Frankly, it's no fun to know much about a movie before you enter the cinema hall. Prejudices form, predictability seeps in, things like that, you know?
Unfortunately, nine times out of 10, I always know what the story is, what the highlight is, who is going to die, who will survive, whether an item number will appear before or after intermission, the surprise ending, the formidable twist, the family secret...
But, in the case of Shona Urvashi's directorial debut Chupke Se , I was surprisingly ignorant. All I knew was that the promotional poster read: 'From the makers of Khatta Meetha, Chasme Buddoor and Jalwa'. I was impressed; all these were fine movies.
But teasers are meant to be deceiving. Chupke Se is no exception.
Oscillating between a Mills & Boon romance and the Hollywood movie Drop Dead Gorgeous (Kirstie Alley, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards), Chupke Se mostly revolves around Megha Timgire (Masumi Makhija), a regular middle-class girl with not-so-regular middle class dreams. Like Rangeela's Mili (Urmila Matondkar), Megha too dreams of becoming rich and famous. That's where the similarity ends.
Our girl Megha fibs a lot, sneaks out of her first floor flat to visit discotheques with her best friend, Sheetal (a spunky Peeya Rai Choudhuri) and never gets caught.
During one such night out, Megha bumps into business tycoon Varun (Zulfikar Syed) who thinks she is someone else called Sarika. Megha encourages his confusion after former pageant winner and pageant organiser Almirah Kochar (Rati Agnihotri) enrols her for the 2003 Miss Indian beauty contest.
Had Megha/Sarika transformed from a gawky wannabe to a poised beauty princess, Chupke Se would win my vote. But straightening curled hair and wearing skimpy outfits doesn't qualify as a 'drastic' makeover in my book.
The truth is Megha was never inelegant to begin with. So when the script tries to con the audience into believing the contrary, the on-screen result looks forced and unconvincing.
This is one of the main reasons Chupke Se doesn't work. To give newcomer Masumi due credit, she is talented and exudes confidence. Zulfikar plays the virtuous hunk-cum-business tycoon-cum-loner-cum-charmer with zeal but lacks big screen charisma.
On the other hand, the budding romance between Varun and Megha is engaging.
But the ride is shortlived; soon enough, a series of silly characters arrive on the scene. Almirah turns paranoid and her lecherous husband, Tiny (Tinnu Anand), seeks the help of publicity-hungry don, Qasim Khan Qayamat (Om Puri) to bump off Megha's father, the abusive-albeit-honest income tax officer, Timgire (Dilip Prabhavalkar).
Can you blame me for making a face when the otherwise brilliant Puri mouths dumb poetry like Jo dar gaya, samjho mar gaya. Jo nahi dara, woh toh kal hi mar gaya (Trust me, you don't want a translation).
Actually, Chupke Se is loosely inspired from Drop Dead Gorgeous, a no-so-great dark spoof on beauty pageants. But this one mostly refers to it to sketch Agnihotri's nutty character (played by a hyper Kirstie Alley in the original).
If you think I already knew this, you are wrong. It came to me while watching this tame fare. Cross my heart!
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Cast: Zulfikar Syed, Masumi Makhija, Rati Agnihtori, Om Puri, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Peeya Rai Choudhuri, Reema Lagoo
Direction: Shona Urvashi
Producer: Jayshree Makhija, Nirmal Anand
Music: Vishal Bharadwaj