October 4, 2002 
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Tabu dares to be different
In Manoj Punj's Zindagi Khoobsurat Hai, life IS beautiful

Ronjita Kulkarni

In Zindagi Khoobsurat Hai, life IS beautiful.

Even if it is a prostitute who yearns to live a normal life pretends to be someone else whenever she gets the opportunity.
Even if it is a struggling actor waits 12 years to make it big. And when he gets the chance, he cannot accept it.
Even if it is a mentally challenged child sees death as routine.

Director Manoj Punj takes it upon himself to portray an optimistic life even in the worst situations. With his refreshingly fresh storyline, here is a filmmaker who dares to be different.

Tabu's relationship with Gurdas Maan is initially platonic, a break from the relationships she has with other men. She tells him her dreams, but does not complain. She drinks with him, but does not cry. She wants to be one with the crowd, with a loving husband and child. He wants to be a famous actor. Yet they have to be content with Peppers, a nightclub which she frequents with her clients and where he sings for a living.

While she forms one aspect of Amar's life, Jameela forms the other. A mentally challenged daughter of an underworld don (Ashish Vidhyarthi), she stops crying only when she sees Amar (Maan) singing on television. Maan starts educating her and soon, becomes her legal adopter in the event of her biological father's death.

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While Punj treats his main plot with sensitivity, he neglects the subplot. The don's sister marries into his sworn enemy's house, which leads to a brutal massacre on the wedding night. The sister carries the emotional scars all her life and, one day, takes her revenge through her son. This only lengthens the film, provides it with action sequences and leads to a ridiculous climax.

Ashish Vidhyarti looks like a caricature, waving a sword and looking silly in this day and age. His only emotions in the film alternate between extreme cases of hate, love and anger. It is a pity a talented actor like him is limited to such roles.

Punj's effort may not score at the box-office, yet he is commendable. He extracts good performances from his protagonists. He falters when he tries to inject masala into the film. Besides, the film's narrative is constantly interrupted with often tiresomely uninspiring songs.

Tabu, Gurdas Man in Zindagi Khubsoorat Hai His first film Shaheed-e-Mohabbat Buta Singh, a surprise hit, was a sensitive story of a husband and wife separated due to the Partition. The film later inspired another blockbuster, the Sunny Deol-Amisha Patel starrer Gadar -- Ek Prem Katha.

Tabu is simply brilliant. The role offers her ample opportunity to perform. While she appears loud in some scenes, she seems vulnerable in others. She moulds herself into her character skilfully.

Maan has his moments when he underplays his character and emotes with his eyes. The actor won critical acclaim for his debut film in Punj's Shaheed-e-Mohabbat Buta Singh.

Jameela, who has an important role in the film, unfortunately does not gain your sympathy. Her performance is restricted to laughing and crying at various times. One would have hoped that the director had researched more on the behaviour of mentally challenged children.

The other actors, Divya Dutta (who played the female lead in Shaheed-e-Mohabbat Buta Singh), Rajat Kumar and Akash Khurana, fulfil their parts well.

Zindagi Khoobsurat Hai may not be a Shaheed-e-Mohabbat, but it should be credited for daring to be different.

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