July 26, 2002 
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Pooja Bhatt
Heaven, hell and a haircut
But Rahul Bose's Everybody Says I'm Fine is no cut above the rest

Nidhi Taparia Rathi

Rahul Bose's sharp-edged directorial debut is a pleasant departure from standard singing-dancing Bollywood fare but uses a similar gimmick to What Women Want with rather less successful results.

Everybody Says I'm Fine centers around trendy hairstylist Xen (Rehaan Engineer) and his salon Xen's. Most hair stylists know all the gossip but thanks to a childhood accident Xen has the uncanny ability to read his customers' mind — only when he is sniping their locks.

The psychic gift opens dark secrets as he cuts, coifs and colours and leads Bose's camera in…

This power has Xen leading a monk-like existence --- with his salon and studio apartment separated by a staircase. His life is filled with a cloying silence as he watches television on mute and doesn't have any thoughts except for the voices of his clients that fill his head and nightmarish dreams of his childhood accident.

The first half inches slowly as the film explores the lives of several customers through Xen's eyes, who on the surface seem brazen, but underneath have tangled lives. There is a wannabe-actor Rage (Rahul Bose), two wealthy socialites Tanya Ruia (Pooja Bhatt) and Misha Patel (Anahita Uberoi), a corporate czar Mr Mittal (Boman Irani) and two college freshers Bobby (Sharokh Bharucha) and Tina (Junelia Augiar).

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Xen uses his ability to heal them but he is powerless to help himself. He hears the first pangs of teenage crush between Bobby and Tina. He also hears how Rage is ready to take his life. Dipping in and out of the lives of the customers like a soap opera, Xen also reads Tanya's mind. Separated from her husband and fallen from her upper society posse, he helps her maintain her dignity at the salon.

Xen cannot probe into the thoughts of Nikita, an idle 25 year old whose attitude borders on the eccentric. He is fascinated by her as she manages to keep her mind closed to his scissor sharp probings, throwing the duo off to an exploration of each other's feelings and longings. Which finally leads to another dark secret in the climax of the film that leads Xen and Nikki to heal each other.

A still from Everybody Says I'm Fine The premise of the film based on Premchand novel, Pardah, is fascinating. Where Bose wins is when his creation of a portrait of contemporary, high-society Mumbai that is nuanced and knowing, keenly observed and refreshingly free of the usual stereotypes. Bose has fun with his witty concept for the first part of his film as he manages to charismatically convey the culture of the salon, with its polite small talk, occasional snobbery and idle flirtations.

He handles a few scenes with ease of a veteran --- notable amongst which is the deft love making scene told entirely through the eyes of Xen and Nikki, the fumble-make-out scene between the young college students and the quick and yet poignant climax.

Where Bose loses out is the pace of the film: the first half barely moves while the second finishes in a flash. The script written in 33 days needed more polishing as it leaves too many niggling questions.

Overloaded with the seven characters and underdeveloped subplots the movie topples under its weight. Plus the incestuous angle that has been explored in his films Snip and Split Wide Open seems a tad overdone as the climatic ending.

Rehaan Engineer as the unwilling repository of all this sadness looks the part, but his act leaves much to be desired. His presence, barring in the pre-climax and climax, has a regular pained-n-puzzled expression. The strongly accented British English is affected. Bose entrusted this RADA graduate with too much.

A still from Everybody Says I'm Fine Also strange is the lack of layers to his character. Considering the film is shot through his eyes, Rehaan's expressions don't say anything about the chaos in his life.

Koel Purie's act as the sexy sprite is commendable. She, like her character, reveals herself as the film progresses: From being an idle, bored 25 year old to a passionate, complex woman who gives it as good as she gets. In the climax, Bose extracts the best out of her without going over the top or swerving into melodrama.

For Pooja Bhatt's fans, don't go looking for a Daddy or a Zakhm. In a small part, the actress dazzles with her convincing act as society lady cast out of her upper crust. Especially heartwarming is her last scene in the film where she finally accepts her identity. Anahita Uberoi plays her bitchy nemesis with ease. Her Parsi accent and the snooty society lady act is a pleasure to watch. But Boman Irani is wasted in a role, though it is different from his usual rubber-faced comic caricatures.

The music composed by Ustad Zakir Hussain is strictly for those with eclectic taste. The art decor and cinematography is slick but the editing is patchy.

Rahul Bose's deep, dark and sexual debut is average fare, no cut above the rest!

''ESIF is deep, dark, sexual, funny...'
Pooja Bhatt on ESIF
Snip! Snip!
Rehaan and the art of Xen

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