves out there in ways that other actors who disappeared into their roles never could. They played marvellously to the gallery, which is a sadly undervalued skill, requiring as much timing and technique as regular “acting.” Through their dynamic mannerisms, gimmicks and, most of all, patented modes of dialogue delivery, they evolved highly individual styles and engendered hugely devoted sets of fans. And the films they starred in were correspondingly larger-than-life, allowing enough space for these outsize personalities to stride through. How can all this be acquired through the mere accident of birth?
Luckily for Luv (and the audience), once the uninspired romantic portions come to a close, Ishaan transforms from active wooer to passive puppet of fate. He’s no longer the epicentre of the film, which now begins to quake from the aftershocks of a maternal melodrama, bringing to fore the infinitely more watchable trio of Rekha, Rishi Kapoor and Hema Malini. This is the kind of setup where Ishaan hunts for his old wristwatch and is, instead, gifted a brand-new one, because changing times demand changed timepieces. (“Jab waqt badalta hai to ghadi bhi badal dena.”) The older actors effortlessly lob these lines across like the pros they are. Rekha looks least like the grieving mother she’s meant to be portraying – with her carefully combed-over eyebrows, her intricately curled tendrils of hair, her fake eyelashes that could be detached and used to rake laves, and her painstakingly silver-tipped fingernails that look like bullets capable of dispatching werewolves. But when she speaks, you hear emotions, you hear backstories, you hear the history of a life lived on screen. When Luv Sinha and Ferena Wazeir part their lips, you hear mere words.
VETERAN ACTORS, ONCE AGAIN, come to the rescue of this week’s other release, Kabir Sadanand’s Tum Milo Toh Sahi. Nana Patekar (as a retired law-firm clerk) and Dimple Kapadia (playing a café owner) may, on occasion, hit their notes a little too insistently – especially while embodying the more ethnic aspects of their characters; he’s Tamilian, she’s Parsi – but they also display moments of quietly lived-in grace. That’s more than what you can say about the film they’re trapped in, a crisscross of lives converging on a depressingly drawn-out courtroom proceeding. (A big bad corporation is out to steal the café. The regulars rally against these evil encroachers.) Middle-aged love is represented by a squabbling married couple (Suniel Shetty, Vidya Malavade), young love sneaks up on a couple of college kids (Rehan Khan, Anjana Sukhani) – but the only time the screen lights up is in the presence of the seniors. You wish Sadanand had remade The Shop Around the Corner or 84 Charing Cross Road, with this two in their twilight. The others don’t matter.
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