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|January 21, 2000||
'I love my car -- and my country'
Indeed, the 'dreamz' dreamt by Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Aziz Mirza are in vivid Technicolour. Phir Bhi... is a riot of colours, all bright and frothy, visually appealing and technically splendid.
Unfortunately, there's not much else. It starts out as a fun film and one wishes it had remained so till the end. But then, if only to justify the title, the patriotic element is brought in and things get serious, too serious, spoiling the fun.
And all those kids who are yet to decide what they want to do with their lives will surely give journalism a shot after watching this film. The world of reporting, or television reporting at least, has never looked more attractive. I mean, where else could young men and women get such a perfect work atmosphere -- funky offices, trendy designer clothes, fun-loving bosses? And a sparkling green, brand new Hyundai convertible, for doing an exclusive, albeit life-threatening story?
We agree, when the hero keeps saying, 'What a life!' And even as we aspire to that life, we rue the fact that, in reality and on a closer look, it does look very different.
Welcome to the world of Ajay Bakshi (Shah Rukh Khan) and Ria Banerjee (Juhi Chawla), journalists working with rival television channels, K-TV and Galaxee, respectively. Encouraged by their bosses, Kaka Chowdhary (Satish Shah) and Mr Chinoy (Dalip Tahil), the two indulge in a game of one-upmanship, or one-upwomanship as the case may be. Which gives them a chance to break into a song every now and then, proclaiming 'I am the best!'
The plot takes a serious turn when the two get caught in an ugly political battle between chief minister Mushran (Govind Namdeo) and opposition leader Ramakant Dua (Shakti Kapoor). This is where the film gets enmeshed in cliches -- with portrayals of the predictable politician-journo nexus, the mandatory rape scene, the helpless police commissioner (Anjan Srivastava) and an innocent victim (Paresh Rawal.) And, finally, a belief in the power of the common man.
And yes, while all the good people realise their hearts still beat for India, the hero and heroine find their hearts beating for each other. So, rivalry and career be damned, it's time to get together and help the truth, and nothing but the truth, prevail.
Phir Bhi... brings back memories of several other films, Indian and English. Apart from the thematic influence of the Julia Roberts-starrer, Switching Channels, there are shades of Jim Carrey's The Truman Show, especially in the dream sequence where Shah Rukh and Juhi climb on to the steps in a surreal setting (art direction: Sharmishtha Roy) and walk out of the door.
The scene where all of Shah Rukh's girlfriends land up at the same place at the same time, courtesy a little scheming by Juhi, reminds one of the Jeetendra-Rekha film, Judai where the heroine had resorted to a similar ploy. There's also a trace of Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja -- here, the lead pair do a Chinese act, similar to the Japanese one enacted by Sridevi and Anil Kapoor. Finally, the climax shot, with thousands of persons taking to the streets to save one man's life, is reminiscent of 1942: A Love Story. Agreed, that was 1942 and this is 2000, but the sentiment, you see, is the same.
This is probably one of Juhi's best performances. She has never looked better -- her outfits are credited to Manish Malhotra, the man known for giving new looks to several leading Bollywood ladies -- and once again, like Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke, she shows a flair for comedy.
While it's certain that Shah Rukh will act in all future Dreamz Unlimited productions, the slot for the lead actress is apparently going to be open. After watching this film, one hopes Juhi will continue to get first preference.
Shah Rukh is his usual energetic self, portraying his role with his usual mannerisms, and then borrowing some from Jim Carrey's book. Frankly, it's high time he innovated his act a little.
The supporting cast is well-chosen and lives up to expectations. Particularly impressive are Haider Ali (as the hero's idealistic father), Namdeo as the scheming politician and Neena Kulkarni as the victim's wife. Johnny Lever, as the bumbling, publicity-crazy don, is as delightful as ever.
Santosh Sivan's cinematography is brilliant. Whether it's Shah Rukh taking a jump from the 20th floor or the car chase or simply a rain sequence, Sivan proves he is one the best in the industry. Director Aziz Mirza probably had too many storylines for inspiration (story idea, dialogues: Sanjay Chhel) and too many people helping him out (the makers have thanked Aditya Chopra, Yash and Karan Johar, Khalid Mohammed, among others, for their dreams) -- leaving the end product a trifle confused and hackneyed, unlike his earlier Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and Yes Boss.
But he shows his touch in flashes, like the heart-tugging scene where Shah Rukh, the streetsmart and narcissist scribe, plays hopscotch on a deserted street in a dark night.
Ironically, while Phir Bhi... makes a dig at sponsorships and how television has been taken over by multi-crore companies, the film itself is a platform for promoting various brands like as Swatch, Hyundai, VIP...!
Postscript: When we entered the new Premiere theatre in Bombay's Dadar suburb for the preview, there was a band playing songs from the film. The music started once again at the end of the show. For the sake of all those who have given shape to their dreamz, that the music plays on -- for a long time to come. We, though, are not too sure!
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