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March 20, 1999


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Pati, patni aur woe

Suparn Verma

A still from Arzoo. Click for bigger pic!
Once there was this cinematographer who decided to turn director, Lawrence D'Souza. And he did well, mind you, making Saajan a film based on Cyrano de Bergerac.

The film had some ingredients de rigueur in Indian cinema, like the pure-bred martyr who bites his lip and lets a friend snare a girl he'd had eyes on. And, of course, a friend who is that epitome of self-denial we never see. The audience's collective heart bled for the young men and handkerchief sales rose considerably in the area. And so it was that D'Souza walked away with a superhit.

Seeing that triangles earned him more than a square meal, D'Souza made another, Sangram. Now he has been working five years to complete the trilogy, with yet another of his specialities. Called Aarzoo it stars Madhuri Dixit, Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan.

Click for bigger pic!
The story has Vijay (Akshay) playing a pilot who woos and wins Pooja (Madhuri). Amar (Saif) returns from abroad after finishing his studies. He's always been in love with his childhood pal but as D'souza's heroes are wont to, bites his lip and even coaxes Pooja's dad (Amrish Puri) to agree to the match.

Dad gives the all clear and the couple is engaged. Amar and Vijay become pals. One day Amar sends Vijay off on an errand in his plane. And guess what? The plane blows up.

Pooja turns out to be pregnant, and so the magnanimous Amar steps in to marry her. They live happily when Vijay returns from the dead.

Vijay thinks Amar had tried to get him bumped off and so teams up with the enemy, Amar's foster uncle Kailashnath (Paresh Rawal) and cousins. The villains were also responsible for the death of Amar's direct ancestor. Vijay operates with a moustache and green lenses to avoid recognition. And if you want the rest of it, sorry, but you'll have to pay D'Souza and the theatre guys.

Click for bigger pic!
D'Souza's cinematography is first rate, and he picked some rather picturesque locales in Switzerland. The editing and art direction, by R Rajendran and R Verman respectively, is third rate. The editing is patchy, all but removing the impact created by the breath-taking visuals; the art director seems to have stuffed everything he could hire to decorate the interiors.

By now we've seen many films that have the actors in India the next dancing in the Alps, but Aarzoo go one step further. The actors are in India one minute but when they step out onto the road, voila, they've also stepped outside the country! There are other such gaffes too.

The film has been written by Reema Rakeshnath, who may yet earn the title 'Queen of the love triangles', she being also the scriptwriter of Saajan. The story is not new but what really gets your teeth on edge are the dialogues. Outdated and cliched, you can laugh at them in the best places.

However good he is as a cinematograper, Lawrence D'Souza is one director who can make a seasoned actor like Amrish Puri -- who usually makes even the most inane dialogues look good -- fail to deliver.

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Puri looks most unconvincing when he calls the lady who plays his spouse (Reema Lagoo) "my sweet wife and, immediately after, refers to his offspring as "my sweet darling daughter". It is so corny that it brings the house down. Paresh Rawal too seems out of sorts in his role; once or twice you even wonder if you've caught him wondering what is he doing in this film.

Akshay and Saif have worked together before in a love triangle, Yeh Dillagi and in action flicks like Main Khiladi Tu Anari and Keemat. They share some vibes that work well on screen.

In the earlier films, Akshay played the sober one and Saif, the rakish loudmouth. This time, they exchange roles; Akshay becomes the loudmouth. Saif is lucky; for he plays the quiet one at a time when the clever lines are so hackneyed that you hate the man delivering the lines. So Saif comes out looking most dignified.

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It's sad to see Akshay being made to go through the bump and grind, and spouting lines that must have him cringing inside. Madhuri's faith in the man who directed her in Saajan seems to have been misplaced this time. Her role calls for little but a dance every 20 minutes.

We know love triangles are a favourite but there's no doubt that you need to do something original to hold people's attention. This film changes works with the standard elements, only shifting the backdrop to Switzerland.

Even if we make those leaps of faith the film stretches your patience. But Anu Malik has scored two really cool songs, Ab tere bin and Saajan, saajan. The rest are, well, okay.

Now that he has finished a set of three, Lawrence D'Souza may even graduate to a love quartet or worse. I mean, it's been done before, as in There's something about Mary.

And what we've seen of D'Souza's oeuvre, that should give him some ideas...

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