Conspiracy theory meets you've got blackmail
As Bobby, Amisha and Akshaye thrill in Humraaz
Bollywood's Men In White directors Abbas and Mustan return to the silver screen after their September 2001 Ajnabee (Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Kareena Kapoor, Bipasha Basu).
Thriller buffs, the brothers are well known for their daring subjects.
And with Humraaz, they pile the thrills and chills high. Minus the gaudy, filmi frills, Humraaz retains its edge-of-the-seat quality for most part. Therefore, it qualifies to be one of the more interesting films the industry has seen in the past few months.
Karan and Priya (Akshaye Khanna and Amisha Patel) are the romantically-involved lead pair of a music and dance troupe. They hope to bag the prestigious assignment of performing on a luxury cruise liner owned by shipping tycoon Raj Singhania (Bobby Deol). Though the auditions are rigged and the troupe is not selected, Karan eliminates that 'problem.' And the open seas and high tides now beckon.
Aboard the luxury liner, en route from Singapore to Malaysia, the entertainers are appreciated for their performances --- while Raj, who meets Priya happenstance, is drawn to her charming naiveness and innocent beauty. A candlelit dinner, a few dances and waltz round Kuala Lumpur and he is hook, line and sinker.
On the high seas again, Priya reels Raj in as she welcomes his every advance while Karan plays jilted lover to the hilt. The filmmakers, however, leave you with the feeling that something is amiss.What was that about still waters running deep?
Anyway, when Raj produces the engagement ring on Priya's birthday, she graciously accepts.
Then, she runs to Karan all hugs-and-kisses, telling him their get-rich-quick ploy using every trick in the 'Marry millionaire, divorce him and claim the living daylights as alimony' reckoner is working swell.
Sweet mother of God! You realise the devils-in-disguise are in cahoots as the film breaks for intermission.
The second half sees the action shuttle between Jaipur and Mumbai. The wedding goes off as planned but Priya now is unsure if she wants to continue the game. Adding to excitement is a troupe member Hari, who knows of the 'skeletons' in Karan's closet.
A 'conspiracy theory' meets 'you've got blackmail' and the narrative sees deception reach dizzying new heights as the plot maneuvers round many a bend, much to the audience's delight. The showdown at Jaipur's Jaigad fort is a sore point though with the unnecessary [but ubiquitous, by Hindi film standards] free for all.
Humraaz proves me wrong. Intelligent lifeform does inhabit Planet Bollywood. Kudos to the directors and writers (both script and dialogue) for commanding a tight ship. From the luxury cruise and the Malaysian locales to lend the film novelty in terms of texture to the wedding bhangra dance sequence and the Johnny Lever comic sidetrack to cater to the masses, the incorporation of most of the film's elements has been meticulous. Yet, surprisingly, not altogether tacky.
The background score is pleasant. And though the decor may be overstated, it is not loud. Most importantly, the majority of the songs do not seemed forced. Again, a credit due to the story writers. If your lead characters are dancers, you do not need to justify the need to break into a jig and song.
Performance-wise, Bobby, Akshaye and Amisha have substantial amount of reel. Which also explains why they are well-characterised. Bobby --- as the magnate who falls for Amisha's charms and transforms when he discovers his double-crossing wife --- portrays a range of emotions. And he exudes onscreen comfort that is a far cry from his debut in Barsaat, where he was rather awkward.
Amisha, on the rebound from four flops [Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar, Kranti (with Bobby for company), Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai and Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage] has finally some reason to rejoice. No sobbing, no shrieking here. And that automatically translates into a performance, within the limits of tolerance at the very least.
Akshaye treads new path here as the cunning Karan and proves you do not need to look like an Amrish Puri to be a villain. Wry grins and wicked eyes would do just fine. Double whammy for him after last year's Farhan Akhtar helmed venture Dil Chahta Hai.
The directors do take their time establishing the scheme of things, spoonfeeding the audience at times. Also, the experience would be more rivetting, had the film been a little shorter. But such minors flaw, we shall let pass. Humraaz, definitely, merits a dekho.