You know how it is when you see a good film. You are riveted to the screen, popcorn and samosa forgotten. You are there, in the film, with everything happening on screen.
The intermission actually comes as a relief. You return to reality, remember to breathe again, chuck the samosa and stock up on the cold drinks. The lights dim and you are back, engrossed; your face a reflection of the emotions unfolding before your eyes.
This Friday, you decide to watch Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Lara Dutta. The television promos are interesting, the songs have caught your fancy and Lara Dutta looks good!
Besides, the film has a very Lagaan-ish look.
This is the director's first film, but Apoorva Lakhia seemed like someone who knew his job. After all, he assisted Mira Nair while she was making Kamasutra. He also assisted Ang Lee on The Ice Storm and Andrew Davis on The Perfect Murder. And he assisted Ashutosh Gowariker on Lagaan.
When the film opens with Amitabh Bachchan's baritone informing you this is the story of an Indian village that has just received electricity for the first time in its existence, the premise seems interesting.
As is the first shot: a group of villagers, some battling the darkness with lanterns, staring up at the camera expectantly. Suddenly, a bulb lights up. There is much jubilation and excitement.
Their village finally has electricity.
And then, Amitabh informs us, a gift arrives that will affect the lives of every one of the villagers.
Cut to Abhishek (Kanji), sitting on the roof of an overcrowded bus, swathed in a blanket, kohl-lined eyes peering intensely at the camera, much like his debut film Refugee. He is on his way to his village after staying in the city for 10 years.
The gift he bears is a television set and a dish antenna. He connects it up and, voila, there's a lion roaring regally on the screen as the villagers scramble for safety.
As the villagers continue to be obsessed by the seemingly magical television set, Kanji roams the village in the company of his childhool pal Surya (Aditya Lakhia), falls in love with Kesar aka KC (Lara) and has one meeting with the village's Thakur (Yashpal Sharma) that firmly draws the line between hero and villain.
Eventually, the battle is fought, recorded by a television camera crew that providentially arrives at the spot.
The hero wins, but there is no catharsis.
You are wondering: How did so many things go wrong?
Let us start with the weak and disjointed script that destroyed what seems to be a potentially funny premise.
Or should one talk about the comedy that falls flat as the villagers attempt to ape what they see on television in their real lives?
Or about characters that have been etched so thin that you wonder how they actually exist?
Or, maybe, we should talk about miscasting. Aditya, who was so endearing as Kachra in Lagaan, is a huge disappointment. His screentime is only slightly lesser than Abhishek's, but he wastes it completely with poor acting.
Actors like Yashpal Sharma, Dayashankar Pandey and Akhilendra Mishra, who were so unforgettable as Lakha, Goli and Arjan in Lagaan, are weak caricatures here.
Comparisons can be annoying and, in some cases, unfair. In this case, they can't be helped.
The film's huge Lagaan hangover works to its detriment. You constantly remember how good that film was as against how shallow this one is. Even the pre-battle song, Jeetenge baazi hum, is not a patch on Lagaan's Baar baar haan.
If Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost has a plus point, it lies in most of its foot-tapping song and dance numbers.
And in Lara Dutta, who does exactly what a Bollywood heroine is supposed to do: be a fetching distraction.
As for Abhishek Bachchan, Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost is not going to provide him with the hit he so desperately needs. You keep seeing his father in the way he acts, and you keep realising the son has a long way to go.
When some rediff.com readers were critical of Apoorva's interview that appeared on the site, this is what the young, much-tattooed director had to say.
Subject: I blame Abhishek: Apoorva
Please try to see the pain one took to make the film. It is definitely going to get nominated for the Oscars you see. However if not an Oscar, a National Award will definitely do good for the whole crew. From the early review it looks excellent
Posted by Apoorva Lakhia on 13-MAY-03
Unfortunately, the movie does not live up to that promise.
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Lara Dutta, Aditya Lakhia, Yashpal Sharma, Snehal Lakhia (grandfather), Dayashankar Pandey, Akhilendra Mishra, Shubro Bhattacharya (Abdul), with a special appearance by Raageshwari, Chunky Pandey and Rajendra Gupta
Director: Apoorva Lakhia
Producer: Vishal Nihalani
Music: Anu Malik
Cinematography: Gururaj R J