July 12, 2002 
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Where does this movie go?
Among Sharaarat's features is a disinterested Abhishek

Priya Ganapati

Okay. You have three choices at the theatres this weekend.
a) The much-hyped, opulent and the utterly intriguing remake of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's, Devdas, with Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit.

b) The much-talked about film for football fanatics, Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Bechkam.

c) The low-key, quiet, Sharaarat, with Abhishek Bachchan and a host of yesterday's supporting actors.

Now, I know you would want to pick option a) ..unless , it is a fairytale and the underdog is the real winner.

But nah! That only happens in movies and not to movies.

Pitted against Devdas and Bend It Like Beckham, Sharaarat is not going to win the battle at the box-office. Read on and you will know why.

Rahul (Abhishek Bachchan) is a spoilt rich lad. When he is not dancing with a bunch of extras in the background, he is zipping around in a grotesquely painted car. He is brash, arrogant, flippant and embodies Bollywood's version of a rich boy on screen perfectly.

On one of his jaunts around town with his gang of faceless and nameless friends, he switches off the traffic lights on a busy junction, resulting in a lot of cars bumping into each other. For his misdemeanour, Rahul is forced by a judge to serve a one-month sentence in an old age home. The point here being that he would learn to respect elders and in the bargain acquire some humility and a purpose to his life.

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At the old age home, the cast comes in different flavours. There is the seemingly tough cookie Prajapati (Amrish Puri), who leads the place and takes all the decisions. The proverbial sweet mother (Helen), the South Indian grandpa, the forgetful Muslim (Tinnu Anand), the strong old man (Dara Singh). And how can we leave out the living icon of old age in Hindi cinema, A K Hangal.

Initially Rahul is just waiting to get out of the old age home, but as the movie progresses --- don't hold your breath, we do not have any surprises here --- he takes to these motley crew of characters and gets involved in their lives.

Abhishek Bachchan, AK Hangal, Amrish Puri in Sharaarat Sharaarat handles a socially relevant issue, but it lacks the sensitivity and the empathy to touch your heart. Its cast of characters in the old age home do not come across as people you want to reach out to. Yes, they sing, they dance, they preach all the right things at all the right moments and of course, they all have sad stories about being dumped by their children. While the issues that plague the old in our society are pertinent touched upon, Sharaarat does not bring any insight to these problems and leaves its viewers with a strong sense of deja vu.

Plus, it sags in many places and is filled with songs that neither fit in the plot nor are melodious enough to overlook their intrusion in the narrative.

The only redemption for this movie could have been its performances and characterisation. But in that the film is led down by director, Gurudev Bhalla, and scriptwriter, Urmi Juvekar.

Abhishek Bachchan sleepwalks through his role. He clearly does not bring anything to his performance other than the perfunctory emotions that it requires. Despite the scope that the role offers, Abhishek carelessly passes it over, making you wonder if he really wants to be in the movies.

Hrishita Bhatt, the heroine, has a presence that is slightly more substantial than the couch in the foyer of the old age home. Like the couch, she is there in every scene. And like it, she lingers in the background of every frame, visible and with nothing to contribute except adding an extra element to the frame. Undoubtedly Bhatt looks good and she has potential, but it is completely wasted here.

Abhishek Bachchan, Hrishita Bhatt in Sharaarat As for the old men, all of them are uniformly bland and do exactly what is expected out of old men in Hindi cinema--not one scene, dialogue or emotion out of line.

What is unpardonable in Sharaarat though is the inconsistencies that mar the movie. Locales shift between the suburban Bandra-Kurla complex in Mumbai to blue-water, white sand beaches in foreign lands with amazing fluidity. Cars with Mumbai registration plates drive through freeways and the old age home masquerades as being in Khopoli, a tiny town on the outskirts of Mumbai, while the background screams snow topped mountains and frothy streams.

The cinematography is passable but with such discrepancies it fails to make an impact.

Sharaarat could also have done with a little bit of better packaging and promotion. Due to distribution problems it hits the theatres over a year after it was read. Unfortunately, it opens to a marked lack of excitement among filmgoers and its lack of merit will not help fend off the tough competition that it has in Devdas, which opens on the same day.

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