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November 21, 1998


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Double Bore

Abbas-Mustan ruin a fine reputation with Soldier

Bobby Deol and Preity Zinta in Soldier
Click for bigger pic!
Faisal Shariff

Yes, Abbas-Mustan have done it at last!. They have proved that even talent has its limitations. They have directed, in all probability, the most painstakingly made and painfully viewed movie of the year. They have proved that if they can enthrall the audiences with a Baazigar, they can frustrate and torture equally well with Soldier.

They say well begun is half done...And Abbas-Mustan's latest offering is off to a bad start. For one, the title is not apt, but that dawns on you only after the film's very end.

The story drags like this, err, I mean, goes like this.

An army general, or was it colonel, finds his comrades smuggling Indian Army ammunition. A fight on the picturesque sand dunes of Rajasthan ensues and yes, since it is the beginning of the movie the good man gets killed by the evil trio of Dalip Tahil, Sharad Saxena aka Raunak Singh of Ghulam and the husky-voiced Suresh Oberoi, so that the son can seek revenge in the 21st reel. There is also Salim Ghouse, trusted driver of the patriot army officer (Pankaj Dheer).

Two decades later, we see Bobby Deol make an impressive entry as Ashish Vidyarthi's contract killer, who in turn was a trusted friend of Pankaj Dheer. The den in which Bobby makes his entry, is reminiscent of Sly Stallone's in The Specialist. Btw, for some unknown reason Deol and Vidyarthi communicate throughout the movie by fax.

As the movie moves on the plot gets more and more confusing. You lose track of the characters as well as who's doing what. So what one ends up doing is appreciating the breath-taking locales. Bobby suddenly finds himself Down Under and hops around in search of Preity Zinta, daughter of Suresh Oberoi who has become an international arms dealer based in Australia.

Bobby Deol and Preity Zinta in Soldier
Click for bigger pic!
There is some comic relief in the form of Johny Lever, though of late he has become predictable and monotonous.

Of the cast Preity is vivacious and is very pretty on screen. But more important than looks is the role, and accepting roles like the one in Soldier is not going to do her career much good. Here is an actress who has everything going for her. She could make a mark for herself but only if she chooses her roles carefully, otherwise she could end up as just another pretty face.

As for Bobby, we finally have someone from the Dharam clan who can shake a leg and pretty well at that. He has great screen presence, and appears more confident now than in his earlier movies. Though he isn't comfortable in comic scenes, he has done a great job as the new angry young man of Indian cinema.

There is a scene where the lovey-dovey couple gets drunk, reminding one of the famous scene from Sholay that paps Dharam had done. Bobby comes off poorly in comparison, and Zinta is no better.

The problem with Bobby's character is that it is not well-defined. One moment he is the angry young man and in the other he is playing the romantic hero, running around trees. One could say that all the heroes do just this, but that's no help. His character lacks intensity, and that is a vital flaw in an avenger.

To add to the general misery, there is this pack of atrocious villains who ham right through the film. Tahil and Saxena in particular grate the nerves with their Bihari accent.

The script is wafer-thin, and music is scored with the tone-deaf in mind. Anu Malik's output is not only devoid of melody but will also rank as his worst composition this year. Actually Anu is enigmatic, one moment he comes up with lilting compositions and immediately serves up a boorish soundtrack.

Except for Soldier Soldier, all the other tracks are not worth a mention. The story drags and whenever the directors runs short of ideas they immediately throw in a number with Preity in skimpy outfits. Out of the blue we also have Farida Jalal arriving in Australia, as Bobby's mother, leading to the discovery that he is actually Dalip Tahil's long-lost son. By now blood ties criss-cross the movie, and are enough to leave the audience in a daze.

Bobby goes about clinically exterminating the baddies, though there is no innovation in his method. But obviously, the directors were so busy focusing on locales and music that they did not have the time for novelty.

Bobby Deol and Preity Zinta in Soldier
Click for bigger pic!
Raakhee as the mother is becoming dangerously typecast. She even gets etched with Mera pati deshdrohi hai on her forehead. Are you thinking what I am thinking... how far has Indian cinema come since Deewar? Well, a very long way, in fact the messages have at least moved from the forearm to the forehead.

Soldier, in essence, has undone all the credibility Abbas-Mustan had earned after Khiladi and Baazigar. It lacks the basics of a good film, suffers from stale comedy, has lacklustre performances from respectable character artistes like Farida Jalal, Suresh Oberoi and Raakhee, music sans melody and a very noisy climax.

There are three relieving moments in the movie: the title, interval and the end. What goes on in between is to be given the go-by.

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