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|February 19, 1999||
Brothers in arms
If Alfred Hitchcock did a male-female bonding thing in The 39 Steps, debutante director Milan Luthria does a same gender version in Kaachhe Dhaage, putting Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan together in chains.
Anjum Rajabali creates Aftab (Ajay), a man trying to live with the absence of a last name -- yeah, the same ole 'bastard' routine -- and Dhananjay (Saif Ali Khan), a brash 25-year-old adman who puts everything he owns on the line to get accounts.
Aftab loves Manisha Koirala, but he can't marry her since her dad has thrown the spanner in the wheel about the last name confusion. Dhananjay, on the other hand, has his love life going smoothly, the woman of his life being played by Namrata Shirodkar.
In the midst of a song in a shower Dhananjay is informed that his father is dying in a hospital in Rajasthan. He lands up there and the dying pater tells him about how he loved a woman called Mariam (Maya Alagh) and how, thinking she'd died in Partition, he'd married another. Only recently had he discovered that the first love was alive and had his son.
Mariam asks Aftab to visit his dying father. The two half-brothers meet each other just as pater packs up. After the cremation Dhananjay returns to his ad circuit in Bombay.
But Aftab gets a call from the neighbourhood nasties, who have taken the precaution of kidnapping his mother and cutting off her pinkie. And they promise more finger-chips in the mail if Aftab fails to get Dhananjay back to Rajasthan.
Dhananjay is lured over and is tricked into being photographed with holding up a dead man and a pistol -- darned odd how some things that most ordinary people don't touch in their lives turn up together...
Dhananjay, having no choice, shrugs and goes and hands over the packet that blows the judge away. And lands up behind bars. Aftab walks in to police station in great style and sometime later the duo get away. We've got to do something about those leaky lock-ups...
The next 120 minutes is most memorable for four songs, two by gypsies, one by Manisha wandering about in Kashmir, and the last by Annu Kapoor lip-syncing to a qawwali sung by the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It's a toss-up on what's more funny in the last one -- Kapoor's wig or his epileptic fits.
The film sticks to the formula that worked with the last big Tips hit, Soldier. There's a troubled hero, a great many red herrings and a mysterious villain who pulls all the strings. The idea worked well in Soldier because it was a fast paced thriller with a tight focus and a great many gimmicks.
This is Ajay's third film as a fatherless one. Najayaz (Bhatt) and Zakhm (Bhatt again) were the two previous efforts. He is effective, though, as the taciturn one with the wry jokes. Therefore, this role is tailor-made for him. Saif is Saif, though the director could have got him to pretend that he was more sober than he was. There's hardly any difference from the role he did with Akshay Kumar in Main Khiladi Tu Anari and Keemat.
Manisha is wasted; anybody could have done what she did. Namrata has a few more scenes that she spends flirting with the camera. The empty-headed character doesn't even notice when her beau returns after being blackmailed and with a murder rap ahead. Maybe the makers feared that worry wrinkles would mar Namrata's looks.
The sets are good and the locales tastefully selected. It is a little odd that Manisha, who was in Kashmir, is suddenly picked up in one of the villages of Rajasthan. She might have caught the early morning bus, but it's unlikely. The camera work is good, as is the editing. And one of the action sequences in particular is riveting -- that in which the two heroes hang on beneath a doomed train.
The music by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has three songs that work well while the rest don't. But the songs do hobble the pace just as things begin to happen. The film also suffers from the Cliffhanger syndrome, in that the climax is far weaker than the earlier action sequences.
To sum up, Kachche Dhaage's certainly not a must-see. But if you must see something, well... do.
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