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Naqaab is a watchable thriller
Raja Sen | July 13, 2007 19:57 IST
The best thing about Naqaab is that it's just two hours long.
The incredible thing, though, is that it still manages to overstay its welcome -- with a climax lathered on and on, the final twists merely being the facts that the film isn't over yet. Or yet. Or yet. Sigh.
For all that, Abbas-Mustan (credited in the film's titles as Director Duo) have done their fair share of contrived countertwisting. The proceedings are breezy and while nobody really cries bloody murder -- this isn't really a thriller -- the film is never tedious and the actress is pretty.
So yeah, it's watchable.
Not that it's original, of course. A friend nudged me in the direction of Matthew Parkhill's 2003 film, Dot The I, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. The plot synopsis reads quite the same, so while our Director Duo seem to have faithfully filched a decent thriller, the problem lies in the reworking. Not in the adaptation itself, but in the tone, the film's pitch.
This is a cheeky concept, and would have worked very nicely to raise the audience's eyebrows mildly, while amusing them with its cleverness. Where Abbas-Mustan miscalculate awfully is with their decisions to keep the film Bollywoody, playing the big twists for intensity rather than wit, and falling into the very same clich�s the film's main character rallies against.
Naqaab begins with fisheye lenses prowling zippily across the shelves of our villain, unsurprisingly revealing that someone whose shelves contain DVDs of Kabhie Alvida Naa Kehna and Fanaa [Images] is most likely to also have a gun lying around. Anyway, just as we're getting used to the refreshing editing cuts, the scene shifts spasmodically to our heroine, and turns into a music video.
Urvashi Sharma plays Sophia, a girl who works at Burger King by day and comes home to sleep in a posh pad where her bedroom folds out of her shower. How so? Well, she's hooked herself a multimillionaire boyfriend, Karan (Bobby Deol [Images], sensitive to the annoying hilt). So while Karan raves over Satyajit Ray, wears his pink shirts and makes his ladylove breakfast, Sophia agrees blissfully to marry him.
Meanwhile, the brash, awfully dressed Vicky (Akshaye Khanna [Images]) ends up dancing with her after being prompted by an usher who harps about Egyptian traditions before breaking into a conveniently Hindi song. But all's possible in this version of Dubai, where the just-engaged girl shares a tremendously intimate song with the upstart, coming close enough to an actual kiss, before a glass is dropped (no subtlety, it's nearly hurled to the floor) and the spell breaks.
And all this while we hear the telltale whirr of watching cameras. Everything our characters are going through is being filmed, with Akshaye and Bobby and Urvashi constantly being watched. Occasionally, we glimpse a hand with a serpentine tattoo. But that's that, as the tale goes on.
The conceit is 'interesting,' so there should be no giveaways here. It could have been made a lot better, though, but most of the setup scenes have their payoffs (even if grossly elongated) and there isn't much filler -- though the final twist is hammered on and on, with ridiculous condescension towards the audience. Oh, and there's a bizarre nightmare-scar subplot that has no business being in the film.
It's a neatly shot film, Abbas-Mustan finally stepping into the modern day with a slick, urban look and feel. The narrative is fine, and the actors aren't too bad -- considering they haven't been asked to do much in the first place. Bobby gets a considerably meaty role, and there are a couple of moments when he genuinely works the audience. Akshaye hams it up a little, and playing a character he's too old for, doesn't seem to believe in the film. Urvashi's alright, bouncy at first and adequately alarmed when she needs to be.
In all, it's not a film to be recommended, but you probably won't mind sitting through it.
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