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June 11, 1999


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Love in absentia

A still from Sirf Tum. Click for bigger pic!
Sharmila Taliculam

Sirf Tum is a rather old tale of love in the time of adversity with a little twist in that the lovers never see each other; they are pen pals. Otherwise, it's very conservative and aims, clearly, at being the quintessential family film.

Deepak (Sanjay Kapoor) is an orphan who perhaps being a little too friendly, forming a deep bond with anyone who exchanges a word with him. He also keeps shooting off birthday cards to anyone he has happened to meet anytime, anywhere. All this he manages while balancing the job of an executive in Kerala.

The heroine, Aarti (Priya Gill), is a middle-class girl in Nainital who regularly heads off to Delhi for work. She lives with her sister and a brother-in-law, who taunts her at every opportunity.

One day she loses her handbag and Deepak, who is in Delhi at that time, happens upon it. Being the good, good guy he is, he posts it right back to the owner, paving the way first for communication and later for affection. As they fall in love, they decide that as lovers they really ought to meet each other some day. And it's decided that a sweater will be the means of recognition.

Click for bigger pic!
The rub is that they have met each other a few times in Delhi but had no idea who the other was. The story begs the question, can you fall in love with a person you have never met. The answer lies, of course, in the countless pen friends who have turned spouses, and the Internet liaisons that have ripened into cybermarriages, what not.

The point apparently is that each can love the other despite each other's looks. Well, in this case, their mugs pass muster but that may not be the case every time. It might have been more radical having one of the characters ugly but perhaps the box office reaction may have been a little cold.

The other aspect the film harps on is the hero's need for a typical sari-clad Indian girl. Even his friend, a Lothario played by Mohnish Behl, who sighs after Monica Lewinsky, Samantha Fox and any other woman with what seems to be an available tag, prefers the traditional variety when it comes to installation in the home. Lewinsky and Fox, clearly, are only drool over, not quite wed.

The hero, a tie-bound member of the executive class, is striving to eke out a living, not minding plying a rickshaw when out of a job. The effort apparently is to show how representative he is of the middle-class -- how ordinary, how very much like you, me and the average theatre-goer.

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The dialogues do tend to get a little long-winded and sometimes head off to make some pretty tangential statement. One such gem goes: "Love starts in the eyes and then goes to the heart; But their love starts with the heart and then goes to the eyes." Got that clever, clever one? It's pointing out that the lovers hadn't sighted each other when they fell for each other.

Sanjay Kapoor is unlucky the nth time. His role is so pathetic that you actually feel sorry for the poor guy. He sounds funny when he has to say that his love is a house with a car and his virginity, his bank balance. You should give it to him though. He tumbled through that with as much conviction as anyone could possibly deliver.

Priya Gill perpetually looks the tragic heroine while still managing to look good.

The star of the film is Sushmita Sen. She plays this poor little rich girl who falls in love with Deepak, who is her employee. She loves his simplicity and honesty. And she still holds a candle for him even when he tells her he's in love with someone he's never met.

Besides, there's also Salman Khan, and you'd better not blink if you want to catch a glimpse of him. You again wonder why did he accept such an inconsequential role. It's a laugh and he looks decidedly uncomfortable.

Click for bigger pic!
This film showcases Kerala, complete with decked-up elephants and Malayalam dialogues thrown in to good effect. You also have Deepak clad in a mundu and also a lot of Malayalam dialogues. Besides the boss, he also has this Keralite girl falling for him and speaking to him in husky tones.

There are only two songs worth hearing in the film. One is the title song and the other is the Dilbar song. You realise Sush not only looks good and act well but she also treads a neat measure. Hopefully, we should see more of her in her forthcoming films.

But the film is too rich with mush and puts you rather off the matter of love. If Boney Kapoor thought that playing on traditions would have people get all sentimental, either he is mistaken or we are.

We've had films like DDLJ and HAHK, which told us about the Indian traditions and culture, at least they did them far more convincing.

The director is Ahathian, who also directed the Tamil version of this film, called Kadhal Kottai starring Ajith, Devyani and Heera Rajgopal. That was a superhit in Madras and even won a national award. Sirf Tum may manage that too, but we rather doubt it.

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