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A thriller without attitude

February 07, 2003 19:09 IST

Baaz -- A Bird In Danger has three men chasing a woman. All of them love her to varying degrees. One of them will hunt her down in his madness.

The Characters:Karisma Kapoor in BaazJai Singh Dabhral (Jackie Shroff) is the suave and eccentric mayor of Nainital. Rich, arrogant and with a hint of madness, he's the perfect character to be classified as the resident creep.

Harshvardhan (Suniel Shetty) is the local police officer with a penchant for stalking the victims he is meant to protect. Along with a few bumbling sidekicks and a glossy lipstick clad officer Preeti Rastogi (Preeti Jhangiani), he needs to hunt down a killer on the loose.

Raj Singh (Dino Morea) is a vagabond and a shutterbug. When he is not clicking beautiful women or judging beauty pageants, he is hounded by the police on the suspicion of being Jack the Ripper.

Neha Chopra (Karisma Kapoor) is the thread that ties all of them together. She is a pretty interior designer who has walked into Naintal on her first assignment -- redecorating the mayor's bungalow. Fresh and naïve, she is the ideal prey for a serial killer.

Neha falls in love with Raj and unwittingly sets herself up as the bait. Raj seems the most likely suspect but is he the hunter?

The Film:

Baaz -- A Bird In Danger is a thriller in which all three men have their shades of grey. But one among them has crossed over to the dark side. And his prey is anything beautiful -- a butterfly, a bird, a pretty woman or Neha Chopra.

Thrillers are the flavour of the season in Bollywood. The success of Raaz last year has had other filmmakers salivating. 2003 has seen the release of two thrillers -- the Tusshar Kapoor, Esha Deol starrer Kucch To Hai and now Baaz.

Baaz does start off on an interesting, if slightly incredulous, note. Except for the female protagonists, it keeps the audience guessing about the shade of the character. But once the audience gets a whiff of the suspect, that is when the film stops being interesting. The bad news here is there is still over 30 minutes to go before it can come to an end.

Shyam Goel's story and screenplay sticks to the plot, doesn't spend too much time on the love story (except for two love songs without which no Hindi film can deem itself to be complete) and gives equal weightage to all the actors.

After delivering highly melodramatic, over the top performances in her last two films, Shakti and Rishtey, Karisma restrains herself in Baaz. She acts naive without seeming sub-intelligent, frightened without turning comical and excitable without getting theatrical.

Except for Suniel Shetty who comes across as terribly miscast towards the end, the supporting characters suffer from sketchy characterisation but manage to swim with the film.

What Baaz has going for it is a fairly engrossing plot that makes the audience play guess-who-is-the-killer game and a restrained performance by its actors.

The Flaws:

Baaz -- A Bird In Danger is a thriller without attitude. It follows the textbook when it comes to the pDino Morealot, throwing in enough red herrings and grey characters.

But there is little attention paid to music/background score, sets or lighting that can accentuate the tension. One of the biggest weakness of Baaz lies in its score. Surprising, considering that Ismail Darbar whose resume features Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas has composed the music for the film. Baaz has many tuneless melodies, some of which are totally out of sync with the film's theme and flavour.

The background score, a critical element in a thriller, which can be skilfully used to build up the plot and create dramatic moments for the movie is a sore let down in Baaz. In most places, it is loud and in others screechy. The result is the score at times instead of gently ushering in tension, startles the viewer so much that the ensuing scene loses its impact.

Songs and dance are the staple of Hindi films. But they are starkly out of place here. Even as the killer is being hunted down, the scene shifts to Karisma Kapoor dancing in the villain's lair, which completely breaks the narrative.

The sets and the lighting are pedestrian and scarcely add to a feeling of dread. The villain's lair is a strange apparition with cottonwool, neon-lit underground water bodies and women in frozen pods. If it weren't so bizarre it would actually have been scary.

The biggest letdown is Suniel Shetty. His is the pivotal role. And the inability to match up to it casts a shadow on the climax of the film. He lacks the depth and complexity in his emoting to carry off the part of the character with a tortured past.

Director Tinnu Verma's tendency to go overboard with the action scenes also turns the finale into a run of the mill chase and hunt sequence. It is sad Verma, who managed to keep his action director instincts in check for most of the film, lets in break out in the last 30-minutes to create such havoc.Suniel Shetty

The Verdict

An interesting deviation from the boy meets girl love stories or the dishoom-dishoom action flicks. However, its down market look, lack of attitude, bad music, poor climax and holes in the plot are big turnoffs.

Priya Ganapati